Please turn on javascript in your browser to play chess.
Only Chess Forum

Only Chess Forum

  1. 13 Apr '10 01:05
    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 and maybe compare them to our current rating of 1800-2000 USCF, 1700-1900 FIDE and 150-170 BCE.

    (Yes some of his opponents were very strong, but most were not.)

    So the question is? What were Morphy's victims rated in today's standards?
    1800 USCF? 2000 USCF?

    Or were they stronger and he was just that good?
  2. Standard member nimzo5
    Ronin
    13 Apr '10 01:47
    you can't really compare that era to now. Besides the lack of sophistication, culturally a gentleman didnt turn down a sacrifice. Tactically, I would guess that most of the amateurs Morphy crushed were quite good. Probably a modern player could beat them fairly easily with modern openings, but I doubt an 1800 would do very well against them in the old school openings.
  3. Subscriber Paul Leggett
    Chess Librarian
    13 Apr '10 01:57 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by nimzo5
    you can't really compare that era to now. Besides the lack of sophistication, culturally a gentleman didnt turn down a sacrifice. Tactically, I would guess that most of the amateurs Morphy crushed were quite good. Probably a modern player could beat them fairly easily with modern openings, but I doubt an 1800 would do very well against them in the old school openings.
    To add to this, those guys learned and played without all the books, theory, computers, and other tools we have. I suspect that us modern players would get some licks in early, but they would learn fast and return us to our places in the natural order of things.
  4. 13 Apr '10 02:32
    Interesting, I would like to read some more opinions.
  5. 13 Apr '10 02:34
    Originally posted by Paul Leggett
    To add to this, those guys learned and played without all the books, theory, computers, and other tools we have. I suspect that us modern players would get some licks in early, but they would learn fast and return us to our places in the natural order of things.
    I like this.

    "Lose once, shame on you, lose twice, shame on me."
  6. Standard member nimzo5
    Ronin
    13 Apr '10 02:46
    Macon Shibut has a very interesting book on morphy and the chess theory of the day.
  7. 13 Apr '10 03:09
    Originally posted by nimzo5
    Macon Shibut has a very interesting book on morphy and the chess theory of the day.
    Yeah I have that one. Paul Morphy and the evolution of Chess Theory.
  8. Standard member peacedog
    Highlander
    13 Apr '10 16:34
    I always thought Morphy was considered a positional player by his peers.


    He was often happy to go into a won endgame in a time when playing for mate from move one was the fashon.
  9. 13 Apr '10 19:16
    It's never fair comparing or labelling these past players with grades.

    What we take for granted was down to them and their pioneer spirit.

    Today we adopt the principles from the book they were writing with each game.
  10. 13 Apr '10 19:33
    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:
    http://db.chessmetrics.com/CM2/MonthlyLists.asp?Params=185510SSSSS3S000000000000111000000000000010100
    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.
  11. 13 Apr '10 21:58
    Originally posted by savage4731
    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 pe ...[text shortened]... 0s, could go back to that time and dominate the way Morphy did? I dont think many could.
    I also think we need to trust Chessmetrics on this one.
  12. Standard member nimzo5
    Ronin
    13 Apr '10 22:17
    Agree. Like in any other endeavor the best way to judge historical players is against each other.
  13. Subscriber Paul Leggett
    Chess Librarian
    13 Apr '10 23:44
    Originally posted by nimzo5
    Macon Shibut has a very interesting book on morphy and the chess theory of the day.
    I knew Macon (a little bit) when I lived in Virginia. He is what I very respectfully refer to as a "Strong Playing Master". He was always USCF 2300-something, and he played often, against anyone in a tournament. I'm sure his rating would have been 100+ points higher if he had "nursed" it and only played in tournaments where his rating was not at risk.

    There many strong players like that in Virginia when I was younger and learning the game, and it's why I still have the attitude that I will play anyone, regardless of rating, because stronger players did that for me when I was just starting, and I feel obligated to pay it forward.
  14. 13 Apr '10 23:53
    Originally posted by Paul Leggett
    I knew Macon (a little bit) when I lived in Virginia. He is what I very respectfully refer to as a "Strong Playing Master". He was always USCF 2300-something, and he played often, against anyone in a tournament. I'm sure his rating would have been 100+ points higher if he had "nursed" it and only played in tournaments where his rating was not at risk ...[text shortened]... players did that for me when I was just starting, and I feel obligated to pay it forward.
    that's a nice story actually, is it just me?
  15. 14 Apr '10 00:21
    The notion that Morphy's competition was weak and in the 1800-2000 range is laughable.
    So is the idea that Morphy would be slaughtered by today's lower rated masters because of some magic leg up they have with developments in opening theory.