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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Paul Charles Morphy

MORPHY, Paul Charles, chess-player, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, 22 June, 1837; died there, 10 July, 1884. His grandfather, a native of Madrid, Spain, emigrated to the United States and settled in Charleston, South Carolina His father removed to New Orleans at an early age, studied law under Edward Livingston, was twice a member of the legislature, became attorney-general of Louisiana, and afterward judge of the supreme court of that state, dying in 1856. Paul was graduated at St. Joseph's college, Spring Hill, Alabama, in 1824, studied law, and was admitted to the New Orleans bar in 1858. He early exhibited a fondness for the game of chess, and at the age of ten was taught the moves by his father. When twelve years of age he had encountered successfully the best amateurs of his native city. During his collegiate course he continued to take an interest in the game and in turn defeated Eugene Rousseau, his uncle, Ernest Morphy, and John J. Lowenthal, the Hungarian player, winning a majority of the games. In the autumn of 1857 he was present at the first American chess congress in New York city, where he met and vanquished the best players on the continent. On returning home he issued, in January, 1858, a challenge to the chess amateurs and professionals of America, offering the odds of pawn and move, but this was not accepted. During the following season he first exhibited his ability to play without seeing the board, sometimes carrying on seven games at once. In June, 1858, Morphy sailed for Europe for the purpose of meeting Staunton, the chess champion. In London he again defeated Lowenthal, winning nine games out of fourteen, two being drawn. Mr. Staunton, who had frequently promised to meet Morphy, postponed the conflict from day to day, and, except in consultation games, they never met. On 26 August, Morphy attended the annual meeting of the British chess association at Birmingham, where he played eight games simultaneously without seeing the boards, winning six, losing one, and drawing one. In September he went to Paris, where he first played eight games with Herr Harrwitz, winning five, losing two, and drawing one, whereupon Harrwitz resigned the match on the plea of indisposition. After defeating the best French players at the Cafe de la Regence, Morphy encountered the German chess champion, Adolph Anderssen, and won seven out of eleven games, two being drawn. He subsequently played six off-hand games with his German competitor, winning five and losing one. Morphy also played blindfolded simultaneously against eight of the strongest Parisian players. Of these he won six games and drew two, the play generally being of a more brilliant character than that at Birmingham. This feat he repeated on several occasions, both in London and in this country. In November, 1858, he offered to give any French player the odds of pawn and move in a match game, the challenge including Harrwitz and being especially intended for him, but the latter took no notice of it. On leaving Paris in April, Morphy was given a farewell banquet, at which his bust was crowned with laurel by the French players. After sojourning for a time in London, where he repeated his previous triumphs, he sailed for home. Soon after his return to New Orleans he gave up chess-playing in order to devote himself more entirely to his profession. Several years later he was attacked by a mental disease that finally incapacitated him from all intellectual exertion and from which he never recovered.

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