My answer to Would Paul Morphy in his short prime be competitive with the Grandmasters of today?

From Quora

 

Without question, Paul Morphy was the greatest player of his time. His brief career in chess represents a golden age for our pastime and his four hundred or so games still serve as an instruction manual for the chess prodiogies of today. During his prime, Paul Morphy advanced the science of chess and captured the world’s attention by making it appear as art. Without the advancements made by Morphy, the modern era of chess understanding could have been delayed for, at best, decades and perhaps even as long as a century.

On today’s standards, Paul Morphy’s chess games feature old fashioned opening play that allow modern analysts ample opportunities to feel superior by reciting well known refutations. The middle games that resulted from Paul Morphy’s opening lines seem to lack the subtleties in strategy that are synonymous with modern Grandmaster chess.   However, despite these perceived flaws in his play, Paul Morphy won with astonishing regularity that is beyond compare to any top player record in the 21st century.

What if Paul Morphy had been reborn in the year 1993? At our current date, Paul Morphy would be in his prime but how good would he be on today’s standards?  The answer is seemingly very good if not the best.

As a child chess prodigy born in 1993, Paul Morphy would have had easy access to the greatest chess books written in the 20th century, computer databases such as chessbase , intuitive tactical training software  and regular practice on the Internet Chess Club. Having been born into a wealthy family, Paul Morphy would have had the best chess coaching available and mastered all of the contributions made by his great predecessors at an early age. Furthermore, the late 20th century saw many improvements to the structure and size of scholastic chess in the United States and Paul Morphy would have greatly benefitted from the regular opportunities to play championship chess that today’s top scholastic chess players attend.  The end result of all these factors would have made Paul Morphy much stronger much faster than in his previous life.

By the year 2013, I feel quite comfortable in stating that our modernized Morphy would definitely be one of the top Grandmasters in world. Indeed, if history were to repeat itself, Paul Morphy would become widely recognized as the best chess player in the world before ending his chess career to pursue greater challenges in the court room. Despite only having played top level chess for a couple years, Modern Morphy would leave the 21’st century chess enthusiasts with a body of work which would take us the remainder of the century to fully decode and learn from.

Paul Morphy’s talent and determination at chess would enable him to become the top chess player in the world of 1858 or 2013. In fact, it is my firm belief that regardless of what era Paul Morphy was born into, his destiny was to become the greatest chess player ever.

I leave the skeptical reader with some quotes on Morphy

from the greatest chess minds ever:

“[I play in] the style of Morphy, they say, and if it is true that the goddess of fortune has endowed me with his talent, the result [of the match with Emanuel Lasker] will not be in doubt. The magnificent American master had the most extraordinary brain that anybody has ever had for chess. Technique, strategy, tactics, knowledge which is inconceivable for us; all that was possessed by Morphy fifty-four years ago.” ~ Capablanca

“How much more vivid, more rich does the figure of Morphy appear before us, how much clearer does the secret of his success and charm become, if we transfer ourselves in our thoughts to that era when he lived and created, if we take the trouble to study, only a little, his contemporaries! Then…in London and in particular in Paris, where the traditions of Philidor were still alive, where the immortal creations of La Bourdonnais and McDonnell were still in the memory, at that time, finally, when Anderssen was alive, and with brilliance alone it was hardly possible to surprise anyone. The strength, the invincible strength of Morphy- this was the reason for his success and the guarantee of his immortality!” ~ Alekhine

“A popularly held theory about Paul Morphy is that if he returned to the chess world today and played our best contemporary players, he would come out the loser. Nothing is further from the truth. In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody alive today… Morphy was perhaps the most accurate chess player who ever lived. He had complete sight of the board and never blundered, in spite of the fact that he played quite rapidly, rarely taking more than five minutes to decide a move. Perhaps his only weakness was in closed games like the Dutch Defense. But even then, he was usually victorious because of his resourcefulness.” ~Fischer

 

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in both Bakersfield and the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Currently, Chris Torres has the ranking of candidate master and serves as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

4 thoughts on “My answer to Would Paul Morphy in his short prime be competitive with the Grandmasters of today?

  1. Counterfactual speculations cannot be falsified, but you make the important point that Morphy today could take advantage of modern technology while merging it with the benefits of his pure talent.

    1. Indeed, the premise is speculation. However, I am growing very tired of modern analysts “speculating” that Paul Morphy’s talent could not hold up under today,s pressure. Thank you for commenting.

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