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Steinitz - Blackburne Match

Wilhelm Steinitz7/7(+7 -0 =0)[games]
Joseph Henry Blackburne0/7(+0 -7 =0)[games] Chess Event Description
Steinitz - Blackburne (1876)

West End Chess Club, London, England; 17 February 1876—2 March 1876

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Wins ———————————————————————————————— Steinitz 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 7 Blackburne 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ———————————————————————————————— Format: First to seven wins, draws not counting, to be the victor. Time Control: two hours for the first 30 moves, and one hour for every following 15 moves. Stakes: £60 each.

"The championship chess match for £120, between Herr Steinitz, the great Austrian player, and Mr. Blackburne, will commence at the West End Chess Club, New Coventry-street, London, on Thursday, the 17th inst. The winner of the first seven games will take the stakes. The combatants have met several times before with varied success."(1) "The Blackburne and Steinitz match commences on Thursday, the 17th inst., at 2 o'clock p.m."(2)

The London Daily News of 18th February has a very long article about this match and its background. The time control was two hours for thirty moves, and then an hour for the next fifteen. "Alarm timepieces with a stop" rather than the customary sand glasses were used. The players drank glasses of claret and water and cups of coffee. Steinitz had white in the first game.

The conditions of the match

"(1) The stakes in the match shall be £60 a side, and either player who first scores seven games, exclusive of draws, shall be declared the victor, and be entitled to receive the stakes of both sides.
(2) Each player shall deposit his stake of £60 with Mr J. H. Walsh, the chief editor of The Field newspaper, at least one day previous to the commencement of the match.
(3) The rooms of the West-end Chess Club, No. 8, New Coventry-Street, W., shall be the place of meeting throughout the contest for the purpose of play. The first game shall commence on Thursday, the 17th of February, at 2 p.m. and play shall proceed on every subsequent Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday, at the same time until the conclusion of the match. After four hours' play either party may claim an adjournment for an hour. After eight hours' play the game shall be adjourned to the next day, Sundays excepted.
(4) Each player shall be allowed two hours for making his first series of thirty moves, and an hour for every subsequent fifteen moves, and the time gained in each series of moves shall be counted to the credit of the next series. This time limit shall be regulated by sand-glasses, and either player exceeding it by five minutes shall forfeit the game."(3)

An amazing result, comparable to the Fischer - Taimanov Candidates Quarterfinal (1971) and Fischer - Larsen Candidates Semifinal (1971). Blackburne was considered one of the world's best, and had tied for first with Steinitz at Vienna (1873).

Contemporary reports

"In the Blackburne and Steinitz chess match Blackburne lost another game yesterday, Steinitz thus scoring three to his opponent's nothing."(4)

"The fourth game of the L. Steinitz and Blackburne chess match was played yesterday afternoon, and won by Steinitz. Blackburne played a Scotch gambit, and on his twentieth move sacrificed a knight which turned out unsound. The game lasted six hours."(5)

"On Saturday (26th February - ed.) they played their fifth and on Tuesday (29th February - ed.) the sixth game, Steinitz being victorious on both occasions."(6)

"THE BLACKBURNE AND STEINITZ CHESS MATCH — On Tuesday last Blackburne opened the sixth game in this match with the Scotch gambit. The first eight moves were played so rapidly that the scorers could not follow, and Blackburne, with a desire to assist them, wrote down the scores himself. His attention was thus momentarily diverted from the board, and on resuming play he made a slip, moving the wrong piece. This mishap cost him a valuable pawn at once, besides giving him a bad position. He fought this game, however, better than any in the match, remaining with two rooks against one and three pawns, which latter, however, forced the game for Steinitz, who won, after eight hours' play — 67 moves. On Thursday the seventh and last game was played, and was also won by Steinitz. This last game was opened by Steinitz with another Vienna or Hampe gambit. Blackburne played as if he cared little for the result, and after three hours and a half uninteresting manoeuvring and 37 moves Steinitz made a brilliant finish, winning the game and the match. Blackburne must have been in very bad "form" to be so thoroughly defeated. We give in another place the first three games of this interesting match, and shall publish the remainder in successive numbers."(7)

"THE GREAT CHESS MATCH. The seventh and last game in the Blackburne and Steinitz chess match was played yesterday, and was won by Steinitz, who has thus won all seven games."(8)

"In justice to Mr. Blackburne it must be mentioned that during the latter games, and especially so during the last game of the match, he was suffering from a cold as was in no means in such fine "chess condition" as his many admirers would have wished to see him. Mr. Steinitz has not only demonstrated himself to be a consummate master of the "new chess" – the steady, careful, tenacious play for "position" – but has achieved a feat almost, if not quite, unprecedented in the annals of chess – by winning a match of seven games hardly, from the nature of the struggle, "without a check," but without pause or repulse – without losing or drawing a solitary game."(9)

Contemporary Summary (10)

THE BLACKBURNE CHESS MATCH. This important contest, which has stirred the chess world to its depths, was brought to conclusion, at the West End Chase Club, Thursday, Although the one-sided result the match has surprised chess players of all ranks, disappointment has been felt the quality of the play, which has been throughout high character, and reflects honour on the vanquished as the victor. To chess students and amateurs of " openings" the games have proved peculiarly interesting, exhibiting the latest, most carefully-considered, and, in some cases, entirely novel variations the most popular methods attack and defence in the " open" game of chess, which, by its uniform adoption on the present occasion, may now be said to have definitively supplanted in the estimation players of the first rank the Fabian tactics the " king's pawn one" or " close" game brought into fashion the famous match between Staunton and St. Amant, and finally assumed by the English player in its " Sicilian" form be the best opening at the option of the second player. Messrs. Blackburne and Steinitz evidently disdained the art " fighting behind a tree" as was contemptuously styled Walker's " Art Chess Play," and confiding in their knowledge of the earlier as well the later stages of the game, came boldly out and gave battle in the open.

The first battle in the match of the seven first games has already been described, and consisted of a Ruy Lopez attack, won, after a fine display chess both sides, by Mr Steinitz.

In the second game, Mr. Blackburne having the first move, adopted the attack known as the " Scotch Gambit," from having been introduced in game played between Edinburgh and London many years ago. The time-honoured lines of defence, however, have been considerably modified during the last few years, and the opening is a favourite with Mr. Blackburne, the game was watched with great attention. At one moment he appeared to have if not a " won at least a " winning " game, but the position ultimately resolved itself into something very like a draw, when Mr. Blackburne, chivalrously endeavouring win, shared the not uncommon fate chess-players who attempt win a drawn game, and lost it.

At the third meeting Mr. Steinitz played an original variation in the "Allgaier- Kieseritzky Gambit," by which he gained but indifferent position, from which finally contrived extricate himself with extraordinary skill and returned the winner.

Mr. Blackburne in the fourth game again played Scotch opening, which led to a series of positions great beauty and difficulty. A piece was sacrificed by the first player, and subsequently regained, but the game, after a tremendous fight, was lost by him.

Mr. Steinitz, being now four games ahead, played a pet opening his, the "Vienna Game," introduced several years ago by Herr Hampe, played for a while the best masters, and again relinquished them until taken up by Mr. Steinitz, and converted into private and particular gambit of his own. The mystery of the Vienna opening consists commencing the game by a coup de repos, and then shaping the game at the third move instead of the second. The two king' pawns being played up to the king's fourth squares, the first player, instead of dashing out at once with the king's knight, plays the queen's knight instead, a move which may be designated complete " non-committal — throwing the second player the onus determining to a certain extent how the game shall proceed. In the event of his playing out his king's bishop — perhaps one of his best moves—the attack then "offers the gambit" knowing that his antagonist dare not take the proffered pawn. In this game Mr. Blackburne in introduced a novelty into the defence, but, after brilliant and interesting game, again suffered defeat.

Having to lead the attack in the sixth game, relied once more on the Scotch opening, and after a singularly game found himself with whole rook ahead but opposed an overwhelming preponderance passed pawns, which finally crushed him.

In the seventh and last game Mr. Steinitz again played favourite Vienna game, after exceeding! ticklish and complicated " middle game " won the seven fight and the match, the last battle having extended thirty-seven moves, occupying three hours and a half justice Mr. Blackburne it must be mentioned that during the latter games, and especially during the last game the match, was suffering from cold, and was by no means such fine "chess condition " his many admirers would have wished see him. Mr. Steinitz not only demonstrated himself to consummate master of the "new chess "—the steady, careful tenacious play for " position " — but has achieved feat almost if quite unprecedented the annals of chess — by winning, match seven games hardly, from the nature the struggle, " without a check," but without pause or pulse — without losing drawing solitary game.—DAILY NEWS.

Steinitz's own summary

"In Game 1 the adjournment took place three or four moves before the conclusion, which had for some time been a foregone affair. Game 2 Mr. Blackburne ought to have won, but at move 30 the game was perfectly even. Mr. Steinitz offered a draw shortly afterwards, which the Englishman admits he ought to have accepted. In Game 3 Mr. Blackburne had much the best of the game, and probably could have won at the 27th move, as pointed out in the notes; but at the time of the adjournment, viz., at the 31st move, the positions were perfectly equal at least, and, perhaps, even slightly in favour of Mr. Steinitz, though he was a P behind, for his opponent's pawns were separated and weak. In Game 4 the 30th move found Mr. Blackburne with a piece behind and a hopeless game. Game 5 was adjourned when the Englishman was four pawns behind. In Game 6 Mr. Steinitz himself made a mistake on move 31, just at a point where he could have won the game easily and in a shorter number of moves. Game 7 was not adjourned at all."(11)

Suggested reading

1876 Blackburne-Steinitz, London Match, researched by Nick Pope at, and Chess match between Steinitz & Blackburne, played at the West End chess club, London, February 17 to March 2, 1876; annotated by W. Steinitz. available at

(1) Worcester Journal, 1876.02.12
(2) Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 1876.02.15
(3) Chess match between Messrs. Steinitz & Blackburne, p7
(4) Sheffield Independent, Wednesday, 1876.02.23\ (5) Edinburgh Evening News, Friday, 1876.02.25\ (6) Reading Mercury, Saturday, 1876.03.04
(7) Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 1876.03.07
(8) Sheffield Independent, Friday, 1876.03.03
(9) London Daily News, Friday, 1876.03.03
(10) Bolton Evening News, Saturday, 1876.03.04, p4
(11) Chess match between Messrs. Steinitz & Blackburne, pp9-10

Original collection: Game Collection: WCC Index ( Steinitz - Blackburne 1876 ), by User: Benzol.

 page 1 of 1; 7 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Steinitz vs Blackburne 1-0341876Steinitz - BlackburneC77 Ruy Lopez
2. Blackburne vs Steinitz 0-1671876Steinitz - BlackburneC45 Scotch Game
3. Steinitz vs Blackburne 1-0551876Steinitz - BlackburneC39 King's Gambit Accepted
4. Blackburne vs Steinitz 0-1511876Steinitz - BlackburneC45 Scotch Game
5. Steinitz vs Blackburne 1-0531876Steinitz - BlackburneC29 Vienna Gambit
6. Blackburne vs Steinitz 0-1661876Steinitz - BlackburneC45 Scotch Game
7. Steinitz vs Blackburne 1-0371876Steinitz - BlackburneC25 Vienna
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: Depends whether on <be able> we mean <if he plays a match against Carlsen now> or <if he has the potential/talent to beat <today's> Carlsen>. In the second meaning, we don't know. Since many potential talents never heard of chess at all.
Jan-13-14  MarkFinan: <And, who knows. Maybe among those millions of people who never even heard of chess there is one who could beat Carlsen>

No there isn't.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: How are you sure, Mark? See, Japan has a population over 100 million. But a whole of <55> FIDE rated players. How many potetntial talents from Japan we are missing, just think of it... Who simply either don't know there is chess or never seriously tried it. Or stick to Shogi and Go (Go players often are negatively prejudiced towards chess players, at least European Go players).
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: 55 active players, that is (all players, incative and possibly dead including - 118). For a comparison, Germany with its 80 million population has 9738 active rated players (and 17531 at all).
Jan-14-14  MarkFinan: I can say with a certainty along the lines of knowing what my name is, that there's no one <Who simply either don't know there is chess or never seriously tried it> that could beat Carlsen!! That's a memorable quote if I ever read one.
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: As I said, depends on the definition of <that could beat Carlsen>. I meant it along the lines - that could beat Carlsen if he <did> take up chess when it was time for it. Think of all the wasted potential of Japan, China, all of Africa... Where chess is just unpopular. Where most people don't even know the rules (while in Europe it is kind of common knowledge - a European non-chess player may not know finesses like en passant, but he knows at least how the pieces move). Nobody knows what would have become of them if they <knew> chess from childhood on. Why are you sure there is no "Carlsen" among them? Are you so certain that everyone who is talented in something will <always> discover that talent, and- even more - do that discovery early enough?
Jan-14-14  MarkFinan: So what you're basically saying is that Somewhere there's someone who's never picked up a musical instrument or written a note yet could be better than Beethoven. Never painted a thing, but better than Picasso, never kicked a football but better than Maradona, etc etc etc?? I think that if that's what you think then I think you're mad!?!
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <Could be better> - if he did do the stuff mentioned since his childhood. That is, has the natural talent to be better but never had the opportunity to discover this talent. There are millions of possible hobbies and occupation. In our entire life we try about a dozen of them. About the rest we know nothing, and it may well be some of the rest where our talent is actually hidden.
Jan-14-14  Poulsen: <LIFE Master AJ> is right, that there is a clear inflation in ratings. So some time in the future the top players - whoever that might be - will beat Carlsens now standing ratingrecord - and that without necessarily being better players.

At his prime Larsen was rated below 2700 - and at that point he was among the 5 best players in the world. Soon the 5 best players will all be +2800 - consistently - despite the fact, that some of them might be 'over the hill'.

Off course the actual level of play is changing over time - new players can in some ways stand on the shoulders of older players, but we cannot rule out, that the level of play CAN go down, even if ratings is going up. Also we cannot say, that f.x. Carlsen is clearly better than Kasparov in his prime.

Also in this respect <LIFE Master AJ> is right: Carlsen has yet to prove, that he is best player of all time - and not only the highest rated player.

An important point to make here: Sonas' historic ratingcalculations have nothing to do with actual FIDE-rating - and is not flawed in the same way in terms of inflation.

So in effect the strenght of Fischer vs. Kasparov can be compared in a pretty fair way.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: Sonas' rating is flawed too. As for it being "inflationless", its a myth. If we define inflation same way as inflationists do it with Elo ratings (average of top X) then Chessmetrics has a similar level of inflation, slightly lower. If we do it other way around - "calibrate" FIDE ratings the way Sonas "calibrates" his Chessmetrics, we will actually discover <deflation> in FIDE ratings on many lists.
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: << Jan-13-14 <alexmagnus>: <LM> I meant, statistically. And, who knows. Maybe among those millions of people who never even heard of chess there is one who could beat Carlsen. It's not like all people necessarily discover their talents (or do it in time). See today's Chinese players - had they been born a hundred years ago, we'd never heard of them, simply because chess was more or less unknown in China. >>

No real facts in there anywhere, it is all pure speculation ...

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: Statistically founded speculation. It's more likely world's top footballer lives in Brazil than in San Marino, because of the sheer number of the football players in both countries.
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: Speculation is speculation.

"There are lies, damn lies ... and then there are statistics." - Mark Twain

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: LIFE, don't mix up sttaictics as science with statistics as a bunch of numbers. Twain had no idea of both anyway :D.

In a larger pool the probability of discovering extremes - both positive and negative - bigger. The probability that the best XY is me is small than that he is in my family.... is smaller than that he is in my country... is smaller than that he is on planet Earth (where it is 1).

There are some hundreds of thousands rated chess players. THe probability that the best <potential> (that is, in terms of natural chess talent, not in terms of current skills) chess player is among these hundreds of thousands is vast smaller than that he is among the rest 7 billion population. I'm actually pretty sure that the best chess talent ever never played chess, the best mathematical talent ever never took up mathematics and so on.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: As for the statistics quote:

<The term was popularised in the United States by Mark Twain (among others), who attributed it to the 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." However, the phrase is not found in any of Disraeli's works and the earliest known appearances were years after his death. Other coiners have therefore been proposed, and the phrase is often attributed to Twain himself.>

So, Twain himself attributed it to someone who never said it. Quotenapping, heh. Usually a bad sign for the quote itself.

Jan-14-14  MarkFinan: I deleted that. Probably a bad time to joke.
Jan-14-14  nok: <the best mathematical talent ever never took up mathematics> The best Tetris player lived in 1500 BC. There was also a guy who was a killer at crosswords. Alas, he signed with an 'X' because he never learnt to write.
Jan-15-14  john barleycorn: Statistic and probability, for example, tell us that it is almost certain that somebody will win in Lotto when "enough" players participate, but we don't know who will win.

I assume that the same holds true when we look for chess talent of a certain calibre, we can say that it is out there but we don't have a procedure to identify it. But this does not falsify the mathematics involved.

Jan-15-14  offramp: The odds of winning the lottery are evens. You either win it or you don't.
Jan-15-14  john barleycorn: <offramp> sure :-). Actually, the odds for being Lasker are greatly in favour of those who are dead already.
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: <alex> You jabber on endlessly, my point was already made.
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: As was mine.
Jan-15-14  john barleycorn: <alexmagnus> at least now you can subtract one from the seven billion people on earth if you search for talent :-)
Oct-07-16  Twocolors: All this elo stuff is very theoretical to me. I just wonder, when there was claret, why Steinitz had white in the first game...
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: As revealed in the Steinitz chapter in Harding's <Eminent Victorian Chess Players>, p.185, Blackburne, in 1877, claimed that a severe bout of rheumatism had affected his play in the match.
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