Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:12 pm

There is a very brief mention here of Welsh psychoanalyst Ernest Jones and his psychoanalytical study of Paul Morphy. Does anyone here know more about this or Jones's "passion for chess"?

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Gerard Killoran
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Gerard Killoran » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:12 pm

West Sussex Gazette - Thursday 16 December 1954 a.png
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Gerard Killoran
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Gerard Killoran » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:28 pm

http://www.edochess.ca/batgirl/Jones.html

Illustrated London News - Saturday 12 November 1955

CHESS NOTES. By BARUCH H. WOOD. M.Sc.

ALL the world knows that Paul Morphy came and took Europe by storm ; that he beat Germany’s greatest player Anderssen, but that Staunton disparaged him, avoided a match at all costs. Whereupon, Morphy returned to the States, offered the whole world the odds of pawn and move, insulted admirers, and finally succumbed to insane delusions. Chess-players have always felt sensitive about that last bit. If the greatest chess-player who ever lived ended up demented . . . ! The idea the better your chess, the madder you will become,” though far from being logical, was disturbingly plausible.

Was Morphy unbalanced by chess? That the game was closely linked with his madness is undeniable ; but this was mainly because his genius revealed itself in chess. His experiences with chess-players accelerated the breakdown that was always a potentiality, given his personal make-up; but similar experiences as a lawyer among lawyers, as a writer among writers could have had the same outcome. This is not to say, either, that Morphy’s lack of balance did not contribute to his success.

How often have the greatest of world figures been the unhappiest? Men release their unconscious pressures in action ; and to have a volcano of repressed feeling is often to become a volcano of effort —and achievement. should find it impossible,” confessed Dr. Jones in a famous paper on Morphy he read to the British Psycho-Analytical Society, to believe that there was not some intimate connection” between his neurotic personality and the superb efforts of sublimation which have made Morphy’s name immortal.”

Here in his paper, Dr. Jones digressed to advance a theory on chess about which I have doubts. is plain that the unconscious motive actuating the players is not the mere love of pugnacity characteristic of all competitive games, but the grimmer one of father-murder. It is true that the original goal of capturing the king has been given up, but from the point of view of motive there is, except in respect of cruelty, no appreciable change in the present goal of sterilising him into immobility.”

As a lifelong chess-player among lifelong chess-players, I could say I just don’t believe this.” To a psycho-analyst, that means nothing, of course he is talking about the subconscious, and though not a chess-player in the world thinks he hates his opponent’s king, such a subconscious hate may be ruling him. That the king has never to me seemed important enough counts for a little more. I doubt whether any chess-player, psycho-analysed into the most accommodating of moods, could truthfully confess to a hate of his opponent’s king. Moreover, the real explanation seems so clear. The hate is there (a sublimed hate, of course), but of whom? Of one’s opponent!

In this suggestion that pugnacity is directed against one of the tools of the game—a bit of apparatus—why class chess apart from all other games? Seek among other sports for some analogy and you soon find yourself in a wilderness. Whom do you want to murder in a swimming race, for instance? The water? The other end of the pool?

That games are outlets for the Oedipus complex is to my mind revealed in the extraordinary change of atmosphere when a man plays against a woman, in chess or in any other game. Either the whole affair becomes a trivial child’s play, with half-serious chivalrous concessions, or pure sadism takes charge. Horror often seizes the man if defeat becomes a possibility ; he will draw, with far more desperation than if he were up against a fellow male, on every reserve of nerve and sinew to avoid defeat. Many women confine themselves to all-women events—one can well see why. Others, when their sporting skill outstrips that normal to their sex, go mannish in self-defence ; subconsciously hoping, when they have whacked you at golf—or tennis, or chess, or what have you—that their trousers and cigarettes will half-convince you that they are not really women at all, so the defeat doesn’t matter.

Having got this off my chest, I must frankly admit that the rest of Dr. Jones’s paper on Morphy is pure gold, giving an insight into that genius which opened the eyes of laymen and chess-players alike.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:39 pm

That covers all bases, doesn't it? (The link in the second post is to the paper by Jones on Morphy.) Many thanks, Gerard!

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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:57 pm

Some people think that Freud and his followers say more about themselves than about others...

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:47 am

I wonder if anyone knows how good a player Ernest Jones really was. Does he feature in any chess histories of the area? Does Chichester Chess Club have any stories or records from that time?

http://chichesterchessclub.co.uk/

Their list of club champions goes back to 1958, four years after the newspaper article above.

There is also Fine's paper "Pschyoanalytic Observations on Chess and Chess Masters", republished as a book in 1956: "The Psychology of the Chess Player". The appendix has two letters from Ernest Jones to Fine.

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Gerard Killoran
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Gerard Killoran » Sat Jun 23, 2018 2:27 pm

Here's an indication, but did the saintly Leonard really stoop to hypnotism to win the Varsity Match - and if so, did it work? In which case I might give it a try.

Illustrated London News - November 19th 1955.jpg
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Leonard Barden
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Leonard Barden » Sat Jun 23, 2018 3:08 pm

The final sentence above is a typical BH very inaccurate misquote.

We had a Swedish player named O I Galvenius, pictured here second from the right in the university team which won the inaugural British Lightning Team championship at Ilford in May 1953:
http://johnchess.blogspot.com/2009/02/r ... -2009.html
Earlier, in autumn 1952, when Oxfordshire, which I captained, met Middlesex in the counties final of 1952, I was a touch concerned because Galvenius, though strong, was a nervous player who I thought might be affected by the occasion.
I knew the eminent mathematician George Spencer-Brown, who later wrote the classic book Laws of Form. Spencer-Brown, who was a Cambridge half-blue before moving to Oxford, was interested in psychotherapy and suggested he might hypnotise Galvenius on the day of the match.
The story found its way into the Oxford Mail and from there to the national press, but Galvenius refused point-blank to be hypnotised.
The match with Middlesex turned on the game between Galvenius and Joe Stone, which has been discussed at length in a previous Forum thread, where the position for adjudication led by force to an ending of rook against united pawns where Theodore Tylor found a study-like win after days of analysis.

These facts are somewhat distant from BH's "Leonard Barden once suggested that an Oxford University side he was captaining might be hypnotised to increase their confidence".

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Ernest Jones, psychoanalysis and Morphy

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Jun 23, 2018 5:32 pm

Wonderfully evocative recollections from Leonard Barden, as always.

A link for convenience to the earlier account from Leonard: see here (Re: Oxfordshire v Middlesex 1952).

A bonus link to another of Leonard's reminiscences which I had not read before (or had forgotten): see here (Re: Gambit Chess Rooms 1946).

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