Advent calendar: December 20

12/20/2016 – From December 1 to December 24 we invite our readers every day to open a door in our advent calendar. Click and enjoy a little chess treat. Behind door 20 waits a report about a remarkable match. Advent calendar, door 20.

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Adolf Anderssen – Paul Morphy, Paris 1858

In December 1858 the arguably two best players of that time met in Paris for a match: Adolf Anderssen and Paul Morphy. Morphy, born in New Orleans, June 22, 1837 was the best player in America and when the Americans failed to organize international tournaments he decided to travel to Europe to measure his strength against the European masters.

In Spring 1858 he boarded a ship in New York to travel to London where he wanted to play a match against Howard Staunton. But this match did not come about because Staunton again and again found excuses not to play. Finally Morphy was tired of waiting any longer and went to Paris.

Paul Morphy

While waiting for Staunton to agree to a match, Morphy spent his time annihilating a number of other masters in London. Here's the list of the defeated: Morphy against Barnes 19:6; against Bird 10:1, against Boden 5:1; against Löwe 6:0; against Löwenthal 10:4; against Prince Montgredien 2:0; against Owen 4:1.

In Paris Morphy felt at ease and had no language problems. Morphy's father was Spanish, his mother French, and he himself spoke English, Spanish and French. The chess fans in Paris greeted Morphy enthusiastically and he was a frequent guest in the the Café de la Régence in the Rue Saint-Honoré 121. After several victories against French masters and a number of celebrated blind simultaneous events Morphy became a star and with every success he also became a little bit more French.

Until then Daniel Harrwitz had been the uncrowned king of the Café de la Régence. Harrwitz, who like Anderssen was born in Breslau, was employed by the Café as chess master. And of course people wanted to see a duel of the champions. The fans of Harrwitz raised about 400 Francs as stake for a match against Morphy who accepted this stake and bet the same amount. The winner of the match was to be the player who first scored seven wins. The local champion started well: Harrwitz convincingly won the first two games.

But then Morphy had adapted to his opponent and in next five games scored four wins and a draw. Harrwitz then claimed that he was not feeling well and asked to interrupt the match for a week. Morphy agreed but the break did not change anything and when play resumed Harrwitz suffered the next defeat. When Harrwitz now asked for another break, Morphy rejected and Harrwitz rsigned the match.

According to the rules Morphy had the right to get the prize money. However, he did not claim it in total, saying that he did not win seven games. He had just one condition: he argued that his five wins gave him the right to 295 francs and Harrwitz should invite Adolf Anderssen to come to Paris to play a match against Morphy and offer him this sum to cover part of his travel expenses. When the German accepted, Morphy, who liked it in Paris, offered to spend the winter in Paris to give Anderssen enough time to come to the French capital. That Morphy claimed that Harrwitz as „sponsor“, who supported his countryman, shows diplomatic skill and a certain sense of subtle humor.

Anderssen accepted the offer and two months later, in December 1858, he travelled to Paris. But after his arrival he received bad news: Morphy had fallen ill and asked to postpone the start of the match for a week - Anderssen accepted and used the time for a match for the "crown of Breslau" against Harrwitz. Anderssen won 4:2 (+3 =2 -1).

The winner of the match Morphy vs Anderssen was to be the player who first won seven games. But after eleven games the match was over - Morphy won 8-3 (+7 =2 -2).

Adolf Anderssen accepted his defeat gracefully and in a letter to the chess master, theoretician and collector Tassilo Baron von Heydebrand und der Lasa he praised Morphy's skills:

„If you play with Morphy let go of all hope that he will be taken in a snare no matter how fine it is, but instead expect that Morphy will see right through it; rather, if you see Morphy making a move which we like on first sight as it seems to be favorable for us, you should rather carefully check the move precisely, and then it will always turn out that this very move is just the right one and that every attempt to exploit it would turn out to be unfavorable. But the most ruinous against Morphy is to be certain of victory - even if you have a clearly better position and a strong attacking game.

I cannot describe the impression Morphy made on me more aptly as to say that he treats chess with the seriousness and the diligence of an artist; if the effort it costs to win a game for us is only a matter of pleasure and only lasts as long as it gives pleasure, for him it is a sacred duty, and for him a game of chess is never just a diversion but always a worthy problem, as if it is his professional vocation, as if it is an act with which he fulfills his mission.“


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