Morphy vs Staunton – the match that never was

by ChessBase
12/29/2009 – When 21-year-old Paul Morphy travelled to Europe in the summer of 1858 he destroyed all opposition. Except for one of Europe's chess heroes, who avoided a confrontation. Howard Staunton would only play consultation games, where you can blame a loss on your partner. In his Playchess lecture Dennis Monokroussos shows us an interesting example. Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET.

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Playchess training with FM Dennis Monokroussos

On the eve of Magnus Carlsen's becoming the official #1 on the FIDE rating list, it seems like a good moment to reflect on the first notable chess prodigy of the modern game, Paul Morphy (1837-1884).

Western Europe was the center of chess activity, but Morphy, who grew up in the relative chess wasteland of Louisiana, came to Europe as a 21-year-old and destroyed all opposition. Or at least he tried to. While most of Europe's best tried their hand, including the rusty but gallant Adolf Anderssen, another of Europe's chess heroes did not.

Never met in direct over-the-board games: Howard Staunton, Paul Morphy

For a variety of reasons, Howard Staunton (1810-1874) did not play Morphy, and a good deal of controversy has surrounded Staunton’s abstention to the present day. However, while they did not play any one-on-one games, they did play a couple of consultation games against each other. Morphy partnered with Thomas Barnes, while Staunton teamed with John Owen. Barnes was a pretty strong player in his own right, while Owen seems to have been outclassed by the other three, but it’s likely that the added players were there as much to keep the tensions down and allow the losing side to save face. Whatever the case, Morphy’s side won both games, and Staunton never played Morphy again, even in the context of a consultation game.

Of course, we’re going to take a look at one of these two games for this week’s show. The game where Morphy and Barnes had White was especially interesting, and did credit to both sides. While Morphy+ got an edge after Staunton+'s bad opening, the defense stiffened. Rather than pursuing the advantage by positional means, Morphy(+) went for a very deep but only intuitively calculated idea, and the game turned into a race between White's attack and the speed at which his center collapsed. Ultimately, White won, but there were some adventures along the way.

We'll explore those adventures tonight - Wednesday night - at 9 p.m. ET (= 3 a.m. CET) on the Playchess server. Just log on at the given time, go to the Broadcast Room, and look for Morphy-Staunton under the Games tab. Hope to see you there, even if you're a Staunton fan!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). You can find the times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date, with exact times for most larger cities here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures.

Monokroussos in Mexico: World Championship 2007

Dennis Monokroussos is 43, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and has worked as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

Playchess Training with IM Merijn van Delft

Everyone is invited to join this weekly training hour on Wednesday evening. Together we will have a look at the most recent grandmaster games. Recurring themes during our analyses and discussions are the latest opening developments and how to work on your own chess.

A word about myself: I was born (March 13, 1979) and raised in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. In 1995 I won the Dutch U16 Championship and played the European Championship in Poland and the World Championship in Brasil. In 1998 I moved to Amsterdam to study psychology and had a great time there. In 2003 I met my wife Evi Zickelbein and ever since we've been living together in Hamburg, Germany. In 2004 I made both master titles: one at the university and one in chess. Since 2005 I've been working fulltime in the chess world: training, coaching, writing, organizing and still actively playing myself. By now I have about fifteen years of experience as a chess trainer. Together with my dad I wrote a book about chess training (Schaaktalent Ontwikkelen), of which the Dutch version is already available and the English version will follow April 2010.

IM Merijn van Delft's lecture starts at 20:00h Central European Time (Berlin, Paris, Rome), which translates to 19:00h London. You can find the times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. The lecture is in the "Broadcast" room of Playchess. It is free for Premium Playchess members (50 Ducats for others).


The lectures are broadcast live on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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