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Author Topic: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard  (Read 729 times)

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Offline KaizenTopic starter

Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« on: September 30, 2010, 09:56:11 AM »
Paris 1858 – Italian Opera house

Paul Morphy stepped out of his carriage, brushed imaginary dust from the sleeve of his black tail coat, and plopped his ridiculously tall stovepipe top hat onto his well combed and oiled hair.  He inhaled the thick Parisian air and almost gagged.  The sweet odors from a nearby bakery mingled with the humidity and emanation of the substandard sewer system below creating a… interestingly nauseating aroma.  The young Creole-American of 21 years could not get into the Italian Opera house fast enough to escape the offensive environment of outdoor Paris.  Sometimes he did long to return to his Louisiana home. 

Morphy quickly realized that he had traded one nauseating aroma for another.  Inside, the colognes and perfumes of the patrons were thick enough in the in the air to catch a buzz.  The Opera House interior was ornately decorated, only to be outmatched by the patron Nobles’ attire.  Top hats measuring in feet instead of inches stretched into the air like skyscrapers in New York’s cityscape.  The women wore full evening gowns that demanded their own area codes.  Lace, ribbons, and bosoms spilled out of bodices that were disproportionate to the amount of dress below the waistline.  Even amongst the forest of top hats and the overcompensating dresses, Morphy managed to draw some attention.  He was considered the strongest chess player of his time, very rarely was he defeated on the checkerboard.  He navigated through the pompous royalty offering fake smiles, handshakes, and cordiality until he found his host, The Duke of Brunswick.

Morphy had been looking forward to watching the play ‘Norma’ which he had heard wonderful reviews about.  A good friend, The Duke of Brunswick, a German Noble, and fellow theatre enthusiast had been so gracious to invite him to his stageside box for the play.  This wasn’t the first time the Duke had extended an invitation to him.  Morphy suspected that The Duke had befriended him solely for his talents in the silly boardgame that held Europe’s nobility captivated.  Chess.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 11:49:05 AM by Kaizen »

Offline Spice

Re: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2010, 01:24:28 PM »
The Duke of Brunswick smiled as he moved with the American, Paul Morphy, into the Italian Opera House. He kept a private box here during the season. It was close enough that one could reach out to touch an actor if one wanted, but—of course—one didn’t. In addition to Mr. Morphy, the Duke had invited the Count Isouard who was one of the Duke’s closest friends here in Paris. But Morphy was unaware of this for the Count had arrived earlier and waited in the Duke’s private box.

While Paul Morphy reputed to be one of the strongest if not the strongest chess players in the world intended to watch the play, Karl, the Duke of Brunswick had an ulterior motif. He had studied the American master’s games with his good friend the count and they thought they had a good chance of defeating the American if they put their heads together. Both the Duke and the Count were strong chess players in their own right even if they had not defeated the luminaries that Paul Morphy had vanquished on the chess board.

“Oh Mr. Morphy,” the Duke exclaimed as if in surprise on seeing the count in his box. “It’s my very good friend Count Isouard.” Touching Paul Morphy’s shoulder, he quickly introduced the men. “You know Mr. Paul Morphy from America?”

“But of course,” the Count said in a voice as slippery as buttered lobster. “A bit of a chess player from what I understand? We really must play.”

The Duke smiled. “Oh of course, with three such strong chess players,  how could we not.” It was interesting how the Duke ranked Count Isouard and himself with Paul Morphy who was arguably the world’s strongest chess player of the day. But the Duke and the Count were nothing if not filled with an utter confidence in their joint chess playing abilities. 

Offline KaizenTopic starter

Re: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 02:39:33 PM »
“Pleased to meet you Count Isouard” Morphy said with a bow as he realized it was too late.  The chess master had been duped.  He was caught in their trap.  ‘I should have seen this coming’ he thought as he sighed with contempt for his talent.  Morphy’s first move, an attempt to divert the topic, “I’ve heard wonderful things of Norma.  I am very much looking forward to watching the opera.” he said with hopes that his intent to view the opera was apparent and would be respected. 

Morphy briefly considered running – literally – running out of the opera house after he realized that the two noblemen, the scoundrels, had seated him with his back to the stage.  Morphy considered his position, ‘How exciting, I’ll get to watch everyone else watch the opera.’ he thought.     

Postponement was his next tactic.  “Perhaps, gentlemen, we should wait until after the performance before we conduct our match?  I wouldn’t want you to be distracted by the singing and dancing.” 

When it became evident that the chess match was nigh inescapable, the Alcatraz of chess matches, Morphy plopped down into a lavish armchair.  His back to the stage and a big fake smile smeared across his face.  “Very well Gentlemen.  The challenge has been issued.  I reserve the right to play the white pieces.”

The orchestra began to play it’s music announcing the start of the opera.  The patrons claimed their seats, all facing the correct way, and the curtain was raised.  With the first notes of the opera, Paul Morphy snatched the King’s pawn from it’s starting place and moved it two squares forward. (1.e4)

Offline Spice

Re: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2010, 08:45:41 PM »
Outside the Paris air was magnificent. Inside, smoke from pipes and cigars curled around the beams of the Opera house ceiling.  Duke Karl and Count Isouard had planned this evening carefully going over Mr. Morphy’s known games, looking for some weakness they might exploit. Both were strong amateurs with perhaps the nod going to Count Isouard in terms of absolute strength. Together, they thought they just might pick off Morphy’s metaphorical scalp tonight. The two men nodded at each other and smiled as Paul Morphy made the theoretically strongest opening, the famous King’s Pawn opening.

“I see you’ve chosen a nice standard opening tonight, Mr. Morphy,” the duke said with a smile. Several of the upper ten thousand had chosen this night to attend the play. And more than a few knew of Morphy’s fame as perhaps the world’s strongest chess player. Several gathered around anxious to witness a series of scintillating moves. Neither of the two men aiming to pick off Morphy tonight particularly cared whether he enjoyed Norma. And no one in the nearby audience cared to irritate a man of the Duke’s power by complaining about the conversation going on so close to the stage one might reach out and touch the players. “What do you say My good friend,” the Duke asked the Count.

Count Isouard de Vauvenargue frowned a moment. “Oui, let us meet fire with fire,” he laughed and then said in a firm voice, “E5.” With that said, the Duke reached out and met Paul’s move with the mirror-like response of black’s own king’s pawn.

Offline KaizenTopic starter

Re: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2010, 10:45:54 AM »
As the Druidic Priestess Norma, played by Madame Penco, took the stage with her wonderful soprano voice, proclaiming her love for Pollione, a Roman proconsul, Morphy was distressed and embarrassed.  It seemed as if the Duke and his partner were in contention for the spotlight.  Morphy was exasperated to find that the pair exercised no constraint over their volume which was enhanced by the acoustics of the opera house and drawing the attention of the nearby patrons. 

As he slouched low into his chair, Morphy began to wonder if he were the entertainment for the evening.  His imagination went to work.  He could see his name on the marquee:  Paul Morphy, the main player in a tragic comedy about a man trying to enjoy an opera while stuck in a burdensome chess match.   

In an attempt for a view, Morphy kept twisting around in his seat, trying his best to at least see part of the opera.  First he twisted to the left.  Not finding an acceptable vantage point, he then turned to his right.  He had even worse luck from the right side.  Beginning to feel a bit dizzy from the twisting and turning, Morphy returned to his original distasteful position in front of the checkerboard.

“E5” the Count said as he moved his piece.  Without any consideration or hesitation, Morphy grabbed his King-side knight and placed it on f3.  He had played the e5 defense countless times and made the move seemingly from muscle memory.  Paul offered a faint smile, “Your move gentlemen.” he said as he twisted back to his left in time to see Madame Penco giving him an ‘evil eye’ stare.

Offline Spice

Re: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2010, 06:15:54 PM »
The Duke had seen Norma countless times. So he tended to use his private box more to socialize than anything resembling actually watching an opera. His and the count’s focus was entirely on the chess game before them and as they loudly discussed their strategy, the players appeared to be giving his box an evil eye. “I say,” the Duke said with joy. “The Philidor defence! Nothing to exciting in this defense aye Isouard,” the older man said to his playing partner with a chuckle.

“Oh, I think Mr. Morphy may have made an error of judgment,” the Count replied. “At the worst, we should be able to eke out a draw. But I suspect we can do better.” The count reached over and moved the Queen’s pawn to d6. “We’ll stick with the standard response at this point. I’m anxious to see if Mr. Morphy has any innovations planned for us.” As he spoke, some of the men in the common seats were beginning to notice the crowd of gentry that had gathered in and around the private box to witness the game. For some of the men in the common seats, it was a considerable investment to attend the opera and they weren’t exactly happy to have their evening’s entertainment interrupted.

The Duke and the Count took not notice of anyone else. They were in their own little world, enjoying the thought of showing this American chess upstart a thing or two. They had no idea they were about to become famous, but not for crushing Paul Morphy as they hoped.

Offline KaizenTopic starter

Re: Paul Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2010, 11:54:15 AM »
Embarrassed that he was drawing a crowd, Morphy feared that the game would bring insult to the production, which he wanted to watch very much.  As the onlookers gathered around, Morphy’s view of the stage was even further obstructed.  He abandoned hope of viewing the opera and could barely hear the singing over the commentary from the spectators.  Whispers grew to become voices competing to be heard over the opera.  Morphy could hear the shushes and an occasional insult coming from the majority that wished to enjoy the opera. 

Nevertheless the show must go on.  Norma’s children took the stage and stomped by The Duke’s box failing to draw any attention from those gathered in front of the stage.  As the other actors were performing, Norma herself approached the gathering and cleared her throat and shushed the crowd under her breath.  She nearly missed he que and piped up just a second late.  Madame Penco overcompensated for missing her mark by singing directly into the Duke’s box.  She burst into her part, startling Morphy in the process.  The woman’s vocal ability was phenomenal.  Morphy couldn’t hear the Count and Duke babbling over her singing.  He could see their mouth’s moving, but it appeared as if they were singing Norma’s part.

Morphy recognized the pair’s second move as a weak move.  Taking the initiative, he pushed his Queen’s pawn to d4, establishing a firm intent to claim the center and attacking black’s only piece in the center.  The thought of ending the match as quickly as possible appealed to him.  Then he considered the option that the two men may request a rematch…