Madness of the Masters Part 1

Chess has its fair share of eccentrics, some might say nutters, some may even argue that being a tad crazy is a prerequisite for a successful chess career.

A brief look around any tournament hall will offer up a plethora of oddballs. I'm not saying that its necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn't say it was a positive either.

The chess-stereotype is geeky, intelligent, (apparently) an anorak wearer, bespectacled, a lover of sandals, unkempt hair, has the fashion sense of an 18th century copper miner and some other warped traits. Or have I just described a tramp?

The first contender for Madness-Master is Paul Morphy (1837-1884) below.

A child prodigy who later became the greatest player of his time. He played some truly fantastic games against the best players of his day. He developed an aptitude for blindfold chess, superbly demonstrated in this game against his Uncle Ernest on his 12th birthday! And later in his career this famous game against a fairly strong player in Schulten. Here is a small selection of his genius. Its a tragedy that he retired early from chess, grew to to hate it the game, and eventually died insane.

Morphy stopped playing competitive (and maybe even all) chess in his twenties. He was so disillusioned with chess, by the time of the Paris Tournament of 1867 he refused to attend a single session. He developed delusions of persecution. He thought his brother was stealing his patrimony and filed various lawsuits against him! Every day he'd walk down Canal Street talking and smiling away to himself.

I don't see anything wrong with that, don't we all?

He died on 11th July 1884 of a stroke in the bath, oh, that didn't sound right did it? What was he stroking? I digress, The New York Sun obituary read, "the strain in his brain produced a brain fever, from which he never recovered" Aye, the old brain fever eh? Translated as "We haven't got a chuffing clue!"

Lets raise a glass or five to the Godfather of modern chess, Paul Morphy, we salute you sir!!