17 February 2015

Morphy's Immortal

Game of the Week

This week, I am working on the sixth match game between Louis Paulsen and Paul Morphy. Some commentators have called this game "Morphy's Immortal". The decisive combination that begins with a queen sacrifice is the first problem in Anthology of Chess Combinations.

I have been reading several chess books, and also watching YouTube videos to get a sense of what others say about this game. In addition, I read through A.J. Goldsby's annotations and all of the comments on chessgames.com.

This game is number ten in Rashid Ziyatdinov, GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000).

Paulsen,Louis -- Morphy,Paul  [C48]
USA–01.Kongress New York (4.6), 1857

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bc5 

Morphy's move is still a popular choice among some Grandmasters today.

4...Nd4 was first played by Emil Shallop against Paulsen. 5.Nxe5 (5.Ba4 Nxf3+ 6.Qxf3 c6 1–0 in 42 moves, Paulsen,L -- Schallopp,E, Berlin 1881) 5...Qe7

4...Bb4 is most popular.


5.Nxe5 Nxe5 (5...Bxf2+? 6.Kxf2 Nxe5 7.d4±) 6.d4 Bd6.


5...d6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 8.Nf5 0–0 9.Bg5 Bxf5 10.exf5 Nd4 11.Bd3 d5 12.Bxf6 gxf6 (12...Qxf6  is better 13.Nxd5 Qg5) 13.Na4 1–0 in 26 moves, Paulsen,L -- Zukertort,J, Leipzig 1877.


Black to move


6...Nxe5 is an interesting possibility 7.d4 Bd6 8.f4! (8.dxe5 Bxe5) 8...Nc6 9.e5 Be7 10.d5 (10.exf6 Bxf6) 10...Nb4

6...Nd4 7.Be2 d5 ½–½ is 32 moves. Marco,G -- Marshall,F, Monte Carlo 1904

6...Bd4 7.Nf3 Bxc3 8.dxc3 Nxe4 9.Bd3 d5 ½–½ in 33 moves, Tarrasch,S -- Schlechter,C, Monte Carlo 1903.


7.Nf3 "gives an advantage" (Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, Part I, 33).

7...dxc6 8.Bc4 b5

8...Nxe4? 9.Nxe4 Rxe4 10.Bxf7+ Kxf7 11.Qf3++-.


9.Bb3?! Bg4 10.Qe1 b4 with a slight advantage for Black, according to A.J. Goldsby 11.Nd1 Rxe4 12.Ne3 "is hardly advantageous to White" (Kasparov, 33).

9...Nxe4 10.Nxe4

10.Bf3? Nxf2 11.Rxf2 Qd4 12.Ne4 Rxe4–+.

10...Rxe4 11.Bf3

11.c3 is playable here Qh4 12.d4 Bd6 13.g3 Qh3 (with the idea 14...Rh4) 14.f4 Bd7 15.Bf3 Re7 and White has chances for advantage.



White to move


"A simply hideous move: who would think of allowing the queen in at d3?" (Kasparov, 33)

12.d3 has been suggested by most commentators, including Ray Keene.

"We can safely say that the play, as above given, was the main cause of White's disasters, particularly when contending against such a far-sighted and powerful adversary as Mr. Morphy."
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (28 November 1857).

A.J. Goldsby diagrees, offering: "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.)"

Goldsby offers the following variation: 12...Qh4 13.g3 Qf6 14.c3 Re8 15.d4 Bh3 16.Bg2 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Bd6 18.Bd2 Qf5 19.Qf3 Qc2 when Black may be a little better.

12.a3? a5 Black has a clear edge.


Yikes! The cramping effect of this move reminds me of my victory over Stockfish from a set position based on analysis of Mayet -- Anderssen (see "Training with Anderssen").


13.Re1 seems better 13...Rxe1+ (13...Rb8) 14.Qxe1 Bf5 15.Bxc6 Rd8 16.Qe5 Qc2 17.Bf3 Bd6 18.Qxb5 Bd3 19.Qc6 Kf8 "Black still has the advantage" (Kasparov, 34)

13...Bb6 14.a4

"Probably worse for White" 14.Re1 Rxe1+ 15.Qxe1 Bd7 16.Qf1 Qc2 (Goldsby).

14...bxa4 15.Qxa4

Black to move


15...Bb7 may be superior. Indeed, Kasparov identifies 15...Bd7 as Morphy's most significant miscalculation. 16.Ra2 Rae8 17.Qd1 Ba6 18.Rxa6 Qxa6 19.d4 Qc4 20.Bd2 a5 and Black has a clear advantage, according to Kasparov (34).


16.Qa6! was Paulsen's last chance.

16...Rae8 17.Qa6

Black to move

This position is the first one in the Anthology of Chess Combinations, third edition.

17.Qc2 was no good. 17...Qxf1+ 18.Kxf1 Re1#.


"Beautiful as unexpected. Mr. Stanley, one of the bystanders, remarked of Mr. M., on his making this seemingly rash move, that he should be confined in a lunatic asylum. No one present could fathom the meaning of this bold play, until move after move showed to the wonder-struck spectators how accurate had been Mr. M.'s calculations. Just think of this, student--seeing into a dozen moves ahead, with all its attendant variations."
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

"One of the most amazing moves ever played on a chess-board." A.J. Goldsby

17...Qxf1+? 18.Qxf1 Re1 19.d4 Rxf1+ 20.Kxf1 and White has an advantage.

18.gxf3 Rg6+ 19.Kh1 Bh3 20.Rd1

20.Rg1 Rxg1+ 21.Kxg1 Re1+ 22.Qf1 Rxf1#.

20.Qd3 tests Black's calculation.

Black to move
Analysis diagram after 20.Qd3
I put this position in front of the members of a Chess.com fan page on Facebook. No one found 20...f5!

a) 20...Bg2+ was suggested 21.Kg1 Bxf3+ 22.Qxg6 hxg6 and White is materally ahead.

b) 20...Bxf2 was the best of the suggestions on Facebook. 21.Qxg6 fxg6 22.Rd1 Be6 23.Ra1 Bd5 24.Kg2 Bh4 Black has a bishop and pawn for a rook, and perhaps a slight advantage.

c) 20...f5! keeps the attack alive. 21.Rd1 Bg2+ 22.Kg1 Bxf3+ 23.Kf1 Bxd1 and Black should win.

20...Bg2+ 21.Kg1 Bxf3+ 22.Kf1

Black to move


Morphy missed 22...Rg2! 23.Qd3 Rxf2+ 24.Kg1 Rg2+ 25.Kf1 (25.Kh1 Rg1#) 25...Rg1#.

23.Kg1 Bh3+

23...Be4+ 24.Kf1 Bf5 25.Qe2 Bh3+ 26.Ke1 Rg1#.

24.Kh1 Bxf2 25.Qf1

25.Rf1 Bxf1 26.Qxf1 Re1 27.Qxe1 Bxe1 28.Rxa7 h6-+

25...Bxf1 26.Rxf1 Re2 27.Ra1 Rh6 28.d4 Be3 29.Rf2 Rxf2 30.Bxe3 Rfxh2+ 31.Kg1 Rh1+ 32.Kg2 Rxa1 33.Bxh6 gxh6 0–1

1 comment:

  1. "Bxd1 and black should win."

    Indeed, white is soon compelled to trade a queen for a rook, leaving black a piece up in the endgame.

    I doubt Morphy calculated this far out, relying instead on positional intuition.

    (analysis courtesy of the Stockfish engine)