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Blackburne - Vazquez Match

Joseph Henry Blackburne5/6(+5 -1 =0)[games]
Andres Clemente Vazquez1/6(+1 -5 =0)[games] Chess Event Description
Blackburne - Vazquez (1891)

Joseph Blackburne and Andres Vázquez contested this five games up match in Havana from 5th March - 11th March 1891. (1)

The players

Dr. Vázquez was a leading figure in Cuban chess as well as a notable jurist and diplomat. A prolific match player, he had the prestige to play both formal and casual matches against the leading masters of the day, including George Henry Mackenzie, Wilhelm Steinitz, Mikhail Chigorin and Isidor Gunsberg. He was at his peak (2) in the 1890s and was a very strong amateur player but not quite of master class. Blackburne thought enough of the games to append notes to several of them which were printed in The Times-Democrat and then in other newspapers.

Blackburne would be a top ten player for most of the 1890s, although his peak years were in the late 1880s. In 1887, he beat the former world championship contender Johannes Zukertort by 5 wins to 1 with 8 draws (Blackburne - Zukertort (1887)), and he had come second in the extremely strong Frankfurt (1887). Having secured second place in Manchester (1890), Blackburne's next challenge took him to Havana. Also invited for simultaneous and exhibition play was George Henry Mackenzie. In his first match in the Cuban capital, Blackburne defeated Celso Golmayo Zupide (see Blackburne - Golmayo (1891)). The match concluded on 3rd March and only two days later he sat down to play Dr. Vázquez.

"After his match with Judgo Golmayo, which he won by 5 games to 3, with 3 draws, the English Champion engaged in another with Señor Vazquez, Golmayo's most formidable rival in Cuba. This he won much more easily, the final score being Blackburne 5, Vazquez 1." (3)

"Mr Blackburne has been able, after all, to accept the invitation of the Havana Chess Club. He was to leave England for Cuba on January 28, under an agreement to give four simultaneous performances, of which two were to be blindfold; and to play matches of five games up, under a time limit of 20 moves per hour, with Señor Golmayo, and with señor Vazquez. After leaving Havana be was to go to New Orleans, and probably to other American cities. There was some possibility, also, that arrangements would be made for a match between him and either Mr Steinitz or Mr Gunsberg." (4)

Progress of the match

1 2 3 4 5 6 Blackburne 1 0 1 1 1 1 5 Vázquez 0 1 0 0 0 0 1

Progressive score:

1 2 3 4 5 6 Blackburne 1 1 2 3 4 5 Vázquez 0 1 1 1 1 1

Blackburne had white in the odd-numbered games.

The games

Game 1. Vázquez, as Black, played a king-side fianchetto defence. He may have especially prepared this as he also played it in Game 3. Whilst scarcely common, it was experimented with at master level by Simon Winawer, Curt von Bardeleben and Jacques Mieses. He obtained a promising position with an initiative on the King-side,

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but played too slowly to push an attack through and Blackburne defused the threat. Blackburne achieved a very powerful pawn centre which allowed his opponent no counterplay.

Game 2. Blackburne defended with a Caro-Kann which was never a part of his usual repertoire. Against the Advanced Version, he chose the extremely rare plan of employing a King-side fianchetto. This does not seem to have been played again at master level for a hundred years. Vázquez maintained a spacial advantage, but Blackburne blundered the game by taking a pawn so allowing his opponent the move necessary to penetrate his Queenside and then push his <b> pawn to victory.

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Game 3. Vázquez again played his Modern Defence and again achieved a reasonable position as Black from the opening. Once again, he could not find an effective plan to prosecute his King-side attack. Vázquez then blundered away the exchange and despite a final desperate attack, he was quite lost.

"THE ENGLISH CHAMPION. HAVANA, March 9. Yesterday evening Mr J. H. Blackburne played the third game his match with Señor Vazquez the Mexican champion, at the Havana Chess Club. The opening selected by Mr Blackburne was the Fianchetto del Rey. Señor Vazquez played a very weak defence, never utilising any of his forces on the Queen's side till getting on towards the middle the game. The game was adjourned after Mr Blackburne's 36th move, which left Señor Vazquez's Queen en prise. On the resumption of the game today, some eight more moves convinced Señor Vazquez of the futility of further resistance, and after his opponent's 44th move he resigned." (5)

Game 4. Vázquez opened with an Evans Gambit. Blackburne had little difficulty equalizing and in the open position his combinational skills excelled in. Blackburne concluded the game with a Queen sacrifice,

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"HAVANA, March 10. Yesterday, the fourth game between the English and Mexican champions was played the rooms of the Havana Chess Club. Señor Vazquez commenced the Max Tange attack, but it eventually resolved into the Evans Gambit. Blackburne played with more of his old dash, and by a series of brilliant exchanges mated his opponent 40 moves. This leaves the scores at present — Blackburne, 3; Vazquez, 1." (5)

Game 5. Blackburne, as White, failed to gain an advantage from the Vienna Opening. He then misplayed with

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25.f4? and could have lost after 25...exf4! Instead, Vázquez chose the wrong path and was soon out-combined.

Game 6. In the final game, Vázquez attempted to whip up a King-side attach by advancing his <g> pawn. His game collapsed after the natural-looking

click for larger view

33.Rg3? which permitted Blackburne his second Queen sacrifice of the match.

"CHESS IN HAVANA. Mr Blackburne was engaged by the Cuban Chess Club for one month in order to give some exhibitions of his wonderful skill as a blindfold player. He was also to play offhand games with the members, and two short matches with Señores Golmayo and Vazquez, the two strongest Cuban amateurs, for merely nominal amounts. Mr Blackburne gave two exhibitions of blindfold and simultaneous play, in both of which he was very successful, playing with his usual brilliancy, and winning nearly every game. He also won both matches, which of course was quite expected. Credit must nevertheless be given to the veteran Señor Golmayo for making such an admirable stand, his score being, as already reported, 3 to 5 and two draws. The match against Señor Vazquez terminated on the 11th inst., but the Mexican Consul proved himself much inferior to the Cuban Judge, as the final score in that match was Blackburne 5 to Vazquez 1 and no draws. Mr Blackburne suffered a good deal from the heat, as did Capt. Mackenzie, another English player, and was therefore disinclined to listen to the overtures made to him to prolong his stay on the island. It is quite probable that he may accept the invitation of the New Orleans Chess Club, and repair to the city of summary measures in the company of Captain Mackenzie." (6)

The hot climate of Cuba (average temperatures being about 28°C) disagreed with Blackburne. (7) Mackenzie who also suffered from the heat and was anyway in poor health due to tuberculosis died on April 14th 1891, soon after his return to New York.


(1) Di Felice, Chess Results, 1747-1900, p. 131.
(3) Leader (Melbourne, Australia), 13th June 1891.
(4) The Australasian (Melbourne, Australia), 7th March 1891.
(5) Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (Leeds, UK), 2nd April 1891, p. 8.
(6) Christchurch Times (Canterbury UK), 4th April 1891, p. 2.
(7) The match is described in Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography, McFarland, T. Harding, pp. 309-310.

User: Chessical - original text and compilation.

 page 1 of 1; 4 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Blackburne vs A C Vazquez 1-0411891Blackburne - VazquezB06 Robatsch
2. A C Vazquez vs Blackburne 1-0601891Blackburne - VazquezB12 Caro-Kann Defense
3. Blackburne vs A C Vazquez 1-0441891Blackburne - VazquezB06 Robatsch
4. Blackburne vs A C Vazquez 1-0381891Blackburne - VazquezC26 Vienna
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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