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Chess Openings for Beginners: Attack!

Paul Morphy - Chess Openings

Paul Morphy

Paul Morphy was one of the best chess players of his time, thoroughly dominating the mid 19th century with inspired attacks and sacrifices. But what really allowed Morphy to play with a style that was many years ahead of his time was his understanding of the basic principles of opening theory. Morphy’s chess ideology was very straightforward with respect to the first 10-15 moves of the game: establish control of the center with extremely active piece play while creating the most pressure and threats possible. Morphy’s overwhelmingly aggressive opening style frequently led to dangerous initiatives which he explosively converted into devastating sacrifices and attacks, allowing him to win many games very quickly due to his consistent pressure from the very first move. In the following famous game against the “Consultants” (Duke Karl and Count Isouard) in Paris, 1858 – Morphy makes a threat with almost every single move, leading to ambitious sacrifices and a brilliant checkmate finish. Take special note that Morphy’s attention remained focused on the center, and that once he gained the initiative he continued applying more pressure to exploit his advantage to the fullest.

Rapid Development + Consistent Threats/Pressure = Strong Attack

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 (develops towards center and attacks e5)
2. …d6 (this defense is too passive, black should play more actively with 2. …Nc6 or Nf6) 3. d4 (white blasts open the center and applies more pressure to e5)
3. …Bg4?! (black tries to be active and pin the Nf3, but better is simply 3. …Nd7)

Position after 3. ...Bg4?! - Chess Openings

Position after 3. ...Bg4?!

4. dxe5 (white forces black to initiate the exchange with 4. …Bxf3 – giving white the 2 bishops and essentially giving Morphy a free move by developing the white queen to f3)
5. Qxf3 dxe5 6. Bc4 (developing actively and threatening mate on f7)
Position after <strong>6. Bc4” title=”Position after 6. Bc4″ width=”275″ height=”279″ class=”size-full wp-image-3997″ />

Position after 6. Bc4

6. …Nf6?! (this allows white to seize a dangerous initiative – black must be careful now)
7. Qb3! (Morphy plays precisely, creating a double attack on f7 and b7)
Position after 7. Qb3!

Position after 7. Qb3!

7. …Qe7 (the only move to defend f7. 7… Qe7 is better than 7. …Qd7 because if 8. Qxb7 black can trade queens and reduce the pressure with 8. …Qb4+!)
8. Nc3 (Morphy doesn’t cash in his attack for the pawn on b7, preferring active development to strengthen his initiative. also now white really is threatening to win the black Ra8 with Qxb7 – as black no longer has the check with …Qb4)
8. …c6 (black must defend the pawn on b7. also this protects the d5 and b5 squares)
9. Bg5 (white continues developing and applying pressure to black’s awkward set-up. due to Morphy’s aggression, black is unable to develop naturally and achieve coordination between his pieces.
Position after 9. Bg5

Position after 9. Bg5

9. …b5!? (in a difficult position, black tries to gain space and push white’s pieces back)
10. Nxb5!! (Morphy refuses to retreat with 10. Bd3 and allow black to gain counterplay with 10. …Nd7 followed by Nc5. By sacrificing the knight on b5, Morphy will immediately gain 2 pawns and a very dangerous attack – ambitiously exploiting white’s immense lead in development)
Position after 10. Nxb5!!

Position after 10. Nxb5!!

10. …cxb5 11. Bxb5+ Nbd7 12. 0-0-0! (Morphy conducts the attack perfectly, smoothly bringing in his rooks to add more pressure on black’s king)
Position after 12. 0-0-0! - Lines of Pressure

Position after 12. 0-0-0! - Lines of Pressure

12. …Rd8 13. Rxd7! (Morphy goes for the kill, sacrificing the exchange to bring his last piece – the rook on h1 – into the game as fast possible, not allowing black time to develop or react)
13. …Rxd7 14. Rd1 Qe6 (black tries to trade queens and untangle his pieces to develop and castle, however white’s attack arrives too quickly)
Position after 14. ...Qe6

Position after 14. ...Qe6

15. Bxd7+! Nxd7 16. Qb8+! (this classic deflection sacrifice is the culmination of white’s previous aggression, ripping open black’s last line of defense)
Position after 16. Qb8+!

Position after 16. Qb8+!

16. …Nxb8 17. Rd8# (Morphy delivers mate in spite of his large material deficit – in the final position, white has 2 pawns for black’s queen and knight!)
Final position after 17. Rd8#

Final position after 17. Rd8#

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Morphy was able to win this game in such convincing fashion because he strove to create a new threat with every single move, consistently creating pressure and forcing his opponent to solve tactical problems. Morphy quickly seized the initiative with pressure against black’s e5 pawn, then switched his attention to rapid development development with the help of pressure against the f7 and b7 pawns. Morphy continued building the pressure with active piece-play, and reacted to black’s off-balance attempt at counter-play with 9. …b5!? by exploiting his lead in development to the fullest with the piece sac 10. Nxb5! Morphy concluded the game with logical precision, methodically bringing in every single piece to participate in the attack – leading to a spectacular checkmate.

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