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Henry Bird vs Paul Morphy
"Meta-Morphysis" (game of the day Aug-14-2005)
Casual game (1858), London ENG, Aug-??
Philidor Defense: Philidor Countergambit. Zukertort Variation (C41)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Apr-26-15  mikealando: When one plays with Morphy the sensation is as queer as the first electric shock, or first love, or chloroform, or any entirely novel experience. – Henry Bird

The man born too soon. – Alexander Alekhine (on Morphy)

Feb-25-17  The Kings Domain: Classic Morphy. As aesthetic as it is instructive.
Premium Chessgames Member
  SpaceRunner: 17..Rxf2! Best move ever in my opinion...

I have read:
"Many of the great (russian) players have spent time discussing and analyzing this move during tournaments...and have not agreed whether it was winning!

May-15-17  offramp: <SpaceRunner: 17..Rxf2! Best move ever in my opinion... >

Irving Chernev gives some notes to this game in <The Bright Side of Chess>. As with many annotators, the notes do not make sense.

click for larger view

17...Rxf2 <!! A beautiful sacrifice, as a prelude to - another!>
18. Bxf2 Qa3<!>
19. c3.
<Of course not 19. bxa3 Bxa3 mate. If 19. Qg5 Qxb2+ 20. Kd2 Bb4+ 21. Ke3 Qc3+ 22. Bd3 (22. Kf4 Bd6+ wins at once) 22... Ba6 23. Rhg1 Bf8.>
19... Qxa2 20. b4.
<If 20. Qc2 Rxb2 21. Qxb2 Ba3 22. Qxa3 Qxa3+ 23. Kd2 Qb2+>
20... Qa1+
21. Kc2 Qa4+
22. Kb2<? White should have played 22.Kc1, <when Black has nothing better than a draw by perpetual check...>>
So Black has a good position, in the diagram, THEN he plays 17...RxBP!! and 18...Q-R6!, yet White could have drawn at move 22.

Didn't Chernev see that <one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong>?

May-17-17  User not found: I thought I recognized this game.. Rxf2 isn't sound, I know black has to recapture but 18..Qa3 19.c3. ..Qxa2 20.b4 ..Qa1+ 21...kc2 22.Qa4+..and <then> ..kc2 and it's pretty much even, might lose the queen for a rook pawn and bishop and also whites king looks in danger but 2 rooks and 2 bishops against a queen and a Bishop looks acceptable after the initial damage.. I know you'll get checked all over and one inaccuracy will cost you the game but ..22.kb2?? is suicidal.
Jul-31-18  RKnight: <User not found> Do you mean 22 ... Kc1? (the K was already in c2 when Morphy played 22 Qa4+)
Aug-29-18  jabinjikanza: Birdmated.excellent
Dec-25-18  HarryP: This game is a joy and a delight. When I was a teen, and maybe on into my twenties, I carried the moves of it on a slip of paper in my billfold. I spent a lot of time analyzing 22. Kc1 Bf5.
Dec-25-18  gokusano: The art of mating a bird.
Dec-25-18  Ron: Sorry folks, my Stockfish 9 says that after 17..Rxf2 White can basically equalize.

I played what was suggested by Stockfish for both sides and got this:

18. Bxf2 Qa3 19. c3 Qxa2 20. b4 Qa1+ 21. Kc2 Qa4+ 22. Kc1 Qa1+ 23. Kc2 Qa4+ 24. Kc1 a5 25. Qc2 Qa3+ 26. Qb2 axb4 27. Qxa3 bxa3 28. Bg3 Be7 29. h4 e3 30. Bxc7 Rb7 31. Ba5 Bf5 32. Bd3 e2 33. Bxf5 exd1=Q+ 34. Rxd1 a2 35. Kc2 Ra7 36. Bb4 Bxb4 37. Ra1 Be7 38. h5 Bf6 39. Kb3 c5 40. dxc5 Rb7+ 41. Ka4 Bxc3 42. Rxa2 Rb4+ 43. Ka3 Rc4 44. Rf2 g6 45. hxg6 hxg6 46. Bxg6 -0.08

Apr-11-20  ismet: 22. Kc1 draw
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Morning: Back on page 6, you’ll find a post of mine from 2006 (!) where I asked if the silicon monsters had finally proven that 20...Qa4+ led to a forced mate in 40. Today we finally know that the game should have ended in a draw. Even so, it remains astonishing that a game from 1858 should have proven so recalcitrant to computers for so long.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Quite right, <An Englishman>. Also, this was a casual game...even if you’re Morphy, how many chances in life do you get to play moves like ...Rxf2 and ...Qa3 in succession?
Oct-03-20  login:

Are you 'sporting' an open cased Fattorini & Sons, Bradford chess clock (in perfect condition) there - that would be quite a gem?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <login>

I think I am. Unfortunately this is just an image I found on the internet somewhere. I don’t own the actual clock.

My 1896 St Petersburg tournament book, published in London, has some lovely ads for clocks like this. Would be nice if I could somehow send my money in to one of those businesses and get one. Gore Vidal said he used to fantasize that he could call up deceased friends whose number he had in his address book and talk to them.

Oct-03-20  login:

One should always rely on deceased friends, I totally agree on Vidal's wish to casually ring them up and ask for mundane advice on pretty much everything. As I was curious to what telephone numbers (and the actual ads) looked like around 1900s, the answer was quite obvious


Excellent choice this one, GrahamClayton is rocking a modern descendant!

Dec-28-20  ZoneChess: If Bird's king would just not enter the b-file in line with the rook, this game is a draw at that point. Stockfish 11 agrees though gives a positional advantage to black (-.88, depth=40).
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: It was better to play 13...c5! with idea 14.dxc5 Bxe5 15.Qxd5+ Kh8 16.Qxe5 Nc6 17.Qd5 Rf5 -+
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Had the line mentioned by <Honza> actually been played, we should have been denied the splendour of 17....Rxf2 and 18....Qa3, though it leads to no more than a draw with best play.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Whilst Stockfish 16 thinks there are about 30 moves potentially better than 17... Rxf2, I think here is a tradeoff between iconic beauty and accuracy and maybe engines in the future should highlight the most beautiful moves that you might be able to get away with :)
Sep-24-21  paulmorphy1969: I see a lot of comments as to whether a sacrifice is correct or not with analysis etc. Morphy was not interested in winning at any cost, he loved to create beauty, he had a vision of artistic creation in chess, not just winning with one more pawn in the end. it allowed the artistic creation of some continuation Morphy played it while also taking risks. but his strength of analysis his chess fantasy his immense sense of positional allowed him to dominate any opponent of his time.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <paulmorphy1969: I see a lot of comments as to whether a sacrifice is correct or not with analysis etc. Morphy was not interested in winning at any cost, he loved to create beauty, he had a vision of artistic creation in chess, not just winning with one more pawn in the end. it allowed the artistic creation of some continuation Morphy played it while also taking risks. but his strength of analysis his chess fantasy his immense sense of positional allowed him to dominate any opponent of his time. >

I take a more prosaic view. This was a casual game, and Morphy, like most masters of his time, played in a different, freer style in casual games than in matches. In his matches against Loewenthal, Harrwitz, and Anderssen, he <did> seem to be quite focused on winning, full stop, and as a result you won't find moves like 17....Rxf2 in those match games (contrast the non-match King's Gambit games against Anderssen).

I love this game, and I'm glad Morphy played it. We'd all be a little bit poorer if he hadn't. But that doesn't mean the correctness of 17....Rxf2 can't be analyzed. After all, that's what Morphy did. I'm sure he didn't say to himself <objectively, this move sucks, but Bird-brain over there will never figure it out>.

Oct-22-21  Jgamazo: So it took a stockfish computer in 2018 rated like 3600 to draw Morphy playing black in 1858. Smart guy.
Jan-17-22  jabinjikanza: Morphy the great..!!!!
Feb-05-23  generror: <<Jgamazo:> So it took a stockfish computer in 2018 rated like 3600 to draw Morphy playing black in 1858. Smart guy.>

I do get what you mean, but analyses are not meant to lessen" players in any way, they just try to find out what would theoretically be best.

Also, that <17...Rxf2?!> is theoretically throwing away a sure win because of <22.Kc1!> has already been shown by Geza Maroczy in his 1909 book about Paul Morphy (Game 131, p.145f).

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