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James McConnell vs Paul Morphy
"Applied Morphology" (game of the day Mar-02-2016)
New Orleans (1850), New Orleans, LA USA
French Defense: Advance Variation (C02)  ·  0-1



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Given 508 times; par: 19 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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May-17-12  LoveThatJoker: Guess-the-Move Final Score:

J McConnell vs Morphy, 1850.
Your score: 25 (par = 19)


Aug-24-14  morfishine: According to Sergeant, this is the only known example of Morphy playing the French defense. Makes sense from the result: Morphy appears confused, checkmating the White Queen instead of the King!
Premium Chessgames Member
  yiotta: Good one, <morfishine>. I love the French, but I didn't know this wonderful game.
Apr-25-15  Mating Net: Morphy connects with the spirit of Nimzowitsch...36 years prior to Nimzo's birth. This game is a quick crash course in positional and tactical chess in a tidy 14 moves.
Jan-29-16  juanhernandez: them bcoz friendship is not an opportunity its a
sweet responsibility.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Obviously Morphy was not comfortable playing the French, and wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: White is making pawn moves while Morphy is getting pieces out. And you just know that it's going to hurt. A lot.

An astonishingly mature French for 1850. I am not so sure that I would criticise white for 5. f4. It's not a great move, but it does have some logic. White wants to support his pawn centre if/when black nibbles away at it with c5 and f6.

White's bigger problem is that he made too many pawn moves and didn't develop his pieces. For me, <domdaniel>'s comments are spot on.

Mar-02-16  The Kings Domain: Nice to have a Morphy as game of the day. It's always fascinating to chart the progress of a prodigy.
Mar-02-16  kevin86: A complete thrashing by PM. The queen is harassed at home and has no place to go!
Mar-02-16 A rather comical finish.
Mar-02-16  mruknowwho: I smelled trouble for White as soon as he played 5.f4. This happens quite often in Chess, at least at the amateur level; Somebody tries to overwhelm the board with pawns and then the opposing player gets through the pawn wave and everything goes downhill.
Mar-02-16  RookFile: 12 or 13, something like this. Try and find a move of Morphy's that is not completely modern.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: When no less a figure than Botvinnik praises Morphy's conduct of open play and posits that no significant improvements have been made by masters in that branch of the game since his time, not much more to say.
Mar-02-16  newhampshireboy: This was a murder! Morphy was incredible.
Mar-11-16  thegoodanarchist: Because I studied the grain morphology of copper interconnects in grad school, I really really enjoyed this GOTD title.
Mar-11-16  thegoodanarchist: Usually, if you are playing the French, you only lose when you castle.

But often players in the mid-1800s only lost because they were playing Morphy.

Mar-19-16  caligula64: Cool f4 move!
Jul-22-16  KID Slayer: My favorite player from the 19th century, Morphy, uses my favorite opening, the French, on a rare occasion. Quite the demolition from a guy who favored the Open Game and rarely ventured into the French (in less than 15 moves!).
Jun-16-17  zanzibar: Let's not forget that the one time Morphy played the French was when he was 13.

Ah, the indiscretions of youth!

<"The king to pawn one sneak" as Walker derisively styled the French Defense...>

Not sure how exact the 1850 date really is though - supposedly this game was first published in the NO Times Democrat shortly after Morphy's death.


Dec-06-17  schnarre: ...Rarely see Morphy playing moves like 7...Nh6, but love how he combines it with his Queenside attack for victory!
Sep-15-18  romancitog: Morphy was blessed by almighty God.
Jan-29-19  Violin sonata: Checkmate the queen!!! What a game!!
Jul-05-19  Zephyr10: <Phony Benoni: Obviously Morphy was not comfortable playing the French, and wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.>


Jun-24-20  sea7kenp: Interesting idea <OBIT>: Morphy wanted to Play 1 ... e5 but missed the square? But then, he plays good enough to win the Game!
Jan-24-23  generror: An early game by Morphy, who at the time was 13 (or 12). His opponent was 21 and would, sixty years later, play (and lose) six games against a guy called José Raúl Capablanca. Lucky McConnell!

Unlike all the players I have analyzed so far, Morphy plays the opening flawlessly, and after <9...Rc8>, he already has a clear advantage. (Stockfish would actually play <9...Nf5> instead to win the bishop pair, e.g. <10.Bb2 Ne3 11.Qe2 Nxf1 12.Rxf1>, and *now* <...Rc8>, but wait, there's also <...a5>... Stockfish really is a scumbag :)

<11.Qd3?> (D) has rightly been chided as mistake, but it essentially just gives away the b-pawn. After Morphy's <11...Bxb4+!>, the real blunder is <12.axb4??> because that loses at least a rook; after <12.Nbd2 Be7 13.Rb1>, White is down a pawn, but still able to fight.

click for larger view

Morphy's combination is great, checkmating the queen on here own square like that, but interestingly, Stockfish doesn't like <13...Rc2>, because after <14.Kf2 Rxb2 15.Qxb2 Nd3+ 16.Lxd3 Qxb2+ 17.Nbd2 Nxd4>, Black has has the queen and 3 pawns for rook and knight. After the rather straightforward <13...Nc2+ 14.Kf2 Nxa1 15.Be2 (Bxa1? Qxb1) Nb3>, he gets a rook and two pawns for a bishop -- the same 4-point material advantage, but Black has a bit more pressure. Not that it matters much, and the game as it played out is, as usual, much more exciting and pleasant than what this inhuman stuff the engines pull out of their 0s and 1s.

This was the first Morphy game I analyzed and although it's short, it was already quite impressing. Unlike his contemporaries, who also were able to play great combinations, his positional play is excellent, even at his young age. I guess in most games, he already had a significant advantage after the opening, just by developing sensibly and not playing idiotic pushes like <5.f4?!> or <7.a3>. He really seems to have been decades ahead of his time -- if he had written a book about playing chess, the game would have evolved much faster.

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