A . L . L . . . . . Pieces In Play . . . . . Part 2

by National Life Master Loal Davis


Paul Morphy


Paul Morphy was a fanatic about getting his last piece into play.  Where many masters would attack with a few pieces because they saw a material gain or a technical win, Morphy seldom played that way.  Morphy knew that a material grab without real supporting development often results in a recoil when one has to fend off a backlash.  He figured that if he was winning (he usually was) his game would be even better if he added a few more logs onto the fire before descending on his opponents head.  By the time Morphy stepped into the final tactical stage with all pieces in play, the game was virtually over and he didn’t have as much to calculate and there was minimal or non-existent recoil.  The following was one of eight simultaneous blindfold games.

Site “New Orleans”
Date “1858”
White “Morphy, P(bl_sim)”
Black “Amateur”

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O dxc3

Here is where Anderssen (Part 1) played ‘Qb3’ fork.  that may well be the best move, but there is nothing wrong with Morphy’s next move either.  It makes castling for Black a little difficult.

8. Ba3 d6 9. Qb3 Nh6 10. Nxc3 Bxc3 11. Qxc3 O-O

Now all of White’s minor pieces are in play, but where to place the Rooks so they doing some real work?

12. Rad1

Good – looking through walls towards the Queen, and the Bishop on ‘a3’ looks at the Rook on ‘f8’.  This means that ‘e5’ is on the menu as White would be opening lines against both Black pieces.


Striving to keep control over ‘e5’.

13. h3

The battle over ‘e5’ has begun.

Nge5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5

White can play ‘f4’ and boot the Knight from that square – but Black then captures the Bishop and with that Morphy would lose one of his primary attacking pieces towards the King side.  White could play ‘Bb3’ first but Black counters with ‘Be6’ and exchanging pieces is not what White wants to do if he can avoid it.  So Morphy temporarily retires the Bishop and will later kick the Knight.

15. Be2 f5 16. f4 Nc6 17. Bc4+ Kh8 18. Bb2 Qe7

A lazy look at the position might indicate that it is time to move the King Rook – but that Rook is actually performing the function of protecting the Pawn on ‘f4’ and who knows, maybe a Rook lift to ‘f3’.  Does this mean that all of White’s pieces are in play?  No – That Rook on ‘d1’ was in play, but now just sitting on a pretty looking square doing nothing.  Here Morphy get’s his last piece into the game by relocating that non-functional Rook onto the ‘e’ file.  Then – all pieces are really in play and doing some meaningful work.

19. Rde1

The threat here is to open the ‘e’ file (‘exf5’) and attacking the primary defender of ‘g7’ (mate).  Should Black first play ‘fxe4’ then White will simply capture that Pawn with ‘Rxe4’.  In either case Black will find it virtually impossible to defend ‘g7’ and scramble from the ‘e’ file with his Queen.  A move like ‘Qd7’ after the file is open would be met by ‘Be6’ and Black has massive problems.  So – Black finds a way (or so he thinks) to block the long diagonal and protect his Queen.

Rf6 20. exf5 Qf8

An important position.  Many people would play ‘g4’ here – and although it’s not a bad move, there is stronger.  It is based of the fact/maxim that when one is up in material one exchanges pieces; especially Queen’s.  But – White is down in material you say?  Well yes when we consider all of the “stuff” on the board.  But – of the pieces that are really in play we see that White has a localized material superiority on the King side.  Black is still suffering from stale Queen side pieces.  As long as White exchanges pieces on the King side, he will in essence be reducing Black’s ability to resist as we whittle down.  Important to remember that White does not want to exchange his good pieces for Black’s bad ones on the Queen side.  At present ‘Qxf6’ is not possible as the ‘g’ Pawn recaptures – not the Queen as there is a back row problem for Black.  But – that gives Morphy an idea.

21. Re8 !  Qxe8 22. Qxf6

And – White’s Queen is immune because ‘Bxf6’ is mate.  Meanwhile Morphy threatens mate on ‘g7’.  Now somewhere around here Black could play ‘Ne5’ but as long as White keeps an eye on ‘g7’ (‘Qg5’) then Black is accomplishing next to nothing except maybe prolonging a lost game.


How does White continue?

23. Qxg7+

Another stinger.  White could also continue with the motif of exchanging pieces on the King side by

(23. Qxe7 Nxe7 24. Re1 Ng8 25. Re8) and Black is toast.

23… Qxg7

What does Morphy have in mind?

24. f6

Yes – Should Black play ‘Qf8’ or ‘Qh6’, or ‘Qg6, then ‘f7+’ is lights out.  Again – ‘Ne5’ would merely prolong a painful game.  So – Black finally decides to activate that Rook on ‘a8’ (it’s about time – actually it’s too late) to cover the back rank.  He needs that Rook in the game as quickly as possible; so it’s desperado time.

Qxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Bxh3+ 26. Kxh3 h5

Oh yes – he needs to take care of the suffering King as well.  Well just about anything wins here, but Morphy characteristically gets his last piece – ALL of his pieces in play – before lowering the axe.

27. Rg1

Black resigns



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One Comment

  1. [Event “New Orleans (player”]
    [Site “?”]
    [Date “1858.??.??”]
    [Round “?”]
    [White “Morphy, P(bl_sim)”]
    [Black “Amateur”]
    [Result “1-0”]
    [PlyCount “53”]
    [EventDate “1858.??.??”]

    1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O dxc3 { Diagram} 8. Ba3 d6 9. Qb3 Nh6 10. Nxc3 Bxc3 11. Qxc3 O-O {Diagram} 12. Rad1 Ng4 {Diagram} 13. h3 Nge5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 {Diagram} 15. Be2 f5 16. f4 Nc6 17. Bc4+ Kh8 18. Bb2 Qe7 {Diagram} 19. Rde1 Rf6 20. exf5 Qf8 {Big Diagram} 21. Re8 Qxe8 22. Qxf6 {Diagram} Qe7 {Diagram} 23. Qxg7+ (23. Qxe7 Nxe7 24. Re1 Ng8 25. Re8) 23… Qxg7 {Diagram} 24. f6 {Diagram} Qxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Bxh3+ 26. Kxh3 h5 {Diagram } 27. Rg1 {Diagram} 1-0

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