Thursday, July 21, 2016

Line Opening with Paul Morphy

I put up a couple of positions by the great Paul Morphy from his most famous games the other day. Time to have a look.

Paulsen-Morphy USA ch 1857
This has been my game of the week this week for showing to kids. It starts with a sensible 4 knight's opening, there are some nice tricks, and some strange/poor moves that are instructive. Morphy, as black in this position played to his strength which was opening lines for rapid development. He came up with the great sacrifice, 17..Qxf3!! Paulsen must take back 18.gxf3

White's king has been ripped open, and Morphy's pieces now stream into the holes. 18..Rg6+ 19.Kh1 Bh3

[The threat is 20..Bg2+ 21.Kg1 Bxf3#. 20.Rg1 is not playable as white is mated after 20..Rxg1+ 21.Kxg1 Re1+ 22.Qf1 Rxf1#] Paulsen carried on but was forced to resign on move 28. Morphy did miss a couple of quicker mates, but the sacrifice of the queen on f3 to open lines was simply excellent.

The second position I put up was from the game Bird-Morphy London 1858, one of the most analysed games in history.

Bird-Morphy (m5) London 1858

I wonder if Morphy was thinking about his masterpiece against Paulsen from the previous year when he came up with a plan to offer his queen to open lines for rook and bishop. 17..Rxf2 An astounding idea, opening the third rank. This move, and the few following have been subject to an immense amount of analysis over the years. Was this sacrifice correct? Should the game have ended a win for black, a draw? Try googling bird-morphy and see what results come up, or just try to make the white defence stronger. 18.Bxf2 Qa3!!

An amazing queen move from Morphy! Obviously, the queen can't be taken, 19.axb3 Bxa3#. Notice the similarity to the Paulsen game? Bird, who wasn't the best defender succumbed to the onslaught on move 29, and one of the greatest queen moves of all time proved successful.

More Morphy to come....

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