THE CHESS PLAYERS by Frances Parkinson Keyes


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The name of Paul Morphy is undoubtedly familiar to devotees of chess and its history and personalities. Over a 12 year period, Morphy won world wide fame, while still in his teens, and became world champion. So much is history- as is his New Orleans background and family. But after he reached his majority and on to his forty seventh year, when he died, little is known of his activities. Mrs. Keyes has undertaken that difficult task of interweaving fact and fancy, of writing a semi-authentic biographical novel around the person of Paul Morphy. While not wholly successful, she has succeeded in making plausible those years when Paul might well have been acting as an agent for the Confederacy in the France he loved. He might- in his somewhat naive fashion, have confused the high ideals of his code in private life and in his favorite game with the somewhat shady goals he was instructed to seek- and brought disaster on himself and his cause. He might well have had such a lifelong devotion to a double-dealer such as Charmian- a wholly fictitious character, Mrs. Keyes says- and through her stumbled into failure. The scene of the story shifts from New Orleans and the school near Mobile where he went -- to the various cities where he played his famous matches -- to Paris where he danced attendance on Charmian, not accepting her loftier aspirations. Then back to New Orleans, only to find insufferable the conquerors of his home city and to escape , first to Cuba, then to Paris- and the unfortunate pursuit of a game wrongly identified with the chess of his life-and the tragedy into which he stumbled at its end. An off beat book for Mrs. Keyes, overlong, but adorned with those exact and minute details which her readers except- and reintroducing a character to a perhaps not too sympathetic reading public.

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 1960
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy