Sarah's Chess Journal

my journal, blog, web log, blog.....about

The History and The Culture of Chess

Joseph Henry Blackburne: der Schwarze Tod der Schachspieler

August 2006


Joseph Henry Blackburne

Joseph Henry Blackburne

"He left it en prise and I took it en passant."

– Joseph Henry Blackburne (after drinking his opponent’s glass of whiskey during a simul)

My original biographical page on Blackburne covers most of the pertinent facts about his life and chess career.
No short biographical sketch could ever do justice to a life as long and as varied as that of Blackburne. It seems almost compelling to fill in some of the gaps about him and his periphery for a clearer look at possibly one of the hardest working chess professionals in the history of the game.

Blackburne was a  paradoxical entity. He started playing chess as an adult and reached master level in mere months. He played professionally for over a half century, winning the brilliancy prize at St. Petersburg, as well as the shared British championship, in 1914 at age 72. He was undereducated, yet astute and witty - a rogue clothed as a gentleman. He claimed to play better after indulging in a bit of whiskey and often proved the point. He was noted for having poor health, but played over 2,000 games per year throughout his chess-playing career.

The Brooklyn Eagle on Feb 14, 1886 quoted the Philadelphia Times concerning the Steinitz - Zukertort match.
Zukertort complained of being out of practice. Asked why he didn't practice in London, replied that he couldn't; Blackburne is always sick, and Mason is always drunk.

Within a year of learning the game, Blackburne was giving simultaneous blindfold exhibitions. He joined the Manchester Chess Club in July of 1861 after learning to play.
The April 5, 1862 of the Albion mentions a 7 game blindfold simul played by Blackburne at the Manchester Athenaeum.
The July 19, 1862 issue notes that he  played 10 game blindfold simul in London.
The Dec 20, 1862 issue claims he went +5-3=2 in blindfold exhibition in Manchester.
The June 6, 1863 issue gives Blackburne playing 10 game blind simul Worcestershire.
The July 24, 1863 issue of the Chicago Tribune tells us that Blackburne broke the blindfold record with 12 games  (+6-4=2).

In the summer of 1862 Blackburne entered the second London International Tournament. While he placed only 9th in a field of 14, he managed to beat Löwenthal, Owen, Green and Steinitz in individual games. Both Blackburne's  match and tournament results would continue to be uneven throughout his life. Steinitz would always be a thorn in his side. After the 1862 tournament, Steinitz beat Blackburne ( +7 =2 -1) in the first of their three eventual matches. In 1869-70 Steinitz beat Blackburne +5=1, then in 1876 Steinitz would embarrass Blackburne by winning their match at the London West-end Chess Club  +7-0.
Some of Blackburne's other match results include:

1881  vs. Zukertort  -6+2=5 (London)
1881  vs Isidor Gunsberg +7-4=3 (London)
1887  vs Zukertort  +5-1=7 (London)
1887  vs Isidor Gunsberg  +2-5=6
1878  vs Bird  +5-2 (London)
1891  vs Golmayo +5-3=2 (The Cuban champion, in Havana)
1891  vs Vasquez  +5=1 (The Spanish champion, in Havana)
1892  vs Emanuel Lasker  -6=4 (London)
1895  vs Bardeleben  +3=3-3 (London)

Blackburn reputedly played in a total of 53 tournaments. He seldom came in first, but often shared in the prizes.
Below are some of the more notable tournaments:

1867 Dundee
         1.Neumann , 2.Steinitz, 3.MacDonnell, 3.De Vere, 5.Blackburne, 6.Robertson,
          7/8.J.Fraser /G.Fraser  9.Hamel, 10.Spens
1870 Baden-Baden
         1.Anderssen, 2.Steinitz, 3.Blackburne, 5.L.Paulsen, 6.De Vere ,  6.Winawer,
         8.Minckwitz, 8.Rosenthal, 10.Stern
1872  London
         1.Steinitz, 2.Blackburne, 3.Zukertort, 4.MacDonnell, 5.De Vere
1873  Vienna
         1.Steinitz , 1.Blackburne*, 3.Anderssen, 4.Rosenthal,  5.L.Paulsen,
         5.Bird, 7.Fleissig, 8.Heral, 9.Meitner, 10.Gelbfuss, 11.A.Schwarz, 12.Pitschel,
            *Playoff Steinitz-Blackburne 2-0.
   The tournament book called Blackburne der Schwarze Tod der Schachspieler (the Black Death)
1876  London
        1.Blackburne, 2.Zukertort, 3.Potter, 4.G.MacDonnell, 5.Janssens, 6.Minchin,
        7.Wisker, 8.Martin
1878  Paris
         1.Winawer, 1.Zukertort, 3.Blackburne, 4.Mackenzie, 4.Bird, 6.Anderssen,7.Englisch,
         7.Rosenthal, 9.Mason, 11.Gifford, 12.Pitschel
1880  Weisbaden
         1.Blackburne, 1.Englisch, 1.A.Schwarz, 4.Schallopp, 5.Mason,  6.Winawer, 8.Minckwitz,
         9.L.Paulsen/Schottlaender, 11.W.Paulsen, 12.Wemmers, 13.Fritz, 14.Schwede,
         15.Knorre /Schmid
1881  2nd German Championship - Berlin
         1.Blackburne, 2.Zukertort, 3.Chigorin, 3.Winawer, 4. Mason, 5.Wittek, 6. J. Schwarz,
         7.Schallop, 8. Paulsen
1882 Vienna
         1.Steinitz, 1.Winawer, 3.Mason, 4.Zukertort, 4.Mackenzie, 6.Blackburne, 7.Englisch,
          8.Paulsen, 9.Wittek, 10.M.Weiss, 11.Hruby, 12.A.Schwarz, 12.Chigorin, 14.Meitner,
         15.Bird, 16.Ware jr., 17.Noa, 18.Fleissig
1883  London
          1.Zukertort, 2.Steinitz, 3.Blackburne, 4.Chigorin, 5.Englisch, 5.Mackenzie, 5.Mason,
          8.Rosenthal, 9.Winawer, 10.Bird,11.Noa, 12.Sellman, 13.Mortimer 3, 14.Skipworth(withdrew)
1885 German Championship - Hamburg,
         1.Gunsberg, 2.Blackburne/.Tarrasch, 2.Mason/Englisch/Weiss 7.Mackenzie, 
         8.Riemann, 9.Schallop, 10.Minckwitz, 11.Berger, 12.Bird
1887 5th German Championship - Frankfurt
         1.Mackenzie, 2.Blackburne, 2.Weiss,  4.Bardeleben, 5.Tarrasch/Berger/Schiffers/Zukertort
1889 6th German Championship. Breslau
         1.Tarrasch, 2. Blackburne, 3. Schallop, 4. Mason, 5. Burn, 6. Mieses, 7. Gunsberg
1889 6th American Chess Congress -New York
         1.Chigorin/Weiss, 3.Gunsberg, 4.Blackburne,  5.Burn, 6.Lipschuetz, 7.Mason, 8.Taubenhaus,
         9.Judd, 10.Delmar, 11.D.Baird, 12.Pollock, 13.Showalter, 14.J.Baird, 15.MacLeod
1890 Manchester
         1.Tarrasch, 2.Blackburne, 3.Mackenzie, 3.Bird, 5.Mason
1889 6th German Championship - Breslau
         1.Tarrasch, 2.Blackburne, 3.Schallop, 4.Mason, 5.Burn, 6.Mieses, 7.Gunsberg
1892 7th German Championship - Dresden
         1.Tarrasch, 2.Markovetz/.Porges, 4.
Walbrodt, 6.Winawer
1894 9th German Championship - Leipzig
         1.Tarrasch, 2.Lipke, 3.Teichmann, 4.Blackburne/Walbrodt,
1895  Hastings - (Cat.10)
         1.Pillsbury, 2.Chigorin, 3.Lasker, 4.Tarrasch, 5.Steinitz, 6.Schiffers, 7.Bardeleben,
         8.Teichmann, 9.Schlechter, 10.Blackburne, 11.Walbrodt, 12.Janowsky/Mason/Burn,
        15.Bird/Gunsberg, 17.Albin/Marco,19.Pollock, 20.Mieses/Tinsley, 22.Vergani
1896 Nuremburg
         1.Lasker, 2.Maroczy, 3.Pillsbury/.Tarrasch, 5.Janowski, 6.Steinitz, 7.Walbrodt /Schlechter,
         9.Schiffers/Chigorin, 11. Blackburne, 12.Charousek, 13.Marco, 14.Albin, 15.Winawer,
         16.Showalter/Porges 18.Schallopp, 19.Teichmann
1897  Berlin
         1.Charousek, 2.Janowski, 3.Schlechter, 4.Chigorin, 5.Walbrodt, 6.Blackburne
1898,  Kaiser Jubilee - Vienna
         1.Tarrasch/Pillsbury, 3.Janowski, 4.Steinitz, 5.Schlechter, 6.Chigorin/Burn, 8.Lipke/Maroczy,
         10.Alapin, 11.Blackburne/Schiffers, 13.Marco, 14.Showalter , 15.Walbrodt, 16.Halprin,
         17.Caro, 18.Baird, 19.Trenchard (A. Schwarz withdrew after playing 8 games.)
          Playoff:  Tarrasch - Pillsbury +2=1-1
1899  London
         1.Lasker, 2.Janowsky, 2.Maroczy/Pillsbury, 5.Schlechter, 6.Blackburne, 7.Chigorin,
         8.Showalter, 9.Mason,10.W.Cohn, 10.Steinitz /Lee, 13.Bird,14.Tinsley 6,  15.Teichmann
(withdrew ill)
1904  Hastings  1. Napier/Atkins 3. Blackburne
1907  Hastings 
1. Atkins, 2. Blackburne
1910  Hastings 
1. Atkins 2. Blackburne
1913  Hastings 
1. Yates, 3. Blackburne
1914  St. Petersburg
           1. Lasker, 2. Capablanca, 3 Alekhine, 4 Tarrasch, 5 Marshall, 6.Rubinstein, 7.Nimzowitsch

Between 1896 and 1911, the US played the UK in 13 cable matches. Each match had 10 players per side with the exception of the first match which had only 8 per team. Blackburne played for the UK in 11 of the matches - winning 2 games, losing 4 games, and drawing 5.
The US won 6 matches, the UK won 6, and one was a draw (+39-39=50).

Dresden 1892

London 1872

Kaiser Jubilee Vienna 1898

Hastings 1895

Nuremberg 1896

The Blackburne Shilling Gambit

                      1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6                                                        3.Bc4 Nd4?!                         

If  4.Nxe5?, then 4....Qg5!

This gambit was named after Blackburne because he was reputed to have favored it in his games-for-a shilling.

Bill Wall has taken the legend to task, claiming that no Blackburne game exists using this opening.  He adds that while "these same moves were mentioned by William Steinitz in the Modern Chess Instructor," it "is sometimes known as the Kostić Gambit, named after the Serbian grandmaster, Borislav Kostić [1887-1963], who played it in the early part of the 20th century."

It's quite possible that Blackburne did use this gambit for playing amateurs in games deemed unworthy of recording.


   The Black Death

This famous caricature of Blackburne was sketched in 1888 by Vanity Fair caricaturist,  Carlo Pellegrini who went by the pseudonym  Ape (and sometimes Singe).
Pellegrini (1839-1889) contributed over two thousand caricatures to Vanity Fair. Pellegrini was born in Capua, Italy, where he trained as as artist. He moved to London in 1865 and took the position at Vanity Fair which he held for more than twenty years. Most of his sketches were done from memory.

The picture on the right of Carlo Pellegrini as painted by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) in 1876-7, captures some of Pellegrini's playfulness and humor.

The Black Death
(click to enlarge)

Carlo Pellegrini
(click to enlarge)

Blackburne - the Exhibitionist

Jeremy Spinrad offers a summary of the contents of several newspapers accounts concerning some of  Blackburne's activities over the years. Here's a sample:

Chicago Tribune
July 24, 1863: Blackburne breaks blindfold record with 12 (+6-4=2)
Apr 27, 1873: Blackburne 10 game blind simul at Sheffield (+6-2=2) all against
Sheffield club members except Whitney consular agent for US at Huddersfield
who has some reputation as player and can play 4 blind himself
May 28, 1876: London Divan tournament :1. Blackburne 2. Zukerort 3. Potter.
May 6, 1877: Blackburne played against 8 strong blind at City of London club (+5-2=1) 6 PM to 11:30.
Dec 7, 1879: Article on blindfold chess; Blackburne plays a10 game exhibition.
Oct 31, 1881: Description of a Blackburne blindfold simul

Albion/Spirit of the Times
Apr 5, 1862: Presents 1 of Blackburne's 7 blindfold games at Manchester
July 19, 1862: Blackburne played a 10 board blindlfold simul in London
Dec 20, 1862: Blackburne went +5-3-2 blindfold in Manchester
June 6, 1863: Blackburne gave a 10 game blindfold simul in Worcestershire
Apr 16, 1870: Blackburne played 10 blind simul against the 10 strongest that the City of London Club could field:  Lamb, Bingham, Chappell, Wat?s, Smith (the celebrated
problem maker), Down, Standring, J. Swyer, S. Swyer, S. Jackson. Time of each
game given. +4-2=4
Apr 19, 1873: Blackburne contested 13 simul [unknown whether or not they were played blindfold] +11-1=1.
Nov 1, 1873: Vienna tournament
1 Steinitz 2 Blackburne 3 Anderssen 4 Rosenthal. Shortest Game
Blackburne - Fleissig 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3 Nf3 b5 4. e3 Bd7  5. a4 c6 6. Ne5 e6 7. axb5 cxb5 8. Qf3 resigns. Blacks 3rd move is very bad and costs him the game.
Dec 27, 1873: Presents 1 of  Blackburne's 10 blindfold games from Nottingham

Brooklyn Eagle
Mar 19, 1878: notes unique exhibition by Blackburne having each city club send 1 opponent each for 8 game blind simul.
Feb 14, 1886: Quoted from Philadelphia Times on Steinitz Zukertort.
Zukertort complained of being out of practice. Asked why he didn't practice in London, replied that he couldn't; Blackburne is always sick, and Mason is always drunk.
Sept 19, 1886: Blackburne to visit America in Spring.

Feb 21, 1880: Story on 5th American Chess Congress. Blackburne was expected but couldn't come due to wife's death.

The Round Table
Jan 2, 1869:  Steinitz, Blackburne played blindfold against each other, each conducting 5 other blindfold games at same time. Drew each other and won majority others; only Baker beat them both.

Some clubs where Blackburne performed his feats kept some personal records.


During the 2nd Irish Chess Association Congress in September, 1886 at Queen's College, Belfast, Blackburne, who was playing in the Congress tournament spent his day off on Saturday, September 25, giving an 8 board blindfold demonstration +3-1=2 and 2 unfinished. The story can be read at the Ulster Chess Chroncle.

Blackburne visited the Oswestry Chess Club in October 1898 according to an ad in the Border Counties Advertizer:

Mr. J.H.Blackburne
(The English Chess Champion)
Will give an EXHIBITION of Simultaneous Play
This Evening
At The Queen's Hotel, Oswestry
Play will commence at 7.00 P.M.
Admission (by Ticket only) to witness
the game, 1/- each

He also visited in November, 1890:

      Visit of the English Chess Champion ‑ Mr. J. H. Blackburne
The English Chess Champion gave an exhibition of simultaneous play at the Queen's Hotel on Wednesday evening. There was an encouraging number of spectators present, including several Ladies.

The entire story came be read at the Oswestry Chess Club page.

The Norfolk & Norwich Chess Club site reveals that Blackburne visited there on many occasions starting in December 3, 1862 where he gave a 10 board blindfold simul scoring +2-3=5.
In May, 1866 he did better scoring +8-0=2.
Thirty years later, April 1896, Blackburne spent 2 days. On the first day, he gave a 38 board simul +31-4=3. The next day he went +6-0 in a 6 board blindfold simul and later that evening played skittles, not losing a game.
Blackburne returned in 1900, 1902, 1905 and 1907.

The Tees Side Chess Association, now the Cleveland Chess Association, claims to be the oldest chess association in Britain.

"In 1889 the celebrated chessplayer Joseph Blackburne visited the area for two simultaneous displays and a blindfold event. The total fee for his services was 9 guineas and a member had to pay 1/- for a simultaneous game or 2/6d to play him blindfold. Blackburne proved pretty invincible winning 29, drawing 2 and losing only one of the simultaneous games and in the blindfold he won 7 and drew 1 with 0 losses. His exploits were widely reported in the local press and must have given invaluable publicity to the TSCA."

Yeovil Chess Club

"In 1908, Joseph Henry Blackburne, who dominated British Chess at the end of the nineteenth century, visited the Club. Mr Blackburne gave a simultaneous display, at which he played 19 games against different players at the same time, for a fee of £2.12s 6d Mr. Blackburne gave two other displays - in 1909 and 1911, when his hotel bill at The Mermaid was 6 shillings and sixpence."

Tim Harding, writing about the The City of London Chess Magazine,  mentions

A later issue reported that Blackburne played ten opponents blindfold in The Hague on June 9th in the presence of the Prince of Orange. Play commenced at 6.30pm and concluded at 3.30am so evidently either the Dutch were more formidable opponents or Mr. Blackburne had drunk too
much whisky or genever (or both!); anyway the Dutch club took a draw and a win off the celebrated master. Further accounts of his Dutch tour followed; he also visited Rotterdam. "He speaks in the highest terms of the hospitality and friendliness which he met with on all hands, and his description makes it evident that Chess, amongst the Dutch, is accompanied by the utmost sociability and cordiality of character". Indeed the Dutch people throughout the 20th century and to this day have been true friends of chess and chess players, and there is probably no western country where the game is held in higher esteem.

Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess

In 1899 Blackburne published his book, Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess, selected, annotated and arranged by himself.
It contains 407 games (
divided into match, off-hand and blindfold games), 20 problems (Blackburne was well known as a problemist and as a problem solver. He entertained by solving 2 move problems blindfold - that is, by having someone read off the position, after which he would solve the problem with amazing rapidity*) and a short biographical sketch.
The book was edited by P. Anderson Graham who also wrote the introduction.

*"had no use for two-movers, except to demonstrate that he could solve them not merely at sight but blindfold. 'Call the men out to me one at a time”, he used to say, “and don’t bother to give the black king.'” 
                                                 -from BCM Nov. '74 as noted by Edward Winter in C.N. 3261.


Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess

The aim of this work is twofold. In the first place it is a collection of the best games of a very brilliant and interest­ing English Chess player; in the second, it is hoped that it may be found of much use as a manual for Chess players. Everybody knows what a wearisome thing it is to learn Chess by means of the old system of analysis with its endless variations and back games. A pleasanter and quicker method is by playing over the games of a master, and Mr. Blackburne has unique advantages for this purpose. For
nearly forty years he has held the foremost place in English Chess, and there is scarcely a tournament between that held in London in 1862 and that in 1899 wherein he has not been a prominent figure— der Schwarze Tod der Schachspieler, as he was named in the Deutschen Zeitung a quarter of a century ago. His match games, arranged in openings and by date, form in themselves a history of Chess moves, and will not only show the student how to play, but at a glance explain to him why certain tactics have become old-fashioned and others have come into vogue.

During a great part of the same period it has been Mr. Blackburne's custom to make annual pilgrimages through England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, engaging the members of provincial clubs in simultaneous and blindfold play. It may be most confidently assumed that the games preserved from these engagements will at once delight and instruct the student. Except in a few cases where the endings have, a special interest, only well-played games have been admitted; and, as Mr. Black­burne's genius for the game has always found its best expression on these occasions, the weak but plausible moves which pass current for years have their inadequacy demonstrated here in the most effectual and brilliant fashion. Next to actual practice with a great master it is impossible to imagine anything more likely to improve play than going over these games, teeming as they are with ideas capable of constant application. For it may be emphatically stated that this is not a book of theory but of practice, not a work of analysis but a record of achievement.

The book has a further claim to attention as presenting a picture of the Chess of the whole world during the time of the present generation. Examples from the games of every great master, from the day of Staunton to that of Pillsbury, will be found within its covers-examples, too, from nearly every land, and culled from many different languages. Nor is this all. There is scarcely a local club in the British Islands, scarcely a local champion who does not figure here, so that we cannot be wrong in saying that the book contains specimens of every extant style of play.

In all about 400 games are given, and they are divided into three classes— match, off-hand and blindfold games. To these is added a brief selection of problems that have a curious interest of their own, as showing how much the delicate art of problem-composition has changed during the last thirty or forty years. It has now come to be quite a separate department of chess.

A word of advice may be added for the benefit of the young student who wishes to improve his play by a study of these games. As has been already said, this is a book of ideas, and what the student should do is to try and seize hold of the principles. Perhaps the easiest way to explain is by illustration. At the corner of page 41 will be found a diagram showing White about to offer the sacrifice of his Queen. It is a beautiful position, but the idea of the combination may be traced back to Legal, even though it is not identical with Legall's famous mate. But the principle must have been in Mr. Blackburne's head when he offered his Queen to Dr. Zukertort. So, likewise, the careful student will find that several very brilliant combinations bear resemblance enough to positions in Morphy to show what help had been gained from a study of that master. This shows the advantage of acquiring ideas.

Again, the worst of analytical books is that they do not demonstrate the weakness of bad moves. But let any one play through the match games in an opening and then follow the off-hand and blindfold games in it, and in the end it will be the fault of his own intelligence if he be not thoroughly familiar alike with its strong and its weak points-he will at once see where traps are laid for his own feet, and also learn how to take full advantage of any stumble on the part of his opponent.

The games are arranged by date, chiefly for the convenience of those who are interested in studying the development of modern play, which has undergone very important changes since the date on which Mr. Blackburne first entered the arena.

Editor´s Preface


This 'n That

Edward Winter noted that the word "Woodshifter" first appeared in Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess, page 9.

"The most ordinary “wood-shifter” by long study and analysis, can acquire a steady defensive style of wood-shifting ..." member, WMD, offered this related story concerning Blackburne who edited the chess column in The Field from 1914-1924:

Blackburne got Capablanca's back up by referring to the games from the world championship match with Lasker as merely "superior woodshifting."

Capa wrote a letter to The Observer, in part:
"Champions are bound to arouse all sorts of comments, either from their enemies or from people who do not like their play or their personality. However, a player like Mr. Blackburne, and eighty years old at that, should not, for publication at least, qualify the games of a championship match as "woodshifting" when the losing player in the match has given, in the course of his long career, conclusive proof that not only was he Mr. Blackburne's superior, but also the superior of any other player whom he had met until the last match.
"If Mr. Blackburne does not like that kind of play and prefers brilliant combinations, I believe he can find a few of them amongst my games. In fact, in that line I have a record that neither Mr. Blackburne himself nor any other master can equal, viz., that of having won the brilliancy prize in every tournament in which I have played where such a prize was given. Yet I can assure the Chess public that it is far easier, for me at least, to make one of those combinations than to have played throughout the fourteen games of the match without giving my opponent a single chance to score, at the same time inculcating into his mind such a profound conviction of the inutility of his efforts to make him quit.'

"The object of the match was to prove who could beat who. I played accordingly, and since my style of play was succeeding, it was not up to me to cha
nge from something sound which produced good results to something else which would have been mere
speculation and might have turned victory into defeat.

"In conclusion, I will say that if the games are analyzed in the proper spirit it will be found (as the notes in my book of the match  show) that most of the games were full of possibilities, and that some of them were of the hardest and most difficult type, where the loss of a single "tempo" might have brought defeat. Consequently, Mr. Blackburne's utterances with regard to the match are unpardonable, for a player of his standing, whose opinion is avidly sought by the English chess playing public, must have facts, not mere fancies, to back up his opinions."

Adding another piece to the balancing act, member, offramp, mentioned this  odd quote (considering Capablanca's renown as an endgame player) from Siegbert Tarrasch:

"Capablanca plays the endgame as well as any master of the present, and almost as well as any master of the past - except Blackburne..."

 In his Chess Café column, New Stories about Old Chess Players, by Jeremy Spinrad quoted page 332 of the November1889 issue of International Chess Magazine:
"And on one occasion at Purssell’s about 1867 he struck with his full fist into my eye which he blackened, and might have knocked me out. And th
ough he is a very powerful man of very nearly twice my size who might have killed me with a few such strokes, I am proud to say that I had the courage of attempting to spit in his face, and only wish I had succeeded. On my second occasion, in Paris, we occupied adjoining
rooms at the same hotel, and I was already in bed undressed, when he came home drunk and began to quarrel, and after a few words he pounced upon me and hammered at my face and eyes with fullest force about a dozen blows, until the bed cloth and my nightshirt were covered with blood. But at last I had the good fortune to release mysel
f from his drunken grip, and I broke the window pane with his head, which sobered him down a little."


Though he was likely unaware of it,  Blackburne played a soon-to-be rather notorious opponent in one of his simuls.


"My one serious worldly ambition had been to become the champion of the world at chess. I had snatched a game from Blackburne in simultaneous play some years before. I was being beaten in the Sicilian defence. The only chance was the sacrifice of a rook. I remember the grand old master coming round to my board and cocking his alcoholized eye cunningly at me.
     "Hullo," said he, "Morphy come to town again!"
I am not coxcomb enough to think that he could not have won the game, even after my brilliancy. I believe that his colossal generosity let me win to encourage a promising youngster."
-Aleister Crowley (aka The Beast 666)


                                                                                                                  Aleister Crowley, age 30

[Event "Simul"]
[Site "Eastbourne, GB"]
[Date "1894.??.??"]
[Round "-"]
[White "JH Blackburne"]
[Black "Alistair Crowley"]
[Result "

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e6 5. Nc3
{Crowley: "The usual move is Nb5, but Mr. Blackburne prefers development to attack."}
5... Bb4
{Crowley: "Unwise." ....Because the trade is forced.}
6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Qd4 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Nf6 9. Ba3 Qa5
{Crowley: "A strong counterattack." 9...d5}
10. Bb4 c5 11. Bxc5 Nxe4 12. Bb4 Qd5
{Crowley: "Better than Qf5 because of g3."}
13. Qxd5 exd5 14. Rd1 Bb7 15. Be2 a5 16. Ba3 Nxc3 17. Rd3 Nxe2
{Crowley: "Perhaps better than taking the second pawn. The two bishops are always dangerous and the pawn might have been regained with the better game."}
18. Re3+ Kd8 19. Kxe2 d4
{Crowley: Temporary insanity.}
20. Re7 Re8 21. Rxe8+ Kxe8 22. Kd3 f6 23. Kxd4 Kf7 24. c3 Re8 25. Rb1 Bc6
26. c4 Re2
{Crowley: "This forces the exchange of rooks, and consequently the draw. Bishops of opposite colors and pawns even can result in nothing else."}
27. Rb2 Rxb2 28. Bxb2
{Crowley: Mr. Blackburne proposed a draw which was accepted.}
28... Ke6
{draw by mutual agreement}


Blackburne's first wife died in 1880. His second wife, Mary Fox, died in 1921. They had one son.



Words to play by:
"Whiskey stimulates the imagination, but eating a large meal before a game is equivalent to giving knight odds."


Blackburne's Problems   
Bill Wall: Blackburn Bio  
Bill Wall: Blackburne Shilling Gambit   
Wiki: Blackburne Bio
Wiki: Shilling Gambit
Nick Pope: Blackburne-Zukertort 
Blackburne's games at     

 Sarah's Chess Journal




[ comments ]