Yorkshire Chess History
1873: Blackburne Visits Sheffield
Joseph Henry Blackburne (b. 10/12/1841 in Manchester, d. 01/09/1924 in London) was touring the North of England in early 1873, and gave a series of displays at the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club over the three days Monday to Wednesday, 17th to 19th February 1873. Two local papers covered the three days’ activities, and the Huddersfield College Magazine carried a report of Wednesday’s blindfold simultaneous display which was conveniently attended by a Huddersfield player who presumably reported back to HCM editor John Watkinson.
The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of Tuesday 18th February 1873, page 3, reported the results of an over-the-board simultaneous display against sixteen opponents, besides setting out the schedule for the next two days, as follows:
The Athenaeum Chess Club. – Last night, Mr. Blackburne, the blind-fold chess player, contested sixteen games simultaneously over the board with that number of members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club. He lost to Mr. W. Cockayne, Mr. Champion, and Mr. Barraclough; drew with Mr. H. Davy and Mr. Godwin; and won from the rest. To-night he will play several games against members of the club in consultation, and on Wednesday he will conduct a number of contests without sight of the board.
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of Tuesday 18th February 1873, page 7, reported on the Monday evening’s event as follows:
Chess Contest at the Athenaeum. – The members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club assembled in strong force last night to meet Mr. Blackburne, the celebrated blindfold chess player. It was arranged that he should play sixteen games simultaneously over the board, an exhibition of his blindfold skill being reserved or Wednesday evening. The contest lasted four hours and resulted in his losing three games, drawing two, and winning eleven. The gentlemen to whom he succumbed were Mr. W. Cockayne, Mr. Champion and Mr. Barraclough; and those who succeeded in making draws were Mr. H. Davy and Mr. Godwin. Several of the game were of considerable interest, and it is remarkable that Mr. Blackburne, who had the first move in each game, only in one instance obtained a gambit opening. Some of his opponents, in their concluding moves, emulated Cowper’s loquacious schoolmaster, who, “e’en though beaten, could argue still.” It is intended that Mr. Blackburne shall contest one or two games to-night against members of the club divided into groups, and playing in consultation.
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of Wednesday 19th February 1873, page 4, reported on the Tuesday’s activity as follows:
Mr. Blackburne, the Chess Player, in Sheffield. – Last night Mr. Blackburne conducted three games simultaneously over the board at the Athenaeum Chess Club – one with Mr. Cutler, a second with Mr. W. Cockayne and Mr. A. Godwin, and a third with Mr. F. Huckvale and Mr. Broadhead, his opponents in the last two playing in consultation. Mr. Cutler, who played his favourite Evans’s Gambit, won his game; Mr. Cockayne and Mr. Godwin lost theirs, Mr. Blackburne at the twenty-fifth move announcing mate in six; and Mr. Huckvale and Mr. Broadhead also gave in after a prolonged struggle. Mr. Blackburne will, to-night, contest ten games blindfold and simultaneously against the strongest members of the club.
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph of Thursday 20th February 1873 reported on the Wednesday’s activity as follows:
The Supplement to the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent of Saturday 22nd February 1873 reported more fully on all three days’ events as follows:
The Athenaeum Chess Club. – On Monday, Mr. Blackburne, the blind-fold chess player, contested sixteen games simultaneously over the board with that number of members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club. He lost to Mr. W. Cockayne, Mr. Champion, and Mr. Barraclough; drew with Mr. H. Davy and Mr. Godwin; and won from the rest. On Tuesday, Mr. Blackburne played three games, two in consultation and one single-handed. The latter was played by Mr. Cutler, who succeeded in obtaining a well-earned victory. The two consultation games were played by Mr. Wm. Cockayne and Mr. A. Godwin, and by Mr. F. Huckvale and Mr. Broadhead. Mr. Blackburne won both. By far the most interesting – as it was certainly by far the [most] wonderful – play took place on Wednesday night, when Mr. Blackburne exhibited a feat of memory which was positively marvellous. Commencing at half-past five in the afternoon, he continued playing till after midnight, during the whole of which time he never saw boards or men, though he was playing ten simultaneous games! Seated by the fireside, and gazing intently at the fire as if the coals were the men and the grate the boards, he carried on this wonderful contest for seven hours. During this time some hundreds of moves were made, and yet Mr. Blackburne had no record of them whatever to assist him. Depending entirely upon his memory and skill, he played as well – some said better – as if the boards were before him and he able to see every move. And this astonishing result was obtained, that out of the ten games he won no less than six; two were drawn and two he lost. His opponents consisted of several of the best members of the club, and one or two strangers. Amongst the latter was an American gentleman, Mr. Whitman, who is now living at Huddersfield. Himself a blindfold chess player, and an ordinary player of considerable strength, he proved too much for Mr. Blackburne, and at the 35th move the latter resigned. Mr. Rossell had the honour of being the other victor, Mr. Blackburne having resigned to him at the 33rd move. Mr. Blackburne won from Mr. Champion at the 24th move; from Mr. Brown at the 18th move; form Mr. A. Davy at the 30th; from Mr. Godwin at the 27th; from Mr. Huckvale at the 27th; and from Mr. B. Cockayne. In reference to the game played by this latter gentleman, Mr. Blackburne told him at the 26th move that he should checkmate him in four moves – and he kept his promise. The drawn games were played by Mr. W. Cockayne and Mr. H. Davy, and they were both drawn at the 29th move.
The Huddersfield College Magazine reported that Blackburne played a blindfold simultaneous display against nine members of the club and a visitor from Huddersfield, winning six, drawing two, and losing two, as follows:
The accounts differ (and are seemingly wrong!) as to the number of moves Arthur Davy survived, and the HCM misrepresents A. Godwin’s name.
The visitor from Huddersfield, Channing Wood Whitman, was a consular agent for America, resident in Huddersfield, and who had a reputation himself for playing blindfold. His game, published in the Huddersfield College Magazine (Vol. 1, page 134), went as follows:
Blackburne Blindfold Simultaneous, Sheffield, 19/02/1873 (Click here to play through game on screen.)
White: Blackburne, Joseph Henry, Black: Whitman, Channing Wood (Huddersfield);
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Ng5 Nh6 6. Qh5 Qe7 7. O-O d6 8. h3 Bd7 9. f4 O-O-O 10. f5 Ne5 11. Bd3 f6 12. Nf3 Nhf7 13. Bf4 g6 14. Qh4 g5 15. Bxg5 Nxf3+ 16. Rxf3 Nxg5 17. Rf1 Bc6 18. Nd2 d5 19. e5 Qxe5 20. Re1 Ne4 21. Nf3 Qd6 22. a3 Rhg8 23. b4 Bb6 24. b5 Bxb5 25. a4 Bxd3 26. cxd3 Nc5 27. Rd1 c6 28. Rd2 Bc7 29. Rb1 Rg3 30. Qxd4 Rg8 31. Kh1 Rxf3 32. gxf3 Qg3 33. Qb2 Qxh3+ 34. Rh2 Bxh2 35. White resigned.
The eight of the nine players other than Whitman were members of the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess club. “Barraclough” was not an Athenaeum member. At least two of their games survive, the following two having been published in “Mr. Blackburne’s Games at Chess” by P. Anderson Graham as follows.
Blackburne Blindfold Simultaneous, Sheffield, 19/02/1873
White: Blackburne, Joseph Henry (London), Black: Cockayne, B (Sheffield), 19/02/1873
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 h5 6. Bc4 Nh6 7. d4 d6 8. Nd3 Be7 9. Bxf4 c6 10. Nc3 Qb6 11. Be3 Be6 12. Bb3 Nd7 13. Qd2 Bxb3 14. axb3 Ng8 15. g3 Qc7 16. O-O Bf6 17. Rae1 O-O-O 18. d5 Ne5 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. Bxa7 Bxg3 21. Qe3 Bxe1 22. Bb6 Qd7 23. Qxe1 Rf8 24. Qa1 Qe7 White announced mate in 4, 1-0.
Blackburne Blindfold Simultaneous, Sheffield, 19/02/1873
White: Blackburne, Joseph Henry, Black: Davy, Arthur (Sheffield)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 Bc5 5. Ng5 Nh6 6. Qh5 Qe7 7. O-O d6 8. h3 Ne5 9. Bb3 Bd7 10. f4 Qf6 11. Nd2 Qg6 12. Qh4 f6 13. Ne6 Bxe6 14. Bxe6 Nef7 15. Nf3 Qxe4 16. Re1 d3+ 17. Kh1 Qb4 18. c3 Qb6 19. Bxf7+ Kxf7 20. Qh5+ Kf8 21. f5 Nf7 22. Re6 Bf2 23. Bd2 Qxb2 24. Rf1 Bg3 25. Qg4 Be5 26. Qc4 c5 27. Qxd3 Qxa2 28. Nxe5 fxe5 29. Rxd6 e4 30. Qg3 Qc4 31. Rd1 Nxd6 32. Qxd6+ Kf7 33. Qd7+ Kf6 34. Bf4 Black resigned.
Another blindfold game included in the Blackburne game collection, against Shuttleworth, must have been played on the Monday.
Blackburne Blindfold Simultaneous, Sheffield, 17/02/1873
White: Blackburne, Joseph Henry, Black: Shuttleworth, TG (Sheffield)
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 h5 6. Bc4 Rh7 7. d4 Bh6 8. Nc3 d6 9. Nd3 f3 10. gxf3 gxf3 11. Qxf3 Bg4 12. Qf2 Bxc1 13. Rxc1 c6 14. Kd2 Nd7 15. Rhf1 Qe7 16. Rce1 O-O-O 17. d5 Ne5 18. Nxe5 dxe5 19. Qxa7 Qd6 20. Kc1 Qg6 21. Qc5 Qd6 22. Qa5 Bd7 23. Rd1 Qc7 24. Qa7 Be8 25. dxc6 Rxd1+ 26. Rxd1 Bxc6 27. Qa8+ Qb8 28. Rd8+ Black resigned.
Identities of Sheffield players:
Thomas Brown, architect, and sometime secretary of the club
John James Champion, manufacturer of edge tools
Bagshaw Cockayne, of the T. B. Cockayne & Co. drapery firm on Angel Street
William Cockayne, jun. of the T. B. Cockayne & Co. drapery firm on Angel Street
George O Cutler, son of deceased Hiram Cutler, merchant and manufacturer
Arthur Davy, provisions merchant
Henry Davy, provisions merchant (older brother of Arthur)
Frank H Huckvale
Henry Augustus Rossell, steel and file manufacturer
Thomas George Shuttleworth, accountant.
On the occasion of Capablanca’s visit to Sheffield in 1919, at tea on the evening of 08/10/1919, a story was apparently related to Capablanca by his hosts regarding Blackburne’s 1873 visit to Sheffield. The story was that the “delightful Vicar of Walkley”, who was playing bottom board against Blackburne, managed to take Blackburne’s queen and excitedly stood up and announced the fact in loud tones to the rest of the room, but Blackburne, silent throughout, calmly checkmated the vicar two moves later. [Sheffield Daily Independent, 09/10/1919]
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann