Chess Archaeology HomeChess is a scientific game and its literature ought to be placed on the basis of the strictest truthfulness, which is the foundation of all scientific research.W. Steinitz

The title of this illustration was "A Blindfold Chess Contest by Mr. Blackburne." The elucidation in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (September 28, 1889) was: "Our sketch gives a representation of the manner in which this blindfold performer plays his game, being entirely shut away from his opponents by a dense mass of onlookers who throng round the tables. We also give portraits of Mr. Ford, who acted as teller, and of Mr. Adamson, the hon. secretary of the City of London Chess Club, besides a portrait of Mr. Blackburne when not playing." It may be noticed that the portrait of George Adamson is the same as in the drawing of 1881 (See our contribution of January 2015: "The City Club's First Class Had a Busy 1881"). 

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Blackburne Blindfolded at the City Club (3)

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The picture above is of Blackburne's blindfold exhibition at the City of London Chess Club in 1889. The date of the meeting was September 16, and the place where Blackburne displayed his skills was the Salutation Inn, 17 Newgate Street. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of September 28, 1889, commented (the picture was published in this paper):

Our sketch gives a representation of the manner in which the blindfold performer plays his game, being entirely shut away from his opponents by a dense mass of onlookers who throng round the tables.

Blackburne, who had returned from a visit to the United States and Canada, opposed eight players on this occasion. He won five games and drew three. The exhibition, the opening of the club's season, was well-attended. Again The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of September 21, 1889:

The room was densely crowded by a brilliant assemblage of chess players, including a considerable number of ladies, and nearly all the chairs in the room were utilised to give vantage ground to an outer ring of spectators.

Further details of the meeting are:1

Result +5 =3 -0; score 81.3 percent; playing hours 6.00 p.m. — 11.30 p.m.

Opponents:

1

Blackburne — Sugden

1-0

 

5

Blackburne — Watson

1-0

2

Blackburne — Bradford

1-0

 

6

Blackburne — Pilkington

½-½

3

Blackburne — Brown

1-0

 

7

Blackburne — Hunt

1-0

4

Blackburne — Latham

½-½

 

8

Blackburne — Trenner

½-½

There was an adjournment at 9.30 p.m. for rest and relaxation which took about thirty minutes. The first game had come to an end much sooner, at 8 o'clock.2 It is the only encounter found of this meeting.

Joseph H. Blackburne - A.E. Hunt

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, September 16, 1889, board 7

  • C52 Evans Gambit

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. 0—0 dxc3 8. Qb3 Qf6 9. e5 Qg6 10. Nxc3 Bxc3 

All authorities agree now that the exchange of the bishop for the knight is disadvantageous in this position, albeit Black is two pawns ahead. 

11. Qxc3 Nge7 12. Ng5 

This is, we believe, a novelty and a very noteworthy one, for it seems to give White a more immediately pressing attack than 12 Ba3, followed by Rad1, which used to be favored by old masters at this juncture. 

12. ... 0—0 

If 12. ... Nd8, White could also institute a strong attack by 13. f4. 

13. Bd3 f5 

Black drops into a finely conceived trap which the astute blindfold master has laid for him. 13. ... Qh6 was the only proper move, and after 14. Bxh7+ Kh8 15. f4 d5 Black could depend on his majority of pawns on the queen's side to make an impression, whereas White's attack on the other wing would not amount to much. 

14. exf6 

The sans voir player evidently sees his way clear. 

14. ... Qxf6 15. Bxh7+ Kh8 16. Qh3 

A powerful and finishing stroke. Black resigns, for if 16. ... Qh6, then evidently 17. Nf7+, winning the queen. In reply, however, to 16. ... d5 it should be noticed that 17. Qh4 is White's best play and is sufficient to win. But should White impetuously answer 17. Bf5+, he would only gain the queen for three minor pieces, which would enable the opponent to make a very good fight, especially as he has three passed pawns on the queen's side, thus: 17. Bf5+ Qh6 18. Nf7+ Rxf7 19. Bxh6 Bxf5, etc.

Sources: Daily News, September 17, 1889; The Chess Player's Chronicle, September 21, 1889; Manchester Evening News, September 21, 1889; Leeds Mercury, September 28, 1889; The Morning Post, September 30, 1889; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 5, 1889; Nottinghamshire Guardian, October 5, 1889; The International Chess Magazine, October 1889, page 314 (notes by Wilhelm Steinitz*); Birmingham Weekly Mercury, November 2, 1889; Ladies' Treasury, December 1, 1889.

Blackburne's twelfth blindfold performance at the City of London Chess Club (the eleven preceding matches are discussed in our articles of February and April 2014) took place on September 27, 1882. Once more, Blackburne opposed eight members of the club at Mouflet's Hotel. The Field (September 30, 1882):

On Wednesday last, the rooms of the City of London Chess Club were again crowded to suffocation by members and visitors, who are always eager to be present at a feat of mental effort which can only be appreciated to its full merit by eyewitnesses.

According to The Times (September 28, 1882), the team of eight players that Blackburne opposed was the strongest he had played in London, "none of his opponents being under what is technically called "pawn and two" strength."

Leopold Hoffer wrote in The Field (September 30, 1882) that Blackburne had never before played with such ease and rapidity: "We have been present very often when Mr. Blackburne gave similar exhibitions; but never has he played with more ease and with such rapidity as this time. Several mates in two and three moves were announced to his surprised opponents, and he missed a mate in eight moves, by touching mentally — if we may be permitted to use the expression — the wrong peace."

All leading members of the club and nearly all the foremost players of London were present.3 Frank Healey and Frederick W. Lord acted as tellers.

The characteristics of the 1882 exhibition are:4

Result +6 =2 -0; score 87.5 percent; playing hours 5.40 p.m. — 9.45 p.m.

Opponents:

1

Blackburne — Wilson

1-0

 

5

Blackburne — Down

1-0

2

Blackburne — Chappell

½-½

 

6

Blackburne — Murray

1-0

3

Blackburne — Cutler

1-0

 

7

Blackburne — Stevens

1-0

4

Blackburne — Herzfeld

1-0

 

8

Blackburne — Vyse

½-½

The progress of the evening was as follows: at 7.20 p.m.  Herzfeld was mated in two moves. Twenty minutes afterwards Chappell agreed to draw. At 8.05 p.m. Murray was mated in three moves, and at 8.34 p.m. Down resigned. At 9.05 p.m. Vyse accepted a draw, and at 9.25 p.m. Stevens resigned. Ten minutes later Cutler resigned, and at 9.45 p.m. Wilson followed his example.5

No games of this performance have been found.  

  Alexander S. Beaumont, Benjamin G. Laws

In next year's exhibition, played on October 10, 1883, at Mouflet's Hotel, Blackburne was again opposed by eight players. The highlights of this year's entertainment are:6

Result +4 =3 -1; score 68.8 percent; playing hours 6.00 p.m. — 11.05 p.m.

Opponents:

1

Blackburne — Gastineau

1-0

 

5

Blackburne — Laws

0-1

2

Blackburne — Beaumont

1-0

 

6

Blackburne — Lee

½-½

3

Blackburne — Scargill

½-½

 

7

Blackburne — Tudor

½-½

4

Blackburne — Wells

1-0

 

8

Blackburne — Ridpath

1-0

The course of the evening was given in The Morning Post of October 11, 1883:

Play commenced punctually at six o'clock, when Mr. Blackburne, who was seated at the end of the room and out of sight of the boards, announced the opening move P-K4 on every board. Mr. Lord acted as teller, and called out the replies of the eight opponents, taking the boards in their order. The developing moves were soon made. Messrs. Gastineau, Laws, and Ridpath played the French defence, Captain Beaumont and Mr. Wells irregular openings, Messrs. Scargill and Tudor declined the King's Gambit by B-B4, and Mr. Lee the Four Knights' Game. For two hours the games progressed rapidly. Mr. Gastineau was soon in difficulties, the blindfold player attacking him in the most vigorous manner on the king's side. Mr. Wells lost two pawns and the other games seemed pretty equal, most interest being displayed in those of Messrs. Laws and Lee, who were making a capital fight. At 8.20 a round of applause greeted Mr. Blackburne as he announced mate in two moves on Mr. Gastineau's board. The next game was not finished till nine, when Mr. Blackburne proposed, and Mr. Scargill accepted, a draw. Mr. Lee soon after agreed to a like result, and about ten Mr. Wells resigned. Meanwhile Mr. Laws had obtained a decided advantage, having won two pawns and exchanged queens. This was the only game in which the blindfold player had the worst of it. In those of Captain Beaumont and Mr. Ridpath he had a winning superiority, both in force and position. Mr. Tudor's game had the appearance of a draw.

Land and Water (October 20, 1883) reported an incident. A spectator charged one of the players of consulting. Editor Willian N. Potter wrote: "All consultation is decidedly unfair towards a blindfold performer; but sometimes advice not sought is officiously given."

Lord acted as teller. Two games of this exhibition have been discovered.

Joseph H. Blackburne — Alexander S. Beaumont

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 10, 1883, board 2

  • C44 King's Pawn Game

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 d6 4. d4 exd4 5. c3

Threatening 6. Qb3, etc., in case Black should make any other developing move than the one in the text.

5. ... Be6 6. Bxe6 fxe6 7. Qb3 Qc8 8. Nxd4

8. cxd4 seems better. Mr. Blackburne admits that, in a game over the board, he would have done it. 8. Ng5, although tempting, does not answer satisfactorily upon examination, because of 8. ... dxc3 9. Nxc3 Nd8, etc.

8. ... Nxd4 9. cxd4 Ne7 10. Nc3 g6 11. Be3 Bg7 12. Rc1 a6 13. 0—0 0—0 14. f4 Kh8 15. Ne2 c6 16. Ng3 Qd7 17. Qd1 Rf7

Black's weak point is the pawn at e6, which must be guarded by the queen. White's 17. Qd1 is suggestive of 18. Qg4, keeping the pressure upon the king's pawn. It would, therefore, have been better for Black to play 17. ... Rad8, defending the queen, so as to enable him to advance the king's pawn.

18. Qg4 Raf8 19. Rfd1 Bh6

We should have preferred 19. ... Ng8, followed by pawn to d5 and Knight to e7 or h6 accordingly.

20. Ne2 d5 21. Qh3 Bg7

Even now the knight might have retired to g8: White would have probably advanced 22. e5 and 23. g4, which could have been met with 23. ... g5 24. fxg5 Rf3 25. Ng3 Rxe3 26. gxh6 Qc7 27. Rf1 Rf3, and, after a series of exchanges, Black would have remained with even pawns and a safe game.

22. e5 Nf5 23. g4 Ne7 24. Rf1 Kg8 25. Kh1 Bh8

At this stage Capt. Beaumont proposed a draw, but Mr. Blackburne declined the offer. This may account for Black's next few moves, which were made simply with the object of keeping the position such as it is, leaving it for White to take the offensive, which he did.

26. Ng1 Bg7 27. Nf3 h6 28. Nh4 Kh7 29. Rg1 Qd8

This and the subsequent queen's moves are quite ineffective. It would have been better to leave the queen at d7, so as to prevent the advance of the king's bishop's pawn as long as possible.

30. Rg3 Qb6 31. Qg2 Qb5 32. Rg1

 

32. ... Rxf4

Black's position is now hopeless. 33. f5 threatens the loss of a piece, so Black gave up the exchange, choosing the lesser evil.

33. Bxf4 Rxf4 34. Rf3 Rxd4 35. Rf7 Qc5 36. Qf2 Ng8 37. Rf1 Rc4 38. Rxg7+ Kxg7 39. Qf7+ Kh8 40. Nxg6, mate. 

Mr. Blackburne's play throughout the game, but especially the ending, is quite beyond praise.

Source: The Field, October 20, 1883 (notes by Leopold Hoffer*).

Joseph H. Blackburne — Benjamin G. Laws

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 10, 1883, board 5

  • C14 French Defense, Classical Variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5

This continuation is indefensible on theory, in consequence of the power vested in Black's bishops after the knight is taken.

4. ... Be7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. exd5 exd5 8. Bd3 Be6 9. 0—0 Nd7 10. Re1 c6 11. Ne2 Qc7

Without pinning absolute approval to Mr. Laws' previous line of play, we may concede that he has the better game of the two.

12. Ng3

Pawn to c3 would be our choice, and we also consider that queen to d2 is better than the text move, though we acknowledge certain objections.

12. ... g6

The correct reply, and it is a move that may often be played in the French Defense, when the adverse queen's knight has come to g3, the reason being that whatever weakness is thus introduced is counterbalanced by the time required to get that knight into play afterwards.

13. Ne5

Queen to d2 is the best line now, undoubtedly.

13. ... Bd6 14. f4 0—0—0 15. c3 Rde8 16. b4

Hereby giving up a pawn, which loss could be avoided by Ne2, though we must allow that the game thus brought about is not one to be relished by anyone, nor would it be suited to Mr. Blackburne's style any more than to his taste.

16. ... f6 17. Nxd7 Bxd7 18. Qf3 Bxf4 19. Nf1 f5 20. b5 Bd6 21. a4 Rxe1 22. Rxe1 Re8 23. Rxe8+

Best, perhaps, in a theoretical sense; but such considerations have not much to do with a game already lost upon theory. Retaining the rook would give a better chance, we imagine.

23. ... Bxe8 24. g3 Qa5 25. Qe2 Bd7 26. bxc6 bxc6 27. Qc2 c5

This bold line inflicts a deep wound on White's game. Some other skilful moves have been from time to time made by Mr. Laws.

28. Qa2 Qxc3 29. Ba6+ Kc7 30. Qxd5 

28. ... Bc6

At once a saving clause and a winning stroke.

31. Qc4

31. Qf7+ Kb6 32. d5 is of course worthless, on account of Qd4+.

31. ... Qxd4+ 32. Qxd4 cxd4 33. a5 Bb4 34. Bd3 Bxa5 35. Kf2 Bc3 36. Ke2 a5 37. Nd2 a4 38. Nb1 Bb4 39. Bc4 Be4 40. Nd2 Bc2 41. Bg8 a3 42. Ba2 Kc6 43. Nf3 Bc3 44. h4 Kc5 45. Ne5 h5 46. Nxg6

Nd3+ would prolong the struggle, but the game is lost any way.

46. ... d3+ 47. Ke3 d2

White resigns.

Source: Land and Water, October 27, 1883 (notes by William N. Potter).

No exhibition took place in 1884, because of Blackburne's health problems. He suffered from bronchitis. The City of London Chess Club moved in 1884 from Mouflet's Hotel to the Salutation Inn at 17 Newgate Street, nearby the old premises.

The 1885 performance occurred on October 16. The number of opponents was the standard eight and several masters were present at the Salutation Inn this day, amongst them Johannes H. Zukertort and George A. MacDonnell. The latter wrote about his visit:7

As soon as I entered the room I had the pleasure of seeing at the same table Mr. Gastineau, Mr. F.H. Lewis, Mr. J.A. Manning, and other favourites of the club. Being invited to join them I sat down, and away we chatted and joked and laughed, whereupon a stern-looking youth rebuked our levity and requested us not to disturb Mr. Blackburne. Little did that youth know that no kind of human noise disturbs Blackburne when "playing blindfold." On the contrary — as the champion assured me after the performance — he likes at such times to hear the hum of voices and the rattle of pleasantry.

Play commenced at 5.30 p.m., and the first game was concluded at 8.45 p.m., when J.H. Taylor resigned. The next game was completed at 9.56 p.m.; H. Lawson hauled down his colors at that moment. The other games were then quickly brought to an end.8 Lord acted anew as teller. Amongst the spectators were Hoffer, MacDonnell and Zukertort.

Further details of Blackburne's doings are:9

Result +4 =3 -1; score 68.8 percent; playing hours 5.30 p.m. — 11.30 p.m.

Opponents:

1

Blackburne — Wainwright

0-1

 

5

Blackburne — Lawson

1-0

2

Blackburne — Taylor

1-0

 

6

Blackburne — Watson

½-½

3

Blackburne — Wilson

1-0

 

7

Blackburne — Sumner

1-0

4

Blackburne — Hamburger

½-½

 

8

Blackburne — Lowe

½-½

Two games of the 1885 exhibition have been discovered.

Joseph H. Blackburne — J.H. Taylor

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 16, 1885

  • C39 King's Gambit Accepted

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 h5

This defense is now rarely adopted, and it has been justly superseded by that of Paulsen which usually proceeds thus: 5. ... Nf6 6. Bc4 d5 7. exd5 Bg7 8. d4 0—0; and if 9. 0—0, then 9. ... Nxd5, or if 9. Nc3, then 9. ... Nh5, and as far as practical experience has shown up to the present, especially in a game of the match between Steinitz and Zukertort, in 1872, and in a game between the same players in the Vienna Tournament of 1882, the defense appears to have the best of the position in either case.

6. Bc4 Rh7 7. d4 d6 8. Nxf7

A mode of attack sanctioned by most authorities and one suitable to Mr. Blackburne's dashing style. But we deliberately prefer the retreat of Nd3, for we think that by proper play, difficult as it may be, the defense ought to be able effectually to guard all center points against the hostile attack and should retain the two minor pieces against rook and pawn with the superior game.

8. ... Rxf7 9. Bxf7+ Kxf7 10. Bxf4 Bg7

His game is practically lost from this point though the move in the text looks good enough at first sight. The bishop, however, is now only in the way, for, we believe, the post he occupies is the best place for the Black king who ought to be removed there at once. The general plan of the defense ought then to be to develop the pieces on the queen's side, while the minor pieces on the king's side might well be left at home for a few moves at least. For instance, 10. ... Kg7 11. Nc3 (or 11. 0—0 Qxh4, etc.) 11. ... c6 12. Qd3 Nd7, followed mostly by Nb6, with a good game.

11. 0—0 Nf6

If Ke8, the only other feasible defense, White could reply Qd3, threatening Qg5, and winning the king's rook's pawn with a check , besides also threatening pawn to e5, followed by Qg6+.

12. Nc3 Kg8 13. Bg5 Be6 14. e5

All in admirable style, considering especially that he conducts seven other games at the time without seeing the board.

14. ... dxe5 15. Ne4 Nc6 16. c3

Simple enough when you see it, but it is a move which bears internal evidence that the performer who did not see it, excepting in his mind's eye, must have looked far ahead.

16. ... exd4

If, for instance, Black had here sacrificed the queen, it required some neat play to prove a speedy and sure win, e.g., 16. ... Nxe4 17. Bxd8 Rxd8 18. Qd3 Nd6 (if  18. ... Nf6 19. Rxf6 Bxf6 20. Qg6+, etc.) 19. Qg6 Bf7 20. Rxf7 (best) 20. ... Nxf7 21. d5 (best) 21. ... Rxd5 22. Rf1 Ncd8 23. Qxh5, and after winning the knight's pawn, his two passed pawns on the king's side would win without much difficulty.

17. Nxf6+ Bxf6 18. Rxf6

Resigns. He cannot save the game, and the following is a probable continuation: 18. ... Qd7 19. Qd3 Ne7 20. Rg6+ Nxg6 21. Qxg6+, and wins.

Sources: The International Chess Magazine, December 1885, page 368 (notes by Wilhelm Steinitz*); The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, April 10, 1886.

Joseph H. Blackburne — H. Lawson

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 16, 1885

  • C10 French Defense

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nc6

As stated on previous occasions, Nf6 is here the correct play.

4. Nf3 Bb4 5. e5

Not as good as Bd3. If Black then answer Nf6, White may pin that knight by Bg5 with advantage.

5. ... Nge7 6. Bd3 Nf5 7. Bxf5 exf5 8. 0—0 0—0

Black could have obtained here slightly the better position by Bxc3, followed by either Na5 or Be6, for White's doubled pawns on the queen's side, were a greater source of weakness than Black's doubled pawns on the king's wing.

9. Ne2 Ne7 10. c3 Ba5 11. Bg5 Qe8 12. Nf4 h6

Perhaps he may have concluded that the sacrifice of the pawn was his best resource against the threatened attack by Nh5, but he had in reality nothing to fear from that move, e.g., 12. ... c6 13. Nh5 f6 14. exf6 (or  14. Bxf6 Qxh5 15. Bxe7 Rf7, followed by pawn to f4, with a good game) 14. ... Qxh5 15. fxe7 Re8 16. Re1 Bc7, followed by Bd6, and afterwards recovering the pawn with an even game.

13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Nxd5 Qd8 15. Nf4 c6 16. Re1 Bc7 17. e6

Energetic and excellent. He threatens pawn to e7, and the exchange of pieces is, of course, in his favor with a pawn ahead.

17. ... fxe6 18. Nxe6 Bxe6 19. Rxe6 Qd7 20. Qe2 Rae8 21. Re1 Kf7 22. Ng5+

A fine stroke, which decides the battle for the blindfolded master.

22. ... Kg8

Of course, if hxg5, then White proceeded with Qh5+, and the pawn could not interpose, on account of Qh7 mate, while otherwise Black's rook was also lost.

23. Rxe8 hxg5 24. Qc4+ Qd5 25. Qxd5+ cxd5 26. g3 Bd6 27. R1e6 Kf7 28. Rxf8+

Resigns. Bxf8 is his best, but then White must win easily with the exchange and a pawn ahead.

Sources: The International Chess Magazine, December 1885, page 369 (notes by Wilhelm Steinitz*); The Birmingham Weekly Mercury, June 28, 1890.

Two years followed in which no blindfold exhibitions occurred at the City of London Chess Club. Instead, Blackburne had performances at the new established British Chess Club. His next appearance at the City Club (Salutation Inn) was on October 8, 1888.

The details of this meeting are:10

Result +5 =3 -0; score 81.3 percent; playing hours 6.00 p.m. — 11.30 p.m.

Opponents:

1

Blackburne — Ridpath

½-½

 

5

Blackburne — Smith

1-0

2

Blackburne — Miller

1-0

 

6

Blackburne — Bechhöfer

1-0

3

Blackburne — Serraillier

½-½

 

7

Blackburne — Hill

½-½

4

Blackburne — Newman

1-0

 

8

Blackburne — Swale

1-0

An extensive account of the evening appeared in The International Chess Magazine (November 1888, pages 331-332):

There was a great gathering of Chess masters to witness the performance such as Herr von Bardeleben and Messrs Gunsberg, Lee, Pollock and Mortimer; whilst the amateurs also mustered in force including Messrs. Gastineau, Heppell, Hooke, Knight, Jamieson and Stevens. Mr. F.W. Lord acted as "teller" for which office I think he "holds the field" against the world. I may also mention that the presence of the fair sex was not wanting on the occasion. Mr. Blackburne was again in fine form, and his play was one of the most spirited character, and it was a treat to the bystanders to see the way he conducted some of the more intricate parts of the games. His opponents had been carefully selected from the third team of the club and were mostly veterans, cool, steady and stubborn; dangerous foes in one sense, as having considerable knowledge of match play and possessing that steadiness under fire which is the mark of old service under the flag; yet in another sense worthy foes, as having themselves Chess ideas, they would be the more likely to evoke all the genius of the blindfold player. Play commenced at 6 o'clock and Mr. Blackburne opened at all the boards by 1 P-K4 to which 6 of his opponents replied by a similar move, two only electing to go in for irregular openings. The first nine moves all round were played remarkably fast, and not more than three-quarters of an hour was expended over them. By this time, of course, complications began to appear in most of the games and Mr. Blackburne took some time over his next series of four moves. At the end of these moves Mr. Blackburne had taken up the running on most of the boards, and right and left he was preparing attacks more or less promising. At Board No. 6 he got a specially good game with a fine attack. This he pushed in really splendid form, and at length gave up the Queen, forcing thereby the game in beautiful style. This he did at 8:45 amidst loud applause, and then he took half an hour's rest. On resuming play he soon made it warm all round, but especially at Board No. 2 where he sent up his pawns on the Kings flank and broke through in fine and dashing manner to the evident of Herr von Bardeleben who was watching this game with great interest. Mr. Blackburne soon had a won game here, but Mr. Miller, full of fight, struggled on till after 11 before resigning. Victory followed the flag of the "old bull-dog" right along the line, and at 11:30 the score was Blackburne 5, drawn 2, and 1 unfinished and very drawish. Both opponents agreed to draw and the encounter ended with Blackburne 5, drawn 3, lost 0, and long and loud was the applause that followed the announcement of the result.

One game of the 1888 gathering has been found.

Joseph H. Blackburne — Miller

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 8, 1888

  • C50 Giuoco Piano

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 h6 4. d4 d6 5. dxe5 Bg4 6. 0—0

Mr. Blackburne intended playing for an old favorite (Legalle's) mate, and should have played 6. Nc3, if Nxe5, 7. Nxe5 Bxd1 8. Bxf7+ Ke7 9. Nd5, mate.

6. ... Nxe5 7. Be2 Bxf3 8. gxf3 Nf6 9. Nc3 c6 10. Kh1

Nothing daunted by having missed his way to a direct attack in the opening, the blindfold player builds up his game with a view to future events.

10. ... Qc7 11. Rg1 0—0—0

Castling on the king's side, of course, cannot be effected.

12. f4 Ned7 13. Be3 Kb8 14. a4 Ka8

Rather than waste time thus he should strike out on his own account by pawn to d5, or pawn to g5.

15. Bf3 Nc5 16. b4 Ne6 17. a5 Qb8

To guard against Bb6.

18. Na4

Threatening to win the queen by Nb6+.

18. ... Nd7 19. Nb6+ Nxb6 20. axb6 a6 21. f5 Ng5 

22. b5

Beautifully played, and very accurately worked out.

22. ... Nxf3

If cxb5, 23. Qd5 Qc8, mate follows in four moves.

23. bxc6 bxc6

If Nxg1, 24. c7 Qc8 25. Rxa6+ bxa6 26. Qd5+, and mates next move.

24. Rxa6+ Kb7 25. Qa1

Clearly perceiving that winning the queen would lead to very little more besides.

25. ... Kc8 26. Ra8 Rd7 27. Qa6+ Rb7 28. Ra1

The coup juste. Black is defenseless. Resigns.

Source: Leeds Mercury, October 13, 1888 (notes by James White).

The Chess Monthly (December 1888, page 124) offered the ending of this game, though with a wrong diagram and a different move order.

A small anecdote involving Blackburne's blindfold play - and perhaps one of the most appealing - was given in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of November 22, 1879:

About ten days ago he gave a "blindfold" performance at Cheadle, in Staffordshire, which was remarkable in more respects than one. This town or village is a small place, containing between three and four thousand inhabitants, yet it managed to muster ten strong payers, who stood up, or rather sat down, to uphold the honour of their native place. The games lasted for several hours, mainly owing to Mr. Blackburne's courtesy in not counting the time, and then the combatants being obliged to vacate the room, where they were playing, and Mr. Blackburne's opponents being very desirous of finishing all the games that same evening, they proposed an adjournment to a school-room which was kindly placed at their disposal by the vicar of the parish. To this proposal Mr. Blackburne, who never shirks work, nor fails to oblige his opponents, when he can do so, acceded. Then, with a torch-bearer at their head, the whole company sallied, through the unlamped streets, armed with their boards and the pieces theron in position. Slowly they moved to their destination; but on their arrival there they discovered that several pieces had been msiplaced by the jolting they encountered on the way, and to get the rght positions it was proposed to play over the games from the records that had been kept. Thereupon Mr. Blackburne offered to save them that trouble by calling out the moves that had already been made from the commencement on the several boards where the pieces had been disturbed. This he did at once with great rapidity and perfect correctness. Play was then resumed, and resulted in seven victories and three "draws" to the champion. Chairing the conqueror was then contemplated, but owing to the lateness of the hour was ultimately abandoned. Great excitement prevailed that evening, nor did it terminate with the night; indeed, it culminated next morning in a perfect furore. For when the following day Mr. Blackburne went into a shop to make some small purchase, the proprietor thereof with great glee informed him that he had in the forenoon sold all the chess-boards and men in his possession — numbering over one dozen.

This story was more or less confirmed in a letter which was published in The Times (October 27, 1890), eleven years afterwards. "An old chessplayer", from Belper, Derbyshire, recalled (the number of players in his story is in conflict with the account above):  "Some years ago I was one of eight unfortunate players pitted against Mr. Blackburne, he playing the whole of us simutaneously blindfold. The meeting was held at an hotel in Cheadle, Straffordshire. At closing time, 11 o'clock, it was found that all the games were unfinished, and, Mr. Blackburne being willing to continue, the players carried their boards and men to a neighbouring school-room. Perhaps such a procession had never been seen before. In the course of transit many of the chessmen were displaced, and the different players were much troubled to ascertain their correct positions. Mr. Blackburne, being informed of the difficulty, offered to call out, blindfold, each game up to the point when we left the hotel. This he did, and in every instance was correct."

Not fully in line with the two above stories is the report of the meeting in Land and Water (November 15, 1879). This paper did not mention the late walk from the hotel to the school, and offered different details. 

At ten o'clock p.m. there was an adjournment for refreshments, but the interruption does not seem to have affected Mr. Blackburne unfavourable, for soon after coming back he announced a decisive advantage in six moves against Dr. Yates, who thereupon resigned. Further on he announced mate in seven moves against Mr. Beardmore, going through several variations of play, some of which involved sacrifices.

The blindfold exhibition took place at the Royal Oak Hotel on November 6, 1879. Blackburne's opponents were Orde , Davis, Yates, Askew, Beach, Beardmore, Collier, Cotton, Cull and Peaty. Orde, Beach and Cotton drew their games.11

Back to the picture. The artist was Horace Morchen, who frequently worked for The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

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ADDITION:

Gerard Killoran (Ilkley, England) forwarded the following missing game of Blackburne’s 1885 exhibition at the City of London Chess Club.

Joseph H. Blackburne – George E. Wainwright

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition  
  • London, October 16, 1885
  • C47 Four Knights’ Game

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6

Good! This avoids the danger resulting from the usual defense 4. Bc4, and is good judgment on Black's part, for no one knows this gambit better than Mr. Blackburne.

5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 Qe7 8. 0–0 0–0 9. Bg5 Qe5 10. Bxf6

White naturally simplifies matters; for considering he has seven other games on hand, it would not do to complicate things against a player of Mr. Wainwright's strength. Otherwise 10. f4 seems to have points.

10. ... Qxf6 11. Ne2 d5

Very properly declining the pawn offered him.

12. Ng3 Rb8

Motto - "Seize the open file."

13. c3 Bc5 14. Qc2

Good; but Black is too old a player to be caught with this kind of "chaff."

14. ... Kh8 15. Rae1

Probably 15. Rfe1 would have been better.

15. ... Bd7 16. e5 Qf4 17. Bf5 Bxf5 18. Nxf5 g6 19. Ng3 Rfe8 20. Qe2 Bd6 21. Qa6 Rxb2

A very fine move, and in high style. If 22. exd6 Rxe1 23. Rxe1 Qxf2+, and mates next move.

22. Qxc6 Rxe5 23. Rxe5 Qxe5 24. a4 h5

Threatening pawn to h4 to win the knight.

25. h4 Rc2 26. Rd1 Rxc3 27. Qxd5 Qxd5 28. Rxd5 Rc4 29. a5 Rxh4 30. Ne2 Re4 31. Kf1 Re5 32. Rxe5 Bxe5 33. Ke1 Bd6 34. a6 Kg7 35. Nd4 Bc5 36. Nc6 Kf6 37. f3 Ke6 38. Ke2 Kd5 39. Nd8 f6 40. Kd3 Be7 41. Nf7 Kc6 42. Kc4 g5 43. Nh6 Bd6 44. Nf5 Kb6 45. Kd5 Kxa6,

and after a few more moves White resigned.

Source: The Hackney Mercury and North London Herald, November 7, 1885 (annotator is unknown*).

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* The diagram was given in the original source.

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Notes:   1 Daily News, September 17, 1889; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, September 21, 1889; Leeds Mercury, September 21, 1889.   2 Daily News, September 17, 1889.   3 The Chess Monthly, October 1882, page 38.   4 The Standard, September 28, 1882; The Field, September 30, 1882; The Chess Monthly, October 1882, page 38.   5 The Standard, September 28, 1882.   6 The Morning Post, October 11, 1883; The Field, October 13, 1883; Land and Water, October 20, 1883; The Illustrated London News, October 20, 1883.   7 The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 24, 1885.   8 The International Chess Magazine, November 1885, page 324.   9 The Morning Post, October 19, 1885; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 24, 1885; The Chess Monthly, November 1885, page 66; The International Chess Magazine, November 1885, page 324.   10 The Standard, October 9, 1888; Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 13, 1888; British Chess Magazine, November 1888, pages 436-437; Daily News, October 9, 1888; The Morning Post, October 15, 1888; The Chess Monthly, November 1888, page 69.   11 Land and Water, November 15, 1879.

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Pictures: A Blindfold Chess Contest by Mr. Blackburne (The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, September 28, 1889); Alexander S. Beaumont (The Chess Monthly, December 1893); Benjamin G. Laws (The Chess Monthly, September 1892).

 © November 2016 Joost van Winsen. All Rights Reserved

ADDITION  © January 2017 Joost van Winsen. All Rights Reserved


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