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Joseph Henry Blackburne
British Chess Magazine Vol 42 (1922)  
Number of games in database: 993
Years covered: 1861 to 1916

Overall record: +454 -240 =220 (61.7%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 79 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 French Defense (65) 
    C11 C01 C00 C14 C13
 Ruy Lopez (53) 
    C77 C65 C60 C67 C70
 Scotch Game (52) 
 Vienna Opening (42) 
    C25 C29 C26 C28
 French (40) 
    C11 C00 C13 C10
 Evans Gambit (37) 
    C51 C52
With the Black pieces:
 French Defense (85) 
    C01 C11 C00 C14 C02
 Ruy Lopez (45) 
    C61 C62 C66 C71 C60
 French (38) 
    C11 C00 C10 C13
 Sicilian (33) 
    B45 B22 B21 B25 B44
 Queen's Pawn Game (26) 
    D00 D02 D05 A46 D04
 Scandinavian (23) 
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   NN vs Blackburne, 1880 0-1
   Blackburne vs NN, 1863 1-0
   NN vs Blackburne, 1871 0-1
   A Steinkuehler vs Blackburne, 1863 0-1
   Blackburne vs Mr. L, 1886 1-0
   Blackburne vs J Schwarz, 1881 1-0
   Bird vs Blackburne, 1886 0-1
   Blackburne vs Blanchard, 1891 1-0
   Blackburne vs Steinitz, 1883 1-0
   Blackburne vs NN, 1894 1-0

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Berlin (1881)
   Vienna (1873)
   Frankfurt (1887)
   Nuremberg (1883)
   Hamburg (1885)
   Paris (1878)
   London (1883)
   9th DSB Kongress, Leipzig (1894)
   Berlin (1897)
   Vienna (1882)
   London (1899)
   Breslau (1889)
   Hastings (1895)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   Vienna (1898)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Anderssen - Blackburne - Charousek - Fredthebear by fredthebear
   Anderssen, Blackburne, Charousek by monet11
   tactics 2 by tactics
   Barious Beauties & Bonehead BBQs from 1475-1899 by fredthebear
   Blindfold Blackburne by ughaibu
   New York 1889 by suenteus po 147
   London 1883 by suenteus po 147
   Challenger Blackburne by Gottschalk
   Annotations by Various Authorities & Fredthebear by fredthebear
   Vienna 1882 by suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1873 by suenteus po 147
   FAVORITE PLAYERS by gambitfan
   Joseph Henry Blackburne by capybara
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147

   NN vs Blackburne, 1880
   NN vs Blackburne, 1871
   Blackburne vs NN, 1863
   A Steinkuehler vs Blackburne, 1863
   Blackburne vs Mr. L, 1886

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Joseph Henry Blackburne
Search Google for Joseph Henry Blackburne

(born Dec-10-1841, died Sep-01-1924, 82 years old) United Kingdom

[what is this?]
Joseph Henry Blackburne was born in Chorlton, Manchester. He came to be known as "The Black Death". He enjoyed a great deal of success giving blindfold and simultaneous exhibitions. Tournament highlights include first place with Wilhelm Steinitz at Vienna 1873, first at London 1876, and first at Berlin 1881 ahead of Johannes Zukertort. In matchplay he lost twice to Steinitz and once to Emanuel Lasker. He fared a little better with Zukertort (Blackburne - Zukertort (1881)) and Isidor Gunsberg, by splitting a pair of matches, and defeating Francis Joseph Lee, ( Blackburne - Lee (1890) ). One of the last successes of his career was at the age of 72, when he tied for first place with Fred Dewhirst Yates at the 1914 British Championship.

In his later years, a subscription by British chess players provided an annuity of £100 (approx £4,000 in 2015 value), and a gift of £250 on his 80th birthday.

In 1923 he suffered a stroke, and the next year he died of a heart attack.

Note: Blackburne played on the teams of Steinitz / Bird / Blackburne, Blackburne / Bird / MacDonnell, Bird / Blackburne, Blackburne / Aloof, Steinitz / Blackburne, Blackburne / Steinitz / De Vere, Blackburne / Potter, Blackburne / Horace Chapman & Joseph Henry Blackburne / Allies.

Wikipedia article: Joseph Henry Blackburne

1 Source: Grantham Journal - Saturday 17 December 1921, p.3.

 page 1 of 40; games 1-25 of 993  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Paulsen vs Blackburne 1-0331861Manchester blind simC00 French Defense
2. Paulsen vs Blackburne 1-0501861Manchester (England)C15 French, Winawer
3. A Steinkuehler vs Blackburne 0-1241861ManchesterC44 King's Pawn Game
4. Blackburne vs H Young ½-½241862Blindfold simulC41 Philidor Defense
5. Blackburne vs W M Chinnery 1-0401862Blindfold simulC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
6. Blackburne vs S Wellington 1-0271862ManchesterC84 Ruy Lopez, Closed
7. Blackburne vs NN 1-0161862ManchesterC38 King's Gambit Accepted
8. Blackburne vs Mongredien  ½-½521862LondonB01 Scandinavian
9. Blackburne vs J W Rimington-Wilson  ½-½321862Blindfold simulB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
10. Mongredien vs Blackburne  ½-½351862LondonC33 King's Gambit Accepted
11. Anderssen vs Blackburne 1-0291862LondonC33 King's Gambit Accepted
12. Blackburne vs J B Payne 1-0301862ManchesterC45 Scotch Game
13. Steinitz vs Blackburne 0-1701862LondonC01 French, Exchange
14. Blackburne vs H B Parminter 0-1351862Blindfold simulC51 Evans Gambit
15. Blackburne vs F Deacon  0-1441862LondonC41 Philidor Defense
16. Blackburne vs Anderssen 1-0241862Offhand gameC37 King's Gambit Accepted
17. Blackburne vs A Pigott 1-0211862Blindfold simulC34 King's Gambit Accepted
18. Blackburne vs Lomax 1-0391862ManchesterC01 French, Exchange
19. Paulsen vs Blackburne  ½-½361862LondonA07 King's Indian Attack
20. Blackburne vs Paulsen 0-1551862LondonD00 Queen's Pawn Game
21. Hannah vs Blackburne 1-0411862LondonC42 Petrov Defense
22. Blackburne vs Hamiliton 1-0281862BFX ManchesterC38 King's Gambit Accepted
23. Blackburne vs Jebson 1-0191862ManchesterB40 Sicilian
24. Blackburne vs J F Gillam 0-1321862Blindfold simulB40 Sicilian
25. Blackburne vs Owen 1-0231862LondonB00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
 page 1 of 40; games 1-25 of 993  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Blackburne wins | Blackburne loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <Chess is a kind of mental alcohol… unless a man has supreme self-control. It is better that he should not learn to play chess. I have never allowed my children to learn it, for I have seen too much of its evil results> - Joseph Blackburne.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: The forthcoming Harding book mentioned by Nosnibor above:

Joseph Henry Blackburne (kibitz #165)

has had its proofs delivered to the publisher and is expected to go to press by September:

Aug-22-15  WTHarvey: Here's a 12 page, 'no ads', print edition pamphlet with 55 puzzles from the games of Blackburne @ What's the winning move ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <Tullius> remember what a pig's ear they made of the grave of Johannes Zukertort.
Premium Chessgames Member
  ketchuplover: Keep up the good work Mr.Harvey :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Happy birthday, Black Death!
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: From Graham's <Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess> p3:

<Two things combined to bring him into this career. First, his fame was ever waxing greater, and in the year 1861 it happened that Herr Paulsen came to Manchester on one of his blindfold itineraries. Blackburne took a board, and was beaten in a very pretty game, which will be found in its proper place in the book. The effect of this was to stir within him a great desire to try blindfold play on his own account.

The very next day he induced a strong player to begin a contest in which Blackburne should not see the board. He came off victorious, and shortly after played three opponents with the same result. That was in the winter of 1861. In the spring of 1862 he engaged four opponents successfully, the games produced being bright attractive specimens that have been preserved: and will repay the trouble of playing over even to-day. After that he challenged ten members of the Manchester Club, and emerged with the fine score of five wins, two losses and three draws.>

(para added for readability)

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Harding's <Blackburne> book is now published:

Harding himself has some additional pages:

Reviews -

Research -

General info -

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: After demonstrating his blindfold skills in a simul (5-2-3), and doing a knight's tour at the London (1862), on Friday July 4:

<Shortly after the termination of these blindfold feats, Mr. Wilson, who had been opposed to Mr. Blackburne at board Ho. 8, and who had been struck by the talent displayed by him, placed in the hands of the Committee the sum of ten guineas, to be used by them at their discretion in promo ting a match between him and some other player of emi nence. In consequence of the protraction of the Tourna ments, the Committee were unable to carry out the donor's wish until December, when, Mr. Blackburne being again in London, a match was made between him and Herr Steinitz. It was played at the rooms of the London Chess Club,
whose members had increased the stakes to £15 ; the result was, that Herr Steinitz won 7 games, Mr. Blackburne 1, and two were drawn.>

(Lowenthal p lxiii)

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: American Chess Magazine, v. 2-3 (July 1898-Dec. 1899):

<Few people know, says M. A. P., in the Glasgow Herald, "that Mr. Blackburne, who has once more vindicated his title as the first of the English players, was in earlier life a worker in stone, and that the premises of the Law Life Assurance Society, adjoining the Church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, Fleet street, show practical evidences of his skill in that craft.>

The adddress of that building is now (still?) 187 Fleet Street. Impossible to know if any of Blackburne's handiwork survives; the current structure dates from 1834, but Blackburne probably worked on it in the early-mid 1860s.

Here's a present view of the building front:

Seems I struck out completely appealing for owners of the Reshevsky book, but surely someone here will have Harding's recent one on Blackburne. Does it shed any light on this subject?

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I'll try and go there this week. I know the building and it is very pretty.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: A family member used to work in Fleet St. during its heydays, but I've never been there once.

I found this page which shows then (1870s) and now pictures of the buildings on the far side of St. Dunstan's:

I'd say it's possible but unlikely that the present front of 187 dates from the nineteenth century. Oh, Joseph, where is thy monument?

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I've just walked past it. I took a load of crappy photos which I've put on Bookface. Link to follow.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Still waiting for that link...

* * * * *

Blackburne commenting on the <Ruy Lopez>:

<This, the most fashionable opening of to-day, was in not great favour in the sixties. It is a game I never play in a tournament, except when I feel a little off colour and am content with a draw, and then it means losing half a point. In a match this does not matter, as it leaves the two opponents precisely where they were before, but in a tournament every draw costs something, as the leaders usually win the majority of their games.>

Blackburne/Graham p35/52

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: I haven't scanned all the previous pages, so this might have been noted before...

Pop Quiz.

Q- What is the shortest game Blackburne played and lost?

(Wonder if Harding has this story?)

Premium Chessgames Member
  diagonal: Kingpin review on Harding's Blackburne biography:
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Today's Quote:

<Whiskey stimulates the imagination--but eating a big meal before the game is equivalent to giving knight odds> - Blackburne.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Acting on a lead from the <ACB>, Sept-Oct 1918, p.179. I found this in the <Falkirk Herald>, May 29th, 1918, p.4:

<Huns raid J. H. Blackburne: Readers will be sorry to hear that the Huns have treated the veteran chess-master's residence as a "fortified place" (!) and glad to know that their bomb did no personal damage to the aged player and his wife. Mr H. W. Butler, of Brighton, sends us these particulars :- "Mr J. H. Blackburne and Mrs Blackburne have had a most dangerous and nerve-shattering experience. In the last air-raid of Sunday night a bomb dropped close to their residence, damaging the house very much, but, fortunately, neither of them were personally injured. But both have suffered such a shock that it has been deemed wise for them to go into the country to recuperate." British chess players fully sympathise with Mr and Mrs Blackburne in their trying experience, and are delighted to know the "present from Germany" missed its mark.>

The account in the <ACB> had the additional information that <Mrs. Blackburne was thrown down by the force of the explosion and the veteran international player was rendered temporarily deaf>, but their source for this remains unknown.

Having the proximate date of attack, and the knowledge ( that Blackburne lived in Lewisham, London, at the time, it wasn't difficult to locate the details:

<The last and largest aeroplane raid of the war took place on the night of 19 May 1918, when 38 Gothas and 3 Giants took off against London. Six Gothas were shot down by interceptors and anti-aircraft fire and a seventh aircraft was forced to land after a protracted close quarters engagement with a Bristol fighter of 141 Squadron from Biggin Hill, crewed by Lieutenants Edward Eric Turner and Henry Balfour Barwise. This was the first victory of the war for Biggin Hill,[83] for which Turner and Barwise were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[84] The British estimated that 2,724 lb (1,236 kg) of bombs were dropped, although the German figure was 3,200 pounds (1,500 kg). 49 people were killed, 177 injured and damage was £117,317.>

More info on the general damage in Lewisham: http://lewishamwarmemorials.wikidot...

Dec-10-16  WorstPlayerEver: Happy birthday, Joseph Henry!
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: The grand man gets a grand day from <CG>.

He was the embodiment of Victorian chess and its history.

Joseph Henry Blackburne (kibitz #188)

We're all indebted to Harding for his wonderful biography.

PS- still waiting for those links from <offramp>

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Harding, via Graham's son Stephan, relates this anecdote where Blackburne imitates Steinitz:

<That is the back story of the semi-autobiographical novel Lost Battle (1934), written by his son Stephen Graham (born 1884), in which his father is called John Rae Belfort and Blackburne appears as a drunken acquaintance. The author probably exaggerated his early memories of the chess master, writing a quarter of a century later. In an early chapter Blackburne joins the Belforts for Sunday tea. The veteran champion "with the big red face" is also described as "vinous, swollen-veined, dead-featured, but with back of his head colossal." When Belfort tells Blackburne he has played over all Steinitz's games, Blackburne closes his eyes and parodies the ex-world champion's fractured way of speaking English: "I do not vant to vin a pawn. It is enough if I only veekens a pawn." They play chess in Belfort's study after tea. The more whisky Blackburne drinks, the better he plays and he leaves only in time to catch the last train.

Harding - Blackburne p404

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: And, from ibid p405, we have Harding quoting Buckley's review of Blackburne's book, specifically commenting on Graham:

<In the Birmingham Weekly Mercury, of 18 November 1899, Buckley first praised the games, the collection of which "must be an endless pleasure to amateurs of many succeeding generations."

Then he wrote:

The editor's work is less satisfactory, though Mr. P. Anderson Graham has at least one requisite for the task. He possesses enthusiasm, and, moreover, is a sincere admirer of his hero. But his biographical sketch is lamentably incomplete and unsatisfactory, The sketch of the history of blindfold chess is little more than a pretence, and both sketches have the painful air of amateurishness which is the almost invariable characteristic of chess lucubrations. We cannot but regret that a subject so interesting should have been given to the world so imperfectly. The opportunity was a great one. The record of Blackburne's career presented incomparable opportunities; but the editor has derived little of interest there from, and largely contents himself with writing of the catalogue-type mingled with his own inconclusive opinions and doubtful statements.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Does Harding estimate how many simul exhibitions Blackburne gave over the years? The number of times one sees references to him in newspapers, one could be forgiven for thinking he played chess non-stop for 50 years. And yet there are less than a thousand of his games here.

The only masters who come to mind who might challenge him on this front are Alekhine, Koltanowski and Marshall, but I can't speak about the Continental scene.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: I'm not sure about general simuls, but for blindfolds, Harding gives a listing in his appendix V

< ~2444 total (excluding just a few exceptions) W-L-D = 1552-202-660 >

Harding must give an estimate of Blackburne's total, but I couldn't readily find it.


Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Blackburne interview excerpt:

Edward Pindar (kibitz #12)


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