Paul Morphy: The Maine Connection

08.25.06 In March of 1858, Paul Morphy wrote a letter to his friend Daniel W. Fiske mentioning that a Morphy Chess Club had been started in Maine. If any of our readers have more information about this historic club please let us know.

Paul Morphy, New York, 1859

Paul Morphy burst onto the chess scene at the 1st American Chess Congress contested in New York from October 5 - November 10, 1857. On his way to winning first place at this tournament he racked up a score of +14 -1 =3, his only loss being to Louis Paulsen.

In 1858 he decisively beat Lowenthal, Harrwitz and Anderssen who were respectively the best players in England, France and Germany. Although he persued a match with the great Howard Staunton, it was not to be as Staunton, past his prime and out of practice, declined to play. He returned to the United States in December of 1859, wrote a chess column in the New York Ledger for a year then, in November of 1860, went home to New Orleans and his chess career was over. Towards the end of his life he became more and more alienated, reclusive and delusional. He died of a stroke on July 10, 1884.

Fischer referred to him as "perhaps the most accurate player that ever lived" and commenting on Morphy's vast superiority to his contemporaries, Reuben Fine described him thusly: "Imagine Joe Louis in his prime in a country where his most dangerous opponent was 5' 6" and weighed 150 pounds."

The following letter was published in Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess by David Lawson (1976, David McKay), pages 93-94.

From: Paul Morphy
To: Daniel W. Fiske
Date: March 9, 1858

My dear Fiske:

Do not get too excited about the delay this month; it has not been
in my power to forward the games sooner. Henceforward, depend
upon it, the games will reach you in good time. I only send four,
requesting you to insert whatever there you may see fit, as I really
am at a loss to select among those I have here.

The New Orleans Chess Club has challenged Mr. Staunton for a
stake of 5,000 dollars. I will send you tomorrow a copy of the letter
addressed to that gentleman, together with the proposed "terms of
the match" - I have received a very flattering communication from
Belton Bill Co., Texas, informing me that a chess club has been
established there under the name of the "Morphy Chess Club" - I
understand that another "Morphy Chess Club" has been started in
(emphasis ours)
Present my regards to each and every member of your club and
believe me

Ever your best friend
/s/ Paul Morphy


Excellent article, Dan.
Last night at
our USM location, Matthew
Fishbein happened in with his
father. Needless to say,
this now 8 y.o. whiz impressed
us all with his mature chess
Regards, Jon

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