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Paul Morphy vs Charles Maurian
"Miracle on 34th Move" (game of the day Dec-23-2022)
Odds game (1863) (unorthodox), New Orleans, LA USA
Chess variants (000)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Apr-28-16  RookFile: The position after move 7 is an example of Morphy playing with hypermodern ideas long before Nimzo did.
Premium Chessgames Member
  fredthebear: I don't see any comments (perhaps banned/invisible trash talkers posted previously) about 22.Bc3! Perhaps it's too obvious, but the irony must be noted. Paul Morphy offers a simple queen sacrifice for Morphy's Mate with 23.Rxg7+ Kh8 24.RxNg4+ discovery and mate cannot be prevented.

Black eschews the White queen and prevents Morphy's Mate with 22...Rf7. Then a few moves later the queens are exchanged, and the foundation is set for the famous finish with two hogs on the seventh and the irritable White knight.

Apr-19-17  drleper: <blunderclap: Wow, one almost suspects Morphy to have thought it a bit too easy with 22.Bc3. Could he really have missed that?>

What do you mean? 22.Bc3! is white's best move there.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Do we have a verified date for this game? An article about Maurian (American Chess Bulletin, September 1911, p. 196-200) describes it as <" of the best games of the 1869 series." >

ACB is hardly definitive in such matters, but it's worth checking out.

Mar-03-21  paulmorphy1969: Rae8! 35.Rg7 + Kh8 36.Nf8 Re1 + 37.Kg2 Bf1 + 38.Kf3 Be2+! 39.Kf2!Bh5 40.Rh7+ Kg8 41.Rxf5 R1e2+ 42.Kf3 R8e3+ 43.Kf4 Re5 equal position,White not win
Mar-03-21  paulmorphy1969: This game was published in the illustrated London News of April 4, 1863, with the heading chess in New Orleans, no date indicated. link: The same game was published in the Nouvelle Regence of June 1963 page 183 Link: Link: We now come to the various errors in the major books on Morphy: in the book of Sergeant Game CCXC from New Orleans 1969, in the book by Maroczy, game 150 from New Orleans 1866, in the Macon Shibut book game 348 from Paris 1863. wrong therefore sure and the place New Orleans, for the date could be 1863 or even earlier perhaps (my personal hypothesis) 1861 year of the first series of challenges between Morphy-Maurian with advantage of Nb1, pending further confirmation it will be dated 1863 .
Mar-28-21  paulmorphy1969: The oldest source is in the illustrated London News of April 11, 1863, with the heading chess in New Orleans, no date is indicated. link:
Mar-28-21  paulmorphy1969: the correct date of the Illustrated London news is April 11th not 4th as I wrote in a previous post
Dec-23-22  nalinw: 'Tis the season to be punny?
Dec-23-22  Atking: It's a gem. A few years ago I showed this game to my young chess students revealing not only the clever tactical passes 38.Nf8! as a mate exercice giving 34.a4! all its charm but also the hypermodern spirit of the opening. Not seeing a chess genius here, seems to me crazy...
Dec-23-22  sfm: 9.c4(!!) looks so harmless. It's a trap.
The threat of taking back a piece or forcing the queen into danger is easy to miss.

Trapped into what? Black is still overwhelmingly winning.

Trapped into complications! Into a position where mistakes are more likely to be made. It is no longer a simple matter of playing quietly, exchange some pieces and win on the material advantage.

'Those who get odds are obliged to play poorly' as somebody once said. But the odds-giver must give them a fair chance to do that. So 9.c4(!!)

Engines do not make such considerations. They will suggest the least-bad move, here 9.d4, which quietly loses without any complications

9.d4(?) exd4 10.exd4 Re8 11.Nf2 Bd7 12.c4 Qe3 13.c5 Bf8 14.Kg2 a6 15.Bxc6 Bxc6 16.Re1 Qxe1 17.Qxe1 Rxe1 18.Rxe1 Re8 19.Rxe8 Bxe8 20.Bc3 Be7

In easily-won positions engines may be easier to beat. A Morphy will know to seek positions that gives the opponent chances for blundering.

Dec-23-22  Agferna: Engine found a double miracle on move 34. a4!!, f4!! leading to a draw. Essentially the black rook, bishop and f pawn harass the white king, which if he flees to h3, then the bishop defends the white mate from the b1-h7 diagonal.
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: I believe we have a Christmas themed pun!
Dec-23-22  goodevans: 34.a4! is one of those moves that few of us would find OTB but once we've seen it we quickly realise why it's good. <Agferna>'s 34...f4 is a different kettle of fish.

click for larger view

If White pursues the same plan of 35.Rg7+ Kh8 36.Nf8 then, as <Agferna> suggests, Black can keep checking until White eventually can get in Bd3 defending g6. But of course White doesn't need to follow that plan but could instead try <35.gxf4>. Without a Black pawn on f4 to 'harass' the White K (i.e. force him away from g2 with ...f3+) the idea of defending with Bd3 no longer has traction. What's more, White is also threatening to throw a massive spanner in the works with 36.f5. It's not at all clear how Black can defend now so maybe 34...f4 isn't a miracle draw after all.

Given that 34.a4 prevents Black's R on a8 getting into the game on the a-file, perhaps a better attempt at a draw is to reroute it with <34...Rae8>.

click for larger view

As before, this seems to defend against 35.Rg7+ Kh8 36.Nf8 since after 36...Re1+ 37.Kg2 Bf1+ 38.Kf3 Be2+ 39.Kf2 Bh5 is once again defending g6 (any deviation from that line is a draw or a loss for White). Unlike after 34...f4, White doesn't seem to have an alternative plan to throw at Black.

Dec-23-22  Agferna: As goodevans correctly points out, White also has multiple attacking resources, but Black has more defensive resources to come out of the Santa Claus bag. After 34. a4!! f4!! 35. gf4, the defensive brilliancies continue with b3!!. So now if Rg7+ Kh8 Nf8 the bishop found the defensive d3 square. Sure the e6 rook is hanging, but with the mates defended the b2 pawn will advance and reclaim a white rook. After b3 White can try Rb7, but it seems Black has defensive resources like b2 (otherwise Nf8) Rb2 Kh8! Rbb7 and now Rae8 going for harassing the White King again and draw. A lot of complications, very difficult OTB. Instead of Rbb7, White has ways, for instance Rb4, to avoid total equality attempting to secure a slight edge to keep the pressure on. Any sligh imprecision by Black can be fatal. Cheers
Dec-23-22  Chesschronicle22: Does the name has something to do with "miracle in cell no 7" ?
Dec-23-22  stone free or die: <<Chesschronicle22> Does the name has something to do with "miracle in cell no 7" ?>

I think it's a reference to the movie <Miracle on 34th Street>: (1947 version of course)

It's a Christmas classic with Natalie Wood as the child star.

FWIW- I think the pun could have been shortened to <Miracle on 34th>.

Dec-23-22  stone free or die: (I see <beatgiant> has delivered again!)
Dec-23-22  TheTamale: I'm completely stumped why White's final combination needed to be preceded by 34) a4. Even with Engine's help I can't figure it out, although Engine does say 34)a4 is correct. Why can't White just launch into his final combo without it?
Dec-23-22  stone free or die: <TheTamale> maybe the pun should have been <Miraculous Blunder on 34th>?

Guess it all depends on which side of the board you're on!


Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <TheTamale>
The point is, in the final position Black does not have the defense 36...Re1+ 37. Kf2 Re2+ 38. Kf3 <Ra3+> because the pawn is in the way.
Dec-23-22  ChessIsLife159753: 34.a4!! is too briliant for words. After 34...bxa3 35.Rg7+ Kh8 36.Nf8! Black has no check on a2 anymore and therefore he will have to play ...Re2+ to hope for a perpetual. But after Kh3! there is no bishop check on f1 anymore.
Dec-23-22  TheTamale: <beatgiant> Thanks so much! All Engine would tell me was that, without 34) a4, White's best option was to let Black's rook keep checking him as he shuttled his King back and forth, not trying to get away. Since a4 didn't fully clear the a file, I didn't see how it helped, though. Once you pointed that out, I was able to work through every variation.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: 403. Call the bobbies.
Dec-24-22  Agferna: Engine will give you one or more 20-move variations, but is not going to tell you the crux and rationale. The reason 34. a4!! is so good, is that when white launches into the Rg7+ and Nf8 mating net, with the a-pawn on a2, once the black e-rook checks on e1, the black a-rook can check the white king either on a3 or a2, (which it can’t do with white pawn on a4 or with the black pawn taking on a3), and it would be white that is mated. For instance if the white king goes to g2, Ra2+ mates: Kh3, Bf1+, Kh4 and Rh2#, or Kf3 Bd5+ Kf4 Rf1#. If the white king goes to f2 touching the lose e1 rook, then Re2+ drives him back to the first rank for a draw, for he dare not push forward Kf3 to allow the a-rook to check Ra3+ Kf4 and Rf2#. So a4!! is so good because it denies the a-rook a direct checking entry, which would overwhelm the white king.
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