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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
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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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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? ;)

Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

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.
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