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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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Given 451 times; par: 33 [what's this?]

Annotations by Stockfish (Computer).      [25216 more games annotated by Stockfish]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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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.

Dec-04-20  Pulpofeira: Go Beth! :P
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<Sally Simpson> My vid on this game is historically accurate>

Loved it !!!

Premium Chessgames Member
  juan31: According Miss Jessica Fischer, the opera was " El barbero de Sevilla"
Feb-24-21  savagerules:

Around six minutes into the video, Fischer sets up the position by memory at move 16 of this game on a board for Cavett. Of course Cavett had no idea of how the pieces moved or anything else but Fischer was showing the Queen sac followed by Rd8 mate for some people who may actually understand chess history. Fischer said it was between Paul Morphy and the Duke of Brunswick and of course Cavett had no idea of who Morphy was.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Fischer doesn't seem to have been aware of Count Isouard. See the video where he discusses Morphy with Dimitrije Bjelica.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Messiah: Nice!
Aug-07-21  mikealando: One can only imagine the looks of amazement Duke Karl and Count Isouard gave one another shortly after Morphy's rook hit d8.
Sep-22-21  Gottschalk: The Most Famous Game by Edward Winter:

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