Paul Morphy – Chess King of New Orleans
Paul Morphy is a true paragon in New Orleans. However, if you are not familiar with chess you may not know his name. Born in 1837 at the family home on Chartres Street, Paul Morphy learned to play chess while watching his uncle and father play. At twelve years of age, he was the best player in New Orleans and by the age of twenty became the first ever American chess champion. After that he traveled and played in Europe, regarded as the best chess player in the world.
A Mystery and a Tragedy
In 1860, at the height of his chess career, he announced that he would never play competitive chess again. To this day, no one but Morphy knows why. He came home to New Orleans and moved back in with his family which had relocated to Royal Street. Succumbing to eccentricity and paranoia, he believed the neighborhood barbers wanted to slit his throat. He did not eat food unless his own family prepared it because he feared poisoning. At the age of 47, Paul Morphy became overheated on a scorching New Orleans day and subsequently took a cold bath which caused a fatal stroke. He died in the second floor bathtub just above the entry door in the building which Brennan’s Restaurant now occupies. Paul Morphy is buried in St. Louis Cemetery Number One.
A Torch is Passed
Jude Acers, chess master, a.k.a. The Chess King of Decatur Street, sits at a chess table in the French Quarter most days and nights. For five dollars Jude will play a game of chess with you and answer questions about New Orleans paragon Paul Morphy. After that, you can see Paul Morphy’s tomb on The Savvy Native’s St. Louis Cemetery #1 tour. You cannot enter this cemetery on your own due to restrictions, but our licensed, experienced tour guides are your ticket inside. They can’t wait to show you around.
The Savvy Native is a group of experienced local tour guides who were either born in New Orleans or wish they had been.