The Daily Review (Hayward)

Sunday, September 16, 1973

by richard shorman


Joseph Henry Blackburne

The first piece of advice I would offer to the young student who wishes to improve his chess is that in the formation of his style he should try to follow his own aptitude and temperament. One player derives pleasure from working out a game accurately like a sum in mathematics, another cares for nothing but ingenious combination and brilliant attack. It is by far the best for each to develop his own qualities.

For this reason, instead of recommending any opening to all and sundry, I shall only note a few characteristics of each, so that the reader may judge of it for himself.


The French Defense is a very good example. When I began to play in 1861 it was very seldom offered. I had a considerable share in popularizing it, and as long as the old form beginning with 3 ed continued it suited me well, as it led to much pretty play with the minor pieces. But 3 e5 produces a very different and much closer game, one that leads to delicate maneuvering for position rather than the direct attack in which my own strength lay. At the present moment, and after all the analysis bestowed on it, 3 ed is still a safe reply to the French Defense, and it leads to a game that, although apparently simple, is in reality full of snares and difficulties.


This, the most fashionable opening of today, was in no great favor in the sixties. It is a game I never play in a tournament, except when I feel a little off color and am content with a draw, and then it usually means losing half a point. In a match this does not matter, as a draw leaves the two opponents precisely where they were before, but in a tournament every draw costs something, as the leaders usually win the majority of their games.

The Lopez is essentially an opening for the safe and cautious player, leading to no attack, and usually ending either in an equal position or with a very slight advantage to the first player. On very few occasions indeed have I played it in simultaneous or blindfold games, where a quick and brilliant attack is the object chiefly aimed at.

I would not recommend the young player to adopt it. One of his first objects, if he wishes to become a great player, is to obtain experience of the board, so that afterward he may be able to see almost instinctively when his opponent is drifting into a losing position. But out of this dull and safe opening there arise very few opportunities for fine and beautiful play, and the beginner who adopts it therefore is never more than half-educated in chess.

Moreover, it has been so fully analyzed in recent years that you can scarcely hit upon a variation not in the books, and so the laborious drudge has, in playing this opening, an advantage over the clever player who trusts more to ideas than memory.


It happened that the little book from which I learned the moves of chess contained the famous game between Edinburgh and London which brought the Scotch into public favor, and partly for that reason it is one of my favorite methods of operating.

It gives birth to the sort of position that the young player should study. He may go on playing 3 Bb5 for years and never find out what talent he has for chess, but let him venture on 3 d4 and 4 Nd4 and he will quickly find himself called upon to show what he is made of.

In the old days it was deadly in match play, but modern analysis now enables Black to draw easily. For blindfold and simultaneous play, however, it is little, if at all, inferior to the King's Gambit itself, and in this way I have played it at least as much as any other opening.

At the end, my opinion is that anyone who wishes to improve his play should work hard at the Scotch. It abounds in chess, and never has been or can be a wood-shifter's opening.


At the present time the King's Gambit is rarely played in important contests, because when there is a great deal at stake few players dare venture into the shoal of intricate and hazardous positions to which it gives rise. Accordingly, if anyone more daring than his fellows ventures to offer it, the usual plan is to resort to one or other of the numerous methods of declining.

It is just as well for the young player to accept the gambit and defend it in the ordinary manner, as no other opening affords greater scope for ingenuity or leads to more entertaining chess. When the novice can play 2 f4 with an idea in his head of what is to follow, he has begun to understand chess.

* * *

White: Gustave Neumann - Joseph Blackburne
Dundee, 1867
King's Gambit Accepted
1 e4 e5 2 f4 ef 3 Nf3 g5 4 Bc4(a) Bg7 5 d4 d6 6 0-0 h6 7 g3 g4 8 Ne1(b) f3 9 c3 Nd7 10 Na3 Nb6 11 Bb3 Qe7 12 Nd3 Bd7 13 Nf4 h5 14 Qd3 h4(c) 15 Nb5 hg 16 hg(d) c6!(e) 17 Nc7+ Kd8 18 Na8 Nf6!(f) 19 Nb6 Ne4! 20 Nd7 Ng3 21 Ne6+(g) fe 22 Qg6 Rh2!!(h) 23 Rf3(i) gf 24 Kh2 Qh4+ 25 Kg1 Qh1+ 26 Kf2 Qg2+ 27 Ke3 Nf1+ 28 Kf4 Qg6 29 Kf3 Nh2+ 30 Kf2 Kd7 31 Bf4 Qf5 32 Kg3 Qg4+ 33 Resigns

(Notes by J. H. Blackburne in "Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess", edited by P. Anderson Graham, London, 1899, pp. 85-86)

(a) This form of the gambit is almost out of date. Chigorin, however, occasionally plays it, and with success. Now more frequently adopted is 4 h4, bringing about the Allgaier or Kieseritzky gambit.

(b) This was the generally acknowledged best square for the knight to play to, but in actual practice my experience is that 8 Nh4 is equally effective.

(c) The beginning of a strong counterattack, which is often the best line of defense.

(d) It is obvious that White cannot take the pawn without immediate loss, e.g., 16 Nc7+ Kd8 17 Na8 Rh2, and he has no defense.

(e) The editor of "Chess World" says, "A daring move, the main object of which is to prevent White establishing a knight at d5, and for this Black sacrifices rook and knight."

(f) And, "Again bold play, not even losing time by capturing the knight."

(g) Something must be done, but perhaps 21 Ng2 would have been slightly better.

(h) This move, which wins the game by force, was evidently not expected by White. I candidly confess that it was not foreseen when I played 16 c6. However, nothing venture, nothing win. I have a vivid recollection of Neumann's countenance when this move was made. He gave a slight start, turned round to the Rev. G. A. Macdonnell, who was looking on, shrugged his shoulders and smiled, but it was a sickly sort of smile.

(i) He has nothing better, for if 23 Kh2, then mate follows in two moves by 23...Qh4+ and 24...Ne2.

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