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From the extreme to the extreme: Bird,HE. – Morphy,P. London, 1858

From the extreme to the extreme

Bird,HE. – Morphy,P. London, 1858


In the following historic game, we are going to witness a splendid queen move that produced a chock not only on Morphy’s opponent, but also on all the chess players’ minds.

Morphy’s opponent is the English chess player Henry Edward Bird, who worked as an accountant. He wrote several books, especially about the history of chess. He is famous for inventing a new type of chess, an 8 by 10 board, with the introduction of 2 new pieces: the guard (that moves like a rook and a knight) and the equerry (that moves like a bishop and knight). He popularized his own opening (1.f4) as well as the Bird Defense of the Spanish Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4). If you are interested in this opening (which Carlsen used it to beat Kramnik in Leuven Rapid event 2017) you can check the book (Bird’s Opening, move by move, by Lakdawala – Everyman Chess), and for the Bird Defense my articles under the opening section of the website.

1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 d6

3.d4 f5

Do we have the right to criticize this risky move? I don’t think so, as it was played more frequently in the 19h century, an era when all types of moves were permitted. Enough to know that Morphy pushed the f-pawn several times in his games as Black, relying on the potential power of his f8-rook.

If you are interested in this type of openings, I can recommend to you the excellent book (The Schilemann Defence – move by move, by Junior Tay – Publisher:Everyman Chess) where the initial moves are: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 f5. Here the f-pawn push is more justified. Just ask Radjabov and Carlsen how to play this opening.


In addition to the move played, 4.Bc4 is good as well as dxe5. I will not delve into the opening details, as my aim in showing you this game is to show to you the creativity of Morphy in dealing with what the middle game offers to him as dynamic factors.


Black removes the pawn that controls the d5-square. After this, the black d-pawn is ready to advance to the center.

5.Nxe4 d5

It was possible to play 5…Nf6 6.Nxf6+ gxf6 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Bd3. Although Black’s kingside pawn structure is somewhat weak, anything can happen.


To retreat the knight is an indication of the powerful influence that Morphy’s play is affecting his opponent.

Much stronger is 6.Neg5 or even 6.Nxe5! dxe4 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Nxg6 Nf6 (in case of: 8…hxg6 then9.Qxg6+ Kd7 10.Qf5+ Ke8 11.Qe5+ , followed by Qxh8, where White obtained a rook and three pawns for two minor pieces) 9.Qe5+ Garry Kasparov: ‘and in the event of’ 9…Kf7 10.Bc4+ Kg7 (not 10…Kxg6?? 11.Qg5#) and now  11.Bh6+ Kxh6 12.Nxh8 Bb4+ 13.c3 Qxh8 14.cxb4 White has a big a advantage, if not a decisive one.


7.Ne5 Nf6

Finally the most awaiting move

8.Bg5 Bd6

Another typical aggressive developing move from Morphy.


White makes another move with an already developed piece. Better was to play more normally with Be2 in order to hide his king.



This is another imprecise move from Bird. Just look now how Morphy start to dictate the play.


A strong move that forced White to make up his mind about his kingside.


Now this is a real mistake.

It was better to play one of the following 2 moves: 11.Bxf6 or 11.Nxf6+

Just a short variation of each:

11. Bxf6 gxf6 12.Nxf6+ Rxf6 13.Qg5+ Rg6 14.Nxg6 hxg6 15.Qxd5+ Kg7 White has a rook and 2 pawns for a bishop and knight. But Black has the initiative as is 2 bishops will show their  potential.


11.Nxf6+ gxf6 12.Bxf6 e3! 13.Qxe3 Rxf6 14.0–0–0 (if14.Qg5+ then 14…Rg6 as the knight is pinned) 14…Kh8 15.Bd3 Nc6! Black has a big advantage, since 16.Ng6+ fails to 16…Qxg6 17.Bxg6 Bf4 with a winning position for Black.

Most probably it was difficult for White to calculate these 2 variations with all its ramifications over the board.


12.Nxg4 Qxh5

13.Ne5 Nc6

Now the e5-knight will disappear, and with it all the pawn compensation for White

14.Be2 Qh3

Please pay attention to the location of the Black’s queen.

15.Nxc6 bxc6

Now Black’s pawn chain in the center dominates the white squares. It is as if Black has an extra white-squared bishop.

16.Be3  Rb8

With his last move, Morphy prepares his beautiful variation.


It was better to play 17.c3.

After Bird’s last move, 17..Bg4 was very attractive, but Morphy played a move that gives a visa for this game to enter the chess history.



A spectacular and artistic move that make this game an immortal one. This stroke came as a blue thunder from a clear sky, and a prelude to the following Black’s next hammer effect move.

18.Bxf2 Qa3!!

I wish I can see the face of Bird and the audience reaction to Morphy’s last 2 moves, or at least know what Bird felt on seeing them when played.

The Black’s queen switches from the extreme kingside to the extreme queenside with lethal threats.


The only move.

If 19.bxa3?? then 19…Bxa3 mates.

19.Qc3 can be met by 19…Qxa2 or 19…Bf4+! 20.Rd2 Qxa2 21.Qa3 (if 21.b3 then  Bd6! 22.Rdd1 Bb4 winning) 21…Qxa3 22.bxa3 e3 and wins

If 19.Qg5 then the quickest win is 19…Rxb2! (threatening 20.– Rxa2+ 21.Kd2 Bb4#, knowing that 19…Qxb2+ 20.Kd2 Bb4+ 21.Ke3 Qa3+! 22.Bd3 Ba6 23.Rhg1 Bf8! and …exd3is also strong was White is defenseless against it.


Again, Mat is on the agenda.


20.Qc2? Bf4+ 21.Rd2 Bxd2+ 22.Qxd2 (or 22.Kxd2 Rxb2) 22…Qa1+ winning


21.Kc2 Qa4+


Bird is trying to win at the moment when there was at his disposal a much better move:


Now after 22…Bf5! White can try one of the following:

A: 23.Be1! Qa1+ 24.Kc2 e3+ 25.Kb3 exd2 26.Rxa1 Re8 27.Ba6 dxe1Q 28.Raxe1 Rxe1 29.Rxe1 Bxh2 30.Bb7 Be4 31.Bxc6 Kf7 where Black has a strong initiative in the issuing endgame


B: 23.Be3 Bxb4 24.cxb4 Rxb4 25.Qc2 Qa3+ 26.Kd2 Rb2 27.Qxb2 Qxb2+ 28.Ke1 with a clear advantage for Black.

Now, after Bird’s 22.Kb2?, Morphy punished his opponent for his mistake.


23.cxb4 Rxb4+

24.Qxb4 Qxb4+


If 25.Ka2 then Black can let his bishop join the 25…c5! 26.dxc5 d4! or 26…e3! 27.Bxe3


A strong move by Morphy, not giving time for his opponent to redeploy his rooks, and allowing his bishop to join the attack at the same time.

26.Bxe3 Bf5+


If  27.Bd3 then Qc4+ .


28.Kd2 Qa2+

29.Kd1 Qb1+