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Louis Paulsen vs Paul Morphy
"Morphy Us" (game of the day Nov-25-2007)
1st American Chess Congress, New York (1857), New York, NY USA, rd 4, Nov-03
Four Knights Game: Spanish. Classical Variation (C48)  ·  0-1



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Given 369 times; par: 41 [what's this?]

Annotations by Irving Chernev.      [4 more games annotated by Chernev]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jul-27-19  Cheapo by the Dozen: It turns out that 12 d4 is only s sham pawn sacrifice, and leave White with a pretty good position. And 12 b3 leads to equality. If Paulsen however rejected both those ideas, what else was he to do?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi Nok,

22...Rg2 would have been the perfect wrap up to this 'look out world here I come' game.

It's the iced cake without the cherry on top and I want my cake and eat it.

Apparently it was Zukertort who first pointed out the quicker mate(s) in 1880, not to detract Morphy more to take a poke at those who missed it when noting up Morphy's games.

Later Steinitz took the credit. He rated the game quite highly, the position after 17...Qxf3 appeared on the cover on his 'Chess Instructor.'

Picture here.

Eward Winter article here:


Jul-27-19  thegoodanarchist: I have seen this game well analyzed in a book somewhere, so I don't take credit for "finding" ...Qxf3
Jul-27-19  TheaN: I actually did not know this Morphy masterpiece, so had the joy of finding out whether <17....Qxf3!> works as definite as it did.

Why I do think this doesn't really qualify as a Saturday is the lack of alternatives for White: after Qxf3 Black picks up the bishop and places the pieces for a devastating attack. White can't counter with a desperado: 18.Qxb6? cxb6 19.gxf3 Rg6+ 20.Kh1 Bh3 -+ is curtains, and all other alternatives seem to run into Rg6 with Bh3 with the Black queen still on the board. Not a good idea.

So <18.gxf3 Rg6+ 19.Kh1 Bh3>. This is probably the key position. What can White do to prevent 20....Bg2+ 21.Kg1 Bxf3#? A few tries:

20.Rg1, the obvious counter to such intrusion, fails on 20....Rxg1+ 21.Kxg1 Re1+ and Black reloads 22.Qf1 Rxf1#.

Simply moving out of the way with 21.Rd1 almost allows White to escape, but Black ensnares the king with 21....Bg2+ 22.Kg1 Bxf3+ 23.Kf1 Rg2 and White can't protect both f2 and h2: anything but 24.Qd3 runs into Rxh2 with Rh1#, and that into 24....Rxf2+ 25.Kg1 Rg2+ 26.Kh1 Rg1#.

A relatively hidden defense seems to give White options: <21.Qd3> taking her adversary's pre-sac square to attack Rg6. Black has to play accurately, as now 21....Bg2+? 22.Kg1 Bxf3+ 23.Qxg6! ± and White does escape. No, the attack on the rook has prio: and why not? <21....f5! 22.Rd1 (Qc4+ Kf8)> now it does somewhat work <22....Bg2+ 23.Kg1 Bxf3+ 24.Kf1> now White seems to have done damage control, but after <24....Bxd1 -+> Black is won.

Jul-27-19  cormier:

click for larger view

Analysis by Houdini 4 d 24 dpa done

1. = (-0.12): 14.Re1 Rxe1+ 15.Qxe1 Bd7 16.Qf1 Qxf1+ 17.Kxf1 a5 18.Bb2 axb4 19.cxb4 Ra4 20.a3 c5 21.Be4 g6 22.Bc2 Ra7 23.Be4 Kf8 24.Ke2 cxb4 25.axb4 Ra4 26.Bc3 Ke7 27.Re1 Kd6 28.h3 Be6 29.f4 f5 30.Bb7 c6 31.Kf3 Bd5+ 32.Kg3

2. = / + (-0.48): 14.Bg4 Re5 15.Qf3 Bf5 16.Bxf5 Qxf3 17.Bxh7+ Kxh7 18.gxf3 a5 19.d4 Rf5 20.bxa5 Bxa5 21.Bb2 Rxf3 22.Kg2 Rf5 23.a4 Rb8 24.axb5 Rbxb5 25.Ra2 Rg5+ 26.Kh1 Rb3 27.c4 Rh5 28.Ba1 Bc3 29.Bxc3 Rxc3 30.c5 Rch3 31.f3 R5h4 32.f4 Rg4

Jul-27-19  JohnDMaster: We all know this game!
Jul-27-19  RandomVisitor: After 15...Bd7 Stockfish 'thinks' white has the advantage:

click for larger view


<54/92 1:11:10 +0.61 16.Qa6 Qg6 17.d4> Rae8 18.Be3 c5 19.bxc5 Bxc5 20.Qa5 Bb6 21.Qh5 Qxh5 22.Bxh5 Bb5 23.Rfb1 Bc4 24.Bg4 Rd6 25.h4 Bd3 26.Rb2 g6 27.h5 f6 28.Bf3 Kf7 29.Bd1 Bc4 30.Rb4 Be6 31.h6 a5 32.Rb2 Bc4 33.Ra4 Be6 34.Be2 Red8 35.Ra3 Re8 36.Bb5 Re7 37.Bd3 Rd8 38.Rb1 Kf8 39.Raa1 Kf7 40.Kh2 Kf8 41.Be2 Bf5 42.Rb2 Kf7 43.g4 Be6 44.g5

Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: Fischer on Morphy:

"Perhaps the most accurate player who ever lived, he would beat anybody today in a set-match. He had complete sight of the board and seldom blundered even though he moved quite rapidly. I've played over hundreds of his games and am continually surprised and entertained by his ingenuity."

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: I've never understood why annotators of this game commonly pass by the grotesque 12.c3?? in silence. Mind you, Paulsen was no slouch. Within five years, according to Chessmetrics, he would be the strongest (active) player in the world. Him playing 12.c3?? is the positional equivalent of, say, Giri falling into scholar's mate in a standard tournament game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <OCF> Anyone who thinks Morphy wasn't all that good is woefully uninformed. And mind you he became the de facto world champion (by a country mile) almost by himself. At the time, there was almost no chess literature worthy of the name, no databases, no chess engines, no online chess, et cetera, et cetera. The first chess tournament had only been held a few years before, at London 1851.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <RandomVisitor> 18.Be3 is illegal.
Aug-22-19  saturn2: <FSR At the time, there was almost no chess literature>

Morphy's opponents said he was booked up concearning openings. He is one of the best ever but there is no use making him an out of the world wonder. In my understanding he was a 'resarcher' though he did not communicate his theories.

Aug-24-19  OMH: <FSR> 18 Be3 is not illegal if White has played 17 d4 first, as in Mr Stockfish's learned analysis.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <RandomVisitor> <OMH> Sorry, didn't see those first moves in brown.
Jan-26-20  AliSawalha: Stock fish gives 17...Qxf3 18.gxf3 Rg6+ 19.Kh1 Bh3 20.Qd3 f5 21.Rd1 Bg2+ 22.Kg1 Bxf3+ 23.Kf1 Bxd1 24.Qc4+ Kf8 25.Ba3 Be2+ 26.Qxe2 Rg1+ 27.Kxg1 Rxe2 28.c4 Bd4 29.Kf1 Rxf2+ 30.Ke1 Rxh2 31.Bb2 Bxb2 32.Rxb2 Rh4 33.Ra2 Rxc4 34.Rxa7 h5 35.Rxc7 h4 36.Kf2 g5 37.Kg2 Rxb4 38.Rxc6 Kf7 39.Rc5 Kg6 40.Rc7 Kh5
Jan-26-20  sudoplatov: I would guess that Morphy (and Tarrasch later against Nimzovich) went with clearly winning mate. They saw a forced mate (and probably didn't check for something better). I did the same in my only win over a player over 300 points better than I was (USCF).

Nice precursor for Marshall's famous game against Janowski.Janowski vs Marshall, 1912 Perhaps this should be named the "American Sacrifice."

Jan-27-20  Cibator: <FSR: At the time, there was almost no chess literature worthy of the name>

A bit puzzled by this comment. Bilguer's "Handbuch" and Staunton's "Chess Player's Handbook" were both around by then. And the magazine "La Palamede" had been and gone - wonder if PCM ever saw old copies of it? He'd have been able to understand them all right, with his French heritage.

Morphy certainly read some chess literature, but according to the following item he usually gave stuff away once he'd mastered the contents: (scroll to about half-way down).

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Cibator>

< A bit puzzled by this comment. Bilguer's "Handbuch" and Staunton's "Chess Player's Handbook" were both around by then. >

I can’t speak for FSR, but I have Staunton’s book, and I think it’s worthless. After teaching you how the pieces move, it devotes the bulk of its pages to shallow and swiftly superseded opening analysis. There’s a short list of precepts and a short and superficial section on endings, if memory serves. I don’t think it would have been of any use to Morphy. I understand the Handbuch was similar — indeed that Staunton had plagiarized the Handbuch, though I don’t know that to be true.

I don’t know what the chess magazines of the day were like.

Jan-28-20  Cibator: <keypusher: I can’t speak for FSR, but I have Staunton’s book, and I think it’s worthless.>

I can't argue directly with that assessment, not having read the work myself. But the fact that both the Handbook and the Handbuch were still being reissued well into the 20th century surely has to mean something?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Cibator: <keypusher: I can’t speak for FSR, but I have Staunton’s book, and I think it’s worthless.> I can't argue directly with that assessment, not having read the work myself. But the fact that both the Handbook and the Handbuch were still being reissued well into the 20th century surely has to mean something?>

I would say it illustrates the power of inertia and the pointlessness (from the author’s perspective) of writing good chess books. :-)

I pulled down my copy of the Handbook, printed in 1878 but otherwise unchanged from 1847 as far as I know. It is arranged in six “books.”

Book I teaches how the pieces move, chess notation, value of pieces, a list of terms, general laws and observations, and “maxims” for the inexperienced player. That’s the first 60 pages.

The next four books are all openings, and take us to page 400 or so. Book II is the King’s Knight’s Opening (the Giuoco Piano, Evans, Ruy Lopez, Scotch, Damiano, etc.). Book III is the King’s Bishop’s Opening (yes, 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 gets its own “book”)). Book IV is the King’s Gambit. Book V covers everything else in fewer than 50 pages — the Queen’s Gambit, and “Irregular Openings” like the French and Sicilian.

All these books contain unannotated illustrative games.

Book VI is endings, and occupies the last 100 pages (shorter than either Book II or Book IV). There is also a short discussion of other forms of notation, and a smattering of chess problems.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Cibator>

Anyway, here it is so that you can judge for yourself. Sorry, should have done that sooner.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <keypusher: . . . I can’t speak for FSR, but I have Staunton’s book, and I think it’s worthless.>

I have a first edition of Staunton's Chess-Player's Handbook (1847) in fine binding. One of my most prized books.

For the time, it was an important book. But for modern players it's close to worthless. (Ditto for Philidor's acclaimed Analyse du jeu des Échecs.) There are some interesting bits, though. For example, Staunton analyzes, in addition to his eponymous gambit, 1.d4 f5 2.h3 (intending 3.g4), which much later became known as the "Korchnoi Gambit." He also gives what was (re)discovered as the best defense over 130 years later, namely 2...Nf6 3.g4 d5!

I am also impressed by Staunton's conclusions regarding the ending of three minor pieces against a rook. Fine wrote in Basic Chess Endings (1941), p. 521, of the ending of Rook v. Three Minor Pieces, "Since a rook is approximately equivalent to a little less than two minor pieces such endings are theoretically drawn." That statement is erroneous: if you feed positions into one of the tablebases, you'll see that B+2N v. R is normally a draw (as in Karpov vs Kasparov, 1991), but N+2B v. R is normally a win for the pieces. Remarkably, Staunton got it right in 1847, almost a century before Fine got it wrong. In the Chess Player's Handbook, p. 439, Staunton wrote, "Three minor pieces are much stronger than a Rook, and in cases where two of them are Bishops will usually win without much difficulty, because the player of the Rook is certain soon to be compelled to lose him to one of his adversary's Pieces. If, however, there are two Knights and one Bishop opposed to a Rook, the latter may generally be exchanged for the Bishop, and as two Knights are insufficient of themselves to force checkmate, the game will be drawn." Benko in his alleged update of BCE perpetuated the same error. Soltis in one of his books also made the same erroneous claim, expressly disagreeing with Staunton, although the tablebases had already proved Staunton right and him wrong.

Aug-05-22  Sirius69: 28) Kg2--- instead of 28) d4--- would have offered the greatest resistance to Morphy.
Feb-04-23  generror: Calling books of any kind "worthless" is -- sorry to be frank, you can blame it on my autism -- really stupid. No book is ever worthless. It's a lasting creative artefact, no matter if it's an old, outdated chess book or some pulp romance.

You may say it's pretty much worthless for serious study of modern chess, in that I would completely agree. But as a historical work by one of the strongest players and analysts of its time, it's priceless. (Now if you're a sophist you could argue that being "priceless" and "worthless" is indistinguishable :D)

And as <FSR> so nicely shows, even these old "worthless" books have pieces of amazing knowledge.

Feb-04-23  generror: No need for me to give a thorough analysis of this game, as it seems it's all been said a thousand times already in this forum. So just a few personal remarks.

I found it very interesting that Stockfish found <12.c3?> only dubious, at best (the evaluation goes from +0.4 to 0.0). But as the immediate punishment <12...Qd3!> shows, it completely blocks White's further development, which actually wasn't that hot anyway -- the position after Black's 10th move is nearly comical, and typical Morphy; one thing he was good at was not just developing his own pieces, but also hindering his opponent's development. Although mostly the opponents did it by themselves, viz. <7.Nxc6?>.

Also, I'm not sure if many players back then would have played that <12...Qd3>. Naively, it just seems wrong to use a mighty fat queen just to block an insignificant little pawn, but Morphy really had a great positional feel and was ready to play unconventional moves if they are good. (I'd probably think a while about playing it and then go "nah, that can't be good" and play something stupid.)

However, he stumbled with <15...Bd7?> because now White could have actually equalized with <16.Qa6!>, forcing Black to free that d-pawn. <16...Ra2??> instead is actually losing, because it gives Black the opportunity to double his rooks, and that makes all the difference -- for example, it allows that awesome queen sacrifice, which, by the way, and unlike many combinations of its era, is completely sound.

After <20.Rd1?> it's mate in 6, and I was a bit amazed that Morphy doesn't execute it in his usual precision. His 22nd to 24th move are all weak, and afterwards, there's no clear mate in sight. If Paulsen would have played <27.Rb2> followed by <28.d4>, Morphy's biggest asset would essentially have been his free f-pawn.

Ironically, when Paulsen finally can play his poor d-pawn, this turns out to be actually losing the game -- <28.d4?> is a forced mate 23 moves :) (Maybe he just wanted to finally move that bloody pawn once before resigning anyway.)

Definitively a nice game, which also shows that Morphy wasn't the God-like entity that some people seem to mistake him for. But it's clear that he was really on a class of his own back then. I mean, Louis Paulsen was still starting his career, but he was one of the world's top players throughout the 1860s and 1870s, and Edochess's #3 for even for 1857. Still no match for Morphy!

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