Chess Player. He was considered by many sources to have been the unofficial World Champion from 1858 to 1862 and the greatest chess player of his era. Known for his aggressive play, he learned the moves as a young child while watching his father and uncle play, and surprised them by demonstrating a win in a drawn game when they had no idea that he even knew how to play. He quickly became one of the best chess players in New Orleans, and at nine defeated General Winfield Scott in a match and at 12 years old beat a visiting Hungarian master Johann Löwenthal. He studied at Spring Hill College and received his law degree from Tulane in 1857, being one of the few persons to have memorized the complete laws of the state. As he was too young to practice law, he accepted an invitation to the First American Chess Congress in the fall of that year, which he won. Attempts were made to arrange a match with the European champion Howard Staunton, and Morphy traveled to Europe in 1858 to do just that. While that match never took place, he played and defeated a number of European masters in 1858 and 1859, and was hailed as World Champion on a number of occasions in Europe and the United States. Upon his return home, he retired from chess, hoping to begin his law career. This was interrupted by the start of the Civil War in 1861 and he was never a success as a lawyer as generally his clients wanted to talk chess instead of their legal issues. However, his family fortune allowed him to live as he pleased, until he died of a stroke in his bath at home.
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert