BLTC Press Titles


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Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett


Paul Morphy, the chess champion

by Frederick Milnes Edge

Excerpt:

K. Henry V., Act V., Chorus.

Abbtttxg in Europe three months before Mr. Morphy, I was in some sort—not from any consent or knowledge on his part—his avant-courier ; and the tact of my having been one of the Secretaries at the New York Chess Congress, joined to my acquaintance with him, afforded me the opportunity of conversing frequently with prominent English players in reference to this new meteor in the chess firmament.

Shortly after my arrival in London, I called upon the Secretary of the St. George's Chess Club, Thomas Hampton, Esq., and introduced myself to him. Chess is a bond of brotherhood amongst all lovers of the noble game, as perfect as freemasonry. It is a leveller of rank—title, wealth, nationality, politics, religion— all are forgotten across the board. Every chess-player recognises this, and none more so than Mr. Hampton, who gave me the warmest of welcomes. He told me that every Saturday there was a full attendance of members, and kindly invited me to visit the club on that day, promising to introduce me to Mr. Staunton. I was but too happy to accept this invitation, being desirous of learning how far the prowess of Paul Morphy was appreciated by one so eminent*in the chess world.

My acquaintance with the young American was a passport of general interest to all present on the following Saturday. In addition to Mr. Staunton, I met there Herr Falkbeer, Messrs. Barnes, Bird, " Alter," and other luminaries, and many were the questions asked in reference to Mr. Morphy. But I am bound to say that the feeling 'with which he was regarded in the United States was not participated in by English players. I was told by one gentleman—" Mr. Morphy's games are very pretty, but they will not bear the test of analysis." Another said—and his opinion was universally endorsed—" It is quite possible that Mr. Morphy may arrive at the highest rank: nay, even that he may become a second Labourdonnais, but he cannot have the strength his admiring countrymen wish to believe. Chess requires many long years of attentive study, and frequent play with the best players, and neither of these your friend has had. Depend upon it, he will find European amateurs very different opponents from those he has hitherto encountered." This rather nettled me. but it was reasonable and just. Any one possessing the slightest acquaintance with the game knows that it partakes more of hard, laborious application to arrive at first-rate skill than of mere pastime. Very few of Morphy's games had been seen in Europe, and his opponents were not, certainly, of a class to rank with the Stauntons, Lowenthals, and Anderssens of the Old 'World. 'Was it reasonable to suppose that a youth, just out of his teens, who had devoted but little time to chess, and who was about to meet first-rate players for the first time, should' possess the experience and lore of men double his age? At the present time, now that he has unmistakably proved himself the superior of all living players, I feel utterly at a loss to solve the problem of his skill. At college, until eighteen years old, what time could he find there, except out of school hours, for the required practice, and what antagoinsts worthy of him ? From eighteen to twenty, he was engaged in reading for the Bar. During that period he was as frequent a visitor at the Chess Club as circumstances would permit, but certainly not sufficiently so to increase his strength. 'Who were his antagomsts ? His father had almost entirely abandoned chess ; Mr. Ernest Morphy had settled in ''the 'West.*' and Mr. Eousseau. absorbed in the sterner duties of life, held the same relation to the game as Mr. Le\ris in England. To one and all of his opponents, except these gentlemen, he could give the rook ; and playing at odds is somewhat different from contending with even players. He met strong players for the first time at Xew York. Paulsen, Lichteuhein, Thompson, Montgomery, Maraehe, were all northern players, and new to him, and vastly superior to the antagonists he had previously encountered. There is but one way to account for his annihilation of all precedent. His skill is intuitive, and I doubt much whether his prodigious memory has been of assistance to him. In answer to a gentleman in Paris as to whether he had' not studied many works on chess, I heard him state that no author had been of much value to him, and that he was astonished at finding various positions and solutions given as novel—certain moves producing certain results, etc., for that he had made the same deductions himself, as necessary consequences. In like manner, Xewton demonstrated, in his own mind, the problems of Euclid, the enunciations only being given ; and I can think of no more suitable epithet for Morphy than to call him " the Xewton of Chess."

But revenons <i nos moutons. Morphy's achievements at the Congress in Xew York induced many to believe that America now possessed a champion capable of contending with the proficients of Europe, and it was proposed that he should be backed by the American Chess Association against any player who would take up the challenge. I am sorry to say that the action of certain prominent men prevented the gauntlet being thrown down. These gentlemen said. '' He beats us because he is better versed in the openings, but such players as Lowenthal and Harrwitz will be too strong for him. He wants experience, and were we to make this national challenge, we should appear ridiculous when our champion is defeated, which he certainly would be." The proposal, however, got noised abroad, and the following paragraph appeared, in consequence, in the " Illustrated London News :"—

" CHALLENGE TO EUROPEAN CHESS PLAYERS.*

" The American Chess Association, it is reported, are about to challenge any player in Europe to contest a match with the young victor in the late passage at arms, for from 82,000 to S5,000 a side, the place of meeting being New York. If the battle-ground were


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