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Blackburne - Lee Match

Joseph Henry Blackburne8.5/14(+5 -2 =7)[games]
Francis Joseph Lee5.5/14(+2 -5 =7)[games] Chess Event Description
Blackburne - Lee (1890)

This match began on Monday, 14 July 1890 at the Bradford Chess Club, and concluded on Monday, 11 August 1890 at Simpson's Divan, London.

The participants

Joseph Henry Blackburne was 48 years old and Francis Joseph Lee 33 years old. Blackburne was ranked in the top five players in the world at the time, and the 1880's had been his peak time with his best individual performance being in 1887 in Frankfurt (see Frankfurt (1887)). The match opened the apogee of Lee's career which was the 1890's when he was in the top thirty of players. His best tournament result was in 1893 (see Game Collection: New York 1893, The Impromtu Tournament where he finished third equal), and he went on to win two matches against Henry Edward Bird in 1897 in London.

"A match for a stake of £50 (approximately £4,700/$6,300 in December 2013 values) between Mr. Blackburne (the English champion) and Mr. Lee (the winner of the recent London handicap), was commenced at the rooms of the Bradford Chess Club, yesterday. The conditions are — the first scorer of six games to win; draws, after the first five, to score half to each player and the match is to be played day-by-day until completion. Mr. H. Muff (president of the Bradford Chess Club) formally opened the match at mid-day, and made the first move for Blackburne." - Sheffield Independent, Tuesday 15 July 1890.

Bradford & London, 14 July - 11 August 1890

Blackburne = 1 = = = = 1 0 1 1 1 0 = = 8.5 Lee = 0 = = = = 0 1 0 0 0 1 = = 5.5

Blackburne was white in the odd numbered games. Note that draws were only counted into the score from Game 6.

Blackburne consistently was the more aggressive player in the match. Lee relied on the French Defence and Queen's Pawn openings, Blackburne's main defence was the Slav.

Contemporary reports

(Game 1) Lee played the French defence, and, after appearing to get an advantage in the opening moves, played with, perhaps, too much caution, and the first game ended in a draw, after 22 moves had been made. - Sheffield Independent, Tuesday 15 July 1890.

THE BLACKBURNE - LEE CHESS MATCH. To-day, at Bradford, Lee opened the second game with the Giuoco Piano. The game developed into an interesting struggle, though of a close order, and on the twentieth move Blackburne had the initiative well in hand. - Manchester Evening News, Tuesday 15 July 1890.

CHESS. BLACKBURNE v. LEE. Play in the match between Messrs. Blackburne and Lee was resumed at the Exchange Cafe, Bradford, at one o'clock yesterday afternoon. Mr. Lee opened the second game of the contest with the Guioco Piano, but hesitated with the attack, and thus lost any advantage which might be expected from a bold continuation of the opening. Blackburne pressed so closely that Lee had eventually to abandon any idea of castling, and from the fifteenth move or so was entirely on the defensive. Lee fought very hard, but could not prevent Blackburne gaining a Pawn after forcing the exchange of Queens. In the end of the game the old master had matters pretty much his own way, winning a fairly-contested game in forty-four moves. The time occupied was — Blackburne two hours forty-seven minutes ; and Lee, two hours fifty-two minutes. The score is — Blackburne, one; Lee nil. Play continues on Thursday. - Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 16 July 1890.

CHESS. CHESS MATCH AT BRADFORD. The second game in the Blackburne v. Lee chess match at Bradford, was played yesterday. Lee had an opening move, and played a Guioco Piano, which developed in the ordinary way until about the thirteenth move, when Blackburne, finding his opponent doing nothing definite, took up the attack. From that time Lee was kept entirely on the defence, and after about forty moves of remarkably interesting play, Blackburne obtained a perceptible advantage, which he pressed to a win. Forty-four moves wore recorded, the time occupied was: Blackburne, 2h. 47 mins, Lee 2h. 52 mins. - Sheffield Independent, Wednesday 16 July 1890.

THE BLACKBURNE-LEE CHESS MATCH. The third game in the Blackburne v. Lee chess match was commenced at Bradford this morning. Lee again adopted the French defence. Blackburne manifested some impatience in his attack and made some risky advances. Lee playing with great judgment repelled the attack, and Blackburne, having to play quickly to make up time, was compelled to relinquish a pawn, and remain with an inferior position at the twenty-first move. - Manchester Evening News, Thursday 17 July 1890.

The Blackburne v. Lee Chess Match. — The fifth game of the Blackburne v. Lee match was played at Bradford yesterday. Lee, playing Black, adopted the French Defence again. The game was drawn on the fifty-third move after Blackburne had consumed three hour 3 and twenty-five minutes, and Lee had occupied three hours and twenty minutes. - Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 23 July 1890.

THE BLACKBURNE-LEE CHESS MATCH. (Special Telegrams.) The sixth game of the Blackburne-Lee chess match was commenced at Bradford this morning. Lee again played Zukertort's opening. For seven moves that game proceeded absolutely on the same lines as the fourth game. Lee again opened his King's Knights file, but profiting by the previous experience devoted more attention to his Queen's side pawns.

THE BLACKBURNE-LEE CHESS MATCH. The seventh game of the Blackburne chess match was commenced this morning, and though Lee again played the French defence he played much more boldly than in any previous game, and by making a sacrifice early got distinctly the better of the position, and will probably win. The game is one of extraordinary interest and much complexity, and Blackburne is the exchange and a pawn behind. - Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 23 July 1890.

C H E S S. BLACKBURNE v. LEE. The seventh game of the match between Messrs. Blackburne and Lee was played at Bradford yesterday. The game in its opening gave promise of something brighter than had been seen in the preceding games, although Lee again played the French Defence. Up to Blackburne's eighth move it was merely a copy of the fifth game, but Lee then castled. The second player proceeded to move up his pawns, and to maintain a pawn at king's fifth Blackburne moved his king's side pawns freely. Lee, by checking with the queen on rook's fifth, took up the attack.

White castled on queen's side and Lee then formulated a formidable-looking attack with queen, rook, two knights, and bishop, giving up one of the knights for two centre pawns. Later on Blackburne gave up the exchange temporarily and formed a pretty combination, which must either recover the loss or, in the alternatives, draw by perpetual check or mate in two. At the adjournment of the afternoon sitting a reduction of the pieces to queen, knight, and bishop each had rendered the possibilities of what had been all through a brilliant and interesting game, somewhat smaller. Blackburne, who was a pawn to the bad, consumed twenty-five minutes in determining upon his last move prior to the adjournment. On the resumption, Lee suddenly gave a fine chance to Blackburne by leaving two pieces subject to danger for the white queen, he having to rely entirely on his queen to serve the three purposes of protecting the two pieces and preventing an immediate mate. It need hardly be said that Blackburne took full advantage of this surprising turn of events, which there is reason to think Lee had anticipated, and won in a few moves. The score is now - Blackburne, two; Lee, nil. - Leeds Mercury, Friday 25 July 1890.

The eighth game of the Blackburne-Lee match was commenced at Bradford this morning. Lee again played the Zukertort opening game, but in its early stages took entirely different form to those played previously. At about the twentieth move Lee had his pieces well developed, but the defence seemed perfectly sound. - Manchester Evening News, Friday 25 July 1890.

CHESS. BLACKBURNE v. LEE. The ninth game of the Blackburne v. Lee chess match was played this afternoon at Bradford, and resulted in the resignation of Mr. Lee on the 37th move after three hours' play, Lee played the French Defence again, but Blackburne was able to get an opening attack on his King's side, and Lee resigned a few moves after a sacrifice of a Knight by Blackburne. Score: Blackburne, 3, Lee, 1. - Manchester Evening News, Monday 28 July 1890.

CHESS. MATCH. BLACKBURNE v. LEE. The thirteenth game in this match — which for six games up — was played Simpson's Divan London, on Saturday. The score from the previous day being — Blackburne, 5; Lee, 2; and drawn, 5. It was perhaps owing to the fact that the game might be the deciding one of the match — if won by Blackburne — that large number of spectators, despite the line weather and outdoor attractions, congregated in the room, at times crowding it inconveniently, to witness the play.

The hopes of any exciting finish were not, however, realised. for Lee again playing the close French defence, never gave his opponent chance, and although draws, which now and are not to his interest he seemed, curiously enough, nevertheless, to be satisfied with drawn game, which ultimately was agreed on the thirty-eighth move, after about three hours play. The score now — Blackburne 5 1/2, Lee, 2 1/2; and 5 draws. Blackburne need, therefore, only draw his next game to win the match. - Western Daily Press, Monday 11 August 1890.

THE BLACKBURNE - LEE CHESS MATCH. The fourteenth game in the Blackburne v Lee match was played yesterday, amid some excitement. Lee obtained an early advantage on the Queen's wing, which he pressed with much vigour. At one moment it seemed as if he had winning chances, but relaxing somewhat in his attack, he allowed Blackburne to consolidate his position, and further turn the tables on him by a clever surprise, which won a pawn. Further struggle being hopeless, a draw was agreed upon. This decided the match in Blackburne's favour, the final score being Blackburne six, Lee three. Five other games were drawn. - Manchester Evening News, Tuesday 12 August 1890.

Original collection: Game Collection: Blackburne - Lee Match, Bradford-London, 1890., by User: Chessical.

 page 1 of 1; 5 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Blackburne vs F J Lee 1-0471890Blackburne - LeeC14 French, Classical
2. F J Lee vs Blackburne 1-0671890Blackburne - LeeD12 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
3. Blackburne vs F J Lee 1-0361890Blackburne - LeeC14 French, Classical
4. Blackburne vs F J Lee  1-0531890Blackburne - LeeC14 French, Classical
5. F J Lee vs Blackburne  1-0311890Blackburne - LeeD02 Queen's Pawn Game
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: I don't get it. <the first scorer of six games to win; draws, after the first five, to score half to each player>

But Blackburne has only 5 wins? And if one counts the points from Game 6 on, he gets only 5,5 (not 6)?

Dec-23-15  Joseph Blackcape: To win the match you had to win 6 games, but after one of the players won 5 games, both would get 0.5 points for each draw afterwards (with previous draws not counting). So after Blackburn won 5 games he only needed to either win 1 more or draw two to win the match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: <Joseph Blackcape> Mmm, ok.

But if one counts the draw in round 6 (and the win in round 2), he had 6 points already after round 13?

Dec-23-15  Joseph Blackcape: The draw in the 6th game didn't count, only the draws that took place after one player (Blackburne) scored the 5th win (which was round 11) counted. That's also why the report says "the final score being Blackburne six, Lee three. Five other games were drawn." So only those two final draws counted as "points" (or rather half points) towards the win.

Now imagine if this rule was in place in 1984...

Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: <JB> Okay thanks. I finally get it.

The info in Sheffield Independent that <draws, after the first five, to score half to each player> is after the first five <wins>, not <games> as I thought.

May-24-16  zanzibar: There is some coverage of the match in

<BCM v10 (Sept 1890) p362/392>.

It seems the first 9 games were played in Bradford, and the rest at Simpson's Divan:

<The Blackburne-Lee match was a welcome interlude in the monotony that has prevailed in Chess circles here during the last few weeks. With the score standing at Blackburne 3, Lee 1, drawn 5, when the Bradford portion of the match was completed, things did net look over lively for the younger master, and most people here regarded the match as then practically won by the British '' bull-dog." Despite of this, however, a large number of people visited Simpson's on the 4th August in the expectation of witnessing the opening game in the second portion of the match. In this they were disappointed, as Mr. Lee was unwell, and play could not be commenced until the 6th.


The thirteenth game, played on Saturday, 9th August, was a very uninteresting affair, neither master exerting himself, and a draw
ensued on the thirty-eighth move. Five draws having previously been scored, however, this one counted half a point to each player, thus bringing up Blackburne's score to 5^, and Lee's to 2 J, thereby leaving the former only to draw one more game in order to win the match. The final game was played on Monday, nth August, and, although ending in a draw, it was just as brisk and vigorous as the thirteenth had been dull and common-place.


[In the last game] a draw soon ensued. Blackburne, therefore, won the match, the final score being Blackburne 6, Lee 3, and 5 drawn games not counted in the score. Add these draws the score would be Blackburne 8½, Lee 5½, a very creditable result for the younger master when Blackburne's acknowledged force is considered.>


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