Thursday, August 20, 2020

Some Facts About Paul Morphy - Maybe the Best USA Player of All Time

Paul Morphy was born June 22, 1837 and died July 10, 1884 at the age of 47. Here are some facts.

  • Paul became the best player in the world at the age of 21, when the current world champion Howard Staunton, avoided playing a match with Paul at all costs.
  • Paul learned to play chess simply by watching games between his father and uncle. He never had a lesson from any person to anyone's knowledge. At at nine, he was already considered New Orleans best player.
  • At age 12, Paul played a match against visiting Hungarian GM Johann Lowenthal and won 3 games and drawing one.
  • Paul relied on his remarkable memory and natural intuition to play chess. He never studied, practiced or trained for chess.
  • Began playing chess competitively only because he was too young to start his law practice after graduating from law school at the age of 19.
  • Gave a blindfold chess against 8 master players in an 1858 exhibition in Paris that rocked the chess world by winning every game.
  • Paul's chess career in total lasted only 18 months. Lack of the ability to get a championship match soured Paul's desire to continue playing. 
  • Paul never truly got his law business going. He was nicknamed "The pride and sorrow of chess" because even though he may have been the greatest natural chess player ever born, he left chess without being champion and struggled to be a lawyer as mental illness crept in.
  • An interviewer asked Bobby Fischer who was the 2nd best US player of all time. Even Bobby said, he didn't really think he was the best. Bobby credited Paul Morphy as being possibly greater than him, since there were no chess books, teachers, clubs or tournaments to play in during Paul's lifetime. Bobby said, "I played over all of Paul's games and he may have been the most accurate player that ever lived."
Here is the chess engine's analysis of the best players. Paul finished 16th - without ever studying, getting a lesson or reading a chess book. Amazing!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

LCCC is Still Going Strong On-line at and Lichess! Also a Queen Sac!


Photo of GM Nikolai Krogius

The instructions on how to join us on line are on the right side of the blog. We welcome a new member - Jakob or on - Fiskoal. Glad to have you as a member.

Now for a little chess entertainment. 

Grandmasters of course are special people with a special talent. Their ability to see things on a chessboard and calculate combinations and sequences of moves astounds us mere mortals. Here is a game where the Grandmaster sees the real 'best move, but I will let GM Nikolai Krogius tell the story:

"White has a big advantage here. 14. Kh1 followed by 15. f5 leads to a won game for White. White's attention had been constantly aimed at the d4 square (Ed. Note: Did you take notice of what the GM mind focuses on? Square control. That is a lesson in itself.). 

But who can resist a queen sacrifice? Even though the vanilla 14. Kh1 is the shortest win, (Ed. Note: Igor3000 says White's advantage is +3.1 pawns after that move) the aesthetic factors won the day. (Ed. Note: GM's are also very mean people on a chessboard!) 

My heart stopped beating when I played ....."

GM Krogius - GM Kuznetsov

14.   Qxd4!          Nxd4        (Ed. Note: White's text move is only worth +2.8 pawns)

15.   Nd6+           Kf8

16.   Nxb7            Qa4

17.    b3               Nxb3

18.    axb3            Qxa1

19.    Be3             Qb2

20.    Bxc5+         d6

21.    Bxd6+         Kg8

22.    Ne7+           Kf8

23.    Re1             .........

First of all, who in the world but Grandmasters could calculate a queen sac 10 moves out? Well, Krogius even admitted "I did not understand the win at the time I made the sacrifice, but I sensed it would be correct."  

This is why chess fascinates us! 

23.   ......               h5

24.   Ng6+            Kg8

25.   Re8+             Kh7

26.   Nxh8             Qd4+

27.   Kf1                a6??

The final mistake, not that it matters at this point. Correct was 27. .......Nc6. (White up only +1.6 pawns instead of a mate in nine moves.

28.   Nxf7              axb5

29.    Ng5+            Kg6

30.    Bf7+             Kf5

31.    Re5+             Kxf4

32.    g3+                Black Resigns

GM's can not only see winning positions, they can sense them as well. Your author can't do either one, but that does not stop me from enjoying the best game in the world.