Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) was one of the top six players in the world for two decades. Initially he was an accomplished draughts player and it was only at the age of 18 that he learnt the moves of chess. Taking lessons from Horwitz he quickly developed his skills, particularly in the endgame phase, and in 1869 when he won the British Championship he took the game up professionally. For more than 50 years he was to tour Great Britain giving simultaneous and blindfold displays and in the 1880s he arrived briefly in Port Elizabeth to give a 10-board blindfold simultaneous – an SA record that stands to this day. Nicknamed the Black Death, he brightened up these normally solemn occasions by cracking jokes and drinking copious amounts of whiskey. A famous anecdote has him downing an opponent’s drink and then declaring: “He left it en prise so I took it en passant!” He was the winner of numerous international tournaments including Berlin 1881 when he outdistanced the field by three points, but his style and temperament were not suited to match play and he was rarely successful against world-class players.
At the age of 58 Blackburne convincingly defeated the world champion.
Lasker, Emanuel – Blackburne, Joseph Henry [C62] London (4) 1899
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.d5 Nb8 6.Bd3 Be7 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Ne2 c6 9.c4 Na6 10.Ng3 Nc5 11.Bc2 b5 12.b4 Nb7 13. dxc6 Bxc6 14.cxb5 Bxb5 15.a4 Bd7 16.0–0 g6 17.h3 h5 18.Be3 a5 19.b5 Rc8 20.Rc1 Nc5 21.Nd2 h4 22.Ne2 g5!? (Sacrificing a pawn for an attack down the g file) 23.Bxg5 (23 Bxf6 was less risky) …Rg8 24.Bxh4 Bxh3 25.Bg3 Be6 26.Re1 Ng4 27.Nf1 Bg5 28.Rb1 Rh8 29.Nc3 Bf4 30.Nd5 Qg5 31.f3 Rh1+! (An unexpected move but it wins in every case-Blackburne) 32.Kxh1 Bxg3 33.Nxg3 (33 Re2 Qh4+ 34 Kg1 Bh2+ 35 Kh1 Nf2+! 36 Rxf2 Bg3+ 37 Kg1 Bxf2#) … Nf2+ 34.Kg1 Nxd1 35.Nf5 Bxf5 36.exf5 Qd2 37. Rexd1 Qxc2 38.Rbc1 Qxf5 39.Nb6 Rd8 40.Nc4 Nb7 41.Ne3 Qf4 42.Kf2 Qxa4 43.Rc7 Nc5 44.Rh1 Rd7 45.Rc8+ Ke7 46.Rhh8 Qd4 0–1
“Blackburne will always be remembered with affection in his own country and probably regarded so in many other lands he visited. He was a ‘good mixer’ and a very entertaining companion who had picked up much in life besides chess.” – PW Sergeant
BLACK TO PLAY AND WIN
2013) Ch Team Euro Aronian, Bacrot-( 10– Rgc2! Kf141. Rxg2 Ke140. Rxf2+ Rxd339.
Kh7 c8Q+38. Kxh8 Rh8+37. Rxe2!36…
“Vlad learnt chess at the age of five. There was no lack of chess culture even in that remote town of Soviet Russia. But opportunities of advance were fewer. It was here that fate played its part. Fortunately for him a local chess player watching games of Vlad became a fan of our little hero and wrote to Mikhail Botvinnik. Kramnik says, the Patriarch used to receive such letters from all corners of the USSR and he need not have paid attention to this one. But he did and responded by asking for the lad’s games. When the games were sent he subjected them to meticulous scrutiny and concluded that there was a talent here. Soon Vlad received an invitation to attend the Botvinnik School where famous disciples like Kasparov delivered lectures.” – From Kramnik’s DVD My Path To The Top