Sarah's Chess Journal
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The History and The Culture of Chess
Napier on Bird
October 29, 2004
No chess book, I think, can be complete without paying homage to Master Bird. If I had only one page to rejoice in, it should own a kindly veneration for all his adventures and misadventures, his farce and comedy and drama of the chessboard. The roots of his play were sunk deep in the tradition of Labourdonnais and MacDonnell; he played Morphy; and half a lifetime afterward we see him at Hastings, playing a thoroughbred game which Pillsbury said was too beautiful to annotate! A long stretch, that - and a brimful of enthusiasm. He adored chess, i.e., the play itself, which is not common among masters.
Bird earned the rebuke of playing impulsively in tournaments. It was disrespectful and scandalous, some thought; but if there is genius in chess, Bird, of all players, had it, I believe, in greatest abundance. And his speed and sparkle and eccentricity must have interested Morphy himself, to the degree that he took down some of Bird's games. That's a thought worth more than a stone monument. I like the picture of Morphy, paper and pencil in hand, recording the Bird maneuvers.
I saw Bird once at Simpson's Divan, but not to speak to. I brought away an impression of fulminating chess, of hearty laughter, and liberty and beefsteak. He romped!
Once I asked Teichmann what he thought of Bird's chess. "Same as his health," he replied; "always alternating between being dangerously ill and dangerously well."
England will not know his like again.
This is the game which, as clerk of the evening, Paul Morphy "took down" in 1859.
Young Bird had no stage fright.
-from Paul Morphy and the Golden Age of Chess by
William Ewart Napier
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