Morphy vs Steinitz

I keep seeing "Morphy would have beaten Steinitz", which we will never know, but here is some food for thought, from Steinitz' International Chess Magazine of 1886: (Nov 1886 pp 333-335)
As usual I have my duty as a critic to perform, and all the editorial tomahawks that are raised by native and foreign savages, from the Pawn and move downward to the receivers of the Rook odds, with the kind intention of sacrificing the living on the shrine of the dead, will not deter me from it. To what I have said on the subject before, I may only add quite in conformity with the substance of my previous remarks that I have never quarrelled with anyone who bonafidely believes that Morphy could have beaten me even, if he had made progress with the time. But if anyone says that the Morphy as he was, and not the one who might have been, could give Pawn and move only to a second rate nowadays I can only pity his understanding, or I must call it an impudent assertion. There will be an outcry over this, no doubt, and nothing but blind conceit, selfishness, or worse will be imputed to me. I can not help that, nor perhaps would I help it if I could. For if our readers will allow me to give them a little perfectly true anecdote, which I consider amusing and instructive, I think I can produce in support of my contention truthful, reliable, impartial, honorable, independent, honest etc., evidence. Would you believe it? The first witness whom I shall call to the stand, and to whose testimony I ascribe all the above-named virtues, is actually one of the above-named trio, and in reality Samuel Loyd in life size and in flesh, and not his shadow. I think he will perhaps pardon my giving him such a character, and if not, I sincerely apologize to all the other witnesses whom I shall call. For in justice to his

"smartness" of which he bears such repute, and of which he chiefly prides himself, I ought to state that to the best of his knowledge he had at the time no personal interest whatever in telling an untruth, and moreover his sayings were not intended to be published in one of James Gordon Bennett's journals. But the miracle of his giving an honest oppinion happened this way: It actually occurred before the A. C. E. A. had been composed and solved alone by its author (or dissolved as far as I am concerned, for I have resigned from that body), by the simple process of his putting four-fifths of the funds of the Association into his own pocket. At that time, only about four months back, I was as friendly with Loyd as the public prosecutor might be with anyone whom he suspects (for I have known Loyd before), but whom he has not caught yet in flagranto delicti. At any rate his pronounced public opinion on Morphy did not influence me any more than it does with several warm friends who can not dissociate themselves from old ideas, and he was a welcome visitor at my house. On one of those occasions, however, and in the course of a discussion it occurred to me to play a little trick on my visitor, which comprised no deception à la Loyd, though I must plead guilty to a concealment for a little while. I can not give a verbatim report of the conversation in which the matter was in troduced, but I am sure I shall faithfully state the substance of it.

"Could you judge approximately the strength of two players if I showed you part of one of their games, and if in order to save time I gave you some critical comments which, of course, you may judge for yourself?" I asked.

"Yes, I think so," replied Loyd modestly. "Well," I said, please look at the following position :

"Y," and "Z" played that game, and they have as you see only arrived at an early stage of the opening. In fact I may tell you it is only White's 9th move in the present position.

r-bqk--r
--p--ppp
p-n-----
-pbnp---
--------
--PP-N--
PPB--PPP
RNBQK--R
Continuing my little lecture I said:

"You notice that Black has thus early three holes in his battleorder of Pawns or what I call weak strategical spots, which means any squares on his Aird or fourth rows on which a hostile piece might be planted sooner or later without being liable to he driven away by a Pawn. The weak points are at QR4, QB3 and QB4. Black's K P is loose and can only be defended by a piece or P--KB3, and the latter is generally inconvenient before the adverse QP is got rid of or further advanced than here. He has also two minor pieces standing undefended, and his QKtP is a mark for a dangerous attack by P--QR4, at the proper time. White's position is compact with the exception of the QP which, however, is well defended. Black's chief weakness has arisen, I may tell you, from his having prematurely advanced P-Q4 instead of P-Q3. It is White's move, and I feel satisfied from analogies of positions that Kt x P, followed by P--Q4, would give him much the best of it, even against the subsequent answer of ... B--Kt5, with the view of sacrificing a piece if White play P--KB3 (or else, I may now add, against the immediate answer Q--K2, pointed out subsequently by Mr. Teed, for White would also reply Q--K2). However castling is obviously a very good and safe move, but White instead plays here 9 P--KR3. What do you think of that?"

"Certainly unnecessary and weak," said Loyd.

"It is now Black's turn," I proceeded,

"and if I were in his place I certainly would not give my opponent an opportunity of getting rid of his QP, and opening the diagonal for his Bishop, commencing with Kt x P. I would withdraw B--Kt3 or B--Q3 first, for 9... Castling, what he does, will keep." Loyd nodded assent.

"Now White could do what I have just pointed out, and I feel sure he could get the better game, and much the best of it, should Black answer BXP ch., which would have also been bad at the previous stage, where I suggested Kt XP. There are too many cases in point on record. But he plays 10 Castles."

"But now," I proceeded,

"it is evidently the highest time for Black to remove his Bishop, but he actually plays 10...P--KR3; do you think that good play ?

"No, decidedly not," said Loyd.

"Of course White ought to take advantage of that without the least hesitation by 11 Kt x P," I remarked,

"but he actually plays 11 P--Q4 instead, and naturally his QP is isolated. Now, what do you think of the strength of the two players. Are they first, second or third class?" I am sure I put the question fairly enough, for I believe if I had given him the choice of five classes he would have chosen the last. As it was, he answered at once:

"Third class at the utmost."

"Would you be surprised to learn," I said, "that this play occurred not merely once, but actually in two games of the match between Morphy and Anderssen, in the second and in the fourth 2" (Tableau !)

And so it is indeed. The two great masters actually repeated the whole opening without the least amendment on either side, which proves that they had not the slightest suspicion that their development contained defects that about twenty-eight years later could only be described as grave strategical errors. By the way, as Loyd may have forgotten the whole affair, owing to his complicated business transactions as Vice-President of the A. C. E. A. and self-elected Treasurer of four fifths of its funds, I may remind him that on the same occasion I showed him that in the celebrated game with Paulsen, in which Morphy sacrifices his Queen, the latter had a lost game early in the opening, and albeit Paulsen committed an error such as any Pawn and Two player would most probably avoid nowadays, his game was absolutely won just one move before the celebrated sacrifice, without any possibility of retrieving it on Morphy's part--of course assuming best play on both sides--if the former had played 16 Q--R6 only one move earlier, instead of the silly move 16 R--R2.

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