Morphy’s ONLY French Defense
by National Life Master Loal Davis
.James Mc Connell vs Paul Morphy New Orleans 1850
French Defense1. e4 e6 Morphy’s only instance of playing the French Defense as Black on even terms. Paul did play the ‘French’ on the Black side of ‘Pawn and move Odds’ (Black’s f7 Pawn is taken off at the beginning of the game). The reason for this is his ‘favorite’ e5 is impossible with the f7 Pawn missing; White has Qh5+ fork. 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Both Lasker and Tarrasch did not like this move as they thought it needlessly spent a tempo for development, set up static targets and allowed Black the initiative by striking at the base of the Pawn chain with c5. White has a harder time getting in f5. 3. …. c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. f4 5. Nf3 develops a piece. White has to be careful of too many Pawn moves; they can often be loosening with your King in the center. 5. …. Qb6 6. Nf3 Bd7 My only ‘complaint’ of Morphy’s play in this game. It’s a nice developing move, but doesn’t address the strategic strike at the Pawn chain as readily as 6… Nh6 7. b3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Nf5 9. Bb2 Bb4+ Here any interposition will drop the d4 Pawn. 10. Kf2 and a well timed f6 will open a file towards an exposed King. 7. a3 Nh6 Here we go; target d4. 8. b4 cxd4 9. cxd4 Rc8 Morphy sure loved developing his pieces. His quote: “Help your pieces and they will help you.” 9… Nf5 is more direct. 10. Bb2 Nf5 11. Qd3 White contemplates Nbd2, Nb3, and maybe Nc5. The Queen slides up to keep defending d4 while executing this rather time consuming Knight tour. However as they say, “Big pieces make big targets.”
Black to Play
.11. …. Bxb4+ The Bishop is sacrificed as Black wants the Knight on this square to attack the Queen. 12. axb4 Nxb4 A horrible dilemma for White. Black hits the Queen, threatens Nc2+ forking King and Rook, Nc2+ blocking the defense of the hanging Bishop on b2 (attacked by Black’s Queen on b6) and one more threat that is actually played in this game. 13. Qd2 Rc2 The Queen is running out of squares. 14. Qd1 Ne3 and now she has no squares left. Bravo Morphy !
For the annotated PGN file – See Comments.