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Paul Morphy vs Daniel Harrwitz
"At Witz End" (game of the day Apr-11-2011)
Morphy - Harrwitz (1858), Paris FRA, rd 4, Sep-10
Philidor Defense: Exchange Variation (C41)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Aug-01-11  Jambow: <Seriously Morphy studied chess diligently just like all subjects he knew>

What do you base that on? Because he was a regular polymath and excelled in anything relying on intellect? I never found quotes from his era speaking of him studying chess, if you know of some I'm interested to hear them. No all indications are that he just more completely understood open positions and tempo than anyone before or since, that would include opening a closed position almost at will.

He also was a very quick study at closed games and I suspect would be no less adept at them as demonstrated by this and other games vs Harrwitz.

Aug-01-11  JoergWalter: <Jambow> From Morphy's annotations in the NY Ledger you can see that he was familiar with Staunton's Handbook, the Chess Player's Chronicle, the 1851 london tournament book and what other commentators wrote e.g. about the games McDonnell vs. DeLaBourdonnais, 1834.

Also the following remark by Morphy concerning his dislike of "closed games" shows that he knew (or "studied"?) chess literature: <If there is anything to be regretted in connection with the combats between these illustrious players, it is the pertinacity with which McDonnell persisted in adopting, in two of the debuts which most frequently occur, a line of play radically bad. Against such an adversary as Labourdonnais the disastrous effects of McDonnell’s early moves in nearly all of the Sicilian Games and Queen’s Gambits could not be overcome even by the very best afterplay. The moves of 2 Nf3 or still better 2 d4, are those now generally recognized as the best. The latter move is indeed so strong that it has gone far towards disabusing the public mind of that pernicious fondness for the Sicilian Defence which was displayed during what may be called the period of close games, extending from about 1843 to some time after 1851. It was an epoch of uninteresting games and dreary analytical labors, and with the exception of the contests occurring between the great Prussian masters, afforded but comparatively few specimens of brilliant play. It should be a subject of rejoicing with every lover of the game that an age in which so much severe labor led to such unprofitable results, has passed away. There is now a visible tendency to cultivate a higher style of chess art – to substitute for the false taste which has so long prevailed a more elevated standard of excellence.>

Aug-03-11  James Bowman: Thanks <JoergeWalter> No doubt Morphy read chess material from his day and since he was of such high intellect absorbed copius amounts of it as compared to most, yet the general feel is that he learned on the fly as in his Harrwitz mini match. Keep in mind chess literature was a tiny fraction of what we have today. Nor do I think he was unaware of chess history which he played a huge part in. I just think certain players studied to achieve great results like Botvinik, Fischer and Kasparov as examples and others like Morphy, Capablanca and Carlsen perhaps understand things a bit more intuitively or so it would appear were less devoted to formal study. All geniuses yes all studied to some degree no doubt but the emphisis seems very different imho.

Not saying his mind wasn't resolving and computing off the board, certainly someone who could be blindfolded and come out ahead in a simul against a multitude of strong players of the day could do so. I just don't think there is any indication that he made a systemic study like Steinitz or Nimzowitch did.

I know at work I had a friend that was a fairly strong player who either won or drew ten games in a row against me and had me baffled as we had been fairly even up until that point. Then all at once I understood what he was doing while away from the board and I won the next ten games straight. Not trying to put myself in Morphy or Carlsens camp but I was not so dilligent at formal study and grasped more by just listening observing and pondering what I saw and heard so I personally understand that type better as I can relate.

Aug-04-11  JoergWalter: <JamesBowman: I just don't think there is any indication that he made a systemic study like Steinitz or Nimzowitch did.> That is true. However, the systematic study of Steinitz was a way to find out about the principles of chess and the secret of Morphy's play. Morphy himself "just had it". I think of Morphy's study that he would skim through a book and after that he tell you that 2/3 of the lines are inaccurate or false. Very much the way how later Capablanca "studied" chess. These guys didn't work hard or systematically simply because they didn't have to.
Aug-04-11  JoergWalter: That is usually called "talent". I am not aware of an exact definition, it seems to me that "talent" is always brought into discussion when other explanations fail. Sometimes you read "natural ability" but this is thought up to explain something "unnatural" or at least uncommon. When explanation fails just admire these guys blessed with a godgiven gift.
Aug-06-11  Jambow: I think equating talent to natural abillity is by and large correct and recognizing the immense God given talent of Morphy and Capa doesn't take a grand master or expert talent scout either.

At the same place of employment I described in the previous post a very good friend of mine dominated chess there and for some odd reason we had a plethora of solid club worthy players, most of which were in the 1600-1900ish range. My friend could play easily with out view of the board and often he would play on multiple boards and would seldom lose.

With very little study he was in the 2000-2100 range. Ironically he has a natural Morphy like style with every move gaining space and tempo so that you always felt as if you were responding to his ideas. The only time I ever won two consecutive games was after playing over the Evans Gambit games of Morphy.

Anyway I really had a feel for what to do more than based upon concrete calculations. After he left I was considered the strongest player but only by the slimmest of margins but didn't dominate, since I really started in my mid 30's and was by far the rookie not to shabby I suppose. Addicting game with no known cure except insanity ;o]

Anyway sorry about the biography and a little boasting from a small pond perspective, I would say our take on Morphy and talent in general is not very diverse on the whole <Jeorge>

Aug-06-11  JoergWalter: <JamBow> no disagreement at all. you know, it is not only the field of chess when i start believing in rebirth. there are guys who are just amazing having something on the ball which takes years of hard work for mere mortals (or forever).
Aug-06-11  sevenseaman: The move 35. Nxd6 is like a MIRV (Multi-warhead Independently-targeted Re-entry Vehicle). Its too much to carry on after.

Morphy was the rarest of a chess talent, no question. Such great occurrences have the capacity to delight generations of posterity without finding a peer.

Feb-29-12  artsys: They said Kasparov was the best and was unbeatable. Kramnik, who didn't even qualify for the World Championship and was lucky to get a chance to play Kaspy, defeated him without losing a single game, yet Kasparov is the best attacking player of all time. There is absolutely no way to tell how well Morphy would do, but considering his tactical skills, I am more than willing to give Morphy a chance. Here's why: Morphy's skill in open games, and in tactics, has not really been attained by anyone before or since, and that is the analysis of just about every chess world champion. Whatever edge he may have in tactics will be dulled by the gap in theory, and the chances are, fresh out of the box, he will lose, but in a set match, I'll stand with Fischer's words and say, yes, he'd win.
Nov-20-12  Llawdogg: The pride and the sorrow of chess.
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: This IS a beautiful game ...
(I am pretty sure I have seen it before, I played through the whole book of Morphy's games when I was like 10-11 years old.)

Nonetheless, it IS a really FANTASTIC game (Thanks to <keypusher> for posting a link to it); ... and it looks pretty modern to me.

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: And - for all the talk (in kibitzing on Anderssen vs Kieseritzky, 1851) of how badly the players of the 1800's played, this game has a nice look to it. (The opening certainly does not look terrible.)
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: VERY brilliant play by Morphy!!!!!
Mar-18-14  RookFile: Euwe got it right when he said that Morphy played a great game. I find Harrwitz's play interesting as well - there is a Lasker like fighting element to it. After 24. Rf2:

click for larger view

Not helpful for black is 24.... Bxb5 25. Qxb5 b6 27. Qc6 Rc8 28. Qd7 and white starts capturing things.

Black has two logical moves:

A) Press the "random" button with ...d5
with the idea of ...Bc5

B) Play ...h6, to try to shore up his
kingside defense.

Maybe Morphy wins anyway, but these appear to be logical tries.

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: I recently - using ChessBase - played through more than 200+ games of Morphy.

After this review, I have to conclude that this might be his best game ...

Aug-16-15  morfishine: <LIFE Master AJ> This comment collapses under its own weight: <I have to conclude that this might be his best game...> "Conclude" and "Might" do not go together in the same sentence


Aug-16-15  zanzibar: What I like about this game is how Morphy pressurized the K-side, then went on the attack on the Q-side to weaken Black for the final attack.
Aug-17-15  offramp: I have reached the conclusion that this is a game of chess.
Aug-17-15  john barleycorn: @<zanzibar>

I put this Morphy game up there with these 2 I know and appreciate. It breathes the same "spirit" (whatever this is) for me:

Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904

Steinitz vs Showalter, 1898

Jan-21-16  talhal20: For Morphy's genius 6 months is enough time to come to grips with the present day chess and then see what happens to the present day grandmasters.
Jan-21-16  offramp: <talhal20: For Morphy's genius 6 months is enough time to come to grips with the present day chess and then see what happens to the present day grandmasters.>

<I'm always hearing (and reading) that "If the players of yesteryear could only catch up with opening theory, they'd be as good or better than today's players". The funny thing is that the many years (usually decades) of study that modern players put into opening theory should not only count towards their strength, but that study and practice contributes vastly to their understanding of the middlegame and even some endgames. The silly idea that you can just 'catch up' in opening theory ignores the vast undertaking that this would involve, especially to absorb the vast number of openings and opening variations necessary to a complete chess education.> - John L Watson

Jan-21-16  visayanbraindoctor: This is the first time I have replayed this game. Morphy creates little deflection combinations that smoothly flow into the next.

I think Harrwitz played a terrible positional game. He gives up the center and lashes out on a wing attack while White dominates the center. Wing attacks are more justified for Black here if the center were locked. (This is a typical theme in the KID Black Kingside pawn avalanche attacks.) In this case, White clearly had ways to make his center mobile.

30. c5! is the start of a brilliant and beautiful combination that is not easily seen from the starting position. It's a deflection sacrifice whichever way Black captures.

The obvious deflection occurs in the line 30... dxc5. The d-pawn is deflected away from its defense of the e5 pawn, and White can reply with 31. Qxe5

So obvious that Morphy already knew that Harrwitz would not play that. What's not obvious is that Morphy was planning on deflecting the Black Rook away from the 7th rank if it captures the pawn.

30. c5! Rxc5

Suddenly the 7th rank is minus a Black Rook. Now comes the more obvioius sac

31. Rxh7! which degrades the Black King's pawn cover and also acts as another deflection sac to force the Black King onto the h7 square, precisely where it can be further checked by the traditionally deadly attacking combo of Q + N.

31. Rxh7+! Kxh7 32. Qh5+ Kg8 33. Nxe7+ (which is another deflection tactic BTW)

Only now does it become clear what Morphy's intention is for his original c5 deflection sac. Note that if Black's Rook were still on the 7th rank, he could capture with 33... Rxe7. I think Black would still be lost but the game would be prolonged.

Now Harrwitz finds that he cannot recapture with his Queen because it gets deflected away from the the defense of his g6 Rook. If 33... Qxe7, then 34. Qxg6+.

So Black is left with 33... Kg7, and White wins quickly with the obvious 34. Nf5+ Kg8 35. Nxd6

The series of moves meant to deflect Black's pieces forms a moving pattern both brilliant and beautiful.

Jan-21-16  visayanbraindoctor: What better way for Watson to prove his idea than to beat one of these pre WW2 masters over the board?

<The funny thing is that the many years (usually decades) of study that modern players put into opening theory should not only count towards their strength, but that study and practice contributes vastly to their understanding of the middlegame and even some endgames. The silly idea that you can just 'catch up' in opening theory ignores the vast undertaking that this would involve, especially to absorb the vast number of openings and opening variations necessary to a complete chess education.> - John L Watson>

Let Watson try trolling such statements to Almost World Champion Keres (who began his chess career in the 1920s and whose prime IMO was 1938 to 1943).

The really funny thing is that when Watson did get to meet this archaic pre WW2 master over the board in a real competitive event, the old master thrashed him silly, showing just who had the really silly idea.

Keres vs J L Watson, 1975

Apr-29-17  bkpov: Morphy used to intice his opponents. By studying his games it appears that he had a fairly good idea what bait they will bite. Precognition. Spiderman like. There may be many greats but he was the natural. natural Morphy meticulous Karpov who else you need.
May-04-22  paulmorphy1969: I often read coments Morphy today would not win against a modern grandmaster.With what logic can you compare a player of the 1800s who played with pure talent and intuition without studying chess with a grandmaster of today who lives on chess and only chess 365 days a year studying and continuously checking with students, programs, etc., this discourse does not seem to have any logic.Let's try to reverse the discourse who today's great teacher without any knowledge of books, theory, programs, etc., but playing only with his own skills. Back in 1800 could he beat Morphy? Answer none.Fisher's statement is absolutely true. Because Morphy had an exceptional brain capable of learning fast, great memory, and great positional intuition. Morphy played very fast never more than one two minutes per move, he played with intuition.Then many do not know that Morphy playing with his Maurian friend by giving the Horse the advantage has experienced closed game matches such as 1.g3 1.b3 1.f4.One last thing in Morphy's favor, and that if you analyze today with search engines you will find that 80% Morphy performed the best moves, and we are talking about games of 1857, without theoretical knowledge without studying only with the positional instinct.If Morphy lived today and could have access to modern material he would be a tough opponent for everyone to beat.One last thing is that only a small part of his enormous capacity has been glimpsed of Morphy. private homes Other witnesses reporting Morphy's performances in New Orleans in private homes against 16 simultaneous blind opponents.What is known about Morphy is just the tip of the iceberg. His strength has never been explored. And ultimately, all of Morphy's achievements have been achieved in just 3 years of tournament challenges etc. No player in history. of chess became a legend playing only 3 years.
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