Paul Morphy

Paul Morphy – First Unofficial World Champion

Welcome to our new series of legends who were near world champions! We will cover various players in the coming articles. The first one is easy to predict – Paul Morphy.

Paul Morphy was born in New Orleans, United States of America June 22, 1837. He belonged to a wealthy family. Former world champion Bobby Fischer ranked him in the top 10 greatest players in history. He completed law from university at the age of just 20.

In 1858 Paul Morphy first time traveled to Europe to play with Howard Staunton. He easily beat almost all top-level chess players in Europe. In 1859 he decided to retire from chess when he was just 22 years old and pursue law practice. In 1884, when bathing, he had a stroke leading to his demise.

Paul Morphy is also known as the first great American-born chess player.

Career in chess

Paul Morphy learned chess at an early age. When he was nine years old, he already became a famous player in his city. In 1850 he defeated chess master Johann Lowenthal when Johann visited New Orleans city. Later in 1857, he received an invitation to play in the 1st American chess congress, but he declined; but when his uncle urged him to play in the tournament, he accepted the invitation. He won against all players in that tournament and became an American chess champion. Then he stayed in New York and played a total of 261 games.

He scored 87 wins, eight draws, and five losses in Classical games. Morphy went to Europe to play many strong masters. Initially, Morphy set to play a match with Staunton, but the match was canceled due to some money issue. Then he played a match with Daniel Horowitz in one of the cafés in Paris and defeated him.

In Paris, Morphy suffered from influenza and lost a huge amount of blood. But at that time, also he played with Adolf Andersson and beat him With a score of 7 wins and two losses. After the match, Adolf Anderson said, “Morphy is the strongest chess player he has ever seen.” Then he played various exhibition matches and simultaneous displays in Europe. Though Morphy never became the official world champion as there was no official world championship match at that time. In 1859 when Morphy was just 22 years old, Assembly in Paris declared him the best living player in the world and world champion in chess. Although it was unofficial.

White to Play and Mate in 2


In the same year, he returned to America, and then he got various brand endorsements and newspaper interviews. In 1859 he declared himself as retired. This decision may be influenced by Staunton not turning up for the scheduled match. This might have made a poor impression of the chess fraternity. After retirement, he played some exhibition matches and started his law practice. Due to the civil war, he could pursue his law practices properly. His brother already joined the military and his mother and sister emigrated to France. After he failed to set law career some people told him to join again in chess, But he refused. In 1883 he met world champion William stories in one tournament.

Playing style and my thoughts

At that time opening theory was not developed properly. Still, Paul Morphy was playing brilliantly. Morphy’s playing style was creative attacking, and he was the first top-level player to play such high-quality games. Fischer, in one of his interviews, stated that Morphy had the talent to beat any player in the modern era if he got proper opening knowledge.

In my opinion, at that time, Morphy should have continued chess. It would have produced a lot more Gems than the ones we see. Many people say that the quality of opposition Morphy faced was not that strong, but I think that we should think of the things which were in his hands and not that he had no caliber of beating strong opponents. He gave his best by playing some Gem games. He did make those moves that were required to produce such good games.

If Morphy had continued chess, he could have become the 1st official world chess champion. This of course, could have changed the whole history of chess to date. The qualities like understanding your opponent well, playing creative chess, using one’s own strength, and the ability to bounce back.

Agadmator covers Top 10 facts about Paul Morphy –

Every coach recommends to every chess player to know the classics well. In some of his games, paul has played “piece odds,” which means a piece down from the first move. So here are some of his best games, according to me.

We have also written the following articles on players who cannot become world champions.

What would Paul Morphy be rated today?

At the time Paul Morphy was born, there was no rating system. Even there was not a single chess federation that could control everything. After free years FIDE formed, and they introduced a rating system.

It’s impossible to get the exact rating of Paul Morphy today. At that time, there were no engines, no computers, and even no chess literature available. Plus, due to unstable global conditions, it was difficult to travel from one point to another.

There where no opening involved, no endgame theory, nothing.

According to our analysis,  Paul Morphy would be rated around the 2200-2400 range in today’s world.

Is Paul Morphy the greatest chess player?

We cannot say he is the greatest chess player; he is one of the strongest chess players in history. He became the greatest chess player ever when there was no internet, no chess resources, and no opening theory.

Paul Morphy vs Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen and Paul Morphy were born in entirely different eras. They haven’t played with each other, and there is no chance they will play.


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