Understanding before Moving 125: Chess history in a nutshell (7)

by ChessBase
5/15/2023 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 125th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell": This tiem, he talks about Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


Paul Morphy (1)

One of the true chess legends was the American Paul Morphy (1837-1884). Born in New Orleans, he showed an exceptional talent for chess, judging by the results he achieved as a young player. When the first official chess tournament was held in New York in 1857, Morphy managed to beat his closest rivals Stanley and Paulsen.

Like his contemporaries, the young American had a great love of the art of combination, but combined it with great strategic insight. He was one of the first to realise that in the opening phase it was important to develop a piece consistently with each move before going on the attack. Once he had a few pieces in play, he didn't hesitate to sacrifice material in exchange for razor-sharp king attacks.

Morphy's clear style led future World Champion (and fellow countryman) Bobby Fischer to say that Morphy was the greatest player of all time. This may seem an exaggeration, but at the time his achievements were unsurpassed. When Morphy came to Europe in 1858, he played many duels, all of which he won. The most important of these took place in Paris, when he defeated Anderssen 7-2.

Phenomenal were Morphy's performances in simultaneous blindfold sessions. One of the most beautiful games of the legendary American, who soon turned his back on chess, is the famous "Opera Game" against the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard, which is dealt with at lightning speed in this video.

Although it is well known, we have replayed the moves to highlight one of the most important features of Morphy's game: the particular efficiency with which he strives to develop his pieces in the opening, while at the same time sometimes succeeding in disrupting his opponent's development.

His preference for the Evans Gambit was later shared by Bobby Fischer, who also used the gambit frequently against weaker opponents. As a fan of Morphy, the future World Champion showed that he dared to use it against a fellow grandmaster.

The position shown in the diagram is from a game between Fischer and Fine in 1963. White has invested two pawns in an adventure that looks promising for him. Black has failed to bring any pieces into play apart from the dark-squared bishop and the queen, but more importantly he has not yet been able to castle and this factor will soon bring the decision. Do you see how Fischer managed to crack Black's defence?

Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors how to successfully organise your games strategically, and how to keep your opponent permanently under pressure.

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