28 November 2013

Morphy Defense: Signature Games

Max Lange Annotates

The Morphy Defense to the Spanish Opening (Ruy Lopez) owes its name to the second and fourth games of Paul Morphy's match against Adolf Anderssen. This match was played at the Hotel Bretenil in Paris, where Morphy was staying, 20-28 December 1858. Morphy lost the first game, playing the White side of an Evans Gambit, drew the second game, and then won five games in a row.

In the second game, Anderssen played a dangerous sacrificial attack against Morphy's king. Morphy defended well. Morphy might have had an advantage in the end, but chose to repeat moves and agree to a draw. The third game was the sole Ruy Lopez in which Morphy had White. The American won a nice miniature. Game four began along the lines of game two, and Morphy won with Black.

On 22 December 1858, Morphy won games three and four of the match. Game three lasted about two hours, and game four lasted four hours. After Morphy's success with the defense that now bears his name, Anderssen switched to 1.a3 for the remainder of his games with White.

Max Lange annotations to the games of the match appear in Paul Morphy: A Sketch from the Chess World, trans. Ernest Falkbeer (London, 1860). With slight alterations, such as converting English descriptive notation to algebraic, this post reproduces Lange and Falkbeer's notes to games two and four.

Anderssen,Adolf -- Morphy,Paul [C77]
Paris m2 Paris (2), 21.12.1858
[Lange, Max]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6

It would be stronger to play Nf6 at once. The White bishop is well placed at a4, and if Black, in order to dislodge him, should venture upon advancing the b-pawn, the queen's side will be exposed.

3...Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 Qe7 6.0–0 0–0 7.d4 Bb6 8.Bg5 d6

4.Ba4 Nf6

White to move


Castling at this point would be stronger; for if Black takes e-pawn with knight, White answers with Re1 followed, eventually, by d4. Still the move in the text has some merit of its own, as the first player threatens to play c3 on the next move. In this position Black's game is extremely confined, and the slightest error will place it in jeapordy, as indeed, can be seen by the next moves.

Nevertheless Herr Lowenthal zealously censured the move d3, exaggerating the force of other attacks, and pretending that the above move has only been made for the sake of the defence, whilst Herr Falkbeer did full justice to the first player, thus concluding in his notes: "The brilliancy of this game, one of the best which was ever played since the arrival of Mr. Morphy in Europe, reflects great credit both on the American champion and on his renowned antagonist. The spirited and energetic manner in which White followed up his attack, and also the tenacity of Black's defence, are equally deserving of admiration."

5...Bc5 6.c3 b5

The German Handbuch recommends Qe7 in the variation given at move 3 above. In the present position, however, the move in the text is preferable, as Qe2 at this point could be answered with d4, and if exd4 with castling on the next move.


It may be left as an open question whether the retreat of the bishop to b3 should not be more advisable at this juncture. However, we for our part, have no occasion to answer that question as Herr Lowenthal does, stating: "We much prefer  Bb3," without giving any reason for this assertion.

7...d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.h3 0–0 10.0–0 h6 11.d4 exd4 12.cxd4 Bb6 13.Nc3 Ndb4 14.Bb1

Had he advanced the d-pawn instead of Bb1, to avoid the apparent loss of a pawn, the following variation, which would have resulted in Black's favor, might have arisen. 14.d5 Ne7 15.Be4 f5 16.d6 (16.Qb3 fxe4 17.d6+ Kh8 18.Qxb4 Qxd6 19.Qxd6 cxd6 20.Nxe4 d5 21.Ned2 This move being compulsory to save the h-pawn. Black has decidedlythe better game.) 16...fxe4 17.dxe7 Qxe7 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.Qxd5+ Be6 20.Qxe4 Qf6 with the better game; If, however, White at his fourteenth move had preferred to protect his d-pawn with the bishop, the annexed interesting variation would have probably occurred. 14.Be3 Nxc2 15.Qxc2 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 Bxd4 17.Rad1 c5 18.Nxd4 cxd4 19.Qe4.


Black could not have taken the pawn with impunity.

14...Bxd4 15.Ne2 Bb6 16.a3 Nd5 17.Qc2 winning a piece.
14...Nxd4 15.Nxd4 Bxd4 16.Qf3 Be6 (16...c6 17.Rd1 Qf6 18.Qe4) 17.Qe4.

15.a3 Nd5 16.Ne2 Nf6

Necessary, as White threatened to play Qc2 winning a piece. In the fourth game of the match, in which, up to this point, the same moves were played, Anderssen played 16.Be3 instead of the move in the text. 17.Be3 Re8 18.Ng3 Bc4 19.Nf5 This way of establishing the knight on e5 is one of the favorite manoeuvres of the German master, by which he has obtained many a brilliant victory. Had he played Re1, instead, Black could have taken the d-pawn with impunity. Qd3, however, would have lessened the attack, which it is White's evident intention to keep up by all means.

19...Bxf1 20.Qxf1 Ne7 21.N3h4 Nxf5 22.Nxf5 Qd7

White to move


The depth and elegance of this sacrifice is acknowledged even by Herr Lowenthal, as follows: "From personal experience we know how dangerous it is to make such a sacrifice as this, in contending with Mr. Morphy, whose insight into a difficult position is such as to enable him to hit the blot which almost invariably accompanies the giving up of a piece for a pawn. Mr. Anderssen, however, here follows up the game with great accuracy and ingenuity, and the result does him much credit."

We have no doubt that the sacrifice of the bishop at this critical point was perfectly correct and opportune, the more so, as the preparatory and seemingly strong move Qc1 could have effectually been replied to with Ne4, shutting up the White bishop.

23...gxh6 24.Qc1 Bxd4

24...Ne4 25.Qf4

White to move


25.Nxh6+ would have been less efficacious. True, White would have won, had Black moved  the king to h8.

25...Kh8 26.Bf5 Qe7 (26...Qd6) 27.Qf4 (27.Qg5 Bxf2+) 27...Qe2 28.Qh4.
25...Kf8 26.Bf5 Qd6 27.Qg5 Re5 28.Kf1 Rae8 29.f4 Re2.

25...Re1+ 26.Kh2 Ne4 27.Bxe4 Rxe4

27...Rxa1 28.Ne7+ Qxe7 29.Bh7+=

28.Qg5+ Kf8 29.Qh6+ Ke8 30.Nxd4

Black to move


Even Herr Lowenthal here remarks: "The last series of moves has been admirably played by the German master."

30...Qxd4 31.Qc6+; 30...Rxd4 31.Qh8+.


Anderssen never displays his powers so effectually, as after having exchanged the queens. He is justly considered the greatest living chess player with regard ti the skillful management of the minor pieces.

31...cxd6 32.Rd1 Kf8 33.Rd2 Rae8 34.g4 R8e5 35.f3 Re1 36.h4 Rd5 37.Kg3 a5 38.h5 Kg8 39.Kf2 Re8 40.Kg3 Re7 41.Kf4 Kh7 42.Kg3 Re3 43.Kf4 Re8 44.Kg3 Re3 ½–½

This game lasted five hours.

Anderssen,Adolf -- Morphy,Paul [C77]
Paris m2 Paris (4), 1858
[Lange. Max]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.exd5 Nxd5 9.h3 0–0 10.0–0 h6 11.d4 exd4 12.cxd4 Bb6 13.Nc3 Ndb4 14.Bb1 Be6 15.a3 Nd5 16.Be3 

Black to move

In the second game Anderssen played Ne2

16...Nf6 17.Qd2

With the twofold object of placing the Rook on d1 and of capturing h6 with the bishop at the right moment.

17...Re8 18.Rd1 Bd5

Decidedly stronger than Na5, which could have been answered with the above-mentioned sacrifice.

19.Ne5 Qd6

White to move


20.Nxd5 Nxd5 (20...Qxd5 21.Ba2) 21.Qc2 Nxe3 22.fxe3 Nxe5 23.dxe5 Qxe5 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Bf5 Bxe3+ 26.Kh1 g6 with the better game.

20...Nxd4 21.Bxd4 Bxd4

White to move


22.Ng4 would have much improved White's attack.


This is the correct reply. Had he taken Qxd5, White would have advantageously answered with Nc6.

23.Nxf6+ Qxf6 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Be4 Rad8

White to move


This is the turning point of the game. White ought to have played now Rf1, and thus obtained the better game; for if Black, on the next move takes Bxb2, White can effectually reply Rae1. By the weak move above White missed the opportunity of following up successfully an attack, which was well planned hitherto.

26...Bxb2 27.Rab1

In answer to Re1, Black could have played g5.

27...Rxd1+ 28.Rxd1 Qxf2 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qh7 Be5 31.Bf3 Qg3 32.Kg1 Qg6 33.Qxg6 fxg6 34.Bb7 Rb8 35.Bxa6 c6 36.Kf2 Bd6 37.Rd3

Even a4 at this point would scarcely have saved the game.

37...Kd7 38.Ke2

Black to move


38...Kc7 39.a4 Bf8 (39...Be5 40.axb5 cxb5 41.Rd5) 40.axb5 cxb5 41.Rc3+ Kb6 42.Bc8.

39.Bb7 Rxa3 40.Rd1 Kc7 41.Bc8 Ra2+ 42.Kf3 Bc5 43.Be6 Rf2+ 44.Kg3 Rf6 45.Rd7+ Kb6 46.Bg4 Bd6+ 47.Kh4 c5 48.Bf3 c4 49.Rxg7 Rf4+ 50.Bg4 c3 51.g3 Rxg4+ 0–1

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