The Opera Box Revisted

One of my favorite stories to tell my students is that of Paul Morphy. Really, he is the godfather of chess. His brilliance came naturally in a time when there were few viable chess resources to draw from. He taught us all how it should be done and studying his games is a very important part of any one's chess development.

His most famous game was the "Opera Box" game, where he supposedly took on the Count and the Duke, as a team against him, while on his visit to Europe. His trip over seas, which just happened to coincide with the Civil War (we will get even for that someday by the way), was his personal claim as the first World Champion...and he succeeded.

As the old saying goes "every Russian school boy knows that game." Well, let us fast-forward a 100 years to the Russian Championship of 1960. A more modern genius, Mark Taimanov, was to compose his own "Opera Box" game. As a talented concert pianist, creating beautiful art was one of his specialities. The concepts of white's strong attack in this game are a direct descendant of Paul Morphy.

A very instructive and rich effort from Mr. Taimanov, who often gets a bad rap thanks to the thumpin' Bobby put on him. I found this game digging through a small and ratty looking chess book called Modern Chess Miniatures. Just keep your search for chess knowledge up and open and you'll never know what kind gem you may stumble upon. 


  • 19 months ago


    very nice

  • 5 years ago


    Wow! Morphy, and Morphy Jr. 

  • 7 years ago


    Taimanov is a raging badass

  • 8 years ago


    That was excellent!

  • 8 years ago


    Nice blog post Todd

  • 8 years ago


    Great to see the Opera House game once again; surely the most famous chess game ever played. It was the first I ever played out, 38 years ago, when teaching myself descriptive notation.

  • 8 years ago

    FM MusicCityMaster

    Thanks, batgirl for your clarification of the historical stuff...I guess it should also be known that the game did not conclude with checkmate. I added that to make it more comparible with the Morphy game. It only lists the player as Isourd, Carl...because that is what the 2009 Mega database has it listed was exported directly from my program I use which I do not know if I am at liberty to advertise.

  • 8 years ago


    Pretty sweet stuff.

  • 8 years ago

    IM dpruess

    That was a very cool game, Todd, and one I had not seen before. Very instructive notes; I'll point some of my students to this.

  • 8 years ago


    Very nice article.The second game shows clearly the meaning of tempo and time at development..

  • 8 years ago


    very famous game, still taught today.

  • 8 years ago


    Nice game by the often under-valued Mark Taimanov.  However, I feel compelled to make several historical observations. Morphy's chess tour of Europe during which he played his famous game at Le Théâtre-Italien in Paris vs. the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard (not Carl Isouard), was in 1858-9 (as noted in the game above). The American Civi War started in 1861. The two were in no way connected.  Morphy did, however, go to Cuba and France in 1862, after Gen. Butler was appointed in charge of Union-occupied New Orleans , during which time he played very limited chess and mostly in private conditions.

  • 8 years ago


          Thanks for the games. I've seen Morphys game many times but always scroll through the moves, anyway ... a piece of art.

  • 8 years ago

    FM MusicCityMaster

    I am still learning this site I would like to make sure that anyone checking out the second game from Taimanov, you should make sure you click on the "move list" button before viewing the game. The real beauty in the game lies in the moves that did not occur. You can go through those moves by clicking on them in side of the "move list."

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