Happy Birthday GM Stephen Gordon (04-ix-1986)

GM Stephen Gordon, , courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Stephen Gordon from the 2019 British Championships in Torquay, courtesy of John Upham Photography

We wish Stephen Gordon all the best on his birthday, this day (September 4th) in 1986.

Stephen John Gordon was born on Thursday, September 4th 1986 in Oldham, Lancashire where he has lived since.

He attended The Blue Coat School in Oldham

He became a FIDE Master in 2004, an International Master in 2006 and a Grandmaster in 2009.

In 2012 he shared first place with Gawain Jones in the British Championships in North Shields.

2012 British Championships part crosstable
2012 British Championships part crosstable

According to Felice his peak FIDE rating was 2556 in September 2012 at the age of 26.

Crosstable from the 2013 Budapest First Saturday GM Tournament
Crosstable from the 2013 Budapest First Saturday GM Tournament

Stephen plays for 3Cs in the Manchester Chess League and for Wood Green in the London League and for 4NCL 3Cs in the Four Nations Chess League.

Stephen Gordon at the final 4NCL weekend in 2014. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Stephen Gordon at the final 4NCL weekend in 2014. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

With the White pieces Stephen almost always plays 1.d4 aiming for a Queen’s Gambit and other main lines.

As the second player, Stephen plays the Sicilian Najdorf and the Nimzo-Indian Defence.

From Wikipedia :

“Stephen J. Gordon (born 4 September 1986) is an English chess grandmaster.

In September 2004 he took a break from his A-level studies at The Blue Coat School, Oldham to compete in the thirteenth Monarch Assurance Isle of Man International.

In 2005, while still a FIDE Master, he finished 6th in the British Championships ahead of a Grandmaster and several International Masters.

At the EU Individual Open Chess Championship held at Liverpool in 2006, he led the tournament after eight rounds and finished a very creditable (joint) second, a half point behind winner Nigel Short and level with Luke McShane among others.

Probably his best result to date however, was second place in the 2007 British Championship, narrowly losing his share of the lead in the final round. In previous rounds, he defeated both tournament victor Jacob Aagaard and previous champion Jonathan Rowson.

By 2008, his rating had reached grandmaster level, although the title itself had not yet been secured. At the British Championship in Liverpool, he almost repeated his performance of the previous year, by taking a share of third place. He was the British under-21 Champion each consecutive year between 2005 and 2008. He became a grandmaster on 1 August 2009.

He has been one of the co-presenters of the chess podcast The Full English Breakfast since its inaugural show in October 2010.”

Stephen Gordon at The Plough Public House in 2014 for the annual Drunken Knights vs Wood Green London League match. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Stephen Gordon at The Plough Public House in 2014 for the annual Drunken Knights vs Wood Green London League match. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

For more see Wiki Entry for Stephen Gordon

GM Stephen Gordon, courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Stephen Gordon, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Best Wishes GM Michael Stean (04-ix-1953)

GM Michael Stean chats with ? at the 2014 Varsity Match. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Michael Stean chats with ? at the 2014 Varsity Match. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

We send best wishes to GM Michael Stean on his birthday,

Michael Francis Stean was born Michael Francis Stein on Friday, September 4th, 1953 in Pancras, London. His mother’s maiden name is / was Jean Feldman. Michael has a brother, Howard.

Michael Stean
Michael Stean

He attended Latymer Upper School and Cambridge University.

His early chess days were spent at Richmond Junior Chess Club.

He became an International Master in 1975 and England’s third (OTB) Grandmaster in 1977 winning £2,500 from the Jim Slater Foundation.

His peak FIDE rating was 2540 in January 1979.

His mother (Jean) presented a trophy to the Marlow Congress (now the Berks and Bucks Congress) which became the Mrs. Jean Stean Cup.

Tony Miles and Michael Stean at the FIDE Zonal in Amsterdam, 1978. (Source: http://gahetna.nl)
Tony Miles and Michael Stean at the FIDE Zonal in Amsterdam, 1978. (Source: http://gahetna.nl)

According to British Chess (Pergamon, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :

“Stean was educated at Cambridge University, He was equal first in the British Championship, Clacton, 1974, although only 4th in the playoff. He has been an important member of Korchnoi’s team for the last 5 years, and this perhaps has been responsible more than anything for the rounding out and maturing of his style from the sharp tactical play of the early 1970s to the solid positional GM (especially with the White pieces) of today.

Korchnoi, Stean and Keene try out matching vests and T-shirts from The University of Sussex sports centre, Falmer, East Sussex. It is likely that the yellow one was only worn for this press photo shoot.
Korchnoi, Stean and Keene try out matching vests and T-shirts from The University of Sussex sports centre, Falmer, East Sussex. It is likely that the yellow one was only worn for this press photo shoot.

Stean is a fine author; Simple Chess and the Sicilian Najdorf are both excellent books.

Michael Stean at the 1977 Lord John Cup
Michael Stean at the 1977 Lord John Cup

Temperamentally he is generally pleasant, good humoured and self confident, although he suffers from intermittent poor health which might help to explain his at times erratic results.”

According to Chessgames.com :

“Michael Francis Stean was born on the 4th of September 1953 in London, England. He finished 3rd at the 1973 World Junior Chess Championships behind Alexander Beliavsky and Tony Miles. Awarded the IM title in 1975 and the GM title in 1977 (The third Englishman to attain the title after Miles and Keene).

He finished 1st= in the 1974 British Championship but lost the play-off. He played on 5 English Olympiad teams from 1974 – 1983 and has won 1st prizes at Vrsac 1979, Smederevska Palanka 1980 and Beer Sheba 1982.

A specialist in Opening Theory he served as one of Viktor Korchnoi’s seconds in the 1977 – 1981 period. He is the author of Simple Chess, an introduction to chess strategy.”

Mchael Stean, Hastings 1972-1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 2, page 53
Mchael Stean, Hastings 1972-1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 2, page 53
The Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament, Canterbury, 1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 5, page 192
The Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament, Canterbury, 1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 5, page 192
Post-banquet photograph - left to right : Harry Golombek, Andras Adorjan, Danny Wright, Brian Eley, Michael Stean, D. Silk, Robert Silk, AK Henderson. The Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament, Canterbury, 1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 5, page 192
Post-banquet photograph – left to right : Harry Golombek, Andras Adorjan, Danny Wright, Brian Eley, Michael Stean, D. Silk, Robert Silk, AK Henderson. The Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament, Canterbury, 1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 5, page 192

Harry Golombek wrote this about Michael in a 1980 Dataday chess diary :

“The fact that he has sprung up into second place among English players as regards Elo ratings demonstrates the considerable advance Michael Stean has made in the course of a year.

Korchnoi vs Stean at the Philips & Drew Masters of 1980. The game was drawn in 19 moves.
Korchnoi vs Stean at the Philips & Drew Masters of 1980. The game was drawn in 19 moves.

In the 1978 diary I wrote that it would not be long before he gained the grandmaster title since he already possessed one norm of the title. The forecast proved to be correct as he duly acquired the title a few months after I wrote the prophecy.

He had though to take two more bites at the cherry before he managed to gain the required norms since the tournaments in which he played were not long events. They were Montilla in August 1977 where he came third below Gligoric and Kavalek and the Lord John Cup Tournament in London in September 1977 where he was equal 2nd with Quinteros and Mestel, first place being occupied by the Czechoslovak grandmaster, Hort.

Jan Timman plays Michael Stean at the 1978 Amsterdam FIDE Zonal. The Dutch GM won in 39 moves.
Jan Timman plays Michael Stean at the 1978 Amsterdam FIDE Zonal. The Dutch GM won in 39 moves.

Before that he had assisted Keene in seconding Korchnoi in his candidates match versus Polugayevsky and had done this to such effect that Korchnoi asked him and Keene to act as his seconds at his final match in the Candidates at Belgrade and later on still at the World Championship match against Karpov in the Philippines.

Nigel Short, Lubomir Kavalek and Michael Stean
Nigel Short, Lubomir Kavalek and Michael Stean

He also played successfully in Yugoslavia in 1977 (equal 2nd at Virovitica and equal 2nd at Bar). In 1978 he was 3rd at Beersheba below Korchnoi but head of Keene. Five points out of nine at the very strong Swiss System tournament at Lone Pine was followed by an excellent equal 4th with Miles at the tournament at Las Palmas. He has shown that he not only possesses the title of grandmaster but also plays like one.

Michael Stean (far right) at an unknown event
Michael Stean (far right) at an unknown event

A good example in the following game (Stean-Sax) against one of the joint first prize winners at the Las Palmas event. It was awarded the prize for the best game :”

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :

“English player, International Grandmaster (1977). At Nice 1974, in the first of his several Olympiads, he won the brilliancy prize for his game against Browne.

Since then he has had several good results: Montilia 1976, equal second with Kavalek and Ricardo Calvo (1943— ) after Karpov; Montilia 1977, third (-1-3 = 6)after Gligoric and Kavalek ahead of R. Byrne, Taimanov, and Andersson; London 1977. second (+4=4—1) equal with Mestel and Quinteros after Hort ; Vrsac 1979, first (+ 8=5—1); Smederevska Palanka 1980, first (+7-6); Beersheba 1982, first, Stean was one of Korchnoi’s seconds in the world championship cycles of 1977-8 and 1980-1, and the two became close friends.

In particular Stean provided help with the openings, a subject on which he specialises. He published a book on the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian defence in 1976, and Simple Chess, a guide to the understanding of positional ideas, in 1978.”

GM Michael Stean
GM Michael Stean

From Wikipedia :

“Michael Francis Stean (born 4 September 1953) is an English chess grandmaster, an author of chess books and a tax accountant.

Michael Stean chats with David Levy at the London Chess Classic
Michael Stean chats with David Levy at the London Chess Classic

The game below (Stean-Browne) was the first winner of the World Brilliancy Prize established in 1974 by Isador Samuel Turover. The value of the prize was $1,000.”

See Michael Stean’s Wikipedia entry for more

Video Chess Event (See caption below)
Video Chess Event (See caption below)
Video Chess Caption
Video Chess Caption

In 1983 at the height of his powers Michael left the chess work and became a tax accountant. He is now a senior partner at RSM UK.

Apparently :

“A cross disciplinary tax partner, Michael’s experience spans both corporate and non-corporate taxation for clients spanning a wide range of companies (listed and private) as well as high net worth individuals. Areas of activity include advice on transactions and structures, dealing with enquiries conducted by the tax authorities and forensic tax services in tax disputes.

As a member of the large business and international tax sub-committee of the tax faculty of the Institute of ICAEW, Michael was an active contributor to the consultation and development of the so-called ‘GAAR’ (general anti-abuse rule) law enacted in 2013.

Formerly a professional chess grandmaster, Michael brings an analytical approach to the field of tax.”

Mchael Stean, tax accountant
Mchael Stean, tax accountant
Michael Francis Stean
Michael Francis Stean
Simple Chess by Michael Stean
Simple Chess by Michael Stean
Sicilian Najdorf by Michael Stean
Sicilian Najdorf by Michael Stean
Simple Chess by Michael Stean
Simple Chess by Michael Stean

Happy Birthday IM Joseph McPhillips (04-ix-1997)

IM Joseph McPhillips, UKCC Terafinal 2016, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Joseph McPhillips, UKCC Terafinal 2016, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN says Happy Birthday to IM Joseph McPhillips (04-ix-1997)

Joe became a FIDE Master in 2015 and an International Master in 2018.

His peak FIDE rating is 2434 as at August 2019 and we predict it will increase.

FIDE rating profile of IM Joseph McPhillips
FIDE rating profile of IM Joseph McPhillips

In Joseph won outright the Kecskemet IM Tournament :

Kecskemet 2015 IM Tournament
Kecskemet 2015 IM Tournament

In 2016 Joseph won the Delancey UK Chess Challenge Terafinal to become a “Strat”* for the first time.

*Only Mike Basman knows what this means!

IM Joseph McPhillips, UKCC Terafinal 2016 Winner, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Joseph McPhillips, UKCC Terafinal 2016 Winner, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Joseph plays for Bolton and for Wood Green in the Four Nations Chess League.

Joseph won outright the Budapest First Sunday IM tournament in 2018 :

Crosstable for Budapest First Sunday IM 2018
Crosstable for Budapest First Sunday IM 2018

With the white pieces Joseph prefers a main line Ruy Lopez and the Open Sicilian and he has recently started dabbling with 1.d4

As the second player Joseph employs the Classical French and the Queen’s Indian Defences.

IM Joseph McPhillips, UKCC Terafinal 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Joseph McPhillips, UKCC Terafinal 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Happy Birthday IM Ezra Kirk (02-ix-1996)

IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to IM Ezra Kirk (02-ix-1996)

Ezra G Kirk was born on Monday, September 2nd 1996 in France.

Ezra Kirk, Sautron, 2007, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase
Ezra Kirk, Sautron, 2007, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase

Ezra attended Varndean College, Brighton and then the University of Bath to read Natural Sciences and is currently a Data Product Consultant at the Kubrick Group.

He edits chess books written by non-English speaking authors

Ezra became a FIDE Master in 2013 and an International Master in 2018

His peak rating is likely to be in the future but currently is 2445 in December 2018 aged 22.

Ezra plays for 4NCL Cheddleton in the Four Nations Chess League.

IM Ezra Kirk, Tours, 2020, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase
IM Ezra Kirk, Tours, 2020, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase

Here is one of Ezra’s best wins :

IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion

The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion
The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion

From the rear cover :

“At the U.S. Championship in 1989, Stuart Rachels seemed bound for the cellar. Ranked last and holding no IM norms, the 20-year-old amateur from Alabama was expected to get waxed by the American top GMs of the day that included Seirawan, Gulko, Dzindzichashvili, deFirmian, Benjamin and Browne. Instead, Rachels pulled off a gigantic upset and became the youngest U.S. Champion since Bobby Fischer. Three years later he retired from competitive chess, but he never stopped following the game. In this wide-ranging, elegantly written, and highly personal memoir, Stuart Rachels passes on his knowledge of chess. Included are his duels against legends such as Kasparov, Anand, Spassky, Ivanchuk, Gelfand and Miles, but the heart of the book is the explanation of chess ideas interwoven with his captivating stories. There are chapters on tactics, endings, blunders, middlegames, cheating incidents, and even on how to combat that rotten opening, the Réti. Rachels offers a complete and entertaining course in chess strategy. At the back are listed 110 principles of play–bits of wisdom that arise naturally in the book’s 24 chapters. Every chess player will find it difficult to put this sparkling book down. As a bonus, it will make you a better player.”

The best I saw in chess - by Stuart Rachels
The best I saw in chess – by Stuart Rachels

 

Stuart Rachels only had a short international career which came to an end almost 30 years ago. He’s now, like his late father James, a philosopher, specialising in ethical theory. Why, you might ask, does he deserve a 400+ page book? It seems rather like a vanity project, doesn’t it?

Let’s look inside and find out.

What you don’t get is a chronological account of the author’s career. Instead you get 24 chapters of varying length discussing a wide variety of aspects of chess and offering, in total, 124 games or extracts from his earliest efforts onwards. The book is also full of stories and anecdotes, many of which are highly entertaining. Rachels writes in a friendly style, alternating, perhaps slightly uncomfortably, between self-deprecating humour and arrogance: he might almost be sitting across the board from you explaining his games.

The first few chapter headings will give you some idea of what to expect: Losing Benonis to Kasparov, Five Stories and Their Positions, Two Rogue Sozins, Tactical Snippets, Beware the Sickly Pawns.

Yes, Rachels enjoyed tactics, favouring openings like the Sicilian Dragon and the Modern Benoni, while disliking the ‘rotten Réti’ and the English (‘Is there a Nobel Prize for Worst Opening as White?’), so you’ll see a lot of exciting play. At the same time, his trainer, Boris Kogan, played like Petrosian (‘You must play seemple chess’) and instilled in him a love of endings, again strongly represented here.

His opponents include many of his illustrious contemporaries, whom he met in international junior tournaments: you’ll find games against Anand, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Adams and others here.

Although much of the book is US-centric, there’s also a lot to interest British readers. In 1983 Rachels spent some time in England, where, apart from playing in a simul against Kasparov, he lost a training match against David Norwood (‘the best tactician for my age I’ve ever known, aside from Anand’) which has its own chapter.

In the early 90s Rachels studied at Oxford University for two years: in the 1992 Varsity Match it was he who owned the aforementioned sickly pawns in a thrilling victory over Jonathan Wilson. After the game Ray Keene, suitably impressed, asked him to provide annotations. Rachels was surprised to see one of his sentences quoted verbatim in The Spectator. “Who would’ve suspected that the 44-year-old Brit cribbed that sentence off a 22-year-old American?”

There’s also a tense draw against Tony Miles (‘unpretentious, good-humored, and easy to be around’) from the 1989 US Championship. (Tony had satisfied the residency qualification by renting a post box in New York.) The ‘Foolish Drinker, Optimistic Patzer’ of the chapter heading is Rachels, not Miles. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out why.

In the final chapter Rachels offers his two best games. One played against his friend Kyle Therrell at the age of 11 (‘… might this have been the best game ever played by someone under the age of 12, as of March 29, 1981?’), and his win, given below, against Sergey Kudrin, again from the 1989 US Championship. If you buy the book you’ll be able to read his annotations.

The book concludes with three appendices. Appendix A explains adjournments (‘… a 20th century phenomenon, mostly occurring in high-level events’). Not in my part of the world: I had an adjournment from a local league game hanging over me at the start of lockdown: it was eventually agreed drawn via email. Appendix B, Principles of Play, offers some maxims which you may or may not find helpful, and Appendix C is what looks to me like a fairly arbitrary list of recommended books.

The format of the book does mean you miss the trajectory of his career, but at the same time the constant switching between topics will ensure you never get bored. Although Rachels is a relatively minor figure in chess history who retired nearly 30 years ago, he still has an infectious passion for chess, writes well, annotates lucidly and tells a great story. It’s often very funny too: a hugely entertaining and engrossing read which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you like games collections and biographies you shouldn’t hesitate to snap this one up.

Richard James, Twickenham 31st August 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 372 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (7 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918818
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918811
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.79 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion
The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion

Remembering Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

Remembering Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

The following (excerpts of) information were obtained via ancestry.co.uk :

Joseph Henry Blackburne was born on Friday, December 10th, 1841 in Chorlton, Manchester. His father was Joseph Blackburn (aged 23) and his mother was Ann Pritchard (aged 24). He had eight sons and five daughters.

His brother Frederick Pritchard Blackburn died on 11 October 1847 in Lancashire, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 5 years old.

His sister Clara was born on 4 November 1847 in Street, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 5 years old.

His half-sister Clara was born in 1848 in Manchester, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 7 years old.

His mother Ann passed away on 26 November 1857 in Manchester, Lancashire, at the age of 40.

His half-brother William Thomas was born on 17 June 1865 when Joseph Henry was 23 years old.

Joseph Henry Blackburne married Eleanor Driscoll on 10 December 1865 when he was 24 years old.

Joseph Henry Blackburne married Beatrice Lapham on 3 October 1876 when he was 34 years old.

His wife Beatrice passed away in January 1880 in St Olave Southwark, London, at the age of 26. They had been married 3 years.

Joseph Henry Blackburne married Mary Jane FOX in St Olave Southwark, London, on 16 December 1880 when he was 39 years old.

Joseph Henry Blackburne lived in Everton, Lancashire, in 1891.

According to chessgames.com :

“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.

Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

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.”

Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :

“For more than 20 years one of the first six players in the world and for even longer the leading English born player. Draughts was the most popular indoor game in his home town, Manchester; he learned this game as a child and became expert in his youth.

He was about 18 when, inspired by Morphy’s exploits, he learned the moves of chess. In July 1861 he lost all live games of a match against the Manchester chess club champion Edward Pindar, but he improved so rapidly that he defeated Pindar three months later (-1-5=2—1), and in 1862 he became champion of the club ahead of Pindar and
Horwitz. Instructed by Horwitz, Blackburne became one of the leading endgame players of his time; and wishing to emulate the feats of L. Paulsen, who visited the club in November 1861, he developed exceptional skill at blindfold chess. He spent most of the 1860s developing his chess and toying with various occupations. After winning
the British championship, 1868-9, ahead of de vere, he became a full-time professional player.

Blackburne achieved excellent results in many tournaments: Baden-Baden 1870, third equal with Neumann after Anderssen and Steinitz; London 1872, second (+5-2) after Steinitz ahead of Zukertort; Vienna 1873, second to Steinitz after a play-off; Paris 1878, third after Winawer and Zukertort: Wiesbaden 1880, first equal with Englisch and Schwarz; Berlin 1881, first (+13=2 — 1), three points ahead of Zukertort, the second prize winner (Blackburne’s greatest achievement); London 1883, third after Zukertort and Steinitz; Hamburg 1885, second equal with Englisch, Mason, Tarrasch, and Weiss half a point after Gunsberg; Frankfurt 1887, second equal with Weiss after Mackenzie; Manchester 1890, second after Tarrasch; Belfast 1892, first equal with Mason; London 1892, second ( + 6-2) after Lasker; London 1893, first ( + 2=3). He was in the British team in 11 of the Anglo-American cable matches, meeting Pillsbury on first board six times (+2-3 — 1), and he continued to play internationally until he was 72, long enough to meet the pioneer of the hypermodern movement Nimzowitsch, whom he defeated at St Petersburg 1914.

Blackburne had remarkable combinative powers and is remembered for his swingeing king’s side attacks, often well prepared but occasionally consisting of an ingenious swindle that would deceive even the greatest all his contemporaries. The tournament book of Vienna 1873 refers to him as ‘der schrwarze Tod [Black death] der Schachspieler’, a nickname that became popular. His unflappable temperament also earned him the soubriquet “the man with the iron nerves’. Even so, neither his temperament nor his style was suited to set matches, in which he was rarely successful against world-class players. He had other chess talents: a problem composer, he was also a fast solver, allegedly capable of outpacing the great Sam Loyd. Blackburne earned his livelihood by means of simultaneous displays, for this purpose touring Britain twice-yearly, with a few breaks, for more than 50 years.

Chess, circa 1896, J,H,Blackburne, well known chess player, who had toured both on the Continent and America,able to make between 40 to 60 moves when blindfolded by sheer memory  (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Chess, circa 1896, J,H,Blackburne, well known chess player, who had toured both on the Continent and America,able to make between 40 to 60 moves when blindfolded by sheer memory (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Before this time such displays were solemn affairs; Lowenthal, who would appear in formal dress and play for several hours in silence, was shocked when Blackburne turned up in ordinary clothes, chatting and making jokes as he played, and refreshing him self with whisky, (Blackburne confessed, however, that when fully absorbed in a game he never noticed whether he was drinking water instead,) Once, walking round the boards, he drained his opponent’s glass, saying when rebuked He left it en prise and I took it en passant’ He played his blindfold displays quickly, and with little sign of the stress that besets most blindfold players. Probably the leading blindfold expert of his time, he challenged Zukertort, a close rival in this field, to a match of ten games, played simultaneously, both players blindfold; but Zukertort declined. Many who knew and liked Blackburne subscribed to a fund which sustained him in his last years.

Image Supplied by a reader of the book 'Eminent Victorian Chess Players' to Tim Harding
Image Supplied by a reader of the book ‘Eminent Victorian Chess Players’ to Tim Harding

P. A. Graham, Mr Blackburne’s Games at Chess (1899) contains 407 games annotated by Blackburne and 28 three-movers composed by him.

Mr Blackburne's Games at Chess by PA Graham
Mr Blackburne’s Games at Chess by PA Graham

A reprint, styled Blackburne*s Chess Games (1979), has a new introduction and two more games.

Here follows a reproduction of an article from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 340-342 written by RN Coles entitled “Early Days of a Great Master” :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number  12 (December), page 340
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 340
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number  12 (December), page 341
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 341

Many juniors and beginners will know the Blackburne Shilling Gambit (or Kostić Gambit) in some circles known as the ‘Oh My God’ :

There are variations named after Blackburne as follows :

The Blackburne Attack in the Four Knights is

and the Blackburne Variation of the Dutch defence is

and a popular line in the Queen’s Gambit

are attributed to Blackburne in the literature.

According to The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“British grandmaster and highly successful tournament player who was one of the most prominent masters of the nineteenth century. He did not learn to play chess until the age of nineteen, but his natural gifts soon brought him into the front rank of British players, and in 1868 he abandoned his business interests and adopted chess as a profession.

Blackburne’s international tournament career spans an impressive fifty-two years from London 1862 to St. Petersburg 1914 – a total of 53 events in which he played 814 games, scoring over 62%. Although he rarely won international events, he generally finished in the top half of the table and his fierce competitive spirit coupled with his great combinative ability earned the pleasant nickname of ‘the Black Death’.

Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924). Photograph from The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek
Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924). Photograph from The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek

His most notable successes were =1st with Steinitz at Vienna 1873 (Blackburne lost the play-off match), 1st at Berlin 1881 ahead of Paulsen, Schallopp, Chigorin, Winawer and Zukertort, and 2nd to Tarrasch at Manchester 1890.

Blackburne won the BCA Championship in 1868 and for many years was ranked as Britain’s foremost player. In 1914 – at the age of 72 – he shared first place at the BCF congress in Chester.

In match play his success was mixed. He defeated Bird in 1888 (+4-1) and Gunsberg in 1881 (+7-4=3) but lost a second match to Gunsberg in 1886 (+2-5=6). He lost to Lasker (+0-6=4) in 1892 and was defeated heavily twice by Steinitz : in 1862/3 (+1-7=2) and in 1876 (+0-7=0), the latter of these matches being for the World Championship.

Blackburne excelled at blindfold play and in simultaneous exhibitions, which provided a major portion of his income. He died in Lewisham, a much respected veteran of eighty-three.”

Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

Edward Winter discusses the Zukertort-Blackburne game of 1883.

Here is an article on chess.com by Bill Wall

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Eminent Victorian Chess Players
Eminent Victorian Chess Players
Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography
Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography
Blackburne : The Black Death in Spades by Bob Long
Blackburne : The Black Death in Spades by Bob Long