The Chess Players is a historical novel based on the life of Paul Morphy, who is considered to have been the first world chess champion and possibly the strongest chess player in the history of the game. Paul Charles Morphy was born on June 22, 1837 in New Orleans Louisiana. His father was Alonzo Morphy. His mother was Louise Thérèse Felicite Thelcide Le Carpentier. He learned the moves of chess simply by watching his uncle and father play. Nobody taught him the rules. By age 9 he was regarded as the best player in New Orleans. By age 21 he was regarded as the best chess player in the world. The author carefully researched the subject. All of the people mentioned in this book were real people. In preparing to do a reprint of this book, the reviser discovered that Paul Morphy was Black. His grandmother was born in Haiti. Since Haiti is 99.99% Black and since under the law at that time anybody more than 3/16ths Black was Black, therefore Paul Morphy was Black. The paternal grandmother of Paul Morphy was Louise Peyre (1776-1826). She was from the area of Gonaïves in the Artibonite Department of Haiti.
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How this book came to be written is essentially due to a coincidence. The author Frances Parkinson Keyes was a famous and popular author who wrote 58 books, most of them novels, but none of the others about chess. She was born Frances Parkinson Wheeler on July 21, 1885 in Charlottesville, Virginia. At age 18 she married Henry Wilder Keyes who had been born on March 23, 1862 in Newbury, Vermont. He was later elected Governor of New Hampshire and then was elected to the United States Senate from New Hampshire and served 18 years in the senate. After his death, she started writing and publishing novels. She moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where her novels were based in the Old South and on New Orleans in particular. In 1945, she purchased an old house, The Beauregard House, located at 1113 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70116, without full knowledge of its history. Only after she had bought the house and moved into it did she learn that it had been the home of Paul Morphy, the World Chess Champion. Paul Morphy and his brother and two sisters were all born at 1113 Chartres Street. In 1841, Alonzo Morphy bought the house at 89 (now 417) Royal Street and moved his family there. The Morphy family lived there until 1886 when the last of the sisters, Helena, died. Learning about the peculiarities of Morphy's personality, Frances Parkinson Keyes decided to write a novel based on his life and on the life of General Beauregard, who lived in the 1113 Chartres Street house from 1866 after the conclusion of the Civil War. It appears that Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard was also a mulatto with a slave ancestry from Haiti. No information on his family history is available but his nickname was “The Little Creole”. This may explain the fact that in spite of winning the first two battles of the American Civil War, Confederate President Jefferson Davis never made General Beauregard Commander in Chief but instead put a White Man in charge. This lost the war. Mrs. Keyes lived there off-and-on from 1945 until her death on July 3, 1970 in New Orleans. She would summer in New Hampshire and winter in New Orleans. In 1955, the original group that purchased the house in 1926 sold it to the Keyes Foundation. Mrs. Keyes had established her foundation in 1948, with the twofold purpose of helping writers and preserving historical places. Mrs. Keyes wrote 30 novels during her time living at 1113 Chartres Street.
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