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Louis Paulsen vs Paul Morphy
1st American Chess Congress, New York (1857), New York, NY USA, rd 4, Oct-31
Three Knights Opening: General (C46)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Mar-11-05  RookFile: Your first impression is that 7. Nxc6 is simply wrong. But when you learn more about chess, it's not so simple, take for example the position after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. d3 Nf6 7. Bg5 Be6!? 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. Ne4 0-0-0. I was black in this position, and my opponent played the 'natural' 10. Bxf6, and was resigning by move 25 because I owned the dark squares. Correct is 10. Nxf6, retaining the dark squared bishop, as played by Dr. Lasker.

So we look at a game like this, and
sneer at moves like 7. Nxc6, but maybe chess isn't so simple.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: A rather impressive game by Paulsen.
Mar-22-06  AlexanderMorphy: this is the only game that Morphy ever lost to Paulsen!
Jul-06-06  Whitehat1963: Player of the Day's only victory over his nemesis.
Jun-10-07  WilhelmThe2nd: According to Frederick Perrin, writing in the Hartford 'Times' in 1884, Morphy said to his opponent after this game: "Mr. Paulsen, you outplayed me."
Jan-26-08  Knight13: Yes, Very Impressive.
May-13-08  heuristic: This is game 3 of the final round of the 1st American Chess Congress
Jan-02-09  YJGYJ: Move 16 as b4? Makes no sense to me. Anyone would like to explain i would appreciate it.
May-20-09  David2009: <Jan-02-09 YJGYJ: Move 16 as b4? Makes no sense to me. Anyone would like to explain i would appreciate it. > 16 b4!? Bxb4 18 Rxd7 Kxd7 19 Nd5 Qd6 20 Nxb4 Qxb4 21 Rd1+ with attacking chances. Paulsen liked to attack!
Jul-04-09  backrank: Right, the only game Morphy ever lost to Paulsen, but what a game is this! It suggests, that concerning positional play in relatively closed positions, Paulsen may have been superior to Morphy.

16. b4! is a move that uses tactics only to achieve a positional goal: it forces the black bishop to retreat, since 16. ... ♗xb4? fails to 17. ♖xd7 ♔xd7 18. ♘d5 ♕d6 19. ♕h3+ (maybe simplest) ♔d8 (♔e8 doesn't change anything) 20. ♘xb4 ♕xb4 21. ♗xc6 ♔e7 22. ♕d7+ ♔f6 23. ♗xa8 ♖xa8 24. ♕c6+. Now, after 16. b4 Black rejects the possibilities 16. ... ♗d4 17. ♘e2 and 16. ... ♗b6 17. b5! cxb5 18. Sd5 ♕e6 19. ♗b3, with uncomfortable positions, and decides on 16. ... ♗d6, closing the d-file but putting the bishop on an inactive place. The sequel of the game shows that White can continue the pressure in the d-file. In the end, Morphy commits two mistakes, which tend to occur after a long, exhausting defence, namely 27. ... f5?! (♗c8!) and 28. ... ♖e6? (♗g5!? would have avoided immediate collapse), but White would have always had the far superior game. A great achievement by Paulsen.

Jul-23-09  tentsewang: What was the sacrifice for at the end by Mr. Morphy?
Jul-25-09  backrank: <tentsewang: What was the sacrifice for at the end by Mr. Morphy?>

Which sac do you mean?

Jul-06-10  Cibator: Yes .... shown the game "anonymously", then afterwards told the names of the players and asked to guess who had which colour, how many of us would have got it right? Don't think I would have, for one!
Sep-21-10  Marmot PFL: 27...f5 was bad and 28...Re6? just a blunder. Black had to try 28...Bg5
Sep-21-10  morphy2010: Right, the only game Morphy ever lost to Paulsen, but what a game is this! It suggests, that concerning positional play in relatively closed positions, Paulsen may have been superior to Morphy. NOTHING is further from the truth, Morphys positional play was unsurpassed and even Stientz cant hold a candle to his game. Thats the truth!
Jan-15-14  Mudphudder: Wow, Morphy IS mortal afterall.
Jan-15-14  morfishine: Keep this in perspective. This was the first US Championship, labeled the '1st American Chess Congress 1857'. In the match final, Morphy won 5 games out of 8 played vs Paulsen. Winning 5 games out of 8 played is convincing enough. (Louis won game 3 [this game] and there were 2 draws)

So, take a good hard look at Morphy's 5 wins vs Paulsen, and then tell me who was the better positional player

(Paulsen deserves his due: He was very strong and actually grew in strength over the years)


Jan-16-14  Mudphudder: Agreed with everything you said. All I am saying is that seeing Morphy lose (even a single game) is a rarity.
Jan-05-15  Ke2: b4 is a nice shot. hard to say just where morphy was slipping - <WilhelmThe2nd: According to Frederick Perrin, writing in the Hartford 'Times' in 1884, Morphy said to his opponent after this game: "Mr. Paulsen, you outplayed me.">
Jun-05-17  User not found: Couldn't understand this game, I didn't know if it was me or constant blunders and inaccuracies but here I can't see what spooked Paulsen from going for the exchange down but positional dominance with a lot of options..

click for larger view

RxB.. KxR.. Qd3+!

Rd1 looks better but..if black thinks of swapping off pieces to go into an endgame ahead, Qd6 offering the queen swap looks good at first but it's a losing move...

click for larger view

Obviously rd1 isn't going to provoke Qd6 but then the absolutely pulverising Bxc6+!!! If the Bishop is taken it's mate with Qb5# and if it's declined, which it must be, black has 2 options.. Kd8 and ke7? Kd8 must be played because of whites Knight but you pick up the a8 rook for nothing and it's lights out, adios, goodnight..

click for larger view

Obviously it depends how black responds to Qd3+ but even though it's not the engines first choice I would have played it, surprised Paulsen didn't

Jul-18-18  Atking: And again Paul Morphy learned quickly how his opponent is thinking. Next game was a draw then deadly four wins came. It says a lot about Morphy's potential in our modern times.
Dec-22-18  DonChalce: hmm... nice :3
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: < AlexanderMorphy: this is the only game that Morphy ever lost to Paulsen! >

Also the only game Morphy lost at the American Chess Congress.

Mar-28-20  asiduodiego: I recently learned the history of this game, and it's very interesting. The previous game was a long fight, which ended in a draw, but it was considered something of an upset, because Morphy missed a winning combination in some point: He played the moves in wrong order. It seems that affected him, so in this game he played very "un-Morphy"-like. He just went all in in very dubious attacks instead of doing what Morphy does best: Develop your pieces, put your king in safety, ?????, profit.

I guess everyone has a bad day from time to time.

Feb-06-23  generror: One of the rare games that Morphy actually lost, which was why I was interested in having a closer look. And yes, it turned out that Morphy was simply having a bad day.

The first indication is the premature and pointlessly aggressive <10...Ng4?!> instead of simply castling, followed by a few more weak moves which Paulsen fails to exploit. However, (D) <15...dxe5?> is a really untypical positional blunder, opening the d-file for White. Maybe Morphy was afraid of <15...Qxe5 16.f4 gxf4 17.Rxf4>, but after <17.0-0-0> his king is safe and the position completely equal.)

click for larger view

Paulsen immediately punishes this with <16.b4!?>, and now <16...Bxb4?> would have been followed by the amazing <17.Rxd7!!>, and after <17...Kxd7 18.Nd5! Qd6 19.Nxb4 Qxb4 20.Rd1+>, White has a crushing attack -- no clear win, but according to Stockfish, the best thing to do for Black here is to sacrifice his queen with <20...Qd6>.

However, instead of <16.b4!?>, Stockfish would actually have immediately played <16.Rxd7!!> with the same motif. I spent quite a while with this highly unclear variation, but it seems that, after the smoke clears, it leads to a clearly advantageous rook endgame (D) where all of Black's pawns are disconnected while White is a pawn up. Stockfish evaluates it to +2, but to me it looks like a relatively easy win for White.

click for larger view

Back to the actual game. The following middlegame is quite a mess; Stockfish strongly disapproves with pretty much every move. Paulsen somewhat ineffectively puts pressure on the d-file, while Morphy plays an uncharacteristically hesitant pawn storm on the kingside. White keeps his small advantage though until <27.Ne2> (D).

click for larger view

Here Morphy should have gone on creating counterplay by pushing his g- and h-pawns, but instead he makes another very uncharacteristic positional mistake with <27...f5?>, allowing the e-pawn to pass, before finally playing the losing move with <28...Re6??>, which simply blunders a piece after Paulsen's nice combination <29.Nf4! Rxe5 30.Rxd7!>.

I'm still a bit amazed that Morphy doesn't play on for a bit to see what he can do with his d-pawn, but I guess he just had enough with this game and decided to call it a day.

All in all, this is not the the greatest game. It has a few interesting tactical twists in the early middlegame, but I mainly found it interesting to see that even Morphy was just a human being and had days where he clearly didn't feel the game.

This was the 3rd match game of the US Congress final, Morphy had won the first and "only" drawn the second (his 10th move makes me wonder if he wanted to win too hard?). The next game would also be drawn, but then Morphy would compose himself, go on to score four wins in a row, be crowned US champion, and turn his attention to Europe.

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