Joseph Henry Blackburne

A Chess Biography

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About the Book

During a career spanning more than 50 years, J.H. Blackburne (1841–1924) won the British Chess Championship and several international tournaments, at his peak becoming one of the world’s top three chess masters. A professional player who derived his livelihood from annual tours of chess clubs in England and other countries, entertaining and teaching amateur players, he astonished his contemporaries by the ease with which he played the game without sight of the chessboard. At 21, he set a world record for such exhibitions, competing against 12 club players simultaneously, and he continued to perform “blindfold” into his sixties. This first comprehensive biography of Britain’s greatest chess player of the 19th and early 20th centuries presents more than 1,000 of Blackburne’s games chronologically, including all his surviving games from serious competition, annotated in varying detail. Many are masterpieces containing beautiful combinations and instructive endgame play. Blackburne’s unusual family and social background are fully explored.

About the Author(s)

Tim Harding played for Ireland at the 1984 FIDE chess olympiad in Thessaloniki. He is a FIDE Candidate Master and a Senior International Master of correspondence chess. A well-known writer on many aspects of chess, Tim is a former editor of Chess Mail magazine and for almost 20 years he contributed monthly articles in “The Kibitzer” series at He lives in Dublin, Ireland.

Bibliographic Details

Tim Harding

Format: library binding (8.5 x 11)
Pages: 592
Bibliographic Info: 95 illustrations, 1,186 games, appendices, notes, bibliography, indexes
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7473-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2028-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Abbreviations and Annotation Symbols 5
On Money and Notation 6

1. Manchester Beginnings, 1841–1861 7
2. Blindfold Performer, 1862 20
3. The Call of London, May–December 1862 32
4. Slow Rise, 1863–1869 45
5. Joining the Elite, 1870–1873 70
6. Mature Grandmaster, 1874–1879 105
7. Tournament World Champion, 1880–1881 148
8. “The very Hercules of Chess,” 1882–1883 176
9. Illness and Recovery, 1884–1885 211
10. New Rivals Emerging, 1886–1888 228
11. From New York to Breslau, 1889 271
12. Veteran in Gradual Decline, 1890–1892 294
13. The Hastings Years, 1893–1896 327
14. Marathon Tournaments, 1897–1898 365
15. Grand Old Man of British Chess, 1899–1903 390
16. The Early B.C.F. Years, 1904–1906 424
17. Not Checkmated Yet, 1907–1911 454
18. His Final Moves, 1912–1924 483

I. Match and Tournament Record 509
II. Record Against Principal Rivals 512
III. Blackburne’s Chess Compositions 513
IV. Interviews with Blackburne 520
V. Blackburne’s Blindfold Exhibitions 529
VI. Blackburne’s Two Articles for The Strand Magazine 533
VII. Corrections to Game Scores 538

Chapter Notes 539
Bibliography 560
Index of Players (by game number) 564
Index of Openings—Traditional Names (by game number) 567
Index of Openings—ECO code (by game number) 569
General Index (by page number) 571

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Honorable Mention, Book of the Year Award—Chess Journalists of America
  • “Harding tells Blackburne’s chess life with a great love for detail…a breathtaking and carefully researched masterpiece”—Chess News
  • “[Harding] has recovered unknown games, corrected errors in published games, and created thorough travelogues for his tours and travels…definitive…an indispensable resource”—Chess Life
  • “stupendous door-stopper of a book”—New in Chess
  • “amazing…comprehensive…beautiful…Harding at his best!”—Huffington Post
  • “this is an excellent book, packed with game scores (often annotated) ad engravings. The paper is of very high quality and the chess community should be grateful to both publisher and author for providing such a text…. Blackburne was a great chess player and this book is a fitting memorial to him”—Kingpin Chess Magazine
  • “definitive…an indispensable resource”—
  • “massive…even more impressive than its size and weight is the amount of effort that went into producing this book…like all McFarland books the production qualities are first rate…highly recommended”—IM John Donaldson (
  • “impressively authoritative and readable”—Chess
  • “well researched…. As with all McFarland books, the quality of the publication is excellent…an excellent in-depth study”—Mind’s Eye Press
  • “monumental…a huge contribution to chess literature…splendid…no good chess library can afford to be without this book”—The Spectator
  • “both a biography and a game collection, Harding sets the record straight and fleshes out the life and career of Joseph Henry Blackburne”—ProtoView