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Paul Morphy vs Duke Karl / Count Isouard
"A Night at the Opera" (game of the day Dec-02-07)
Paris (1858)  ·  Philidor Defense: General (C41)  ·  1-0
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Given 381 times; par: 33 [what's this?]

Annotations by Robert James Fischer.      [17 more games annotated by Fischer]

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 27 OF 27 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  kramnikstudent: Analyzed this game in my blog

Nov-23-16  The Kings Domain: The only Chess game I've memorized. Morphy's genius shines admirably in this neat little gem.
Feb-22-17  Jimmy720: memorize
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Memorize.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <offramp: I asked: <<morpstau:...The duke and Count were wining over who gets to make the next bad move.> Can this be taken as an answer to this earlier question? <offramp: Here is a basic question: How did the allies play? How did they 'consult'? Did they talk to each other while the opera was on or did they play a move each, like in a bridge game?>

So presumably Morphy had the additional advantage of listening to the Allies choosing and analysing each of their moves before they played it. No wonder they lost!>

<LIFE Master AJ: I HATE Morphy bashers ... they really get under my skin. As for the yahoo who questioned how the consultation was carried off, you should read the account that was printed in a Paris newspaper.>

The Yahoo was me! Sadly I don't have that newspaper at hand. I am looking for it, though.>

I have still not found the Paris newspaper that described how the Allies talked about their moves and made them.

Mar-09-17  thegoodanarchist: <I have still not found the Paris newspaper that described how the Allies talked about their moves and made them.>

Spoken like a true Morphy basher ;)

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Even if you found the Paris newspaper, you would have to pray for a slow news day where crowd noises at the opera are reported.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Offramp,

Who ever wrote the wiki to this game adds some flesh.

Apparently they were consulting so loud it upset the performers.

I wonder if they were consulting in French or German thinking Morphy might not understand them. No joy there, apparently Morphy was fluent in both languages and Spanish.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Dear Geoff, that does indeed give a more vivid picture. I now have a very clear picture of that night at the opera.

Morphy has his back to the stage. In fact he presents an identical image to Decalcomania by René Magritte.

Duke Statler & Count Waldorf are shouting away at each other. They use English to undermine Morphy, German to talk to each other and polari to heckle the guys and gals gamely battling their way through <Norma>.

When Morphy makes a move, both Statler & Waldorf give a huge sigh of relief, perform a loud high-5 and say "HA! That's what we were hoping you would play" or "We've got him NOW" or "I can't believe he didn't see it" or some such psychey phrase.

There was no need to consult a Parisian newspaper after all!

Mar-10-17  Petrosianic: <Shams>: <"That would be a butcher's way, not an artist's" was how Reinfeld or someone put it.>

Yeah, but that's making excuses for a less than best move. That's fine, I don't blame Morphy for playing what he did, but if an ordinary mortal player finds himself in the same kind of situation, he might do better to play the best move.

Mar-10-17  john barleycorn: <Petrosianic: <Shams>: <"That would be a butcher's way, not an artist's" was how Reinfeld or someone put it.>

Yeah, but that's making excuses for a less than best move. ...>

However, I think similar comments can be found in either Lasker's, Reti's or Euwe's annotations.

Yet, had the game taken another course we would read something like "the clearest way to win" etc

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Shams

"That would be a butcher's way, not an artist's" was how Reinfeld or someone put it."

Soltis & Reinfeld in their book on Morphy (game 19) give the quote here

click for larger view

to Lasker. If 8.Qxb7.

"That would have been a butcher's method, not an artist."

By coincidence the exact same position was reached in A Milovic vs D Mihajlova, 2008 (the first poster gives the Butcher quote to Steinitz.)

White played the Butcher's move 8.Qxb7 and the player of the Black pieces is in fact an artist. Some of her work can viewed here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Better than either the butcher's or the artist's move is 8.Bxf7+ (call it the engine's move) and as I think Marin pointed out, if this was a serious game that's what Morphy would have played.

But from the standpoint of getting the game over with, 8.Nc3 was the best move. And it did lead to a genuinely beautiful game that's probably inspired every one of us. So Reinfeld or whoever it was had a point.

Mar-11-17  ChrisWainscott: Knowing historical games can be useful. This game was one of the tests in the third lesson of the first orange Yusupov book.

Of course that made me want to come here and play through the entire game again.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi K.P.

I'm not too sure I agree with Marin.

I'm sure if Morphy was playing a serious game you would still see him playing 8.Nc3.

Marin has switched on a box looked at the eval. Saw it was computers top choice and ran with that. His explanation of why a great player never played the top box was because it was not a serious game.

Nah, Sorry, but I am not swallowing that one. This Marin lad appears to know nothing about Morphy and what he was about.

Morphy would eat his foot before wasting time in the opening swapping a developed piece and freeing Black's position for an undeveloped Rook and pawn or two.

And check this out for yourself. I did years ago.

click for larger view

after 8.Bxf7+ Qxf7 9.Qxb7 Bc5

click for larger view

It is the h8 Rook that goes and even then Black gets counter play. A cursory glance at Black's development will tell you that.

And you are not allowed hindsight. Would you really go this way back on move 8. Black has Bxf2+ and Nxe4+ coming. (be honest.)

If White takes the a8 Rook then Black is OK. Check it for yourself.

Back here.

click for larger view


Deployment! Now you really are threatening QxNP. (the threat is stronger than the execution - Nimzovitch) Black has to play c6 then Bg5.

Now see Fischer's note above when he talks about this position and how wretched it is for Black.

This is how Morphy played, he's got Black in a Morphy Time Bomb.

Look at Morphy's games, he makes them look easy because he played it easy.

And yet people and computers want him to take a QNP! with the Queen. (or to give it the Morphy name a 'Denis Julien' Pawn).

"Yeah this is what Morphy would have played because my computer says so."

Morphy will be spinning in his grave at the suggestion he would have taken the QNP with his Queen.

Morphy never as White took a QNP with his Queen in the first 15 moves of any game. He was development, development, development.

Only three times more than 15 moves and under 25 moves did Morphy take a Black QNP with the Queen and (this is where we get the Denis Julien from) it was all against the same player! Denis Julien and they were all played at Knight odds.

Morphy vs D Julien, 1857

Morphy vs D Julien, 1857

Morphy vs D Julien, 1859

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Nah, Sorry, but I am not swallowing that one. This Marin lad appears to know nothing about Morphy and what he was about.>

Actually, you may be right about 8.Nc3. But Marin wrote a very good book about Morphy, and he is a much stronger player than you or I. So show a little respect.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi K.P.

What book on Morphy?

Yes you are correct, it can be viewed as disrespectful (none intended) but typically me when I don't agree about something and can put forward a valid case and I'm going against a higher 4 digit number. (the higher number does not always make them correct. Don't swallow everything they write.)

Nobody questioned his opinion (or his friend with the computer's opinion) Morphy would play 8.Bxf7+ if he had been playing a serious game. All I could see was a swarm of nodding heads.

As GM Nigel Davies says, it is all too easy to "read and nod."

So I decided to wade amongst them (and him) with a cricket bat. I don't do the softly-softly thing.

However, I do like and enjoy a lot of Marin's stuff. It's very good. Especially his views on computer chess. That is why I am surprised he allowed that bit in.

And anyone who wears a Beatles T-Shirt cannot all that bad.

Mihail Marin

Sorry Mikhail Marin. (but be careful...I've got my eye on you....and so has Edward Winter.)

Chess Note number 3868.

Thanks K.P. for the scolding.

Mar-12-17  morfishine: <Sally Simpson> Must be Sergeant's book, his is the most noteworthy on Morphy I think:

Personally, I am on my third copy what-with lending, not being returned, etc.


Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Morf,

I think some were talking about a book on Morphy by Mihail Marin. I'm not sure he did one. He has a chapter in one of his books about Morphy.

I'm not a Morphy Maniac howling every time someone has a pop at him. Which in this case they are not.

And I do not go along with the theory he could today be in the top 10-20 today.

He was gifted and helped lay down the principles of play that Steinitz later put in writing.

8.Nc3 is probably one of the most instructive moves ever played. People touting for 8.Bxf7+ or 8.Qxb7 should not be allowed near beginners.

click for larger view


Develops a piece with a threat forcing the opponent to make a weakening non-developing move.

Prevents Black from freeing his position with Qb4+

Holds the e-pawn (do not go for a wing attack without a secure a centre)

Now the threat of Qxb7 is a real threat giving Black no hope of any counterplay at all.

After 8...c6 9.Bg5 (developing and pinning the Knight.)

The c3 Knight is now ready to show what happens, in one of the most educational demonstrations ever seen on a chessboard, when a player tries to relieve his cramped undeveloped position by violence.

Morphy would have flicked it out against anybody at anytime.

PS; is the pun OK in this game? ;)

Mar-13-17  Marmot PFL: Morphy was not a material grabber when it meant falling behind in development and giving the other guy counterplay. There was no need for taking such risks when he could just play natural moves and take advantage of the opponent's mistakes. This was in an era when good defensive play was very rare. Today almost any decent player would see that after 9...b5 10 Nxb5 black is already losing.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Huh!

Hey KeyPusher we are both dipsticks - and it is your fault.

Mikhail Marin never said 8.Bxf7+ is the best move. It was this lad:

Ignacio Marin

"The obvious 8 Bf7 (8...Qf7? 9 Qb7 Ne4 10 0-0! or 9...Bc5 10 Qa8 Bf2 11 Rf2 Ne4 12 Ke1 Qf2 13 Kd1 Qd4 14 Nd2 or 14 Bd2 winning) is what Morphy would have played against any strong player.."

and here is where he said it:

All I said was this Marin lad knows nothing about Morphy. You thought it was Mikhail, so did I when you said it was.

Note I.Marin gives the bad line and takes the a8 Rook here.

click for larger view

Looking only at 10. Qxa8 Bxf2+ but

10.Qxa8 0-0 11.0-0 c6! and White's Queen is in danger. It's a whole new ball game.

10.Qc8+ and Qxh8 is better but even then White has to go carefully.

Morphy's 9.Nc3 avoided all of this. Best move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Sally>

<Hey KeyPusher we are both dipsticks - and it is your fault.>

Yeah, I think the fault is pretty much all mine here. I got my Marins mixed up; you were guilty only of assuming I knew what I was talking about.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi K.P.

I do have a copy of 'Secrets of Attacking Chess' by Mikhail Marin and he does have a section on Morphy. But no mention there of the Opera Game so I was wondering where he said it.

Surfed about and found he didn't say it.

Now where was I before I was interrupted.

"This other Marin lad appears to know nothing about Morphy and what he was about."


Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Sally> Shame that I wrote such drivel on this page of all pages. But people love this game and love writing about it, so hopefully my posts will be covered over before too long.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi K.P.

I would not worry about it, it's kind of funny, and this game after all was a fun game played in an Opera box during an Opera.

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