Morphy and the Queen’s Gambit
Paul Charles Morphy🇺🇸, by some the best chess player of all time, playing (and gallantly losing) Queen Victoria🇬🇧 in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in 1859
— Roaring Pawn (@chessContact) May 24, 2020
This photograph comes from page 40 of Chessworld, January-February 1964, in an article on Morphy by David Lawson. One of two similar shots, it was also given (‘Paul Morphy and a lady’) on page 333 of Lawson’s 1976 biography of Morphy. Page 109 showed the same setting in a photograph of Morphy and Löwenthal (‘London, 1858’).
Even so, page 94 of Arte y Ajedrez by Gabriel Mario Gómez (Buenos Aires, 2014) bizarrely asserts that the photograph was taken in the gardens of Buckingham Palace and that Morphy’s opponent was Queen Victoria:
From La Stratégie, 15 November 1895, page 341:
‘Her Majesty seldom plays; she enjoys following the games played by the members of her family and after mate has been given she often gives her opinion on how the game should be conducted. All the members of the royal family are skilful players, but Her Majesty is superior to all of them, with the exception of the Empress Frederick, who rarely loses.’
Page 300 of the July 1923 Chess Amateur quoted an item by John Keeble (the story of Queen Victoria ordering copies of Alexandre’s Encyclopédie des échecs). Pages 200-201 of David Lawson’s biography of Morphy also contained some information about Queen Victoria.
Quotes from the anonymous book The Private Life of the Queen (New York, 1897) were given on page 106 of the February 2005 BCM. Below is the complete passage, from page 94 of the book:
Chess. Men and their Methods Compared — “No player can play a perfect game, for the full resources of chess are far beyond the ken even of a Morphy. Therefore, when Mr. Anderssen plays his play is necessarily imperfect, though the errors of his system are of a delicate nature and not gross defects like the blunders of an ordinary player. Mr. Anderssen played for a series of years and held his own against the great masters because he had met with no one powerful enough to detect and take advantage of his errors. Then he encountered Morphy! The play of Anderssen, that had hitherto looked as impenetrable as hands of steel, all at once fell to pieces and displayed gaps of omission and neglected precaution because a greater master was opposed to him, able to take advantage of his misses. Anderssen’s play was really the same, but it looked bad, for every move that he made yielded no fruit. During the match, in fact, a friend said to Anderssen: “What is the matter with you? You are not playing as formerly.” Anderssen good naturedly replied: “I can’t. Morphy won’t let me.” Mr. Anderssen had met a greater master than himself, and his game, in consequence, looked shabby and mean.
Now, take Mr. Steinitz. During his recent visits to the American clubs it was said that Mackenzie, Maurian and Martinez played like school-boys against him. Not so. Their play looked off color because it could find no winning vent against the steel-clad defense opposed to it.
Were Steinitz to meet Morphy, what then? Why, then the small imperfections of Steinitz’s play, invisible to us, would be brought to light, because the greatest of all masters would be there to illustrate the fact. Then the critics would say that Steinitz had lost his powers of play, had lost his art of “crowding” and “dancing,” but the more discriminating would affirm that Mr. Steinitz had not lost his cunning of fence, but that a greater game than his was overshadowing it.” /