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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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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.


Premium Chessgames Member
  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!
Premium Chessgames Member
  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!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

At one time it was thought that 'Norma' was the opera being performed whilst this game was being played. But Edward Winter now thinks it was "probably" 'The Barber of Seville.'


Nov-18-19  spingo: <Sally Simpson: ...Edward Winter now thinks it was "probably" 'The Barber of Seville.'>

Weeeee are the Westminster piggy bank Famileeeee!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: *** A Correction ***

Although it was on Edward Winter's site, the comment about the opera being 'probably' 'The Barber of Seville.' was actually submitted by one Fabrizio Zavatarelli. (who he? a chess historian that who he.)

I am sorry about any distress this error may have caused Mr Winter (who needs no who he?) and would like to thank Mr. O.G.Urcan (who he? Another chess historian.) for bringing this to my attention.

(The sweet Miss Scarlett will skin me alive for this and call me a wimp.)


Feb-26-20  SacrificialBlunder: I'm amazed at the people saying that 8. Nc3 wasn't the best move. People saying that 8. Bxf7+ is better!

Well, at depth 42 on Stockfish 11 the evaluation for the top 3 moves is as follows:

1. Qxb7 (2.15)
2. Nc3 (2.10)
3. 0-0 (1.61)

I think it's definitely safe to say that Bxf7+ isn't the best move, by far.

But, to think Qxb7 is best is strange to me.

First off, Nc3 retains all the threats, develops another piece, and just puts more pressure on Black to play accurately.

Qxb7 takes us into the endgame up a pawn with the bishop pair, as well as black having serious weaknesses on the queen side. But you've just released all the tension and you no longer have initiative.

It's crazy to me, even seeing the engine evaluation showing that Qxb7 is slightly better than Nc3, to think that Qxb7 is ever the better move to make.

I would play 8. 0-0 before I ever thought about letting black trade queens.

And after 8. Nc3 black is forced to play 8...c6, if he doesn't, the Nc3's evaluation is much better than Qxb7.

After Qxb7 and the trade of queens, there are a ton of plans with similar evaluations for black.

So you guys would rather lose the initiative, go into a 50 move endgame and let black choose from many different plans than forcing black to play accurately, keeping the initiative, and play for mate?

That just seems like a really bad way to explore the game tree.

8. Nc3 is one of the most instructive moves I've ever learned from.

Feb-26-20  Petrosianic: <First off, Nc3 retains all the threats, develops another piece, and just puts more pressure on Black to play accurately.

Qxb7 takes us into the endgame up a pawn with the bishop pair, as well as black having serious weaknesses on the queen side. But you've just released all the tension and you no longer have initiative.>

Yes, Qxb7 cashes in one advantage for a material advantage. The reason to avoid that is the belief that you can cash in even bigger if you wait.

Can you? You say Stockfish doesn't seem to think so (although it clearly likes both moves a lot). If Black doesn't play the insanely obliging move 9...b5, White doesn't have it nearly as easy as he did in the game.

Feb-26-20  asiduodiego: When I show this game to friends to teach them about chess, I always say that 8 Qxb7 is a fine move, but with the problem that leads to simplification immediatly. White is much better, being a pawn up, and ahead of development, but I think Morphy prefered 8 Nc3 because Black position is cramped, and difficult to develop, so perhaps he thinks it's better to develop a piece (usually a sound judgment) rather than go pawngrabbing (which wasn't his style).

I think maybe Black should have played 8 ... b6, because this move can allow for Black to (perhaps eventually) to move the Queen, move the Bishop and then castle.

When I teach this game, I use it as a lesson in the good old principle of "DON'T FORGET TO CASTLE, DAMN IT!" (in Spanish I use stronger words).

Feb-26-20  asiduodiego: I think this game should be used as a learning tool on "The importance of following the Chess basic principles" which Morphy discovered (or maybe he was born knowing the dang things, who knows). Black's game is very bad, but it seems typical play of a player who is constantly improvising in every move, instead of following sound positional and development principles. Morphy's play perhaps is not completly accurate by engine standards (I think 8 Qxb7 is just a fine move if you find yourself in this position), but 8 Nc3 is good as a learning tool: "Take out all your pieces to play!".

Black, of course, is playing very badly in this game, and moves such as 9 ... b5?? is inviting disaster. But, from a beginner's point of view, is hard to notice immediatly why such move is that bad, in fact, I guess for a beginner is just a natural move "let's relieve pressure from f7 by taking this bishop out of here". This game is a gem because it shows almost every sound principle of chess in action against a completely clueless opponent.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi asiduodiego,

<I think this game should be used as a learning tool on "The importance of following the Chess basic principles">

I think you will find that game is in 95% of the Chess Primers that have ever been written. It is probably the most famous game in the world (not the best...the most famous.)

Edward Winter has good page on it

Go right down the bottom and I get a huffy-puffy mention (though I am honoured) for basically cracking a joke. (which I actually did re-do to make it clear it was a joke.)

"As shown at the English Chess Forum, Geoff Chandler [ME!] has written falsehoods about our treatment of the Morphy opera game, also demonstrating his reluctance/incapacity to set matters straight. We have never said which opera was being performed, because we cannot say. All available evidence has been quoted impartially, whichever way it leans."

The piece that for some reason still rankles them.

If Chess History starts taking me seriously then it's in trouble. However I did onve cover all the history of was easy.

A History of Chess Part 1 (and part II)

A History of Chess (parts 3 to 9)

Chess History (part 11)


Feb-28-20  asiduodiego: <Sally Simpson> I agree this game is not the best game of all time (not even in the "Romantic Era"), but I think it's probably the most instructive display of the many basic principles. Let us review:

1- Always develop your pieces.
2- Play with tempo.
3- Don't forget to castle.
4- Attack the pinned piece.
5- Play with ALL your pieces.
6- Remove the defenders.

Some games (such as the original "Immortal") also deal with some of these principles, but the Immortal is much more chaotic (being a King's Gambit). In this game, all the plays of White flow as natural, easy and principled. The only play of White which needs more explanation is 10 Nxb5!. Beginners wonder about this: "Why the Knight sacrifice?". The explanation of course is: "Open lines of attack against a weak uncastled king". It's really a gem for learning.

In my opinion the best (and also very instructive) game of the "Romantic Era" of Chess is the "Evergreen", in which the principles described previously also are also present. The advantage of this game is that is shorter and more to the point.

Regarding the Opera, I've read many different versions: The Marriage of Figaro, the Barber of Seville, Norma, etc. Also, I've read details such as the Duke Karl and his friend Count Isouard made such noise, that everyone began to pay attention to them instead of the Opera. Nice details, but probably fictitious.

Sometimes I laugh thinking that, perhaps in the future, some 500 years from now, the facts of the game will be completely lost or twisted, but the game list remains intact, and people will be saying that the "Opera" of this game was "Cats" or the musical version of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi asiduodiego,

Yes the game is a chess writers dream and I think I'm on safe ground when I say it has been published more than any other game.

I've always liked this game.

Morphy vs T J Bryan, 1859

18.h4 to deflect the Queen from e7.

There are 1000's of examples of a combination being played after you deflect a piece from guarding a certain square. But one could not fail to be impressed with that one. The lesson will stick.


Mar-01-20  MordimerChess: Thank you guys for all the information about this game. Really awesome and rich discussion. There is nothing more to add about the game :)

I produced the video of this game:
with some funny accents explaining what was fetish of Duke of Brunswick or how people still argue the name of the opera, when the game was played.

Author of the butcher/artist remark is also very interesting as it has often been quoted sourcelessly with reference to 8 Bxf7+, and not also 8 Qxb7.

Enjoy the material ;)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

My vid on this game is historically accurate - The Duke was not playing. The game was between Morphy v Count Isouard. (correction slip sent!)


Jul-03-20  Playchess1vn: Here's my short analysic of the game:
Aug-05-20  Chesgambit: 5.gxf3 Steinitz
Nc6! black sacrfice pawn developing pieces
Aug-05-20  Chesgambit: after bb5 dxe5 of course endgame is good for white but give bishop pair for this but qxf3 developing move threat bc4
Aug-05-20  Chesgambit: because if be3? ne7!
Aug-05-20  Chesgambit: sacrfice a7 pawn but after b6 bishop is trapped
Aug-05-20  Chesgambit: nd5 bxb6 three passed pawns vs minor pieces
Oct-25-20  Chessist: What is the primary source for this game?
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: It's in the <Field> of December 4th 1858, p.458, given as <Game played by Mr Morphy against H. R. H. the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard consulting.>, without further indication as to date or circumstance.

In the correspondence section, there is <P. M. (Paris). - Our best thanks for the ever welcome games.>

It's possible, of course, that it had already appeared in print in France.

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