Paul Morphy - Biography, Achievements and Chess Career

14/04/2023 - Actualizado: 25/05/2023

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Paul Charles Morphy, known as Paul Morphy, was born on June 22, 1837 in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. He was awarded the title of Grandmaster, although those who died before 1950 were not so named, and this famous chess player died on July 10, 1884. His ELO rating was calculated to be 2,690.

A Great Talent for Chess

If there had been a World Chess Championship in his time, Morphy would certainly have won the title. His talent was undeniable and he proved it by defeating a large number of his opponents.

Paul Morphy's chess career has been described as brilliant; however, his early retirement from the chess world cut short his promising future in the field. His calculating strategy and precision in play led him to be considered one of the greatest chess players of all time.

Paul Morphy

Paul Morphy's Beginnings

One of the funniest facts about Paul Morphy is that his close relatives claim that he learned to play chess on his own, with no one to teach him. What he did do was watch his uncle and father play on a few occasions, and apparently he grasped the mechanics and strategies of the game.

In fact, the story goes that on one occasion, after his relatives had finished a game, he told his uncle that he had a chance to win; however, although they were surprised, they did not make a big deal out of it.

Paul Morphy insisted, and they had to replay the game, and they realized that he was right, and then when they played against him, he would win the games and play much better than they did.

Since He Was 8 Years Old

At the age of 8, Paul Morphy was already considered a chess prodigy, many sat down to play with him, but few could beat him. On one occasion, when General Winfield Scott came to town, he was brought to face Morphy, but the military man was offended because he claimed that a child could not beat him.

The general was very used to facing elite people, great chess players, and challengers, so he was not too excited to play against the child, and it was also humiliating. However, after so much urging from those present, the general agreed.

In the first game, Paul Morphy defeated Winfield Scott, who claimed to have been overconfident and distracted, so he asked for a rematch. To his humiliation, he lost again after an incredibly calm and composed performance by the young man. The general, his pride wounded, decided not to play again.

Showdown Against Johann Lówenthal 

Lówenthal was asked to play Paul Morphy in New Orleans and presented a more sportsmanlike and less haughty attitude than General Winfield. However, he also felt that the young man, now twelve years old, would be no match for him.

Johann Lówenthal was kind to the little boy, still not believing that he was capable of beating him. They played 3 games, and from the first game Morphy astonished his opponent, who at the sight of the little boy's moves changed from a smug smile to a face of great astonishment and expectation.

He was even more astonished when he lost the first two games and drew the third. So Paul Morphy, only twelve years old, had defeated one of the best chess players of the time. Johann Lówenthal came to Europe and told all this with great astonishment, but very few people believed him.

paul morphy

Paul Morphy's Studies

Morphy spent many years away from chess, devoting himself to the game only on Sundays. This was because his father was a very conservative and strict person who belonged to a backward society where making a living from chess was simply something unworthy of a high society family.

Paul Morphy had to be content with merely studying to become a lawyer, which was what his father wanted. For this reason, he graduated in 1854 at the age of 20 with top grades.

However, he was not yet of age to practice law, so he had to wait another year before he could start working as a lawyer. So he decided to use these months to devote himself to chess.

It was his uncle, Ernest Morphy, who told him that there was an important chess competition coming up, the First American Chess Congress. However, he found it difficult to make the decision to attend due to several circumstances. One was that his father would not like the idea and the other was that he had not played chess professionally for many years.

However, his uncle persisted until he was convinced, knowing of his nephew's ability and desire to devote himself to the game, and he entered the tournament. Paul Morphy won and became the 1857 United States champion after defeating James Thompson, Alexander Beaufort Meek, and two German masters.

In England

With his growing fame and reputation, Paul Morphy went to England in 1858 to play Howard Staunton, with a bet of 500 pounds and for a game of 21 matches; it was expected that Staunton would set a date for the encounter. In the meantime, Morphy played other chess masters and defeated them all.

He went to France because he still did not have a date to face Staunton, while there he also achieved several victories.

In 1859 he returned to England and continued to wait for a date that never came. He then faced Queen Victoria of England, a match that he is rumored to have let the monarch win.

Return to the United States

His chess accomplishments earned him praise, but he decided to give up chess for good and pursue a career in law, a career in which he was not very successful.

Here you can find a compilation of their games

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