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Paul Morphy vs Duke Karl / Count Isouard
"A Night at the Opera" (game of the day Dec-02-2007)
Paris (1858), Paris FRA
Philidor Defense: General (C41)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 28 OF 28 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Apr-09-17  brimarern: After playing over and memorizing this game for over 40 years, I had an epiphany.

The Duke (and the Count if you want to throw him in there too) didn't play that badly.

Yes, it was a 17 move beating -a beautiful 17 move beating. However, when you "examine the gears of the watch" subtlety abounds.

Two of black's mistakes (Bg4 and Nf6) were developing moves. They were mistakes of an extremely subtle nature that strong players see and pound mercilessly. The small zwischenzug combination by black to avert losing a pawn on move 4, gave white a tempo -which white definitely noticed and took full advantage of.

This game reminds me a lot of Rotlewi-Rubinstein. White ( here an IM strength master according to chess metrics) made several imperceptible errors (that were perceptible to Rubinstein!) and the result was a game for the ages.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Is it known when/where this game was first published? Was Edge responsible, or did our aristocratic duo have a fit of noblesse oblige?
May-15-17  User not found: Just let Stockfish look at this game for half an hour and it seems that from the 4th move it was gonna be an uphill struggle but this appears to be the point of no return

click for larger view


I would have played h6 but it's the 3rd choice of the engine. This game is one of the only games I've memorised, it's an absolute classic.

Premium Chessgames Member
  GM Igor Smirnov: It's amazing that Morphy understood these concepts 150 years ago! Learn the 3 main strategies he employed to devastate all his rivals -
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Such was Morphy's prowess that no less than Botvinnik noted that no major improvements in the handling of open play have been made since his era.
Dec-10-17  hitesh17: what about 10...Qb4+
Premium Chessgames Member
  ChessHigherCat: <hitesh17> I think if 10...Qb4+ 11. Qxb4 Bxb4 12. c3

if Bxc3 13 Nxc3 or
if cxb5 then Bxb5+ or
if Ba5 Nd6+ looks pretty deadly, for example if Ke7 Nxf7 or maybe it's even better to castle long first.

Dec-17-17  Petrosianic: <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.>

Actually, I think the BEST move in this position is 8. Bxf7+. 8...Qxf7 9. Qxb7 and White wins an exchange and a couple of pawns.

If an immediate 8. Qxb7, then Qb4+ and Black saves the exchange but still loses a couple of pawns. That's what I've played the few times I've had this position and it's good, but Bxf7+ is better.

At best, Morphy's 8. Nc3 is the third best move. And it's really his ONLY move in the entire game that's less than optimal (although his 1. e4 is debatable).

<Sally Simposon> <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.>

You're rationalizing to defend a less than best move for no other reason than the name of the person who made that move. If you were actually teaching a beginner you'd probably be telling him to go for the clearest and simplest advantage rather than playing moves he didn't understand how to follow up.

Dec-17-17  Granny O Doul: Mednis recommended 9...Na6 for Black. Is that Stockfish's choice?

When I came across the "butcher" comment it was attributed to Lasker, and referred to Bf7+. I do not know the original source, though.

I think 8. Nc3 can be justified under Bronstein's "never refute a weak move immediately" rule. Bernard Zuckerman once suggested 5. gf as an improvement in the pages of Chess Life.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

Sorry took so long in replying, this time of year is very busy for me.

First we must define beginner. I’m talking about a player who knows how the pieces move and has a very rudimentary idea of their value. In my experience this is what most unschooled players are armed with.

and my quote

"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."

You are about to give a very important lesson , one that may ‘hopefully’ ensnare the player for the rest of their life. Your task is to implant into that person (they are not yet a chess player) an interest and love for the game that will last them for the rest of their life.

The next 30 minutes or so is critical and you will only have one shot at this. Poorly done and they will be lost to the beauty of the game forever. Your task is not to be taken lightly.

No matter what the subject, joy and enthusiasm is infectious. At this stage you must express your love for the game and open their eyes to it’s attraction, using the poetry of clear explanation to unleash the fascination that can be found on the chess board.

In this position

click for larger view

. With White playing Bxf7+ and . Qxb7. That is not going work is it?

What are you doing next? Where are you going?

Show them how to win a technically won game by chopping wood and taking them through a monotonous and mind numbing ending.

You will have lost them forever. They will be reaching for the T.V. zapper or asking where is the Scrabble board.

The 8. Bxf7+ and then Qxb7 moves in similar technical positions are for a later date. (by then you will have them hooked.) . First you must let the game embrace them.

I cannot stress how important it is that you get this right.

click for larger view

. 8.Nc3 threatens both Qxb7 and Bxf7+ in much better. circumstances. 8...c6 is practically forced. if not now then after Bg5 with Nd5 coming it is.

This game is so beautiful and simple to explain, even an untrained teacher could show it and make a lasting impression, and that is what you after. The hook into the heart.

Morphy uses every piece on the board including tucking his King into safety wrapping it up with a Queen sacrifice. The whole game is just perfect.

Let this game to the beginner be that unforgettable first kiss on the first date by the garden gate.

Two players with different and distinct styles, Karpov and Tal both point to this game as one of the chief factors that got them into the game. There have been thousands or others.

Do not dissect it on a cold marble slab.

Frame it and put it up there next to the Mona Lisa. As you show the final mate and you see that ‘smile’ flicker across the beginner’s lips you know you have done your bit. (and some will curse you forever, they will never be the same person again.).

Dec-21-17  Petrosianic: <This game is so beautiful and simple to explain, even an untrained teacher could show it and make a lasting impression, and that is what you after. The hook into the heart.>

I agree with what I think you're saying; that the game <as played> is much more attractive and instructional with 8. Nc3 than with the alternative moves. But do you think if a D Player had played the same move, that he'd have had the same gorgeous outcome? He probably wouldn't have won brilliantly, and might not have won at all. 9...b5 is where Black really goes off the rails. If 9...b6, White is still better, but Black isn't going to fall apart on its own. The weak player would have a harder time winning this than if he'd played one of the more mundane moves on Move 8.

The flashiest move isn't always the best. Yesterday I reached this position in a blitz game:

click for larger view

I thought I was being clever with 25. Re8+ Qxe8 26. Qxf6+ Qf7 27. Bxg7+, winning a clear piece. But I looked at it afterwards, and Rd3, though not as pretty, is actually a much stronger move, to build on the pin. if 25...f4 (to stop Rg3), Re4 does the same thing.

Dec-21-17  MariusDaniel: Queen sacrifice to checkmate with the Regal Rook!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

"But do you think if a D Player had played the same move, [8.Nc3] that he'd have had the same gorgeous outcome?"

I'd would have been full of praise if D player had played 8.Nc3. You can never argue nor should one discourage a D player from making developing move and because the threat of Bxf7+ is still on the board it forces Black to play a none developing move.

A lot of players would have remained a D player or perhaps never taken up chess had they not seen this game.

We all learned from it.

In years to come our D player may look at it again and the move 8.Bxf7+. Good for them.

But it's too late. The original game has speared them, sucked them into the wonderful world of chess.

And if our D player had gone for 8.Bxf7+. You said Black went off the rails with 9...b5.

How about we play some normal moves, nothing as drastic as 9...b5

click for larger view

8.Bxf7+ Qxf7 9.Qxb7 Bc5 10.Qx8

click for larger view

10...Bxf2+ is a nest of vipers where our D player has to tread very carefully. But nothing drastic.

11. 0-0 c6.

click for larger view

What a mess (is White still winning?) Our White D player is going to unravel carefully and look at the White Queenside after 12 moves.

Then look at Morphy's development after just 9 moves.

click for larger view

I think the lesson there is if you are going to chase Rooks at the cost of development then be prepared to accept a position of only moves where one natural slip (as in the natural 9....b5 in the stem game) is fatal.

Dec-26-17  Petrosianic: <Sally Simpson> I tend to agree that Morphy might have played Nc3 even against top opposition. But I'm not sure Fischer would have. Fischer was more willing to endure short-term discomfort if he was sure he'd come out on top in the end.

One thing that skews the eval a bit is that Black's position is not nearly so bad after 9...b6, but a lot of Black's plans involve eventually fianchettoing that KB. But in those days nobody fianchettoed except Staunton and a few Indian players. I like Black's position after 9...b6 a lot LESS if I arbitrarily assume that fianchettoing is not an option.

Rook grabbing is a lot more profitable than pawn grabbing. In the Rook grab variation, 10. Qxa8 is probably not best. 8. Bxf7+ Qxf7 9. Qxb7 Bc5 10. Qc8+! Ke7 11. Qxh8 is much better.

HOWEVER, White still has to be careful. If 11...Bxf2+, 12. Kxf2 is NOT good. White faces a lot of the same problems he does in the Wilkes-Barre Variation here. In fact, I think you've made your point that the complications of 8. Bxf7+ might be a bit too much for our hypothetical D Player, especially if he's playing a stronger opponent. 8. Bxf7+ opens black's f file, frees the Bishop's diagonal, and gives Black all sorts of weapons.

Perhaps 8. Qxb7 is the best move after all. Black is practically forced to play Qb4+, and after that White is a clear pawn up in a queenless middlegame. If a D player can get that out of the opening, he shouldn't turn his nose up.

Premium Chessgames Member
  pdxjjb: In defense of engines, the very latest now (SF9), when allowed to run out to superhuman search depth, doesn't like Bxf7 at all. Engine prefers "the butcher's way" Qxb7 for white and gives a strongest continuation similar to the Milovic v Mihajlova game mentioned above. The engine finds Nc3 to be nearly as good as Qxb7, and prefers even very passive moves like O-O and Be3 to Bxf7.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Bubo bubo: A few months ago, I committed the grave error of buying <The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games> - I regretted my purchase in the moment when I had to discover that the book does not contain this game, in fact not a <single> game of Morphy at all!

I don't know the criteria the authors (Burgess, Nunn, and Emms) applied, but excluding the most famous game of one of the strongest players of the 19th century, a game with eternal instructive value, is inexcusable imho.

(My anger about this omission even grew when I had to discover that they included the spurious game E Z Adams vs Carlos Torre, 1920 instead - unbelievable!)

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < Bubo bubo: A few months ago, I committed the grave error of buying <The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games> - I regretted my purchase in the moment when I had to discover that the book does not contain this game, in fact not a <single> game of Morphy at all! I don't know the criteria the authors (Burgess, Nunn, and Emms) applied, but excluding the most famous game of one of the strongest players of the 19th century, a game with eternal instructive value, is inexcusable imho.

(My anger about this omission even grew when I had to discover that they included the spurious game E Z Adams vs Carlos Torre, 1920 instead - unbelievable!)>

There are 100 games in my edition. And you're upset because they omitted this game and included Adams-Torre? So now it's a horrible book, but if it had this game it would be OK? Why not look at the other 99 games? Maybe you'll find a few that you like.

<I don't know the criteria the authors (Burgess, Nunn, and Emms) applied> Try reading the introduction.

What difference would including this game have made, exactly? Do you think Burgess, Nunn, and Emms would have come up with some blinding insight that a thousand previous annotators all missed?

It's a beautiful game, one of the games that makes people fall in love with chess. It's also a 17-move blowout against patzers. Pretty much all there is to say about it can be found in the kibitzes here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Bubo bubo: Dear <keypusher>, it seems as if you like the Mammoth Book and so my comment offended you. That was of course not my intention - I apologize!

In fact, I did not take any further look into the book until today - discovering the absence of the Opera Game and the presence of Adams-Torre had made me too angry. Reading the introduction today (thanks to your reply!), I must admit that the authors maybe right to omit the Opera Game: it's a famous game, an important and instructive one, and, to quote you, a game <that makes people fall in love with chess>. But it is not necessarily one of the <best> games ever.

On the other hand, I still believe that the authors should have included at least one game of Morphy (what about Paulsen vs Morphy, 1857, for instance?), the strongest player of his time deserves that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <bubo bubo>

I agree with you about Morphy -- he belonged in there. I probably would have gone with Morphy vs Harrwitz, 1858 but of course your choice is also a great game.

My own quarrel with the NBE is I think they neglected defense in favor of the attack. I wouldn't have minded seeing games like Botvinnik vs Reshevsky, 1948 or Reshevsky vs Bronstein, 1953. But there are a lot of great games in there and, you're right, I do like the book. No collection of great games will ever be able to satisfy everyone.

Dec-09-18  Captain Hindsight: <the authors (Burgess, Nunn, and Emms) >

To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi Bubo,

I hit on this as well.Morphy vs Duke Karl / Count Isouard, 1858 (kibitz #782) which mentions in 'The Mammoth Book of Chess.' they had Morphy at the Opera 9 times. (then for some reason they drop it in later editions.)

I think what I say in that post holds water.

"If 100 hundred Kibitzers on here drew up a list of the 10 greatest games placed in any order I doubt if any two list would contain the same 10 games."

It's a beauty and eye of the beholder situation.


Dec-24-18  HarryP: This was the first game I ever played over the moves of. I was 12 years old. What a gem this is. It's like a small but perfect diamond.
Jan-01-19  Albion 1959: Okay, now it' my turn to have a say on this "Immortal Game?" which has endured around the world for decades. We can universally accept that Bg4? Was a bad move. After this, black's game becomes difficult. Could the allies have defended this position any better? Up to move 8, black's replies are more or less forced until move 9, then b5?? was a shocker of a move that got what it deserved. There appears to be no decent moves left here for black! Is chess really that easy? Of course not, but the quality of chess players back then was woefully inferior to the standard in the 21st century, even at club level. Difficult to know how good a player Morphy really was, he was clearly the best at the time and beat his contemporaries. But how would have fared against later generations? He could not played this sort of chess today, nor could he have got away with all those sacrificial and flashy attacks against computers, they would have found the best defence and easily refuted his sacrifices. This was one of the first games that I played through, after I had worked out chess annotation. Still up there in the list of instructive games after all these years!
Feb-11-19  Troller: Michael Oondatje's latest novel "Warlight" has a mother explaining this game over 2-3 pages to her son, narrator of the story. Inspiration may have come from Walter Tevis ( - I do not know if Oondatje is a chess player himself. At least I recall no references to chess in his other novels I have read, "Anil's Ghost" and "The English Patient".

Be that as it may, I had to revisit this great game which I had not seen for 25 years.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: If Fischer played the "Game of The Century", then surely this is "Game of The (Previous) Century", in the previous century (if you get my meaning).

But in this century, "Game of The Previous Century" is probably this one:

Karpov vs Kasparov, 1985

or this one:

Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960

Of course, it could also be the original one!

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