Paulsen - Morphy 


Louis Paulsen (2650) - Paul Morphy (2800) 
 First (1st) American Chess Congress, (knock-out format) 
 New York, NY;  (U.S.A.)
(Round # 4, sub-round # 6), November, 1857

 [A.J. Goldsby I] 

Both players would be GM's if they were alive today. Paulsen was one of the few people who could actually win a game ... now-and-then ... from Morphy. 

These two were easily two of the best players in all of America. (At that time.) 

The ratings are simple estimates, based on 2000-2001 ELO ratings. (averages) 

I have analyzed this game dozens of times over the years. I am fairly familiar with what everyone has written about this game.

(A lot of this stuff is over 150 years old ... and completely bogus!) 

One of the most brilliant games ever played, this is certainly one of the prettiest games of the whole of the nineteenth (19th) century. 

Many book and problem collections have featured this game over the years. 

"This game contains one of Paul Morphy's grandest combinations, admired equally in its own day and in following eras by Steinitz and Emmanuel Lasker ... on down to modern commentators. True enough, intense scrutiny has led to demonstrable improvements in the efficiency of its execution, but the basic concept has never been undermined. Morphy took only 12 minutes for his fantastic seventeenth move."  - David Lawson. In the book:  "Paul Morphy, ---> The Pride and Sorrow of Chess." (Game # 38.). 

 I  (A.J. Goldsby I)  personally wish to state that this game has NEVER been properly analyzed ...  
 everyone  seemed to be in such a rush to criticize  BOTH  players ... with an almost complete lack of objectivity. 
 Perhaps now - with the aid of a computer - a truly dispassionate and scientific examination of this game can finally be made. - LM  A.J. Goldsby I 

The game score and dates were taken directly from the old book on Morphy and authenticated from the book:  "Paul Morphy, - And The Evolution of Chess Theory."  By Macon Shibut. (c) 1993. 

1.e4 e52.Nf3 Nc6;  
Black controls the center, develops a piece, (possibly) prepares castling, and maintains the material balance. 
(All 4 of the opening principles in just one move, can you ask for more?). 

So far, so good ... and all pretty much standard book here.

This is good development, but is no longer in vogue today. 

     [  The move, 3.Bc4!?, {Diagram?} leads to the  Italian Game
        (Evan's Gambit, Giuoco Piano, etc.); 

        The move, 3.Bb5, {Diagram?} leads to the venerable  Ruy Lopez

        The move 3.d4!?, {Diagram?} could lead to the very old, .......
         - but very playable - "Scotch Game."  ].  

We now have reached a very hoary opening,  "The Four Knight's Game." 

     [ The move,  3...Bb4;  {Diagram?} 
        leads to what some books oddly call, "The Three Knight's Game." ].

4.Bb5, (Maybe - '!')  
The main line here. (Even today!)  

     [ White could also play:  4.d4, {Diagram?} which could lead to dozens of different lines. 
        (Including several transpositions to other openings.) ].  

Black to move, what move would YOU play in this position?
A very energetic and direct move. 

Black controls the center, develops a piece, and prepares K-side castling. 

This move is  NOT  highly recommended by 'Book' theory, even today. (But I do not think this opinion is really justified.). 

"Seldom played now in comparison to the Double Ruy Lopez, (4...Bb4); nor approved  of by analysts." - Phillip W. Sergeant


     [  The main line  ('book')  here (symmetrical variation) is: 4...Bb4; 5.0-0 0-0; 6.d3 d6
; 8.bxc3 Qe79.Re1 Nd8; 10.d4 Ne6; 11.Bc1 Rd8; 12.a4 c5
;  {Diagram?} The end of the column in MCO.  14.h3 Nf8; 15.Nh4!?, {Diagram?} 
         This is interesting. So far, this is the game:  A. Shirov - A. Lesiege;  North Bay, 1994. 
           ( I like the logical: >= 15.Rb1!?, "+/=" {Diagram?} {A.J.G.} ) 
         Now GM deFirmian recommends: 15...g5!?; "~"  {Diagram?} 
          ... "would leave chances for both sides. - GM Nick de Firmian
         [ See MCO-14; pg.'s # 119-120, column # 2, and also note # (i.). ] 
           ( Maybe just slightly better is: >= 15...cxd4; 16.cxd4 Qc7!?; "~"  {A.J.G.} );   


         The  "Rubinstein Defense"  is: 4...Nd4!?; (Maybe - '!') {Diagram?}  This is the line 
         originated and pioneered by the great GM Akiba Rubinstein, one of the great chess 
         thinkers of all time.  (He was also one of the greatest players of all time.)
Bc5; 6.Nxe5 0-0; 7.Nd3 Bb6; 8.e5 Ne8; 9.Nd5 d6; 10.Ne3 dxe5
Qg5!?; (Hmmm.) (Maybe - '!') {Diagram?} The end of the column. 
f5; 13.f4 Qxf4; 14.c3 Ne6; 15.d4 Qh4+; (!) 16.g3 Qd8; 17.0-0 f4
Nxf4; "~" {Diagram?} "The position is about even." - GM Nick de Firmian  in MCO.
         GM A. Shirov - GM N. Short;  Novogorod, 1994. 
         [ See MCO-14, pg.'s # 121-122, column # 12, and also note # (v.). ]  ].  



5.0-0 0-0; "="  
Black's play is a model of what I teach all of my students to do in the opening: 
# 1.)  Control the center, (high ground);  
# 2.)  Develop quickly & efficiently; 
# 3.)  Protect the King & castle early!  

White to move, what move would YOU play in this position? 
Even the strongest computers of the year 2000 like this move. (This is also a book line!). 
But Morphy is not impressed, and he just continues with his development. 

     [  Maybe safer was: 6.d3!?, "=].   

Black to move, what move would YOU play in this position?
; (Maybe - '!') {Diagram?} 
Morphy decides he does not care that White has won a Pawn, and offers a gambit here, 
- from this position. 

W. Steinitz condemned this move, but does not prove his assertions (fully) that this is bad. 

      [  The book line seems to be: 6...Nxe5; 7.d4 Bd6; 8.f4! Nc6[]; 9.e5 Be7
Nb4!?; "~" {Diagram?} with a wildly unclear position. ].  

7.Nxc6!?, ('?!')  
This looks like the best move, but it is more than just a little bit risky. 
(Several computer programs pick this move as well.) 

 '?!' - GM Garry Kasparov. 

 ( This gets an exclam in a 20-year-old  opening(s) book  I have, but author David Lawson  
    inexplicably awards this move a whole question mark. {'?'} )  

     [  Probably safer was: 7.Nf3 Nxe4; 8.d4 Nxc3; 9.bxc3 Bf8; 10.Bd3 d5; "=" {Diagram?} 
        with a very balanced position.

        If White should decide to try and keep the pawn with: 7.Nd3!?, {Diagram?} 
        then Black plays: 7...Bb6; "Comp" {Diagram?} with good compensation for the P.  ].  

Black to move, what move would YOU play in this position?
This is much superior to the other 're-take', even though it violates the rule about capturing 
towards the center. 

Black activates his Queen, and also frees his QB, puts pressure on the center, and gains a 
tempo on White's KB. (All in one move!) 

     [ 7...bxc6!? ].  

8.Bc4!?, {Diagram?} 
This looks natural, but it possibly could be inaccurate. 

     [  Maybe - just maybe - a tad bit better was the move: 8.Bd3, "~" 

        Maybe even better is: 8.Be2; {Diagram?}- P.W. Sergeant. ]

Black to play here, what is a good move (in this position) for the 2nd player now? 
8...b5!?(Probably - '!')  
  This looks very energetic, and possibly is the very best move here.  
( But several authors have questioned it. David Lawson's book gives this a whole question mark, 
  but - that is neither justified ... nor is it even made clear who condemned this move. {originally} 
  Or even why they thought this move was bad.)

Phillip W. Sergeant also gives this move a question mark, but his analysis is scanty ... 
and full of holes. (!)  

   Several strong computer programs even choose the move 8...b5; as best. (!!)   
(I found  no  forced win for Black here, so in lieu of some positive proof; it seems this 
 move must be accepted as OK ... or even good!) 

     [  Maybe 8...a5!?; is playable. (This was suggested by several writers of the time.) 

        A good alternative to ...b5;  was the move: 8...Ng4; ('!?') "~" {Diagram?}
with interesting play for Black. ].  

9.Be2!?, (Maybe dubious?)   
I am not sure about this. (Maybe d3 was a tad better?) 

     [  Maybe an improvement was for White to play: 9.Bd3!?, {Diagram?} 
         with a playable position? 

        White should probably avoid: 9.Bb3?! Bg4; 10.Qe1 b4; "=/+" {Diagram?} 
         when Black is (at least) a little better here - in this position. ].  

9...Nxe410.Nxe4 Rxe4;  "="   
I used several different computer programs to verify my evaluation that this position is 
very close to being dead level. (equal) 

11.Bf3!?, {Diagram?} 
This looks like a perfectly reasonable move here, but again it is roundly condemned  ('?')  
in the Lawson book ... but with no analysis to explain why this move is bad. 
(P.W. Sergeant also says that this move is bad, but fails to provide an explanation why.)  

To further complicate matters, this move is the first choice of many strong computer programs. 
(Crafty is just one example.)

The program, Nimzo 8.0  rates this position as being nearly dead equal.

     [  White could also play: 11.c3!? Qh4; 12.d4 Bd6; "~"  {Diagram?} 
         but the pieces in the vicinity of the White King would make me nervous.

        Maybe 11.a4!? b4; 12.c3, "~"  {Diagram?} 
        with a position that is pretty close to being equal. 

        Bad for White is: 11.g3? Bh3; "/+" {Diagram?} when Black is much better. ].  

Black to play ... what is the correct move here? 
This move is both good ... and forced.  

     [  The move: 11...Re8??; 12.Bxc6, "+/-" (fork) {Diagram?} wins for White. ].  

Yet another perfectly reasonable move. 
(The main idea is to play d4, and block out Black's powerful dark-squared KB.)  

I know Reinfeld condemned this move here, but again I am not at all sure that this 
criticism is either merited - or justified. 

(David Lawson gives this a whole question mark, but this is completely and totally unjustified. 
 Sergeant also gives this move a question mark, saying that a3?! was forced.). 

 The move 12.c3, is the first or second choice of  MANY  strong computer programs here. 

     [  Many (Morphy) books have claimed that, ... "the move d3 was better." 

        But that opinion does not seem to hold up to careful scrutiny: 
Qh4; 13.g3 Qf6; 14.c3 Re8; 15.d4 Bh3!; 16.Bg2[] Bxg2; 17.Kxg2 Bd6
Qf5!; 19.Qf3 Qc2; "~"  (Maybe  "=/+") {Diagram?} 
        Black may even be (a little) better here. 

        Inferior is: 12.a3?! a5; "=/+" {Diagram?} when Black is better.  ]

Black to move, what move would YOU play in this position?  
I have seen Morphy play this move several times in his games. 
The Queen is pretty much immune from attack on this square ... and GREATLY impedes 
White's development!! (No d4 - making it almost impossible to get White's Q-side forces
developed, and into the game.) 

     [ Interesting was: 12...Qh4!? ].  

Once again a move that seems natural, but actually may only be second-best.

(But neither Lawson nor Reinfeld criticize this move at all.) 

     [ A (very) slight improvement may have been the line: >= 13.Re1 Rb8; "~"  {Diagram?}
        with good piece activity for Black. ].  

This might actually be the correct move here, in the current position.  
(Several authors condemned this move, but computer analysis strongly suggests it is best.)  

     [  Probably worse (for White) is: 14.Re1 Rxe1+; 15.Qxe1 Bd7; 16.Qf1 Qc2; "=/+" {Diagram?} 
         when Black has a small, but clear advantage. ].  

Now White has the threat of a4-a5, trapping Black's Bishop. So this is forced for Black.

15.Qxa4 Bd7!?;  
This is OK here, and looks logical ... but the fianchetto might be just a tad better here. 
(The main point is that a Black  B on b7  would prevent White from playing Qa6 - as in the game.) 

Kasparov questions this move as well, and also recommends ...Bb7 as superior. 

     [ Just slightly better was: >= 15...Bb7!; "~"  (Maybe - "=/+") {Diagram?} 
        Phillip W. Sergeant also points out this improvement as well. ].  

16.Ra2?!, (Maybe questionable.)  
White wants to play the idea of Bd1 and then Bc2 ... but it is much too slow. (Maybe - '?') 

Author D. Lawson (Barrett?) also gives this move a question mark. 
 And this is probably the ONLY time he is even close to being right! 

(P.W. Sergeant also gives this move a question mark.) 

 '?' - GM Garry Kasparov. 

      [   White had to play: >= 16.Qa6!; "~"  (Maybe - "+/=") {Diagram?} 
           when the first player should be no worse. 

           Maybe also playable was: 16.Bg4; "="  {Diagram?} 
           with a position that is approximately equal - or so it would seem. 

          Bad is: 16.h3?! c5; "=/+" ('/+') {Diagram?} and Black is definitely better. ]


16...Rae8; "~"  {Diagram?} 
This position is already unclear ... or even already just a little bit better for Black.   

Another perfectly reasonable move ... in fact it is the first choice of several fairly strong 
computer programs ... from the current position on the board. 

Several different authors condemn this move, but offer no real improvements for White here. 

(One author gave it a DOUBLE - question mark ... but this is ridiculous! Morphy's combination 
 is neither obvious nor really defensible.) 

"Too late," says Phillip W. Sergeant

     [  If 17.Qd1, ('?!') then 17...Bc8!; "=/+" {Diagram?} (Maybe - "/+") 
        and Black is clearly better - in this position.  ].  

Black to move, what move would YOU play in this position? 
(This position has been shown in countless books and magazines as: "Black to move and win.") 
17...Qxf3!!(Maybe - '!!!/!!!!')  {Diagram?} 
One of the most amazing moves ever played on a chess-board. 
(And according to the newspaper accounts of the time, it certainly came 
  as a shock to poor Paulsen.) 

This astounding bolt-from-the-blue might belong in the list of: 
  "The Ten Prettiest Moves of The Whole of The 19th Century."   

A move that absolutely  ...  ...  ...  "takes one's breath away." (As one writer put it.)

  "A very pretty refutation." - GM Garry Kasparov.   

     [  Most players - who think they have a good line for Black - find the continuation: 
; 18.Rxa6 c5; "=/+" {Diagram?} when Black is markedly better. ].  

18.gxf3, {Box.}   
This is, of course, forced. 

     [ 18.Kh1? Qd5; "-/+"  ].  

18...Rg6+19.Kh1 Bh3;   
Black now looks like he has at least a draw by perpetual check. 

20.Rd1?!, (Maybe - '?') {Diagram?} 
This looks like a natural move, but it is actually a mistake ... and loses BY FORCE. (!!) 
(And very few point this out.) 

(White had to play Qd3 here, but Black was still better.) 

Now the computer evaluations change from clearly favoring Black, ("/+") ... to a FORCED MATE IN SIX ... (or 7) MOVES!!! 

     [  White had to play the line: >= 20.Qd3[] f5!; "=/+" ("/+") {Diagram?}  
Kf8; ("-/+") {Diagram?} and Black wins easily. 
         - Phillip W. Sergeant

         Not  20.Rg1? Rxg1+; 21.Kxg1 Re1+; 22.Qf1 Rxf1#].  


20...Bg2+21.Kg1 Bxf3+22.Kf1 Bg2+!?;  
This looks like it is the best move in this position. 
  (But  over  20+  years later, a leading Master - of his day - found a significant improvement.).  

     [  Better was: >= 22...Rg2!!; {Diagram?} This is easily the best move here in this position. 
        (A discovery of - J.H. Zukertort.)  23.Ra5, {Diagram?} This is best - according to the box. 
          (Or 23.Qd3 Rxf2+; and mates. - Phillip W. Sergeant.)   23...Rxf2+24.Kg1 Rg2+
Rg1#; {Diagram?} White could not stop this elegant mate. ].  

23.Kg1 Bh3+;  
This is seemingly the most natural move. (But Black had a slightly better move.) 

     [ An improvement is 23...Be4+!; 24.Kf1 Bf5!; 25.Qe2 Bh3+; 26.Ke1 Rg1#, - J.H. Bauer. ].  

24.Kh1 Bxf2!;  
Morphy always seemed to find the best move. 
(Especially when he was on offense!) 

Now Black threatens Bg2#, and the only defense is for White to play the move: 25. Qf1. 

     [ Also good for Black was the line: 24...Bg4; 25.h4 Bxd1; "/+"  {Diagram?}
        when Black is clearly better. ].  

25.Qf1 Bxf1
26.Rxf1 Re2!;  
Once again Morphy finds the most accurate move. 

     [ Or 26...Bb6!?; 27.d4 Rge6; "=/+"  ].  

Poor Paulsen - who is in a very bad way - does not find the best move. 

And it did not matter! Paulsen is probably lost, no matter what he plays. 

     [  Maybe better than the text was: 27.Ra6, {Diagram?}; 
         or even 27.Rb2!?, {Diagram?;  but Black is still winning. ("-/+") ].  

Once again (!) - Morphy is mercilessly accurate in prosecuting the attack. 

     [  I would have been tempted to play the move: 27...h5!?; {Diagram?} to free my back-rank. 
         Several writers have suggested that Black play: 27...c5!?; "=/+"  ].   

Poor Paulsen, he does not find the best defense, but resignation was close at hand. 

      [  If White did not wish to quit, he had to play: 28.Kg2[] Bb6+; (This is best.) 
Rexh2!; "-/+"  {Diagram?} but Black is still winning. ].  

28...Be3!, ("-/+") {Diagram?} 
Black threatens a mate in one, (...R/h6xh2#); and also a mate in two
(BxB/e3, R/h6xh2+; and mate next.)  So White throws in the towel. 
(There was no adequate defense.). 

"A beautiful game," ...  - Phillip W. Sergeant

An exquisite game, one that is surely as good as anything Tal played ... and it was 
done over 100 years before Mikhail Tal came to the fore!!!

     [  28...Rh5!?; "=/+"  ]


(The books I used, in the order that I actually consulted them.) 
# 1.)  "The Games of Paul Morphy," by  Todd, Staunton, et al
# 2.)  "Paul Morphy, And The Evolution of Chess Theory,"  by  Macon Shibut
           Copyright (c) 1993.  
# 3.)  "Paul Morphy, - The Pride and Sorrow of Chess,"  by  David Lawson
           Copyright (c) 1976. 
# 4.)  "Morphy's Games of Chess,"  by  P.W. Sergeant and Reinfeld
           Copyright (c) 1924, Copyright (c) 1957. 
# 5.)   "Morphy's Games."  (Informant style book - symbols only.)  
# 6.)   An excerpt from Garry Kasparov's new book, "My Great Predecessors." (Part I.) 


Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.  Copyright A.J. Goldsby, 2002. 

 0 - 1

   Sunday;  August 03, 2003.  I just downloaded an excerpt of  Kasparov's  excellent new book,   "My Great Predecessors, Part I."  
(Click here to go to the publisher's web site.) This looks to be a fantastic book, I highly recommend it. Game # 6 is a complete analysis of this game. 

This is a rather shortened version of this game, if you want the full length version you must  contact me


 Game (first) posted on my web-site: Monday / August 26th, 2002. 
(Updated on: Sunday - 08/03/03.  Last edit or save on: 07/30/2011 11:34 PM .)  

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