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James Thompson vs Paul Morphy
1st American Chess Congress (1857), New York, NY USA, rd 1, Oct-06
Italian Game: Giuoco Pianissimo. Italian Four Knights Variation (C50)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-07-06  Takchessbooks: This is Morphys first game in his only true tournament. Shibuts book shows a different ending? 21 qe2 qh1 white resigns. otherwise everything else remains the same.
Jan-07-06  Calli: Maroczy is the only author who gives 21.Bd5 Bg4+. Everyone else, including the Tournament book, has 21.Qe2 Qxh1. A curious discrepency. I tend to think Marozcy's vesion is a bit of analysis that somehow crept into his book.
Aug-05-07  Crowaholic: I also saw the 21. Bd5 Bg4+ version elsewhere, but I have no idea what the original source is. There are two interesting things to note: First, there seems to be nothing wrong with 20. ..Qxh1, e.g. 21. Qf1 Rxf5 23. Qe1 Qg2 or 21. Kd2 Qh2+ 22. Ne2 Bxf5 should both win easily.

Anyway, it seems that Morphy played 20. ..Bxd5 and this is also a strong move. However, after 21. Bd5, ..Bg4+ is not a very good move. If this score is actually correct, it makes me wonder why Thompson resigned at this point given that - so it seems - Morphy threw away most of his positional advantage. Consider:

21. ..Bg4+ 22. hxg4 Rf1+ 23. Qxf1 Qxf1+ 24. Kc2 and now if

24. ..Qxa1 then 25. Ne2! and Black doesn't have anything better than give the exchange with 25. ..Qxh1 26. Bxh1. That still leaves Black a rook for a bishop up and probably allow Black to win the endgame, but given that Black could already have obtained a crushing advantage with 20. ..Qxh1 this can hardly be considered a satisfactory solution.

Instead, in the 21. Bd5 line, the "quiet" move Be4! would have been devastating: This is intended as a clearance sacrifice, just like Bg4+, but now it is also a deflection sacrifice. White cannot take with the queen because of Rf1#, but

22. Bxe4 deflects the bishop from his defense of the a3 square and now Black can play 22. ..Rf1+ 23. Qxf1 Qxf1+ 24. Kc2 Qxa1 25. Ne2 Qxa3 and emerges being a queen and a pawn for a bishop up, a whopping 8 point difference.

True, 21. ..Be4 does not appear as forcing as any check would be, but on 22. Qe2, for instance, Black can simply play ..Qxh1 23. Kd2 (Bxe4? Qxg1+!) Rad8 and now all White has is a prayer. On 22. Ne4, Black simply clears off both white rooks. On 22. Nf3, Black has ..Bxd3 and is in total control of the board.

May-13-08  sirfraix: 12... e4?!, looks more like a psychological move, since open the lines and the complications start, but after 13. dxe4 dxe4 14. Qxe4 Re8 15. Be6 Nf8 16. 0-0 white will return the pawn with a slightly better position. In fact Thompson was very afraid of this pawn sacrifice.
Jan-07-09  YoungEd: Interesting analysis, <sirfraix>, and it looks like you're right. As the game goes, once the Black ♘ gets to d3, White's goose is cooked.
Apr-13-09  TheWizardfromHarlem: Strong
Premium Chessgames Member
  sisyphus: The tournament book is online: and search for The Book of the First American Chess Congress.

There are a few notes by the author, Willard Fiske. One of them indicates "The time occupied in playing this game was one hour." No description of how much of that time was taken by Morphy and how much by his opponent.

Oct-13-09  josejoasm: And instead 20. ...Bxf5, Rf-d8 sounds much better winning the queen, white can't defends with bishop in d5 because de black queen.
Jun-04-12  Naniwazu: <josejoasm>: 20...Rfd8?? leads to mate in 3 starting with Qxd8.

<sirfraix>: Löwenthal also suggests the defense 13. NxP.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ziryab: The tournament book ends with 20.Qe2 Qxh1 White resigns. This is also the game score employed by Philip Sergeant.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tpstar: ChessBase 13 gives 21. Qe2 Qxh1 0-1.

After 15 ... Nd3+ Morphy must have known that he had a strategically won game.

Sep-08-18  jabinjikanza: Most elitely play
Jan-03-21  paulmorphy1969: you have reported the game as described in the book of maroczy but it is not correct in the final. This game has a strange history: it ends at the 20th move with Qxh1 as reported in the book Daniel W Fiske: The First American Chess Congress New York 1857 edition Holmes first edition 1859. in the book by Macon Shibut instead it gives as continuation 20 ... Bf5 21.Qe2 Qxh1, instead in Maroczy's book from ... 20Bf5 21.Bd5 Bg4 + and Nero abandons
Jan-03-21  paulmorphy1969: The Book of the First American Chess Congress: Containing the Proceedings of ... Di Willard Fiske page 147
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: This User: paulmorphy1969 character is starting to get on my nerves. Is it a parody account!?
Jan-03-21  Z4all: <Missy> I think he (she?) is legit, with access to several of the fundamental(*) sources. Sometimes the sourcing is missing in his posts, but lately they seem to be included (though always having game number / page numbers would be more helpful).

Do you want to say exactly what part of your nerves he (she?) is standing on?

(*)RE - Fundamental sources of Morphy games. Would Maroczy's work count? Is there a definitive list? How often are contemporaneous sources at odds with the book collections? Etc., etc.


Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

I side with Calli James Thompson vs Morphy, 1857 (kibitz #2) adding due to the other source evidence 21. Bd5 does indeed looks like analysis

Here if, as given by Maróczy,

click for larger view

White played 21.Bd5 then 21...Bg4+ is good but 21...Qxb2 or even 21...Qxh1 are just as good (even better. 21..Qxb2 is a hammering. )

It is not unknown, either on purpose or accidental, for analysis to replace what actually happened.

Found a vid on this game. (it gives the accepted 21.Qe2 Qxh1 finish.) Thinks Morphy was possibly bluffing here...

click for larger view

...and White can play 14.Qxe4. Well it's a legal move but looks a hot pawn to nick OTB and I'm thinking a pawn most players as Black would offer.


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