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Poor Blackburne (06.01.2018.) 967

The 93rd Hastings Congress finished yesterday evening, too late to report on today, but after 7 of the scheduled 9 rounds Keith Arkell was well placed at 3rd=. There was a prize fund of £5,250 to be shared between the top 7 players.

Meanwhile, the World RapidPlay Championship was taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where a 1st prize of £186,000 awaited the winner, who proved to be Vishi Anand of India. The World Blitz Championship also took place there, won by Magnus Carlsen (Norway), 2nd Sergey Karjakin (Russia) and 3rd Vishi Anand, with similar rewards.

All of which would suggest that the world’s top players today can make a reasonable living out of chess. But it was not always so. For example, Britain’s top player for decades was Joseph H. Blackburne (1841 – 1924). He became a chess professional in 1862 after having decided a career in a Manchester office was not for him.

He won the 2nd British Championship in 1869 after a tie-break against the holder, Cecil De Vere, and played all over Europe, 53 major tournaments in as many years, getting many prizes and winning so many games he was nicknamed “The Black Death”.

To keep up his income, in winter months he participated in long series of simultaneous matches all over the country – there can hardly have been a club in the kingdom not to have been visited by him at some point. On tours of the Westcountry, for example, he visited Plymouth in 1888 where he played members simultaneously and blindfold. He returned in 1891 playing 8 club members blindfold one evening and 37 members simultaneously the next. Later, he visited Redruth (10 opponents) and Truro. It was a precarious living for one so talented, and he never enjoyed the best of health throughout his life, so in 1911 the BCF launched a testimonial appeal, which raised £800 and suitably invested guaranteed Blackburne an income of £2 per week, which doubtless helped keep a roof over his head.

What would he think of today’s rewards?

Here is a game he played at Bristol in 1875 against an opponent who went on to become a Ladies World Champion. Blackburne was without sight of the board and playing nine others at the same time.

White: Blackburne. Black: Mary Rudge.

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 Nc6 5.Nf3 h6 6.0–0 d6 7.Nxc3 Nf6 8.Bf4 Be7 9.Qd2 Ng4 10.Rad1 Nge5 11.Bxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 dxe5 13.Qe2 Bd6 14.f4 0–0 15.f5 Qg5 16.Rf3 Qh5 17.Nd5 Kh7 18.Qd3 f6 19.Rg3 Miss Rudge has played very carefully, and though her game is cramped she here makes an ingenious attempt to win. 19…Bxf5 20.exf5 e4 21.Rh3 Qxf5 22.Qe2 Qe5 23.Ne3 c6 24.Ng4 Bc5+ 25.Kh1 Qg5 26.Rh5 Qxh5 27.Nxf6+ winning the queen. 1–0

The solution to last week’s NF letter problem was 1.Nc3! If 1…KxR 2.b7 discovered mate. If 1…e2 2. Qf2 mate or any other move 2.Rc4 mate.

This position arose during last year’s Hastings. White to play and win by force.

White to play

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