In that previous blog, I had related Paul Lee Tan's version of the story about a famous painting by Friedrich Moritz August Retzsch. That painting is now reportedly in private hands, having been sold at auction at Christie’s in 1999. It purports to be Goethe’s Faust in a chess match with the Devil. Specifically, the scene depicted appears to be that of Faust having just lost that match, with all the ensuing consequences about to unfold. Hence, the title often attributed to it: “Checkmate”!
After being on display at the Louvre in Paris, the painting is said to have gone on a worldwide tour. When it was being displayed in Cincinnati, the world famous chess Grand Master Paul Morphy travelled up from New Orleans to view it. As Oswald Sanders is said to have popularized the story, Morphy gazed intently at the portrait, carefully retracing all the moves of the match that had led to the current configuration on the board.
A half hour or so went by, and suddenly Morphy shouted out loud as he pointed up to the painting, “Young man, make that move. That's the move!" He wanted desperately for the young man in the picture somehow to hear him. Had he done so, and heeded his advice at that one moment in the game, things would have turned out so differently in the end.
But, alas, the young man could not. The mistake had been made and the die had been cast. The story helps to illustrate the crucial significance of every decision we make in life.
In researching the history of this story, I have discovered that there is an alternative version. This one was popularized by Billy Graham, among others, as early as 1955. In this version, the story unfolds much as before. The difference is in what Paul Morphy is reported to have uttered after studying the famous painting for so long.
In this version, Morphy ran down the hall exclaiming, “Wait, wait, wait! The match is not over! The King still has another move! The King still has another move!”
Dr. Kenneth Ulmer, Bishop of Faithful Central Bible Church located in Inglewood, CA, once utilized this story from the pulpit. Faithful Central is a predominantly African-American church. Their worship is Spirit filled and heart felt. We are told that when Dr. Ulmer said, “The King still has one more move…” the congregation started to get a little noisy.
Then, when he said a second time, “The King has one more move,” the people got excited. And when they heard that it wasn’t checkmate at all because the King of Kings still had another move, they started shouting their agreement and approval! Why? Because this gifted communicator of the Gospel had made his point well that Easter Sunday: the King of Kings always has another move!
It may have seemed like He had been checkmated at the Red Sea when the Israelites were hemmed in by Pharaoh’s army. But Old Moses raised his hands to Heaven and showed that the King still had another move!
It may have seemed as if He had been checkmated when Goliath taunted the Israelite Army on the battlefield. But Young David stepped forward and showed that the King still had another move.
It may have seemed that all was lost when Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den for the night. But in the night, an angel appeared and showed that the King still had another move! And that is the message of Easter above all else: “The King still has another move!”
Good Friday may have seen Jesus illegally tried, judged, condemned, whipped, beaten, mocked, scorned, crucified, stabbed, killed, and then laid him in a sealed tomb. The Devil may have shouted “Checkmate” in delirious delusion! But… The King still had another move! And on Easter morning, He proved it! As the hymn writer joyously proclaimed:
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
SOURCES: I am indebted to the following authors/sites for these thoughts:
Dr. Ken Ulmer’s website is located at: https://www.faithfulcentral.com/about-us/bishop-kenneth-ulmer.
Lastly, a thorough discussion of what is called “Morphy’s Anecdote” can be found over www.chess.com. Cf.: http://www.chess.com/blog/batgirl/die-schachspieler-and-the-morphy-anecdote. Here, the painting is shown most probably to have been Retzsch's piece titled "The Chess Players".
The hymn lyrics, from Christ Arose by Robert Lowry, can be found at: http://