The Exploits and Triumphs in Europe of Paul Morphy, the Chess Champion

including an Historical Account of Clubs, Biographical Sketches of Famous Players, and Various Information and Anecdote relating to the Noble Game of Chess. By Paul Morphy’s late Secretary. New York : D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 203.

THE American Chess Congress, at Now York, in October, 1857, by the wide-spread interest which it awakened, revealed what was not very generally suspected,—that the game of chess is played and studied in the New World more generally, and on the present occasion we may say more thoroughly and successfully, than in the Old. This interest in chess the subsequent career of Paul Morphy, the prime hero of that grand encounter, has greatly widened and deepened; and to all who had the chess-fever before his advent, or who have caught it since, this book will be welcome. It fulfils all the promises of its title-page, and tells the story of Paul Morphy's modestly achieved victories at home and abroad with authority and intimate knowledge. Chess-players, and all who take even an incidental interest in Mr. Morphy's adventures abroad, will be grad to find here a particular account of his engagements with Harrwitz, Anderssen, and especially of the match which he did not play with Mr. Stanton, and why he did not play it. The whole of the Stanton affair is recounted with much minuteness of date and circumstance, and a production of all the letters which passed upon the subject; and we must say, that upon the facts, {about which there appears to be no room for dispute,) aside from any color given to them by the writer’s manner of stating them, the case has a very bad aspect for the English champion, How much better would Mr. Stanton now be standing before his brother chess-players, and, so much attention has the affair attracted, before the world, had he been fairly beaten, like Professor Anderssen! His reputation as a chess-player would have suffered no diminution by such a result of an encounter with Mr. Morphy; that would only have shown, that, well as Stanton played, Morphy played better,—as to which the world is as well satisfied now as then it would have been. And as to his reputation as a man,—what need to say a word about it? This chess-flurry has been fraught with good lessons by example. The frankness, the entire candor, and simple manliness of Professor Anderssen, who went from Breslau to Paris for the purpose of meeting Mr. Morphy and there contending for the belt of the chessring, and who played his games as if he and his opponent were two brothers, playing for a chance half-hour’s amusement, is charming, and has won him regard the world over. Such generosity is truly noble, and it appears yet nobler by contrast with the endeavors of Harrwitz to worry and tire his opponent into defeat, and his final contrivance to avoid a confession that he was beaten. Mr. Stanton's conduct is a warning that cannot be entirely lost upon men not utterly depraved, who are tempted into petty duplicity to serve petty ends; and in the midst of all, how Paul Morphy’s modesty, dignity of carriage, generosity, and entire honesty of purpose shine out and make us proud to call him countryman !

Mr. Morphy, in the speeches which he has been compelled to make since his return from Europe, has spoken lightly of chess, as a mere amusement. It became him to do so; and yet chess would seem to have its value as a discipline upon natures amenable to discipline. We—that is, the present writer, not all the contributors to the “Atlantic”—sat by the side of Mr. Morphy when he won from Mr. Paulsen the decisive game at the Chess Tournament in New York,—that game in which all the others of that encounter culminated. The game was evidently approaching its termination. Mr. Paulsen, who generally thinks out to its last result his every move, deliberated half an hour and moved, and then, with a slight flush upon his face, sat quietly awaiting the consequences. Morphy, pale, collected, yet with a look of restrained—though entirely restrained—nervousness, looked steadily at the board for about one minute, after which his hand opened very far hack, so that the knuckles were much the lowest part of it, poised over a piece for a second or two, and then swooped quickly down and moved it somewhat decidedly, which is his usual way of moving. He remained looking intently upon the board, which Paulsen studied for a few minutes, equally absorbed. Looking up at last, the latter quietly said to his opponent,—“I don’t see how I can prevent the mate.” Paul Morphy smiled, waved his hand deprecatingly, and the tournament was won. The checkmate was about five moves off, if we remember rightly. Restraint of this kind seems to be imposed by a thorough study of this noble game, and its moral discipline is quite as valuable as the sharpening of the intellectual faculties which it accompanies.

But even those who have a sincere admiration of Mr. Morphy, and have a sufficient knowledge of chess to appreciate his absolute mastery of the game, must be unpleasantly affected by the public and extravagant manner in which he has been lionized since his return from Europe. It was well that the chess-players of New York should present him with a chessboard so splendid that he can never use it; well that the cleverest men in Boston should have him to dine with them; but what need of such blatant publicity? what justification for such interminable and such miserable speeches as were made at him in Gotham ? Why did not one compliment in each town suffice? and why must he be persecuted with watches and run down by crowds ? Why, except because some people are allowed to pamper their silly vanity by means of other people’s silly curiosity ? Good sense and good taste revolted at these exhibitions ; but good sense and good taste are undemonstrative, while folly and vulgarity are bold and carry the day. In all such matters, we of this country allow ourselves to be misrepresented by a comparatively few impudent people, with their own ends to serve. This book is somewhat open to like objections. Its title is too pretentious ; its style is braggart, and tainted with the vulgarity of an English flash reporter ; and yet this is tempered by a certain constraint, as if the writer could not but occasionally think how ill such a style was suited to his subject. The portrait is wretched, and a certain likeness to Mr. Morphy adds to its offensiveness.