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    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    California Chess: CHESS IN AMERICA. (PART II)

    Of that result or distinction Americans may be justly proud. It is a great feather in the national cap--for twenty-five years of life among us and service in our army justify the claim--the more to be cherished in that it has never been worn before. Mr. Morphy's splendid performances brought him a towering reputation. His victorious matches with Lowenthal, Harrwitz, Anderssen, and others electrified the chess world, and elated his countrymen, if never his modest self. But, as a matter of fact, Morphy never won the first prize at an international tournament. It may be said, and plausibly, that this was only because he never entered one. But whatever the reasons, the fact remains the same; and the record shows, in fine, that George Henry Mackenzie is the first American who has yet won the first prize at an international chess tournament, and the title that precedent confers on such a winner of "Chess Champion of the World."

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    California Chess: CHESS IN AMERICA. (PART I)

    On May 25, 1859, there was seen in the chapel of the New York University a very brilliant and numerous company. There were great lawyers and merchant princes, there were women of fashion, there were learned professors and sportsmen, there were "divines, heroes, and poets." These persons had assembled for a singular if not unprecedented purpose. It was that of binding a chaplet of victory on the youthful brow of Mr. Paul Morphy, and of laying at his feet a costly and magnificent token of admiration for his exploits in Europe as a chess player.

    Nor was this enthusiasm unshared on the other side of the sea. The press of London and the Continent teemed with Morphy's praise. Public banquets had just been given in his honor by London and Paris clubs. His bust had been crowned with laurel the Cerele des Echecs. The great chess-players whom he had vanquished were foremost in proclaiming his supremacy. "He can give odds to any living player," cried St. Amant, the old opponent of Staunton, and the acknowledgments of Anderssen and others are equally historical.

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    After felicitously describing Mr. Morphy's position to be like one laying aside his weapons, and sighing, with Alexander, that there were no more worlds to conquer, Mr. Van Buren closed by saying: "Mr. Morphy--Your readiness to engage at all times, and with all comers, in chess contests--your refusal to make the condition of your health an excuse or a reason for declining--your utter rejection of all advantages that might be your due in a contest, and the intrepid spirit you manifested at Paris, induced Mons. St. Arnaut, one of the ablest and frankest of your adversaries, to name you "the chivalrous Bayard of Chess." But it is not for your qualities or conduct only as a chess player, that I have united in this proceeding. Your intercourse with your friends here, the accounts we have from New Orleans, the uniform representations from abroad, all concur in showing that in high-bred courtesy, true generosity and courage, innate modesty and strict integrity, you have illustrated at home and abroad the character of an American gentleman; and it is, therefore, with unaffected pride, that I have become the medium of conveying to you the sentiments that I have expressed, and that I again offer for your acceptance this appropriate token of the regard of your countrymen and of their recognition of your services." The orator concluded by asking the vast audience to unite with him "in welcoming, with all the honors, Paul Morphy, the Chess Champion of the World," and sat down amidst the wildest applause.

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    Such astounding feats as those performed by Mr. Morphy, in Paris, brought the excitement in the chess-playing world of that city up to white heat; and the memorable occasion when he played against and beat, blindfolded, eight of the best players of Paris, at one time, led some to believe that he possessed almost supernatural faculties.
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    "Mr. Morphy always plays, not merely the best, but the VERY best move; and if we play the move only approximately correct, we are sure to lose. Nobody can hope to gain more than a game, now and then, from him."-- ANDERSSEN, THE CHESS CHAMPION IN GERMANY.
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    Dr. Osloff was a passionate lover of chess, and had played numerous games with his patient during his tardy convalescence; but Worousky was so strong at the game that the doctor was always defeated. Then Kempelen joined the doctor in trying to defeat the skillful player, but it was of no use; Worousky was always the conqueror. His superiority gave M. de Kempelen the idea of his famous Automaton Chess-player. In an instant his plan was formed, and he set to work immediately; and the most remarkable circumstance is, that this wonderful chef-d'oeuvre, which astonished the whole world, was finished within three months.

    M. de Kempelen was anxious that his host should make the first trial of his Automaton; so he invited him to play a game on the 10th of October, 1769. The Automaton represented a Turk of the natural size, wearing the national costume, and seated behind a box of the shape of a chest of drawers. In the middle of the top of the box was a chess-board, with the pieces, for play.

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    In an earlier pamphlet, published in Paris in 1785, the writer supposed the machine was put in motion by a dwarf, a famous chess-player, his legs and thighs being concealed in two hollow cylinders, while the rest of his body was out of the box, and hidden by the robes of the figure.
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