The General & the Kid
When General Winfield Scott went to play chess in New Orleans against an 11 year old Paul Morphy he got a little more than he bargained for.
Paul Morphy’s Early Life
Hello, boys and girls my name is Paul Morphy. I was born into a distinguished and wealthy New Orleans Family. My father was a judge and my mother was a gifted musician.
I grew up in an atmosphere where chess and music were enthusiastic interests, no one taught me how to play I learned the game by myself from watching my father and my uncle play.
At 9 years of age I was beating all the best players in New Orleans. I was considered the first chess prodigy.
A prodigy is a child who can beat experience adult players, and even Masters at chess. My family encourage my chess playing but only allowed me to play on Sunday except on special occasions.
One such day was when Commanding General of the United States, General Winifield Scott came to New Orleans. An account of what happened actually was printed in the newspaper below is what the newspaper reported:
Paul Morphy Plays the General
The Evening Post relates this story:
The General asks to play chess
“Gen. Winfield Scott … had many acquaintances there (at a chess club on Royal St.), some of them quite intimate, and knowing the habits of the members he repaired to their very comfortable rooms within a few hours after reaching the city. It may be said to have been one of his vanities as well.
He [Scott] was in the front rank of amateurs in his day….he turned to Chief Justice Eustis and asked whether he could play a game of chess in the evening….”I want to be put to my mettle!”
“Very well,” said Justice Eustis, “We’ll arrange it. At eight o’clock tonight, if that will suit you.”
The General gets a surprise
At eight o’clock, dinner having been disposed of, the room was full. Gen. Scott, a towering giant, was asked to meet his competitor, a small boy of about 10 [actually, he was eight and a half] and not by any means a prepossessing boy, dressed in velvet knickerbockers, with a lace shirt and a big spreading collar of the same material.
At first Gen. Scott imagined it was a sorry jest, and his tremendous dignity arose in protest. It seemed to him that his friends had committed an incredible and unpardonable impertinence. Then Justice Eustis assured him that his wish had been scrupulously consulted; that this boy was….quite worthy of his notice.
The Game begins
So the game began with Gen. Scott still angry and by no means satisfied. Paul won the move and advanced his Queen’s rook’s pawn. In response to the General’s play he advanced other pawns. Next he had two knights on the field; then another pawn opened the line for the Queen, and at the tenth move he had the General checkmated before he had even begun to develop his defense.
There was only one more game.
Paul Morphy, after the sixth move, marked the spot and announced the movement for the debacle – which occurred according to schedule – and the General arose trembling with amazement and indignation. Paul was taken home, silent as usual, and the incident reached the end.”
I had crushed the General and he was not happy about it. The General might have felt better if he had understood that in just a few years I would be recognized as the best player in the world.
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