The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Once again chess historian John Hilbert has provided us with a look into our cc past. Check the On the Square Menu for his previous articles. For your convenience, the eleven games in the following article are provided for download in PGN format.

Hilbert expects his full length work, Shady Side: The Life and Crimes of Norman Tweed Whitaker (Caissa Editions, scheduled for publication in 2000; approximately 480 pages), which includes a 320 page biography of the well-known con-man of chess in addition to over 560 of Whitaker's games, to be available within the next few months. In addition, he is publishing books about New York 1936 and New York 1940, as well as a volume of his collected chess history essays.

Download games in PGN format.

John Hilbert can be reached at: Jshchess@aol.com

Mordecai Morgan: Mystery Man
Of Correspondence Chess

By John S. Hilbert

Those who have read my previous articles published here have seen the name before. Mordecai Morgan, one of the more melodious sounding birth names given to a future correspondence chess player, has had his play noted, at least in passing. His win against J.S. Hale in the final round of the Continental Correspondence Chess tournament appeared in my "On the Square" article entitled Chess Columns: Now and Then, while his loss in the preliminaries to Charles W. Phillips, the eventual winner of the Continental Correspondence Tourney, appeared in another piece: Oh Brother: The Duffer’s Guide to Handicapping Correspondence Chess Siblings.

Yet Mordecai Morgan remains an enigma, even after the spotlight falls upon his name and play. Jeremy Gaige, whose Chess Personalia: A Biobibliography (McFarland 1987) remains the standard for locating information on approximately 14,000 chess players worldwide, mentions only that Morgan was born on December 30, 1862, and that he remained alive as late as 1932, seventy years later, in the vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Though next to nothing is known of his personal life, Mordecai Morgan certainly made his presence felt in chess circles not only in Philadelphia, but around the country, largely thanks to correspondence chess. In Chess in Philadelphia by Gustavus C. Reichhelm, compiled with the assistance of Walter Penn Shipley (Billstein & Son Co. 1898), we learn something of Morgan’s associations with the local Philadelphia chess scene. As early as 1884, when Morgan was only twenty-two, he won a simultaneous game off Zukertort when the European master faced twelve players at the Germantown Chess Club (a young Walter Penn Shipley also defeated the simultaneous performer). In 1887, Morgan tied for first place with S.W. Bampton and W.H. Schultz at 12-6 for the over-the-board championship of the "Juniors" chess club (the name is in fact not really descriptive, as there was nothing "junior" concerning the playing strength of many of the club’s members. Play was usually conducted at the Franklin Chess Club, the most prestigious club in Philadelphia, and the members of the Juniors were invariably also Franklin Chess Club players, many considered of the highest ability and accomplishment.). In October 1888 Morgan was elected as one of the directors of the Franklin. The following year Morgan won the Juniors championship tournament outright, scoring a remarkable 18½-4½ in doing so. He repeated his victory in the Juniors in 1891, and also had the honor then of being reelected as a Franklin director. In 1894 he again won the Juniors and yet again retained his Franklin directorship.

In 1894 Mordecai Morgan also finished play in the double round robin, ninth championship of the Franklin Chess Club with a remarkable 20-4 score, only to find himself relegated to second place by an amazing three points to Emil Kemeny, the Hungarian master who in 1893 had moved from New York to Philadelphia. Kemeny’s 23-1 tally, giving up draws only to Walter Penn Shipley and Mordecai Morgan himself, would never be equaled in Franklin championship play. Yet in the Eleventh Franklin championship, then a single round affair, played during 1895-1896, Morgan won first prize with the exceptional score of 12½-½, his single draw given up to fourth place finisher Charles John Newman.

As mentioned at the start of this article, Morgan played in the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament, an affair organized out of Philadelphia in late 1893 by Walter Penn Shipley, Arthur Hale, and John Welsh Young, three talented and successful local chessplayers. The tournament eventually included seventy entries, divided into five preliminary groups, and as Shipley would write, "the tournament … including many of the best-known players of this country, was the largest and strongest Correspondence Tournament ever inaugurated up to this date this side of the water." Mordecai Morgan won Preliminary Section 2 of the event despite losing a game to Charles W. Phillips, the Chicago correspondence player who eventually won the tournament. Indeed, Morgan’s eighty-eight percent victory rate in his section gave him the best overall results of the preliminary round.

The Finals for the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament began on January 1, 1896. Nineteen players began play, although only eighteen would finish the huge round robin finale. Morgan completed the finals with twelve wins, four losses, and three draws, to finish the event 13½-4½. His loss to Phillips, carried over from the preliminaries to the finals, cost him dearly, though, as Phillips’ 14 points just nosed out the Philadelphia player for first place.

Several of Morgan’s efforts in the Continental have been preserved. In the following effort, annotated by Emil Kemeny for the February 26, 1897, issue of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Morgan defeated the over-the-board champion of Canada, the thirty-nine year old James Ephraim Narraway.

1. Mordecai Morgan - Narraway
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Final Round 1897
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2 b5 Necessary, for White threatened 6.Bxc6 followed by 7.Nxe5. Had Black selected ...d6 he could not well develop the King bishop. 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.c3 0-0 8.d3 d6 Black, it seems, might have selected the more aggressive play, ...d5. He then would have been enabled to retreat the bishop to e7. 9.Bg5 Be6 10.Nbd2 Bxb3 11.axb3 Qd7 Enables White to play Bxf6, doubling Black’s f-pawn. But Black could not well avoid this play, since ...h6 followed by ...g5 is even more hurtful. 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Nh4 Kh8 14.Nf1 14.Nf5 would have been premature; Black would have answered ...e7. The text move in connection with Ng3 secures for White’s knight the important f5 square. 14...Ne7 15.Ng3 Ng6 16.Nhf5 Nf4 17.Qf3 a5 18.0-0 To continue with 18.h4 and h5 would have been somewhat risky. Black by playing ...Rfd8 and ...d5 would have obtained quite an attack. 18...Rg8 19.Kh1 Bb6 20.Nh5 Nxh5 21.Qxh5 Rg5 22.Qh4 Much better than 22.Qh6, for Black would have answered ...Qe6, and White’s Queen would have been somewhat out of play. 22...Qe6 23.b4 a4 24.f4 exf4 25.Qxf4 Rag8 26.g3 d5 27.Rae1 Rg4

Diagram a
Position after 27...Rg4

28.Qd2 Much better than 28.Qf3, which would have led to an exchange. Of course Black cannot capture the e-pawn, for Nh6 winning the exchange would follow. 28...Rd8 29.Qe2 Rg5 30.d4 Re8 30...c6 was evidently a better move. Black gives up too liberally his queenside pawns. 31.Qxb5 dxe4 32.Rf4 c6 Brilliant play, which, however, does not prove perfectly sound. Black gets the knight for the rook, and he obtains some attack, yet White secures a winning advantage by capturing the Black c-pawn and a-pawn. 33.Qxb6 Rxf5 34.Rxf5 Qxf5 35.Qxc6 Re6 36.Qxa4 e3 36...Qf3+ was more promising, yet it was hardly any better. The game then was likely to proceed as follows: 37.Kg1 e3 38.Qc2 e2 39.Qd2 with a pretty safe position. 37.Qa8+ Kg7 38.Qg2 e2 39.Kg1 Evidently he could not play 39.Rxe2. Black would have replied ...Qb1+, winning the rook. 39...Qd3 40.Qf2 h5 41.h4 Qd2 41...f5 at once, followed by ...f4, was probably better. Black then had a chance to bring his rook into action. 42.Kg2 f5 43.b5 Qxb2 44.d5 Re4 45.b6 Of course White had the d5 and b6 play in view, when he moved 43.b5. White’s play, especially in the latter part of the game, is of the highest order. He defends well and at the same time he is aggressive. The timely advance of the b-pawn finally wins the game. 45...Qd2 46.Kh2 Qxd5 47.Rxe2 Rg4 48.Rb2 Qd6 49.b7 There was no danger in ...Rxh3+. White would have replied Kg2, and Black’s rook would have been attacked, White also threatening b8(Q). 49...Qb8 50.Kh3 Kh6 50...f4+ at once was somewhat dangerous, on account of Qd4+. 51.Qf3 f4 52.Rg2 Qd8 53.Qc6+ Kg7 54.Qb5 fxg3 55.Qxh5 He could not queen the pawn on account of ...Qxh4 mate. 55...Rg6 56.Qf5 White could not play 56.Rxg3 on account of ...Qd7+ followed by ...Qd2+ securing at least a draw. The text move was necessary to stop the threatening ...Qd7+. 56...Qb6 If White replies 57.Rxg3 then ...Rxg3+ followed by ...Qe3+ was likely to force a draw. 57.Qe5+ f6 58.Qe7+ Kh6 59.Qf8+ Kh7 60.Re2 Had White played 60.b8(Q) then Black would have won with ...Qe6 mate. The move selected leaves Black with a hopeless game. White threatens b8(Q) as well as Re7+ mating in a few moves. 1-0

Philadelphia Public Ledger, February 26, 1897

In truth Mordecai Morgan managed 14½ points total in the Finals of the Continental Tournament. The trouble was that one of his wins came against Hollis Webster, the Boston player who retired from the tournament before completion of his schedule. As Webster’s games were all cancelled from the final scoring for the tournament, Morgan’s total was reduced by a full point. Morgan’s effort against Webster, counted or not, was one of the more interesting games played.

2. Mordecai Morgan - Hollis Webster
Continental Correspondence Tournament
Final Round 1897
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7 6...Na5, followed by ...Nxb3 and ...Bb7 was preferable. 7.c3 Bc5 8.d3 0-0 9.0-0 Re8 9...Qe7 was probably better. The King rook should remain at f8 at least as long as White’s King bishop bears on the f-pawn. 10.Be3 Qe7 11.Nbd2 Rad8 12.Ng5 A splendid move, which prevents Black from the intended ...d5 continuation, which would have given Black a pretty good game. Should Black now move ...d5, then exd5, followed eventually by Qf3, would give White a winning attack. Black is forced to reply ...Rf8. 12...Rf8 13.Ndf3 This play would seem inferior on account of cutting off the retreat of the King knight. A close examination, however, will prove that it is the key move to a deep and very subtle combination. White has the Nh4 and Nf5 continuation in view, and as the progress of the game shows ...h6 does not stop it. 13...h6 13...d6, followed by ...Bd8, should White continue with Nh4, was probably the best play. When Black moved ...h6 he certainly overlooked the brilliant combination his opponent had on hand. 14.Nh4 Bxe3 Had he played 14...hxg5, then 15.Nf5, followed by 16.Bxc5, he would have regained the piece. The text play seemingly wins a piece; in fact, however, causes the loss of the Queen. 14...d6, followed eventually by ...Qd7, was probably better. 15.Nf5

Diagram b
Position after 15.Nf5

15…Bxg5 The position at this stage was a highly interesting one. Black could not well save his Queen by ...Qc5 or ...Qe8. White would have continued 16.fxe3. If then ...hxg5, White answers Nh6+ and Rxf6, which, in connection with Raf1 and Qh5, would have given White a speedy win. Nor could this play be stopped, should Black try to save his Queen; his bishop at g5, however, is badly placed, and he is bound to lose a piece. 16.Nxe7+ Nxe7 17.h4 Bxh4 18.g3 Bg5 19.f4 exf4 20.gxf4 Bh4 21.e5 Nh7 21...Nfd5 was probably better, yet there was no way to properly defend the game against the threatening Qh5 and f5 play. 22.Qh5 g5 If 22...Bg3 then 23.Qh3 would have won the bishop. 23.f5 d5 23...Kh8 followed by ...Rg8 might have prolonged the battle, but Black’s game was beyond repair. The text move causes immediate defeat. White plays 24.f6, and Black cannot move away the knight on account of Qxh6, followed by Qg7 mate. 24.f6 1-0

Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 24, 1897

For all Morgan’s fine correspondence play during the tournament, which including the preliminary round stretched from January 1, 1894 into 1898, and as recounted above, he was hardly a slouch when it came to other forms of play. While playing correspondence chess of the likes given above, Morgan also participated in the 1897 telegraphic match the Franklin Chess Club held against a team from the Manhattan Chess Club. The fourteen board match, involving the strongest talent both clubs had to offer—the Manhattan Club, for instance, fielded three ex-United States champions against its Philadelphia counterparts—was one of the most significant match ups that year. Steinitz himself acted as referee, and had his hands full during and after play. Despite the opposition brought against them, the Franklin men prevailed, winning the match 8-6. Morgan did his part, defeating Simonson in what Emil Kemeny would describe as "one of the most interesting" games from the interclub rivalry. The game was in fact the first finished in the match (those interested in the full story of the Franklin – Manhattan Telegraphic Match of 1897 are invited to visit Nick Pope’s Chess Archaeology website, where my article on that match appears as the November 1999 selection. See http://www.chessarch.com/arch.shtml). The notes below from the American Chess Magazine were written by Edward Hymes.

3. Simonson - Mordecai Morgan
Franklin - Manhattan Telegraphic Match
May 31, 1897
French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 Be7 We prefer this to the stolid imitation of White’s move, generally adopted with 5. ...Bd6. 6.0-0 Bg4 7.c3 There is more raison d’ etre in 7. Nc3 followed by Be3 and eventually Ne2. White has nothing to fear from ...Bxf3. 7...Nbd7 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Qc2 c5 10.Ne5 Bh5 11.Nxd7 Qxd7 12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Nb3 Be7 14.Nd4 Bg6 15.Bf5 Qd6 16.f3 Bd8 17.Kh1 Bb6 18.Bxg6 fxg6 19.Be3 White seems utterly unconscious of the clever trap into which he falls. The proper rejoinder was either 19. Qd2 or 19. Bg1. 19...Rae8 20.Rae1 Walking into a fine trap.

Diagram c
Position after 20.Rae1

20...Rxe3 A thunderbolt in the midst of seeming calm. If 21. Rxe3, 21. ...Ng4 threatens mate as well as the e3 rook, with the f-pawn pinned due to the rooks on the f-file. 0-1

American Chess Magazine, June 1897 pp 10-11

Morgan’s play over the board certainly did not end with the 1890s. He continued to compete in local and regional events for a number of years, as the following game, played eleven years after the game above, testifies. According to Shipley, in whose column in the Philadelphia Inquirer the game appeared, "the following fine game was played in the ticket handicap tournament now being contested in the Franklin Chess Club, and in which there are some twenty-five entries. It is unnecessary to state to Philadelphians that both the players in this game are in Class A. The present game, therefore, is played upon even terms." According to Shipley, most of the notes that follow were conceived by Morgan himself.

4. Sydney T. Sharp – Mordecai Morgan
Franklin Chess Club
Ticket Handicap Tourney 1908
Queen’s Pawn Opening

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.0-0 c4 While this move is tempting as driving the bishop off the strong diagonal, yet Black’s pawn position becomes embarrassed on account of the advance of the pawns on the queenside. 6.Be2 Nc6 6. ...Bb4 appears a stronger move. Black should castle as soon as possible. 7.b3 b5 If Black had now played ...cxb3, he would only help White’s development. 8.a4 Ba6 9.axb5 Bxb5 10.Nc3 10. Na3 was stronger. Black had no better continuation than ...Bxa3, and it would have been difficult after this for him to have castled with safety. White, however, feared allowing Black to obtain possession of e4. 10...a6 11.Bb2 Bb4 12.bxc4 dxc4 13.Nd2 Nd5 If 13...Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Nd5 then 15.Ra3 and it would be difficult to save the c-pawn. The present move keeps Black’s position intact. 14.Nxb5 axb5 15.Ne4 If 15. e4, then ...Nc3 would follow and ...Qxd4. 15...0-0 16.c3 Ba5 17.Qc2 Preparing to take possession of the strong diagonal by Ba3. 17...Nce7 Black now wishes to play his knight to h4. 18.Nc5 Qc7 19.e4 Nf6 20.Rfb1 White likely should now have commenced operations on the kingside by f4 and abandoned operations on the queenside. 20...Bb6 21.Ba3 Qc6 22.h3 This move gives Black valuable time, 22.Bf3 was a better continuation. 22...Ra7 23.e5 Nfd5 24.Ne4 White now wants to plant his knight at d6. 24...Rfa8 25.Qc1

Diagram d
Position after 25.Qc1

25…Nf5 White is under the impression that Black played this move to prevent Nd6, overlooking the sacrifice. 26.Bg4 Nxd4 27.cxd4 Bxd4 28.Bb2 Bxb2 If ...c3, White has two lines of continuation, viz. 29. Rxa7, followed by Ba1 or Nxc3 followed by Bf3. 29.Qxb2 c3 30.Qc1 White should now have given up knight by Nxc3, though even in that event Black should have won. White, however, overlooked the very pretty continuation that now follows. 30...Rxa1 31.Rxa1 Rxa1 32.Qxa1 c2 33.Qc1 Nb4 34.Bf3 Nd3 If 35. Nf6+, gxf6 36. Bxc6 Nxc1 and wins. 0-1

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2, 1908

But it is for his correspondence chess play that Mordecai Morgan should best be remembered. Long after the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament ended along with the nineteenth century, Morgan was playing, and winning, correspondence games. One notable event he entered, and played extremely well in, was the Pennsylvania State Chess Association’s Correspondence Tournament, begun in 1911.

Not only did Morgan participate in this event, but a good friend of his, and in fact the man most responsible for the Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament, Walter Penn Shipley, was on hand to record Mordecai Morgan’s play in the Pennsylvania tournament, seventeen years after the Continental tournament had begun.

Shipley ran a number of Morgan’s correspondence games in his column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which he inherited from Harry Nelson Pillsbury shortly before the famous internationalist died. (In fact, Shipley’s scrapbooks, some of which have survived at the Cleveland Public Library’s John G. White Collection, show that Shipley in fact ghosted a number of Pillsbury’s last columns, at the request of the dying young master.) Shipley kept his column going for the better part of forty years, covering not only chess play of international and national import, but also paying close attention to games such as the following Morgan victory over G. Flores. Shipley wrote that "it is a pleasure to again present to our readers correspondence games by Mordecai Morgan, of this city, who for many years has ranked as one of the leading correspondence players of this country. He may have his equal, but we doubt if he has any superior in this style of play on the American Continent. His openings are models for the student and a collection of his games will be found of the greatest value to every correspondence chess player."

5. G. Flores – Mordecai Morgan
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1911
Petroff Defense

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 Marshall has revived the old defense of ...Bd3 ... and demonstrates a good game for Black if White undertakes to win a pawn with the continuance of 0-0, c4, etc. The text move, however, so far as at present analyzed yields Black a good game with many opportunities for a dangerous attack. 7.0-0 Be7 8.Re1 While a most natural continuation and one that is generally adopted, we have had for some time doubt as to its true merit. It leaves White’s f-pawn weak. We prefer to develop White’s game, leaving the rook at f1 for some time. 8...Bg4 9.c3 f5 10.c4 First analyzed and played by Maroczy against Pillsbury in one of the Monte Carlo tournaments. Pillsbury, however, had not given the move any study and was unable at the time limit (15 moves an hour) to find the correct continuation. We believe, however, that Nbd2 is a better play for White.

Diagram e
Position after 10.c4

10...Bh4 Lasker says this move is counted on as Black’s best continuation. Pillsbury in the game above referred to played 0-0 and obtained a bad game. Loman, however, suggests for Black 10...Qd6 and if White continues with 11.cxd5 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Nxd4 13.Qd1 Qxd5, Black obtains a good game. 11.cxd5 Bxf2+ 12.Kf1 Bxe1 13.dxc6 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Qxd4 15.Qxe1 Qxd3+ 16.Kg2 0-0-0 17.cxb7+ Kb8 18.Be3 We believe White would have fared better with the more natural move of fxe4 at once. 18...Rhe8 19.Bxa7+ Kxa7 20.fxe4 Rxe4 21.Qf2+ Qe3 22.Qxe3+ Rxe3 23.Nc3 Rd2+ 24.Kg1 Rxb2 25.Nd5 Ree2 26.Nxc7 f4 27.Nd5 Rg2+ 28.Kf1 Rxh2 29.Kg1 Rbg2+ 30.Kf1 f3 0-1 A well played and most interesting game.

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8, 1911

Morgan’s expertise in handling openings would hardly have come as a surprise to many of his opponents. After all, Mordecai Morgan was the man who had single-handedly written the four volume work entitled Chess Digest (Philadelphia 1901-1905), presenting, as one reviewer said, the "most comprehensive encyclopedia of the openings in tabular form, with notes on over nineteen-thousand games." Nor was Shipley finished giving Morgan’s games space in his column, as in the very same number he included a second Morgan correspondence victory. Shipley added that "the following game, also played in the present correspondence tournament of the Pennsylvania State Chess Association, will be found of great interest on account of Morgan playing against the ...f5 defense in the Ruy Lopez, a dangerous line of play and one frequently adopted with success by Marshall."


6. Mordecai Morgan – George Baker
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1911
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 f5 4.Nc3 Authorities differ as to White's best continuation. Lasker favors the text move. Pillsbury considered Qe2 as the best way of conducting the attack, while the German Hand Book and older authorities recommended d3. 4.d4, as frequently played, yields no advantage to White. 4...Nf6 5.Qe2 5.exf5 is the more usual continuation, but apparently yields White no advantage, the following being the usual continuation: 5...e4 6.Nh4 d5 etc. The text move of 5.Qe2 is recommended by Lasker. 5...Nd4 6.Nxd4 exd4

Diagram f
Position after 6...exd4

7.e5 We are not familiar with this continuation. Lasker in his analysis gives 7.exf5+ as yielding White a good game. Morgan, however, apparently demonstrates that his line of play yields White a powerful attack. 7...Ng4 8.h3 Nh6 9.Nd1 Qg5 10.0-0 f4 11.Re1 b6 12.e6 Be7 13.exd7+ Bxd7 14.Bxd7+ Kxd7 15.Qe6+ Kd8 16.Re5 Qf6 17.Qd5+ Bd6 18.Re6 Qxe6 19.Qxe6 Re8 20.Qd5 Re1+ 21.Kh2 Rb8 22.Qxd4 Rxd1 23.Qxg7 Kc8 24.Qxh6 Kb7 25.Qe6 Rf8 26.f3 Bc5 27.Qe2 Rg1 28.d4 1-0

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 8, 1911

As a quick glance at the positioning of the notes in the game above shows, it should be obvious that Shipley, much like Morgan himself, was fascinated with opening analysis. Indeed, most of Shipley’s voluminous scrapbooks are organized by opening, and show a fine concern for the development of opening theory. In the following game Morgan introduced a new move in an old opening line of the Evans’ Gambit, and Shipley was not one to avoid publishing the effort. A curious fact about this game is that Shipley published it in his Philadelphia Inquirer column on March 31, 1912, when it had recently been finished, but then published it again nearly three years later, on February 21, 1915, with some significantly different notes, and no explanation as to why the game received such double treatment. The latter publication of the game includes notes designated here as coming from "1915." Shipley found Morgan’s game of significant interest not only because it offered new insight into the Evans’ Gambit, an opening even in 1912 rarely seen, but also because the game would "give enjoyment to all who play over the score. It is one of the most brilliant games that we have published for some time." In addition to the game showing Morgan introducing a new move (13…Nf5), just when his Queen is threatened, the play is short, sharp, and, for Morgan at least, sweet.

7. William Rufus Pratt – Mordecai Morgan
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1912
Evans’ Gambit

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 It is a question whether this move or 5...Bc5 is the better continuation. In many variations the bishop reaches b6 and the transposition amounts to nothing.—1915 6.d4 Had White now castled, then Black could have continued with Lasker's defense of ...Bb6, followed by ...d6, allowing White to win back the Gambit pawn, the resulting position, however, being slightly in favor of Black. The present continuation is likely the best move for the White forces.—1915 6...exd4 7.0-0 dxc3 Black now has what is known as the compromise defense, a defense that was analyzed many years ago by Anderssen, Zukertort and many other great masters of that day, the result being that they considered that White's attack compensated him for the loss of material.—1915 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.e5 Qg6 10.Nxc3 b5 The authorized continuation is ...Nge2, to which White replies with Ba3, and obtains a powerful attack, the result of which has not as yet been determined by analysis. The continuation now adopted is given as inferior by all authorities. 11.Nxb5 Rb8 12.Qe3 If 12.Qa4 a6 13.Na3 Nge7 and White cannot develop his bishop to a3. 12...Nge7 13.Qe2 Threatening to win the Queen by 14.Nh4.

Diagram g
Position after 13.Qe2

13...Nf5 This is Morgan's new move and the continuation that he counted upon when he played 10...b5. The authorities heretofore have considered it necessary for Black to continue with ...Qh5, to which White replies Nd6+, obtaining the better game. 14.Bd3 0-0 15.Bb2 If 15.Nh4 Black replies 15...Nfd4 and White apparently can make no headway. The text move prevents this continuation. 15...Qh5 16.Qe4 Nce7 17.Qa4 If 17.g4 Bb7 18.Qa4 Qh3 with a winning game for Black. 17...Bb7 18.Ba3If 18.Qxa5, Bxf3 wins for Black. 18...Bxf3 19.Bxf5 Nxf5 20.gxf3 If 20.Bxf8 Qg6 21.g3 Rxb5 22.Qxb5 Nd4 wins. 20...Nh4 21.Rfd1 Rfe8 22.f4 Qg4+ 23.Kf1 Rxe5 A very well played game on both sides.—1915 0-1

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 31, 1912,

February 21, 1915

A few months later Shipley published an even shorter victory by the indefatigable Morgan. The columnist believed the game would "be found of value to the student." Though Morgan to a degree exposes his own King by throwing a pawn storm at his opponent, the resulting position shows that it is only Morgan whose pieces can quickly benefit from the new terrain on the board.

8. J.P. Stoner – Mordecai Morgan
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1912
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 d6 6.d3 g6 7.c3 Bg7 8.h3 0-0 9.Be3 h6 10.Nbd2 Qe7 11.Qe2 Kh7 12.Bc2 Bd7 Each player was waiting for the other to take the initiative. 13.d4 Rae8

Diagram h
Position after 13...Rae8

14.d5 This move is questionable and rarely good in positions of this class. It is true that Black's knight apparently is put out of play, but it can be developed later, viz. f7 and g5. 14...Nd8 15.Rad1 Nh5 16.g4 An excellent reply, tending to check the advance of Black's pawns. 16...Nf4 17.Bxf4 exf4 18.Qd3White now must prevent ...f5. 18...h5 Had Black now continued with 18...f5 White replies 19.gxf5 gxf5 20.Kh2 etc. 19.Nd4 If 19.Kh2, Black replies ...Qh4. 19...hxg4 20.hxg4 Bxg4 21.f3 Bh3 0-1

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 1912

Shipley in his May 25, 1913, Inquirer column had only the highest praise for another of Morgan’s efforts in the Pennsylvania tournament: "the following game is one of the finest games, whether played by correspondence or over the board, that we have played over for a long while. The Queen sacrifice in the middle game by Morgan is a remarkable piece of chess strategy. The opening also will be found of value to the student, the game following the defense of Dr. Tarrasch up to the sixteenth move. Rev. E. Griffiths, of London, in a correspondence game, was the first player to discover the weakness of the continuation, playing the correct move 16...Qc5." An added benefit for reader’s of Shipley’s column was that Morgan, the game’s winner, annotated his own effort.

9. D.R. Wyeth – Mordecai Morgan
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1913
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d4 Qc7 11.h3 Nc6 12.Nbd2 0-0 13.Nf1 Possibly 13.dxe5 at this stage is best. 13...cxd4 14.cxd4 Nxd4 15.Nxd4 exd4 16.Bg5 The moves up to this point are the same as those played in a game Lasker - Tarrasch. [Specifically, Lasker - Tarrasch, Game 5, 1908 World Championship Match—JSH]

Diagram i
Position after 16.Bg5

16...Qc5 Tarrasch played here 16...h6, which is not good. The above move was first played, I believe, by Rev. E. Griffiths, of London. Mr. Bardeleben analyzes this move pretty thoroughly in the Deutsches Wochenschach, and it is copied in the British Chess Magazine of 1911, p.377. 17.Bh4 Better than 17.Qd2. 17...Be6 I much prefer this move to Bardeleben's move of 17....Nd5. 18.a3 I thought 18.Rc1 the stronger move, whereupon I would have played 18...Qb6, not 18...Qb4, as suggested by Rev. E. Griffiths, as White plays 19.Qd2; if Black exchanges, White has an excellent game; of course, Black cannot play 19...Qxb2 on account of 20.e5.

Diagram j
Position after 18.a3

18...b4 This move gives Black much the better of the position. It also involves the sacrifice of the Queen for two minor pieces. 19.Rc1 bxa3 20.e5 axb2 21.Bxh7+ Nxh7 22.Rxc5 Bxh4 If 22...dxc5 then 23.Bxe7 Rfc8 24.Qc2 the only move to save the game on this variation. 24...Rab8 25.Rb1 d3 26.Qd2 only 26...c4 27.Rxb2 c3 28.Rxb8 cxd2 29.Rxc8+ Bxc8 30.Nxd2 and the position is about equal. 23.exd6 Rfb8 24.Qxd4 The best move was 24.Qc2. Black must sacrifice the d-pawn to save the b-pawn, and White gains very valuable time. 24...Bf6 25.Qd3 Nf8 26.Nd2 a5 27.Qa3 If 27.Rb5 Rxb5 28.Qxb5 a4 29.Qb7 Ra5 30.Qb6 a3 etc. 27...a4 28.Rb1 Ra6

Diagram k
Position after 28...Ra6

29.Rc4 With this move White expected to sacrifice the rook to win the b-pawn, overlooking that Black can sacrifice a rook in return. I had prepared for 29.Rc2, then follows 29...Rb3 30.Nxb3 axb3 and wins. I hardly know what White can do here. Black threatens ...Bd4 and ...Be5. 29...Bxc4 30.Nxc4 Rb3 31.Qa2 a3 I'm inclined to think this move was not taken into account when White played 29.Rc4. 32.g4 Rc3 33.Nxb2 Rc1+ 0-1

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 25, 1913

Lest the reader think Mordecai Morgan was invincible at the board, the following game is included to show he was, after all, a mere mortal when it came to the game of Kings, though often enough he could play in princely fashion. Morgan annotated this effort, too, bluntly stating where he felt his errors were, and refreshingly enough, unlike many others given such an opportunity, not making any excuses for his failing. By now Morgan, along with J.E. Narraway of Canada, whom Shipley noted as "for many years … recognized as the strongest correspondence player" in Canada, were the only two players who had a reasonable chance of winning first place in the Pennsylvania correspondence tourney. No doubt this loss did not help Morgan’s chances.

10. J.W. Cowles – Mordecai Morgan
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1914
Queen’s Gambit Accepted (in effect)

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 An unusual move not to be recommended. 3.Nbd2 e6 4.e3 Bd6 5.c4 dxc4 6.Bxc4 Nf6 7.0-0 0-0 8.Re1 e5 9.e4 Bg4 10.Qc2 Nd7 11.d5 Ne7 12.b3 f5 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Nxf3

Diagram l
Position after 14.Nxf3

14…fxe4 This is a mistake. 14...f4 would have made it very difficult for White to get up an attack. 15.Ng5 The entry of the knight into the game makes it very difficult for the defense. 15...Qc8 16.Rxe4 Nf5 17.Bb2 h6 18.Ne6 Rf7 19.Rae1 Qe8 20.f4 Nc5 21.fxe5 Nxe4 22.Rxe4 b5 23.Bd3 Bf8 24.Nxf8 Rxf8 25.e6 Qd8 26.Rg4 1-0

Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1914

The same December 27, 1914, Shipley column included a second Morgan effort. Shipley wrote, too, that "in the following game Morgan adopts an unusual line of defense to the Centre Gambit." As with the game above, Morgan annotated his play for Shipley.

11. W.M. Coleman – Mordecai Morgan
Pennsylvania State Chess Association
Correspondence Tournament 1914
Centre Gambit

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 d6 Very conservative but as good as Black has. 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Qb3 This move looks weak, development along general lines looks better. 6...Qd7 7.0-0 Na5 8.Qxc3 Nxc4 White should never have lost this bishop, it was a very strong piece on the attack. 9.Qxc4 Be7 10.Nc3 Nf6 11.Rd1 White's development is beginning to tell. 11...0-0 12.Bg5 Ne8 13.Bf4 Qe6 14.Nd5 Bd8 15.Rac1 Bd7 Black's game is very difficult to play. 16.Ng5 The object of this move is to avoid the exchange of Queens. 16...Qg6 17.Nf3 Be6 18.Qb4 b6 19.Rc3 f5 20.e5 Qf7 21.Qc4 Rc8 22.Qa6 I think Qc6 was stronger. 22...dxe5 23.Nxe5 Qh5 24.Rdc1 Nf6 Black has at least extricated himself from a very trying position.

Diagram m
Position after 24...Nf6

25.Nxc7 The loser at once, but White could not prevent ...c5. 25...Bxc7 26.Rxc7 Rxc7 27.Rxc7 Nd5 White overlooked the fact that Rc4 to protect the bishop stopped Qf1. 0-1

Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1914

And so Mordecai Morgan, the correspondence chess mystery man of Philadelphia, steps off the stage of chess history, blending into the background fabric of silence, the curtain eventually falling on all our lives. Did he win the Pennsylvania State Chess Association correspondence tourney, after years of toil and frequent victory? Did the Canadian, Narraway, capture that honor, relegating Morgan to second place, the same fate that befell him in the great Continental Correspondence Chess Tournament of 1894-1898?

Only further research might be able to cast light on these questions, but whatever the answers to such particular questions might be, they will tell us very little of what larger fate befell Mordecai Morgan as the years passed by. Of the many thousands of biographical entries that appear in Jeremy Gaige’s Chess Personalia, very, very few end in such enigmatic words as does Morgan’s: "alive in 1932" in the vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What the future might bring in terms of research, and what his own future brought Morgan, for the moment, must remain part of the mystery.

Copyright © 1999 John S. Hilbert All Rights Reserved.

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