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

Joseph H. Blackburne gave a performance of blindfold chess at the City of London Chess Club on October 12, 1881. In the center of the overcrowded dining room of Mouflet's Hotel were two oblong tables, each with four chess boards, at which sat his opponents. The blindfolded player is not pictured here: he sat at the further end of the room, with his back turned to the chess boards. The man standing in the middle is F.W. Lord, who acted as teller.

Blackburne Blindfolded at the City Club (2)

The picture above is of Blackburne's blindfold exhibition at the City of London Chess Club in 1881. The date of the meeting was October 12, and the place where Blackburne displayed his skills was Mouflet's Hotel, 24 Newgate street.

The hotel was crowded during Blackburne's performance. The number of spectators was estimated to be at least 500, among them many literary and artistic celebrities. 1 Well-known chess personalities present were Philipp Hirschfeld, Leopold Hoffer, George A. MacDonnell, Ladislas Maczuski, James Mason and Wilhelm Steinitz. 2 The Brighton Guardian (October 19, 1881)   wrote:

No doubt, the success of Mr. Blackburne at the late Berlin Chess Tournament, as well as his general popularity, had much to do with the attendance, though it evidently shows that the interest in these exhibitions does not abate.

Blackburne had won the Berlin tournament (the Second Congress of the German Chess Federation) which took place from August 29 until September 17, 1881. His victory - he won thirteen games, drew two and lost one, and was three games ahead of Johannes H. Zukertort who took the second prize in Berlin - was very much celebrated in Great Britain.

Because of his popularity the spectators had to obtain tickets if they wanted to see Blackburne's exhibition. The tickets were issued free to members of the club and their friends. 3

The Times, in the issue of October 14, 1881, offered a detailed report of the evening:

It hardly needs remark that Mr. Blackburne’s eyes were not bandaged. He was merely so placed that it was impossible for him to see the boards of his opponents. He was seated at the further end of the large dining room of the hotel, which is raised and parted off from the rest, like the stage from the pit of a theatre. Besides the high back of his prompter’s chair, as it may be called, a thick wall reaching up to the ceiling divided him from the eight, who sat at two oblong parallel tables in the pit. Each of the eight players had a chess-board in front of him, with the full use of his eyes in conducting the game. Up and down between the two rows walked the teller, Mr. Lord. All being ready, the teller announced that player No. 1 had made such and such a move. Mr. Blackburne considered a little and then announced his move in reply, which the teller accordingly made. The teller passed on to the next player, whose move he published to the room in general and to Mr. Blackburne in particular. Again the champion considered a while, and then announced his reply. In this way all the boards were gone over again and again until the contest ended. It is plain that in every case in which the number of a board is called, the blindfold player must recall to his memory the exact state of that board and the bearing of each piece upon the progress of the game. At starting this would not seem so difficult, but as time wore on the positions of the respective chess boards would become more and more complicated. Breaches were made in the enemy’s defences, and the contending forces became more and more intermingled in a final struggle for victory. Play had gone on for three hours from a little after 6 o’clock, when, in the 17th round, No. 5 was checkmated. At 10.50 p.m. No. 7 proposed that his game should be declared drawn, but Mr. Blackburne declined. At 11.08 No. 3 made a like proposal, which was agreed to. Two minutes afterwards No. 7 resigned, followed at 11.18 by No. 6; at 11.29 by No. 4; and at 11.31 by No. 8. Of the eight antagonists two only are now left. In about an hour the champion yielded to No. 1, and it was then agreed that game No. 2 should be adjourned.

It seems that Blackburne was not in top form when he made his appearance at the City of London Chess Club. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of October 22, 1881, revealed:

Blackburne was not in his best form, and did not play with his usual rapidity and brilliancy. Indeed, when an adjournment took place, after three hours’ play, he told me it was a good thing for him that he was not playing over the board, as his sight was so bad that he would be sure to mistake queens for kings and pawns for bishops.

His opponents were all members of the city club. According to The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (October 22, 1881), the game against Chappell was drawn. The particulars of the meeting were: 4  

Result +5 =2 -1; score 75 percent; playing hours 6.00 p.m. – 12.30 a.m.



Blackburne – Piper




Blackburne – Cutler



Blackburne – Chappell




Blackburne – Gastineau



Blackburne – Stevens




Blackburne – Hunnex



Blackburne – Watson




Blackburne – Atkinson


Two games have been discovered.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Thomas H. Piper
  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 12, 1881, board 1

  • C45 Scotch Game

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. Nd2 

The first seven moves like in the 12th and 14th match games Blackburne v. Zukertort. The former played now c4. 

8.... g6 

We gave as continuation 8.... a5. The text move is equally good. 

9. Nf3 Bg7 10. a3 

White dare not play Bg5 at once, for Black would win with Qb4+ at least a pawn. 

10.... a5 11. Bg5 Qe6 12. c4 Nb6 13. Bf4 Ba6 14. Rc1 0–0–0 

In the match games referred to Black castled on the queen's side for the sake of rapid development. At the present instance, however, both sides being available, we would decidedly prefer castling king's rook. 

15. b4 axb4 16. axb4 d6 

Black had time to concentrate first his forces with 16.... Rhe8. The text move deprive him of all the advantage which he might derive from the weakness of the hostile king's pawn. 

17. b5 

Trusting to his superior skill in handling complicated positions and trying, therefore, to avoid an early draw which might result after the exchange of queens. Otherwise, we would expect from Mr. Blackburne the correct continuation 17. exd6. 

17.... cxb5 18. cxb5 dxe5 19. Be3 

He must give up the pawn, for its capture would lead to more serious loss, viz.: 19. Nxe5 Nd5 (The only reply: if 19.... Bb7, then 20. Nxg6 (20. Rxc7+? Kxc7 21. Nc4+ Kd7) 20.... Nd5 21. Qxe6+ fxe6 22. Ne7+, winning) 20. Bg3 Rhe8 21. bxa6 (If 21. f4, then 21.... Bb7, threatening 22.... f6 or Nxf4 accordingly) 21.... Bxe5 22. a7 (After 22. Bxd5 Qxd5, White's game gets equally indefensible) 22.... Bc3+ 23. Rxc3 Qa6! 24. Re3 Qa1+ 25. Qd1 Nxe3, and wins. 

19.... Bb7 20. Ng5 Qe7 21. f3 Nd5 22. b6 

Necessary to gain some time! After 22. Kf2 or g3 f5, Black would threaten immediate ruin with e4 or c6, according to White's continuation. 

22.... Nxb6 

He should first dislodge the hostile knight with 22.... h6. 

23. g3 

For White might now recover a most valuable pawn with 23. Nxf7 Qxf7 24. Bxb6. 

23.... f5 24. Bg2 Rd7 

Superfluous caution: he should play at once Nd5, threatening then f4. 

25. 0–0 Nd5 26. Rb1 

A very fine move which might have proved too deep for many a player of greater renown as Mr. Piper claims. 

26.... Nxe3 

Black wisely avoids two continuations which appear at a superficial examination to gain safely the exchange or a piece, which, however, would be advantageous to White, as a deeper scrutiny shows, viz.: 

I. 26.... Nc3 27. Qb2 Nxb1 28. Rxb1 c6 29. Ne4! fxe4 30. Bh3 Kd8 (Or 30.... Kb8 31.Qb6, etc.) 31. Bxd7 Qxd7 32. Qxb7 Qxb7 33. Rxb7 Bf6 34. fxe4; 

II. 26.... f4 27. Qb2 c6 (If 27.... Qxg5, then 28.Qxb7+ and 29. Bc5) 28. Bh3 Kd8 29. Ne6+ Ke8 30. Nxg7+ Qxg7 31. Bxd7+, etc. 

But the text move is not better, we think, than the two just examined. Black should strengthen his position with 26.... Qa3. - All the danger is created by Black's 14th move - Compare note.

27. Qxe3 

Mr. Blackburne overlooks here the natural consequence of his own scheme, a rare case, indeed, with him, and which was brought about, we suppose, by physical exhaustion. Instead of taking the knight, White should capture the bishop and would then restore the fortunes of the day. After 27. Rxb7, Black has, so far as we see, no line of play by which he could make use of his superior numbers. We submit five different continuations.

I. 27.... Rd6 28. Qb5 Rb6 29. Qxb6 cxb6 30. Rxe7 Bf6 31. Rc1+ Kd8 32. Rxh7; 

II. 27.... Qc5 28. Ne6 (28. Rb8+ Kxb8 29. Rb1+ Qb6 (Or 29.... Kc8 30. Qa6+ Kd8 31. Ne6+) 30. Rxb6+ and 31. Qxe3) 28.... Qc2 29. Qxc2 Nxc2 30. Rfb1 Rd1+ (Or 30.... Rf7 (30.... Re7 31. Nc5) 31. Nxg7) 31. Rxd1 Kxb7 32. Rc1;

III. 27.... Qxg5 28. f4 Qf6 (If 28.... exf4, then 29. Qa6 Kd8 30. Qe6 Kc8 31. Rfb1) 29. Qxe3 exf4 30. Qb3 and 31. Re1 or Rc1 accordingly, with a very promising attack; 

IV. 27.... Nd5 28. Qb5 c6 (If 28.... Nb6, then 29. Qa6) 29. Qxc6+ Rc7 30. Rxc7+ Nxc7 31. Rc1 and 32 Ne6; 

V. 27.... Nxf1! 28. Qb5 (White might draw at once with 28. Rb8+ Kxb8 29. Qb5+, etc. He must not, however, continue with; 28. Qa6 on account of 28.... Qc5+ 29. Kh1 Nxg3+ 30. hxg3 Rd1+ 31. Kh2 Ra1 32. Qxa1 Kxb7, etc.) 28.... c6 29. Rb8+ Kc7 30. Rb7+, and will draw by perpetual check.

27.... e4 28. Kh1 

If 28. Qb3, then 28.... Bd4+ 29. Kh1 Bb6.

28.... exf3 29. Rxf3 Qxe3 30. Rxe3 Bxg2+ 31. Kxg2 Bh6 32. Ra3 Rd2+ 33. Kh3 Re8 34. Nf3 

If 34. Nxh7, then 34.... Ree2 35. Ra8+ Kd7 36. Rh1 g5 37. Nf6+ Ke6 38. Ra6+ Kf7, and must win. After 34. Ra8+ Kd7 35. Rxe8 Kxe8 36. Nxh7, Black wins with 36.... g5 37. g4 Kf7, etc.

34.... Rde2 35. Nd4 

35. Ra8+, followed by the exchange of rooks, would prolong the struggle. 

35.... Rf2 36. Ra7 g5! 37. Rh1 g4+ 38. Kh4 Re1! 39. Nxf5 Rxh1 40. Nxh6 Rfxh2+ 


Source: The Chess Monthly, June 1882, pages 306-308 (notes by Johannes H. Zukertort).

Joseph H. Blackburne - C.G. Cutler

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, October 12, 1881, board 5

  • C21 Center Game

1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 d6 

Pawn takes pawn is considered best. 

4. cxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Be7 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. Nge2 b6 8. 0–0 Bb7 9. f4 0–0 

A useless exposure of the king to danger; his best, perhaps, was Qd7, in due course castling queen's rook.

10. d5 Nb4 11. Ng3 Nxd3 12. Qxd3 c6 13. Nf5 cxd5 14. exd5 Qd7 15. Be3 Rae8 

Rfe8 would have been better. 

16. Bd4 Bd8 17. Rf3 Kh8 

Bc8 seems his only resource. 

18. Rh3 g6 

Having needlessly rushed into danger, the Black king now proceeds to strip himself of his armour. 

19. Nh6 Bc8 20. Ne4 Kg7 21. Ng5 Kh8 

22. f5 

As usual, Mr. Blackburne selects the shortest and prettiest road to victory. 

22.... gxf5 23. Rf1 Qe7 24. Nxf5 Bxf5 25. Qxf5 


Sources: Brighton Guardian, October 19, 1881; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 29, 1882, (notes by George A. MacDonnell).

The Brighton Guardian offered the additional moves 25.... Kg8 26. Rxh7 before Black resigned.

Blackburne's eighth blindfold performance at the City of London Chess Club (the seven preceding matches are discussed in our article of February 2014) was the second that took place at Mouflet's Hotel. The first was in 1876.
It seems that the unseeing player was suffering from ill-health on April 18, 1877 5

The rooms presented a scene of unusual animation and excitement, whilst the single-handed player conducted eight games, simultaneously, against eight strong amateurs; winning four, losing two, and drawing two. This, in itself, was by no means one of Mr. Blackburne's greatest achievements, but is was certainly a very remarkable performance, considering that at the time he was suffering much pain from rheumatism and other ailments. Strange, too, notwithstanding his physical condition, he played with great ease and rapidity; and frequently, whilst waiting for his opponents' moves, chatted gaily with the bystanders, and smoked his cigar unconcernedly.

Blackburne most likely won four games, drew two and lost two in this exhibition. 6 The individual results are, however, a bit of a mystery. Land and Water of April 21, 1877, wrote that Blackburne won four games and drew two, but published individual scores that were inconsistent with this claim. The paper published the news that Herzfeld and Philp lost their games, Adamson and Beardsell achieved draws, and that the remaining four contestants were victorious.

Three games of the match have been found: against Adamson, Beardsell and Philp. These scores are the only three to hold on to. The characteristics of the 1877 exhibition are (as far as is known): 7

Result +4 =2 -2; score 62.5 percent; playing hours 6.00 p.m. – 11.30 p.m.



Blackburne – Herzfeld




Blackburne – Knight



Blackburne – Rabbeth




Blackburne – Stevens



Blackburne – Beardsell




Blackburne – Philp



Blackburne – Gastineau




Blackburne – Adamson


Besides the three games referred to one end game has been found: 8

Joseph H. Blackburne - T.N. Beardsell

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, April 18, 1877, board 3

  • C21 Center Game

1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2 5. Bxb2 Qg5 

We think 5.... Nf6 preferable to this sally of the queen. 

6. Nf3 Qa5+ 7. Nbd2 b5 8. Bb3 Nc6 9. 0–0 Bb7 10. Rc1 a6 11. Ng5 Nh6 12. Qh5 

The sacrifice of the piece here is hardly sound, but it is quite in Mr. Blackburne's "blindfold" style. 

12.... Qxd2 13. Bxf7+ Kd8 14. Ne6+ Kc8 15. Bc3 Qxa2 16. Ng5 Nxf7 17. Nxf7 Rg8 18. Rfd1 Be7 19. Ne5 Nxe5 20. Bxe5 Bc6 21. Qh3 Kb8 

Kb7 at once would have produced a somewhat similar position. 

22. Bxc7+ Kb7 23. Rxd7 Rac8 24. Bf4+ 

All this is very pretty and interesting. 

24.... Ka8 

If Bxd7, mate follows in a few moves. Black has conducted the game with great judgment for so young a player. 

25. Rxe7 Qa4 26. Qe3 Bb7 27. Re1 Qb4

and after a few moves the game was abandoned as drawn.

Source: Land and Water, June 9, 18 77 (notes by Patrick T. Duffy).

Joseph H. Blackburne - J. Philp

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, April 18, 1877, board 7

  • C45 Scotch Game

1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. Nxd4 Qh4 5. Be3 

In an opening so well known, Mr. Blackburne no doubt thought it advisable to diverge from the usual routine course.

5.... Bc5 6. Nf3 Qxe4 7. Bd3 Qb4+ 8. c3 Qb6 

Had he taken the knight's pawn, White would have obtained a very strong position by first capturing the bishop and then checking with the queen at e2. 

9. 0–0 Nge7 10. Re1 d5 11. b4 Bxe3 12. Rxe3 Be6 13. a4 a5 14. b5 Nb8 15. Nd4 Ng6 16. Qg4 Kd7 

17. Nxe6 

As usual in Mr. Blackburne's blindfold games, the termination is very neat. 

17.... fxe6 18. Rxe6 Qxe6 19. Bf5 Re8 20. Nd2 Kd6 21. Bxe6 Rxe6 22. c4 


Source: Land and Water, October 20, 18 77 (notes by Patrick T. Duffy).

Joseph H. Blackburne - G. Adamson

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, April 18, 1877, board 8

  • C01 French Defense, Exchange Variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. Bd3 0–0 7. 0–0 Nc6 

The best move, though not given in text-books. It was recommended by Zukertort, and curiously enough, was afterwards successfully employed by both Potter and Blackburne in their matches against him. 

8. Bg5 Bg4 9. Ne2 

We doubt the soundness of this continuation, and consider Kh1 and advisable, if not indispensable precaution at this point. 

9.... Bxf3 10. gxf3 h6 11. Be3 Nh5 12. Ng3 Nxg3 13. hxg3 f5 14. c3 f4 

All this has been excellently played by Mr. Adamson. 

15. Bd2 Qf6 

Our preference is for pawn takes pawn. 

16. g4 Ne7 17. Qc2 h5 18. Kg2 hxg4 19. Rh1 gxf3+ 20. Kxf3 Nf5 21. Rag1 Rae8 

22. Bxf5 

Mr. Blackburne here plays for a draw, and wisely so. If 22. Rh5 Nh4+ 23. Kg4 Be7 and Black seems to remain with the advantage. It is to be noted that Qe6+ or Re3+ [ sic ] would be inferior, and in fact mere flashes in the pan. 

22.... Qxf5 23. Qxf5 Rxf5 24. Rh4 Ref8 25. Rgg4 g5 26. Rh5 

Drawn by mutual consent, the hour being late. The onus of the draw would be upon White; but we doubt Black being able to do more than share the honors with his adversary.

Source: Land and Water, November 24, 18 77 (notes by William N. Potter).

The endgame:

Joseph H. Blackburne - N.N.

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, April 18, 1877

1. Rad1 Qf6 2. Nd5 Qe6 

If Qxb2, White would still reply with Bf5. 

3. Bf5 Qxf5 4. Qxe8+ Rxe8 5. Rxe8+ Bxe8 6. Ne7+ Nxe7 7. Rd8, mate

Source: Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess,1899, pages 188-189. (notes by Joseph H. Blackburne).

The set-up of Blackburne's performance at the City of London Chess in 1878 differed from the former years. On this occasion he opposed eight representatives of London chess club instead of members of the City Club. The new format lasted three years, until 1880.

Mouflet's Hotel was anew the place of action. Playing day was March 16, 1878. The represented chess clubs in this meeting were the Railway Clearing House (by Tarrant), Bermondsey (Block), Excelsior (Wilson), Shaftesbury (Weightman), Greenwich (Piper), Athenaeum (Hamlyn), Old Change (Webber) and Eclectic (Hoon). 9Blackburne had asked the eight metropolitan clubs to send their strongest players. 10

Obviously Blackburne was not impressed by the crème de la crème of London amateurs. The blindfolded player won seven games and drew one, even though many onlookers seems to have behaved unsportingly. 11

There was, however, one feather of the affair which ought to be seen to on future occasions. The spectators sympathised so much with their representatives that they could not forhear making remarks upon the games. Probable moves and the best replies were freely discussed.

The highlights of the meeting: 12  

Result +7 =1 -0; score 93.8 percent; playing hours: 4.45 p.m. – 11.00 p.m.

Opponents (board numbers are missing):

Blackburne – Block



Blackburne – Tarrant


Blackburne – Hamlyn



Blackburne – Webber


Blackburne – Hoon



Blackburne – Weightman


Blackburne – Piper



Blackburne – Wilson


According to The Field (March 23, 1878), several chess players of fame were present in Mouflet's Hotel. The most noteworthy spectators were Henry E. Bird, Hoffer, William N. Potter, Steinitz and Johannes H. Zukertort.

Seven games have been dug up.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Block

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C52 Evans Gambit

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. 0–0 Nf6 7. d4 d6 

Castling is held to be Black's best seventh move: Mr. Block was presumably afraid to venture into the intricacies of the Richardson attack. 

8. Qa4 

This looks strong, but does not seem very profitable in the result. 

8.... a6 9. d5 b5 10. Bxb5 axb5 11. Qxb5 0–0 12. Qxc6 Ba6 13. Re1 Bd3 

Black, who has been playing very skillfully, now wins the exchange. 

14. Bg5 Ra6 15. Qa4 Bxc3 16. Qb3 Bxa1 17. Qxd3 Rxa2 18. Nbd2 Qa8 19. Bxf6 gxf6 20. Nh4 

20.... Qa3 

Bd4 should have been played here, keeping the queen where she is, so as to defend in certain positions the doubled king's bishop's pawn. 

21. Nb3 Qb4 22. Rf1 Qc3 23. Qd1 

A resource either not foreseen or else misappreciated by the opponent. 

23.... Rfa8 24. Nf5 Kf8 

A very bad selection, h8 obviously the only place. 

25. Nc1 Qc2 

Again ill chosen. He should either have moved the queen's rook somewhere up the line or else played Rc2. I should have wooed the latter alternative. 

26. Qg4 Ke8 

Should still have conveyed the rook up the file. Moreover Bd4 is better than the move made, not but what he has by this time got a bad game. 

27. Nxa2 Rxa2 28. Qg8+ Kd7 29. Ng7 c6 30. Qxf7+ 

Resigns, because he sees that after Kc8 White plays dxc6 with fatal results.

Sources: The Westminster Papers, April 18 78, page 220 (notes by William N. Potter - his remarks were also used in Blackburne's book); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess, 1899, pages 266-267.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Hamlyn

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C50 Giuoco Piano

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 d6 

Staunton's axiom that the Scotch Gambit cannot be advantageously declined still holds good. The pawn should be taken undoubtedly. 

4. Bc4 Bg4 5. Nc3 Nxd4 6. Nxe5 dxe5 

The verge of the looming mate is, no doubt, often reached; but the precipice then yawns too threateningly, and consequently the catastrophe rarely comes off. 

7. Qxg4 Nxc2+ 8. Ke2 Nf6 

If he take the rook, either Rd1 or Qh5 yields a strongish attack. For all that, the capture ought to be made. 

9. Qg5 Qd6 

If the rook be now taken, Rd1 will be very strong. 

10. Rd1 Nd4+ 11. Kf1 h6 12. Qg3 c6 13. Be3 0–0–0 14. Rac1 Qc7 15. Bd3 g5 16. f3 Kb8 17. Qf2 a6 

Proposing, no doubt, to play bishop to c5, and thence to a7; but his opponent has something to say about that. 

18. Ne2 Qb6 19. Rc4 Qxb2 

Rash. His best play is seemingly c5. 

20. Rb1 Qa3 21. Rc3 Qa4 22. Bxd4 exd4 23. Rcb3 b5 

24. Nc3 

A brilliant conception. The final result is that the queen is won for a rook and two minor pieces. Too dear a price that, unless the position affords compensation. Mr. Blackburne has to see, and does see, that the adverse king will not be able to escape. Such clearness of insight is very remarkable, when we consider that he had the other games to attend to, especially as one or two of them were very intricate. 

24.... Qa5 25. Nxb5 axb5 26. Bxb5 cxb5 27. Rxb5+ Qxb5+ 28. Rxb5+ Kc8 29. Qc2+ Kd7 30. Qa4 

Upon this move Mr. Blackburne based his combination, and it wins. 

30.... Ke6 31. Qc4+ Nd5 

If Ke7, then Qc7+, etc. 

32. Rxd5 Rxd5 33. Qxd5+ 

Black cannot save his other rook, and therefore resigns.

Source: Land and Water, March 30, 18 78 (notes by William N. Potter).

Joseph H. Blackburne - Hoon

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C01 French Defense, Exchange Variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Ne7 

Nf6 is the proper move here, indeed the knight ought always to be so played unless there is some cogent reason for doing otherwise. 

6. Bd3 Bg4 7. 0–0 Bxc3 8. bxc3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 0–0 10. Kh1 Ng6 11. Rg1 f5 12. Bg5 Qd7 13. f4 Qc6 14. Qh5 Nd7 15. Rae1 Nf6 

Had he taken the bishop's pawn with queen, White no doubt would have replied advantageously with Re3. 

16. Bxf6 Qxf6 17. Qf3 Rad8 18. Rg5 Nh4 19. Qg3 Qh6 20. Re7 Rf7 21. Rxf7 Kxf7 22. Bxf5 Re8 

Taking the bishop with knight would have given White a won game. 

23. f3 Re2 24. Bd3 Re3 

25. Re5 

The tempting bait of two pawns is skillfully thrown out and incautiously swallowed. 

25.... Rxf3 26. Qe1 Rxf4 27. Re7+ Kg8 28. Re6 Rf6 29. Rxf6 Qxf6 30. Qe8+ Qf8 31. Bxh7+

and wins.

Source: The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, April 20, 18 78 (notes by George A. MacDonnell).

Joseph H. Blackburne - Thomas H. Piper

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C39 King's Gambit Accepted

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 Bg7 6. d4 Nf6 7. Bc4 0–0 8. Nc3 

The usual move here is Bxf4, but Mr. Blackburne rarely pursues a beaten track in any of his chess encounters. 

8.... d6 9. Nd3 Re8 10. Nxf4 Nxe4 11. 0–0 

11.... Nf6 

Some interesting variations spring from 11.... Ng3, but without any special advantage to either side if White continues with Re1. If he play 12. Bxf7+, there probably follows: 12.... Kxf7 13. Ne6+ Nxf1 (If 13.... Kxe6, White mates in a few moves.) 14. Nxd8+ Rxd8 15. Qxf1+ Kg8, and Black remains with three minor pieces against the queen. 

12. Bxf7+ Kxf7 13. Nh5 Kg8 

13.... d5 appears more to the purpose. 

14. Bg5 Nbd7 15. Nd5 Rf8 16. Qd3 c6 17. Ndf4 Nb6 18. Nxg7 Kxg7 19. Nh5+ Nxh5 

Perhaps this is Black's best course. 

20. Bxd8 Rxd8 21. Rae1 Nd5 22. c4 Ndf6 23. Re7+ Kg8 24. Qe3 Kh8 25. Qh6 Rd7 26. Re8+ Ng8 27. Rxg8+ Kxg8 28. Rf8 mate

Source: The Illustrated London News, April 20, 18 78 (notes by Patrick T. Duffy).

Joseph H. Blackburne - J. Tarrant

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C30 King's Gambit Declined

1. e4 e5 2. f4 Bc5 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 

This move transforms the game into a position, frequently arising in the Vienna Opening, and may therefore be safely adopted in the King's Gambit Declined. 

4.... Nf6 5. Bc4 Bg4 6. fxe5 dxe5 

A common error, which often occurs at this stage. The pinning of the king's knight was premature, and now he ought at all events to have captured the knight with the bishop to avoid the loss of a pawn. 

7. Bxf7+ Kf8 8. Bb3 Nc6 9. d3 Nd4 10. Nxd4 

Pretty as this is it gets White into trouble. It was not likely that Black would fall into the trap of taking the queen, whereupon White would have checked with the knight at e6, recovering the queen, and coming out with a piece ahead. But Black simple reply ought to have provided for, and Bg5, instead of the move in the text, would have firmly retained the advantage in position and forces. 

10.... Qxd4 11. Qd2 Bb4 12. Rf1 Ke8 13. a3 Ba5 14. Rb1 

Loss of time. Ba2 preparatory to advancing the pawn to b4 was stronger. 

14.... Rd8 15. Qe3 Nxe4 

A fine conception, which denotes talent. This was much stronger than Bxc3. 

16. Bf7+ Ke7 

17. dxe4 

The performer's play in this predicament is remarkable for its deep judgment. Had he taken the queen, Black could have retaken with the rook, followed, in answer to pawn takes knight, by Rd1+, then exchanging rooks, and taking the bishop with a good game. Queen takes knight left him open to a similar line of reply, commencing with queen takes queen. Pawn takes knight was obviously bad, on account of Qd1+, followed by Rf8+, etc. The move in the text gives up the queen temporarily; but his attack is so strong that he is sure to recover the queen, or more than sufficient compensation. 

17.... Qd1+ 18. Kf2 Qxc2+ 19. Kg1 

Kg3 appears to us even stronger; for if Black proceeded with Rd3, White might have captured the rook, followed by king takes bishop, and Black could neither take the king's rook, or win the queen's rook, after capturing the knight, as in both cases the ultimate answer of Bg5 would win. 

19.... Bb6 20. Qxb6 axb6 21. Bg5+ Kd7 22. Rfc1 

Mr. Tarrant writes to us that he expected the blindfold player to recover the queen at this stage by Rf2, whereupon he had a combination in reserve which would have given him the best of the game, e.g. : 22. Rf2 Qd3 23. Rd2 Qxd2 24. Bxd2 Ke7 (Attacking both bishops.) 25. Bg5+ Kxf7 26. Bxd8 Rxd8, with a pawn ahead. Very good for Mr. Tarrant; but not good enough for Mr. Blackburne, who, though blind, was not to be misled. 

22.... Qd3 23. Rd1 Bxd1 24. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 25. Nxd1 Rdf8 26. Bh5 h6 27. Bg4+ Kc6 28. Be3 Rf6 29. Nc3 Rd8 30. Nd5 Rxd5 

The knight would have been most troublesome in shutting out the rook, and Black acted wisely in taking it off, as he gained another pawn, with a good game. 

31. exd5+ Kxd5 32. Bf3+ e4 33. Bd1 c5 34. Bc2 

We should have preferred Bb3+, compelling the advance of the pawn, and thus keeping the king out on both wings. 

34.... Kc4 35. a4 g5 36. h3 b5 37. axb5 Kxb5 38. Bf2 Re6 

Kc4, with the object of answering Rb6, if Black took the pawn with the rook at once, seems to win. But Mr. Blackburne, with whom we cursorily analyzed this interesting end position, pointed out the reply h4, which, in the majority of cases, apparently leads to a draw. 

39. Kf1 Kc4 40. Ke2 b5 41. Ke3 b4 42. Be1 

Drawn by mutual consent.

Source: The Field, March 30, 18 78 (notes by Wilhelm Steinitz).

Joseph H. Blackburne - Weightman

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C21 Center Game

1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 Bc5 5. Nf3 d6 6. Nxc3 Qe7 

Black might here have played with advantage 6.... Nf6; producing a position analogous to one occurring in the Scotch Gambit. 

7. 0–0 Nf6 8. Bg5 c6 9. Re1 Be6 10. Nd5 

A very pretty conception. If now 10.... cxd5, White plays 11. exd5, recovering the piece immediately with a fine attack.

10.... Qd8 11. Qb3 b5 

11.... Nbd7 seems better than this. 

12. Nxf6+ gxf6 13. Bxe6 Qe7 14. e5 

Very well conceived. This move opens the royal file to the rook, play as the adversary may. 

14.... dxe5 15. Rxe5 fxe6 16. Rxe6 fxg5 17. Rae1 Kf8 18. Rxe7 Bxe7 

19. Qe6 

The precision and force of Mr. Blackburne's play in this game is admirable, when we consider that he was conducting seven other games at the same time without seeing any of the boards. The finish that follows this move is extremely neat.

19.... Bd8 20. Ne5 Kg7 21. Qf7+ Kh6 22. Ng4 mate

Source: The Illustrated London News, April 20, 1878 (notes by Patrick T. Duffy).

Joseph H. Blackburne - J. Wilson

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, March 16, 1878, board number is unknown

  • C01 French Defense, Exchange Variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 

No one now denies that 3. Nf6 is the best continuation. 

4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Bg4 

A double pin like this is, I suppose, more useless in the French Defense than in any other known opening. 

7. 0–0 0–0 8. Ne2 Bxf3 9. gxf3 Ne8 10. Ng3 Nc6 11. Kh1 Ne7 12. Rg1 f5 13. Qf1 Rf7 14. Qh3 Qd7 15. Bg5 Nd6 16. c3 

It is easy to foresee that the Black bishop will not have much to do with the remainder of the game. 

16.... Ba5 17. Nh5 Ng6 18. Rae1 Raf8 19. Bf4 

19.... Nxf4 

This opens the sluice gates at once. Pawn to c6 affords the only chance of a struggle. 

20. Nxf4 c6 21. Ne6 Re8 22. Ng5 g6 23. Nxf7 Qxf7 24. Rxe8+ Qxe8 25. Bxf5 Nxf5 26. Qxf5 Qe2 27. Qg4 Qxf2 28. f4 Bc7 

It suddenly occurs to this bishop that something is the matter; he comes upstairs to see, and his profitless career is immediately put an end to. 

29. Qc8+ Kg7 30. Qxc7+ Kh6 31. h3 Qf3+ 32. Kh2 Qf2+ 33. Rg2 Qf1 34. Qe5 


Sources: T he Westminster Papers, April 18 78, page 220 (notes by William N. Potter - his remarks were also used in Blackburne's book); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess, 1899, page 267.

In 1879 Blackburne's antagonists were again representatives of the London chess clubs. The Chess Player's Chronicle (March 1879, page 63) asserted that "the match was not quite so successful as that of 1878, fewer spectators being present and some of the stronger clubs (owing to previous engagements) not sending their champions to contend. Thus the Athenaeum, Excelsior, Eclectic, and Kentishtown, which had arranged to play on that very day matches with each other were unpresented."

The eight chess clubs (and their representatives) attending were College (by Stiebel), Hackney (Foreman), Belsize (McLennan), Railway Clearing House (Hill), Morphy (Imbrey), Ludgate Circus (Tudor), Greenwich (Piper), and Clapton (Hodge). 13   

The summary of this exhibition is: 1 4

Result +7 =0 -1; score 87.5 percent; playing hours 4.30 p.m. – 11.30 p.m.



Blackburne – Stiebel




Blackburne – Imbrey



Blackburne – Foreman




Blackburne – Tudor



Blackburne – McLennan




Blackburne – Piper



Blackburne – Hill




Blackburne – Hodge


Further details of the evening: the games against Foreman and Imbrey were adjudicated. Blackburne left his queen en prise against Tudor. 15  

Land and Water (February 1, 1879) claimed that Blackburne did not play with his usual quickness because he was suffering from a bronchial affection. The Westminster Papers (February 1879, page 215) noted that Blackburne's performance occupied more time than usual:

... but this, we should say, is attributable to the fact that four of the combatants selected slow defences, there being two French openings, a Sicilian, and a Centre Counter gambit. We can understand the players being cautious, especially as they represent clubs; but, for all that, we imagine that some consideration is due to the spectators, if not to the performer. The idea of these affairs is that they should be interesting, and that they should no be unnecessarily lengthened out. Neither of these purposes is served by the adoption of such defences as the French and Sicilian, nor does it appear that they afford any more chances of a successful result in the end against such a proficient as Mr. Blackburne than would be furnished by open games.

Six encounters have been found.

Joseph H. Blackburne - L. Stiebel

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, January 25, 1879, board 1

  • C01 French Defense, Exchange Variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 

This is not a good continuation. If the knight be afterwards taken White gets a strong middle attack, and if the knight be left alone the descent of the bishop to b4, where it is of no use, must result in a loss of time. We cannot, after the Paris experiences, recommend 3.... Nf6. Our preference at this point is for Be7. 

4. exd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 0–0 7. 0–0 Bxc3 8. bxc3 Ne4 9. c4 Bg4 10. cxd5 Qxd5 11. c4 Qc6 12. Qc2 Bxf3 13. gxf3 Nf6 14. d5 Qd6 15. Kh1 

This a kind of game agreeable to Mr. Blackburne's inclinations, for he has two bishops against two knights and an open king's knight file. 

15.... Nbd7 16. Rg1 Ne5 17. Bb2 Nxf3 

Which aids the adversary materially. He should either take the bishop or play Ng6. 

18. Bxh7+ Kh8 19. Rg3 Rae8 20. Rxf3 Nxh7 21. Rg1 Nf6


There is nothing to be done. The neck and the knife are wedded. White mates in four moves.

Source:Land and Water, February 15, 1879 (notes by William N. Potter).

Joseph H. Blackburne - G.H. McLennan

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, January 25, 1879, board 3

  • C45 Scotch Game

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qh4 

Black is to be commended for playing such a valorous continuation. Too often the opponents of blindfold players adopt close, or at any rate cautious defenses. In personal matches this is justifiable enough, and were it otherwise, I could not throw stones; but in blindfold exhibitions the player should aim at making their games interesting to the spectators, nor should they desire to harass the performer by methods of play, which while not really giving them any more chances have the effect of making the performance a tedious and much lengthened affair. 

5. Be3 

Mr. Blackburne considers this to be a pretty fair continuation, and no one can be more qualified to express an opinion upon the subject, having regard to the special attention which he has devoted to this opening. 

5.... Bc5 

He would be justified in taking the king's pawn, but White could then obtain a good attack by Nd2. 

6. Nf5 

This eccentric movement was, I understand, adopted from a desire to have some fun. Nc3 is, no doubt, the soundest continuation. 

6.... Qxe4 7. Nxg7+ Kd8 

Kf8 is preferable, though in answer thereto Nd2 would give White a tolerable amount of resource. 

8. Nd2 Qe5 9. Nf3 Bb4+ 10. c3 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qxc3+ 12. Bd2 Qxg7 

As the reward of his enterprising spirit, Black has now a very good game, and were he somewhat nearer his opponent's strength, might expect to win. Mr. Blackburne, however, is most to be feared when bereft of his pawns, so very powerful is he in piece play. 

13. Be2 Nge7 14. 0–0 d6 15. Kh1 Be6 16. Rc1 Rg8 17. Rg1 Bd5 

He has but a slender attack on the king's side, nor can he do anything to strengthen it. I think, therefore, that he might as well take the adverse queen's rook's pawn. The course I suggest would enable him to make some sacrifice, if the attack became too hot, and yet retain an advantage. 

18. Bf4 Bxf3 

Which must have made Mr. Blackburne love his enemy very much. With two bishops against two knights, and all those open files to work upon, he will most likely find a way to the palpitating heart of Black's position very soon. 

19. Bxf3 Kd7 20. Qb3 Qd4 

21. Bxd6 

He has not been long about it. This is a fine stroke of play. Black, as will be seen, cannot comfortably take with either king or queen. 

21.... cxd6 22. Qxb7+ Ke6 23. Bxc6 Nxc6 24. Rxc6 Qd5 25. Re1+ Kf6 26. Qe7+ Kf5 27. Qd7+ Kf4 28. Qxd6+ Qxd6 29. Rxd6 Rg6 30. Rd7 f5 31. Rxh7 a5 32. g3+ Kf3 33. Kg1 Rf8 

White mates in four moves, viz.: 34. Res+ Kg4 35. f4 Rh6 36. Rxh6 Rh8 37. h3 mate.

Sources: The Westminster Papers, February 1879, page 220 (notes by William N. Potter); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess, 1899, pages 271-272.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Hill

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, January 25, 1879, board 4

  • C39 King's Gambit Accepted

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 Nf6 6. Nxg4 Nxe4 7. d4 Bg7 

Black's fifth move is not a satisfactory defense, but, having gone so far, he might have continued with 7.... Ng3, instead of abandoning the gambit pawn without a struggle. 

8. Bxf4 d5 9. Nc3 Bf5 10. Ne3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 Be4 12. Qg4 Bf6 13. Qg3 c6 14. Ng4 Nd7 15. Nh6 Qb6 16. Be2 c5 

17. Bc7 

This effective stroke is a death blow to Black's hope of developing his force. 

17.... Qe6 18. 0–0 cxd4 19. Bg4 Qc6 20. Bh5 dxc3 

If he had played 20.... Bg6, then White might have continued with 21. Bxg6, and 22. Rae1+, etc. 

21. Nxf7 Bg6 22. Bxg6 hxg6 23. Nxh8

and Black resigned.

Source: The Illustrated London News, February 8, 1879 (notes by Patrick T. Duffy).

Joseph H. Blackburne - J.E. Imbrey

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, January 25, 1879, board 5

  • B01 Scandinavian Defense

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 e6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. Nf3 Bd6 7. 0–0 c6 8. Bg5 Nbd7 9. Re1 Qc7 

The opening has run on its natural lines, and Black has the kind of game which should result from it. His position is safe enough as it stands; but then positions cannot keep on standing. Moves must be made, and this enforced motion must produce weakness somewhere or other. It may be laid down as an almost invariable rule that a strongly defensive position is not an advantage early in the game, the reason being that, as its undeviating correlative, the other side will have too much freedom of play and of initiative. However, Mr. Imbrey has undoubtedly as good a game as can be expected from the Center Counter Gambit.

10. Qe2 

A good move, and one showing that Mr. Blackburne, notwithstanding his genius for combination, understands all about position play. Qd2 may, at first sight, seem preferable, but then h6 threatening Bf4 afterwards. 

10.... 0–0 11. Ne4 Nd5 12. Nxd6 Qxd6 13. Ne5 f6 14. Qh5 

Which is all very skillful. Black must now advance the king's bishop's pawn a step further, with increased weakness as the obvious consequence. 

14.... f5 15. Qh4 N7f6 16. c4 

Mr. Blackburne considers that a3, as a preliminary, would have been stronger, and I agree with him. 

16.... Nb4 17. Bb1 c5 

Well judged, undoubtedly. 

18. dxc5 Qxc5 19. a3 Nc6 20. Nxc6 Qxc6 21. Re3 

The use which Mr. Blackburne makes of rooks in the early part of the game is one of the characteristic features of his play. 

21.... Qd7 22. Bc2 

Ba2 may seem to promise well; but I prefer the next move. 

22.... Qf7 23. Rg3 Ne4 24. Bxe4 fxe4 25. Rf1 g6 

A slight examination will show that he cannot save the pawn; ergo, his twenty-third move was not commendable. 

26. Bh6 Re8 27. Qxe4 e5 28. Rf3 Bf5 29. Qe3 Rad8 

This also is not good. His best resource is Qe6. 

30. g4 e4 

If Rd3, White wins a piece, by Rxf5. 

31. Rf4 Rd3 32. Qc1 

32.... Qe6 

His best play is Rh3, followed, if Bg5, by h6. The game may now be looked upon as over. 

33. gxf5 gxf5 34. Kh1 Kh8 35. Rh4 Qf6 36. Bg5 Qc6 37. Be3 Qf6 38. Rh6

and wins. Closing time now arrived. Mr. Imbrey seemed disinclined to resign, but consented to refer the game to my judgment. I pronounced that White had an easy won game, and about this there can, I imagine, be no doubt whatever. Mr. Imbrey did, as a matter of fact, make another move, viz., 38. Qe5, and Mr. Blackburne informed me that his reply thereto would be Rb1, which is undoubtedly a very strong continuation.

Sources: The Illustrated London News, February 8, 1879; The Westminster Paper s, February 1879, pages 220-221 (notes by William N. Potter); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess, 1899, page 271.

Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess offered the extra move 39. Rb1, and claimed that the game went on for a few more moves.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Thomas H. Piper

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, January 25, 1879, board 7

  • C01 French Defense, Exchange Variation

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bd3 Bd6 6. 0–0 0–0 7. Nc3 Be6 8. Bg5 Nbd7 

If the attack has played the queen's knight to c3, we believe that the same post should be chosen for the queen's knight on the part of the defense. The difference is important for the purpose of warding off the sally of knight to e5 on White's part, adopted later on with impunity; while if the Black knight stood at c6, the defense could answer Nxd4, and need not mind the answer of Bxh7+, which only amounts to an exchange of pawns unfavorable to the first player. 

9. Qd2 c6 10. Rae1 Qc7 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. Ne5 Rae8 13. f4 

By having fixed his knight in the center, well supported by the pawns on both sides, the blindfold player has obtained much the best of the development. 

13.... a6 14. Rf3 

But here White compromises his game. It was essential for his security to keep the pawn at d4 well defended, and he ought to have retreated the knight to d1 to be prepared for supporting the queen's pawn with the queen's bishop's pawn as soon as the opponent could safely advance the pawn to c5. 

14.... c5 

Well played, and quite in time. Black has carefully provided on the previous move against the dangerous reply Nb5, and ought to have obtained a telling advantage by the present advance. 

15. f5 Bc8 

The hesitation in the execution of his plan destroys his excellent prospects. He had actually the game in hand if he had pursued consistently the attack on the queen's side by pawn takes pawn, e.g. : 15.... cxd4 16. fxe6 dxc3 17. exf7+ Rxf7, and Black must win the knight. White's reply gives no more time for this diversion on the other wing, for by moving the rook to g3, White threatens Qh6, followed by pawn to f6 if Black answers Nh5, or else by fxg6 if Black defend by pawn to g6.

16. Rg3 Bxe5 17. dxe5 Rxe5 

18. Rxg7+ 

An elegant and perfectly sound sacrifice, which testifies the performer's remarkable powers of concentration and clearness of calculation while under the severe ordeal of playing a large number of games without sight of either board or men. If the rook be taken, White answers Qg5+, followed by Qxf6+, and Qxe5, coming out with a piece ahead. 

18.... Kh8 19. Rf1 

Admirable. We recommend the position to the student. It is by no means easy to prove an absolute win for White if Black now takes the rook. 

19.... Qe7 

Had he taken the rook, the game would probably have proceeded thus: 19.... Kxg7 20. Qg5+ Kh8 21. Qxf6+ Kg8 22. Rf3 Rfe8 23. Qh6, decisive, for it threatens Rg3, and also f6. 

20. Qh6 Rg8 21. Rxh7+ 

Beautiful. The combination is only a short one, but quite surprising for concise reasoning. 

21.... Nxh7 22. f6 Rh5 23. Qxh5 Qe3+ 24. Kh1 Rg6 25. Bxg6 fxg6 26. Qxg6 Qg5 27. Qe8+ Qg8 28. f7 Qf8 29. Qe5+ 

Analysis could not improve the blindfold player's mode of conducting the attack after the opponent had let his opportunity slip. Resigns.

Sources: The Field, February 1, 1879 (notes by Wilhelm Steinitz); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess, 1899, page 270.

Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess offered the additional moves 29.... Qg7 30. f8Q+.

Joseph H. Blackburne - B. Hodge

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, January 25, 1879, board 8

  • C52 Evans Gambit

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. 0–0 Nf6 7. d4 0–0 8. Nxe5 Nxe4 9. Nxf7 Rxf7 10. Bxf7+ Kxf7 11. d5 Ne5 

Better than Ne7, which was the move proposed for Black by Mr. Richardson. 

12. Qd4 Bxc3 

He should play Qh4, followed after Qxe5 by d6, and his game would then be decidedly preferable. 

13. Nxc3 Nxc3 14. Qxe5 

The capture of the other knight strikes us as stronger. 

14.... Qf6 15. Qh5+ Qg6 16. Qf3+ 

He obviously cannot afford to exchange queens in such a position. 

16.... Qf6 17. Qd3 

17.... Qd4 

He could here win the exchange, but apparently not to much advantage, e.g. : 17.... Ne2+ 18. Qxe2 Qxa1 19. Qh5+ g6 20. Qxh7+ Qg7 21. Qxg7+ Kxg7 22. Bf4 c6 (If 22.... d6, then 23. Rc1.) 23. d6, etc.

18. Qc2 Nxd5 19. Bb2 Qg4 20. h3 Qg6 21. Qb3 c6 22. f4 Qh6 

In order to check at e3 if the bishop's pawn be further advanced, but it will be seen that Mr. Blackburne is able to take a beneficial preliminary step. 

23. Rae1 d6 24. f5 Kf8 25. f6 g6 26. Ba3 

Resigns. Black is quite right to resign, but at the same time the insight which prompts him to do so is highly creditable to him. Upon the position being investigated it will be discovered that White's attack is simply overwhelming.

Source:Land and Water, February 1, 1879 (notes by William N. Potter).

There were two blindfold performances in the City of London Chess Club in 1880: one on May 8, and the other at the near end of the year, on December 21. The first appearance at Mouflet's Hotel drew a large audience, among whom were prominent chess players, such as Samuel S. Boden, Hoffer, MacDonnell, Mason, Samuel Rosenthal, Steinitz and Zukertort. 

MacDonnell wrote in his report ( The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, May 15, 1880):

Mr. Blackburne's rapid and brilliant play frequently elicited great applause, and when he finished off one game announcing mate with five variations, of from two to four moves, which he repeated without the slightest hesitation, the plaudits were again and again renewed. 

The game referred to was against Moon. The score is missing.

Blackburne faced eight players on this occasion. Gastineau represented the City of London, Moon acted for South Hampstead, McLeod for Excelsior, McLennan for Belsize, Brittain for Eclectic, Physick for Kentish Town, Hughes-Hughes for Athenaeum, and Heywood for College. 16

The first 1880 exhibition in a nutshell: 17

Result +6 =2 -0; score 87.5 percent; playing hours 4.45 p.m. – 9.45 p.m.



Blackburne – Gastineau




Blackburne – Brittain



Blackburne – Moon




Blackburne – Physick



Blackburne – McLeod




Blackburne – Hughes-Hughes



Blackburne – McLennan




Blackburne – Heywood


Two games have been found.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Brittain

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, May 8, 1880, board 5

  • C30 King's Gambit Declined

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 d6 

Pawn to d5 is the correct continuation. 

4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 a6 7. Bc4 Nc6 8. d3 Nd4 

Of no particular use. He should play Be7 and castle on the king's side, which is a little safer than on the queen's side. 

9. Qf2 Be7 10. Be3 c5 11. 0–0 Qc7 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 f6 14. c3 Nc6 

15. f5 

The upshot is pretty clear now. 

15.... 0–0–0 16. b4 Kb8 17. Rab1 b5 18. a4 Rd7 

Na7 is his only resource. 

19. axb5 axb5 20. bxc5 dxc5 21. Rxb5+ Kc8 22. Ra1 Nb8 23. Ra8

and wins.

Sources: Land and Water, May 29, 1880 (notes by William N. Potter?); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess,1899, pages 269-270.

Mr. Blackburne's Game at Chess claimed that this game was played in 1879.

Joseph H. Blackburne - Hughes-Hughes

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, May 8, 1880, board 7

  • C45 Scotch Game

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qh4 5. Be3 

A novelty, and one that has a virtuous aspect. 

5.... Qxe4 6. Nd2 Qe7 

Black being reduced to this without having committed any slip, White's fifth move is fully justified. 

7. Be2 Nxd4 8. Bxd4 d6 9. 0–0 Be6 10. Re1 Qd7 

A better move is not apparent. 

11. Ne4 Ne7 12. Bf3 Nf5 

Nc6 is preferable. 

13. Ng5 Nxd4 14. Qxd4 h5 

Evidently perplexed, and naturally so. 14. c5 is his best, as he has to select among evils. 

15. Bxb7 Rb8 16. Bd5 Rh6 

17. Qc4 

Calmly strong. Black has no good reply to it. 

17.... Ke7 18. Nxe6 fxe6 19. Bxe6 Rxe6 20. Rxe6+ Qxe6 21. Qxc7+ 

Black resigns.

Sources: Land and Water, May 29, 1880 (notes by William N. Potter?); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess,1899, page 269. 

Mr. Blackburne's Game at Chess claimed that this game was played in 1879.

Six was the number of players that Blackburne opposed in his second 1880 exhibition. Once more his antagonists represented the London chess societies. It is, however, unclear which clubs were present. Like on former occasions the performance was attended by several noted players.  To name a few: Isidor Gunsberg, Hoffer, MacDonnell, Mason, Potter and Zukertort. 

Apparently the conclusion of the evening was special. Blackburne announced almost simultaneously a mate in four against Richard, and a mate in three against Meller. 18  

The summary of this affair in Mouflet's Hotel is: 1 9

Result +4 =2 -0; score 83.3 percent; playing hours 6.30 p.m. – 11.15 p.m.



Blackburne – Collinson




Blackburne – Richard



Blackburne – Stevens




Blackburne – Purves



Blackburne – Heppell




Blackburne – Meller


Just one game, against Richard, has been found.

Joseph H. Blackburne - R. Richard

  • City of London Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • London, December 21, 1880, board 4

  • C29 Vienna Gambit

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 d5 4. d3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 

This is not good play. It is rarely indeed that anything is to be gained by "pinning" the king's knight before the other player has declared his intentions with respect to castling, or when it can be supported, as in this case, by the bishop. 

6. Be2 Bxf3 7. Bxf3 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Bxe4 Bd6 10. 0–0 0–0 

Taking the pawn looks very unsatisfactory no doubt, but we imagine it to be much less so than the move actually made. The latter commits the king to a position in which his eventual "boycottage" is a mere matter of time. 11.f5 The student will fully appreciate the power of this quiet advance as the game nears its end.

11.... f6 12. Qh5 Qe8 13. Qh4 Nd4 14. c3 Ne2+ 15. Kh1 Nxc1 16. Bd5+ Kh8 17. Rf3 

Better than taking the knight at once. Nor could White have well played the rook thus for his 16th move, because Black would have then brought away his knight, and on the bishop's checking interposed his rook, and so come out a piece ahead. 

17.... h6 

If the object of this is not apparent, perhaps it may be profitable to read note d [former note] again. 

18. Rxc1 c6 19. Bb3 Kh7 20. Re1 Rc8 21. Re4 b5 22. Rh3 Rc7 23. Qe1 

While Mr. Blackburne's management of the whole of this game is certainly in his best style, his play from this point onwards is of special interest, as well in itself as in showing what a little finesse is capable of bringing about in positions analogous to the present one. 

23.... c5 24. Bd5 

Be6 would be a matter-of-course move with most players, but it is far inferior to this. Mr. Richard's reply would in all probability have been the same as in the text, in which case White must have moved the bishop again; thus losing very important time in the development of his plan, because it would be altogether contrary to his interests to allow his bishop to be exchanged for a rook. 

24.... Re7 25. c4 bxc4 26. dxc4 Qd7 27. Reh4 Kh8 28. Be6 Qc7 

He ought now to have taken the bishop, and if White replied by Rxh6+, played Kg8, for it would not do to capture, as a little examination will show. 

29. Qe3 a5 30. Rg3 e4 

Apparently in entire ignorance of the danger threatening, or, what is more likely, overlooking the full force of his adversary's subtle coup. Mr. Blackburne announced mate in four moves.

Sources: The Chess Player's Chronicle, January 4, 1881 (notes by James Mason); The British Chess Magazine, January 1881, pages 10-11; Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess,1899, page 275.

Joseph H. Blackburne

Blackburne's blindfold performances go back to 1861 or 1862. Five sources mentioned Blackburne's first display. The oldest source is most likely a chess column in the Manchester Weekly Express and Review. The date of the report is obscure, as it is taken from a scrapbook. 

Charles H. Stanley, editor of the chess column in the Manchester paper, offered the following story of Blackburne's first performance ( Hazeltine's Scrap-Book, Vol. LVI, pages 41-42 - presumably the column of January 25, 1862):


On Monday evening last, in compliance with the invitation of a number of gentlemen connected with the institution above-named, Mr. J.H. Blackburne, a young amateur already favourably known to the readers of the Express, whose unusual genius for, and proficiency in, the science of chess it was in fact our good fortune first to bring before the chess world, assumed the arduous task off attempting the conduct of four games simultaneously without sight of board and men. At half past six o'clock, accordingly, the performance commenced in a room appropriated to the purpose by the managers of the Athenaeum, in the presence of a considerable number of interested spectators, amongst whom we noticed several well-known members of the Manchester Chess Club.

According to the usual custom on similar occasions, the first move was conceded to the blindfold player, and Mr. Blackburne accordingly led off with "Pawn to king's fourth square at all the boards," when play was proceeded with in a manner so rapid that scarcely a moment of time for reflecting on his moves was left to the single-handed champion, whose precision of play, however, shortly indicated that his sight of each board was clear as daylight, malgrè the fact that that humanly speaking his visual organs were totally precluded from taking part in the proceedings. In the course of something like forty minutes, during which some ten or twelve moves had been played at each board, symptoms of distress were observable at boards 2 and 3, respectively presided over by Messrs. Taylor and Bott, while at about the same time in consequence of somewhat reckless speculation, Mr. Jetson, at board 4, suffered loss from an unfavourable alteration in exchange. At board 1, Mr. Hamilton, a very smart little king's knight's gambit was now also waxing very near its end. This game we print below, and commend it to our readers as a brilliant and sparkling specimen of the opening which it illustrates, setting aside even the peculiar circumstances under which it was contested. No. 1 being thus disposed of at about half past seven, Mr. Blackburne proceeded to give due attention to his three other customers, each of whom he duly waited upon in regular rotation, according to the time honoured custom of first come first served. At about eight o'clock "Mate in two moves" was announced and effected by Mr. Blackburne at board 2, and shortly afterwards Mr. Taylor, at board 3, cried "hold, enough!" At board 4 play was prolonged to a very considerable extent, the number of moves on either side reaching fifty-five, and length in time four hours; notwithstanding which, and despite the intricacies of pawn play in a very difficult end game, the obstacles against which our young champion contended and overcame, but served to prove his complete mastery of the art of blindfold chess play.

So, according to Stanley, the exhibition was on January 20, 1862 (assuming that this report was published in the issue of January 25, 1862). Blackburne opposed four players with the following result (bearing in mind that it is indistinct on which board Taylor was playing - he is said to have played on board 2 and 3):


Blackburne – Hamilton



Blackburne – Taylor



Blackburne – Bott



Blackburne – Jetson


An abridged version of Stanley's account was printed in The Illustrated London News of February 15, 1862. The London paper claimed that Blackburne's had no previous practice in blindfold chess. The Era of February 2, 1862, wrote that Blackburne's performance took place on January 13, 1862. He won against four opponents.

Blackburne's next blindfold exhibition was against ten members of the Manchester club and was performed on February 8, 1862. 20

The Manchester meeting against four players is generally accepted as Blackburne's first blindfold exhibition. It is, however, in all likelihood not. Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess ( 1899, page 3) drew up the following account of Blackburne's early blindfold play:

... and in the year 1861 it happened that Herr Paulsen came to Manchester on one of his blindfold itineraries. Blackburne took a board, and was beaten in a very pretty game, which will be found in its proper place in the book. The effect of this was to stir within him a great desire to try blindfold play on his own account. The very next day he induced a strong player to begin a contest in which Blackburne should not see the board. He came off victorious, and shortly after played three opponents with the same result. That was in the winter of 1861. In the spring of 1862 he engaged four opponents successfully.

The Field (February 1, 1862) supports this claim in the Blackburne book. The Country Man's Newspaper copied Stanley's report too, but offered additional information: a game played by Blackburne blindfold and simultaneously against three players. The game in question is:

Joseph H. Blackburne - N.N. (Mr. I.)

  • Blindfold Exhibition

  • Manchester 1862(?)

  • B40 Sicilian Defense

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 f5 4. e5 

We believe exf5, followed by d5, would be White's strongest mode of playing here. 

4.... cxd4 5. Qxd4 Nc6 6. Qa4 Bc5 7. Bd3 Qb6 8. 0–0 Nge7 9. Nc3 0–0 10. Qh4 Ng6 11. Qg3 

Qh5 appears to be White's strongest move, but perhaps he wished to induce Black to advance the king's bishop's pawn.

11.... f4 12. Qh3 Nce7 13. Ng5 h6 14. Nce4 d5 15. Nf6+ 

All this is capitally played by Mr. Blackburne. 

15.... Kh8 16. Qh5 Nxe5 17. Bxf4 Nxd3 

18. Qf7 

Very pretty again: Black is evidently mated on the move if he take the queen. 

18.... Qd8 19. Bc7 


Source: The Field, February 1, 1862 (notes by Samuel S. Boden).

The game was also published in the Manchester Evening News of November 2, 1889. Charles A. Dust, chess editor of the paper, claimed that Jetson was Blackburne's adversary. Furthermore he wrote: "It is one of three played by Blackburne, blindfold and simultaneously, presumably in Manchester, when he was only 19 years of age, and about 18 months after he had learned the moves."

The game was printed at the same date in the Birmingham Weekly Mercury. This paper confirmed what the Evening News stated: Blackburne's opponent was Jetson, and the contest was one of three.

Last but not least, the game was included in Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess (1899, page 214). Blackburne stated in the book that it was, together with the game against Hamilton, from a set of four, his first public exhibition as a blindfold player, when he was only nineteen, and had played chess for a few months. The name of his opponent: Jebson.

Presuming that Jebson is Jetson, the game cannot have been the one played against Jetson in the set of four. That is, if Stanley was right when he wrote that the game took at least fifty-five moves.

Louis Paulsen

The date of Blackburne's exhibition against Jetson and the other two players is unknown. If we may believe the history given in Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess, it must have happen ed between Louis Paulsen's visit to Manchester and the four men exhibition in January 1862. Paulsen had his performance in Manchester on November 28, 1861. Several games were adjourned that day and continued two days later. Thus, Blackburne played the three men either in December 1861 or in the first two weeks of 1862.

Blackburne's game against Paulsen in the German's exhibition in Manchester (Paulsen playing blindfold against ten members of the Manchester chess club) went as follows:

Louis Paulsen - Joseph H. Blackburne

  • Manchester Chess Club, Blindfold Exhibition

  • Manchester, November 28, 1861, board 6

  • C01 French Defense, Exchange Variation

1. e4 d6 2. d4 e6 3. Bd3 b6 4. Ne2 Bb7 5. 0–0 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. Nd2 Nd7 

The opening of the present game, it must be admitted, is not particularly inspiriting, but there is a good time coming, and the termination will repay the tedium of the beginning. 

8. f4 Nh6 9. Nf3 f5 10. e5 Qe7 11. Qd2 Nf7 12. Rad1 0–0–0 13. a4 dxe5 14. fxe5 h6 15. a5 b5 16. a6 

Had he taken the proffered pawn, Black would have captured the king's pawn with the queen's knight. 

16.... Ba8 17. Bxb5 Ndxe5 18. Nxe5 Nxe5 19. Qc3 Ng4 20. Bf4 e5 21. dxe5 Nxe5 22. Nd4 c5 

From this point the attack and defense are conducted with uncommon spirit. 

23. Rfe1 Rxd4 

Very creditably conceived. 

24. Rxd4 Nf3+ 25. gxf3 Bxd4+ 26. Kg2 

All this is excellently played. 

26.... Qh4 

27. Bg3 

This move has been highly praised; but is it really praiseworthy? Suppose Black, in reply, had taken the queen, and afterwards the rook, would he not have gained the "exchange"? 

27.... Qg4 28. Qb3 f4 29. Bc4 Qg5 30. Bg8 

The coup juste, which leaves Black without any resource. 

30.... Be3 31. Rxe3 fxe3 32. Qb8+ Kd7 33. Qxa7+

and wins.

Sources: Weekly Express and Review, date is unknown - taken from Hazeltine's Scrap-Book, Vol. LVI, page 31; The Field, February 1, 1862; The Illustrated London News, January 25, 1862 (notes by Howard Staunton); Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess (1899, page 213).

Finally, the Hamilton game: 

Joseph H. Blackburne - W. Hamilton

  • Athenaeum, Blindfold Exhibition

  • Manchester, January 1862, board 1

  • C38 King's Gambit Accepted

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 Bg7 5. c3 c6 

A weak move to say the very least. Pawn to d6, we take it, is the best play at this juncture. 

6. d4 h6 7. 0–0 Ne7 8. g3 d5 9. exd5 fxg3 

Thus opening the file on which adverse king's rook stands and therby laying himself open to a dangerous attack on a very weak point. Pawn takes d5 would have been a far better move. 

10. dxc6 0–0 

11. Bxg5 

Well played indeed; should Black now, or subsequently, attempt to win this piece, we think his game must be lost; and on the other hand, should he decline the capture, White certainly remains with a good game. 

11.... Nbxc6 12. hxg3 hxg5 13. Nxg5 Nf5 

The mate is now forced in very short metre; while had Black played bishop to f5, his game would have been still hopeless: e.g. say, Bf5, White continues 14. Rxf5 Nxf5 15. Qh5 Nh6 (Best) 16. Qg6 Re8 17. Nxf7, and must win.

14. Qh5 Bh6 15. Qg6+ Anything 16. Qh7, checkmate

Sources: Weekly Express and Review, date is unknown - taken from Hazeltine's Scrap-Book, Vol. LVI, page 42 (notes by Charles H. Stanley) ; The Field, February 1, 1862; The Illustrated London News, February 15, 1862 ; Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess (1899, page 214).


Notes:    1 Land and Water, October 15, 1881; The I llustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 22, 1881.    2 Daily News, October 13, 1881.   3 The Field, October 14, 1881.   4 Daily News, October 13, 1881; The Times, October 14, 1881; The Field, October 15, 1881; Land and Water, October 15, 1881.    5 The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, April 28, 1877. Land and Water (April 21, 1877) and The Chess Player's Chronicle (May 1877, page 117) also mentioned that Blackburne was in failing health.   6 Land and Water, April 21, 1877; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, April 28, 1877; The Chess Player's Chronicle, May 1877, page 117.   7 Land and Water, April 21, 1877; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, April 28, 1877; The Chess Player's Chronicle, May 1877, page 117.   8 The game against Beardsell was said to be played in a match against six opponents. No proof has been found of such a performance taking place at the City of London Chess Club between the years 1870 and 1877. Beardsell opposed Blackburne twice in blindfold exhibitions at the club in this space of time: in 1871 and 1874. He lost both games. We, therefore, assume that this is the 1877 exhibition game.   9 The Field, March 23, 1878; The Illustrated London News, March 23, 1878; Land and Water, March 23, 1878; The Westminster Papers, April 1878, page 215.   10 The Westminster Papers, April 1878, page 215.   11 Land and Water, March 23, 1878. The Westminster Paper, April 1878, page 215, also reported the unfairness.   12 The Field, March 23, 1878; The Illustrated London News, March 23, 1878; Land and Water, March 23, 1878; The Westminster Papers, April 1878, page 215.   13 The Field, February 1, 1879; Land and Water, February 1, 1879; The Westminster Papers, February 1879, page 21 5.   14 The Field, February 1, 1879; Land and Water, February 1, 1879; The Westminster Papers, February 1879, page 21 5; The Chess Player's Chronicle, March 1879, page 63.   15 The Field, February 1, 1879.   16 Land and Water, May 15, 1880; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, May 15, 1880.     17 Land and Water, May 15, 1880; The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, May 15, 1880.   18   Land and Water, December 25, 1880.    19   Land and Water, Dece mber 25, 1880; The I llustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, January 1, 1881; The Chess Player’s Chronicle, January 4, 1881.   20 Hazeltine's Scrap-Book, Vol. LVI, page 48; The Era, February 16, 1862; The Field, March 8, 1862.   


Pictures : Blackburne's Blindfold Performance at the City of London Chess Club 1881 ( The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 22, 1881); Joseph H. Blackburne ( The Westminster Papers, April 1876); Louis Paulsen ( Harper’s Weekly, October 24, 1857).

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