Originally posted by TacticsX4
I was reading about chess history recently and I noticed the games of Paul Morphy had a nice tactical element to them. That is, they usually had many tactical threats or even ended with a tactical combination to end the game. They focused on development, central control, opening lines for attack and space etc etc.
I also consider Morphy's opponents weak ...[text shortened]... today's standards?
1800 USCF? 2000 USCF?
Or were they stronger and he was just that good?
No. 1800 is ridiculous. I'm about 1800 and I would get slaughtered by Anderssen.
All things being equal, the best players of Morphy's day were comparable to today's best. In some ways they were actually better because they had to do their own analysis and couldnt rely on engines and databases. There were fewer great players because there were fewer people and making a living at chess was difficult in those days. But, people back then had a lot more free time (no tv,no internet) so the average player was pretty good.
Chessmetrics attempts to rate players of that day:
As you can see many were in the 2500 + range. You can debate the accuracy but its at least in the ballpark. Using that, you could get an approximate rating on any of Morphy's opponents.
Another thing to consider is this : Morphy would demand that he give odds if his opponent couldnt at least hold his own. So any games you see of Morphy's that are at even odds and not a simul are against pretty strong competition (unless they were a count or duke of course). Maurian, for example, wasnt a bad player. He beat Steinitz. But nearly all of his games against Morphy were at odds.
Asking what players from then would do today is a logical fallacy. That would be like asking "who's faster : the fastest runner in 1860 or a guy in a car?" Just because they lacked some knowledge (because it hadnt been invented yet) doesnt mean the werent strong players in their day. In fact I might even argue that even made them stronger. A typical GM game today is 20+ book moves, 10 moves of computer analysis, maybe 5 original moves then someone resigns. I could teach a monkey to memorize moves.
Look at it this way: How many GMs from today, if you took away all of their knowledge that came after the 1860s, could go back to that time and dominate the way Morphy did? I dont think many could.