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Blackburne biography still available

Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography was published by McFarland in 2015.

Prices quoted online may vary from one retailer to another, and postage is of course a factor as the book is heavy.

The first impression sold out quickly and McFarland reprinted a further 500 hardback copies, incorporating some corrections.

Grandmaster J.H. Blackburne (1841-1924), previously the subject of a chapter in Dr. Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players, has long deserved a full biography and major game collection. Buyers of the hardback will enjoy a collectors' item that should give pleasure and instruction, while increasing in value over the years.

The current version is likely to be the last printing in hardback so do not miss this chance to obtain it. We have been collecting further corrections for any future reprint or second edition.

This book is a 11x 8.5 inch hardback of 582 pages including indexes, notes, and appendices, and each copy weighs about 1.6 kilograms. Table of Contents. More about the book. Reviews.

The print ISBN for Blackburne is 978-0-7864-7473-8. McFarland also issued an e-book edition through their deal with Amazon. The Ebook ISBN is 978-1-4766-2028-2.

Thanks to many readers of this website who helped with research queries. Following the long-awaited reopening of the magnificent Manchester Central Library, which Tim visited in May 2014, important source material unavailable anywhere else was collected.

Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) perhaps played more games of chess than anybody else. As a professional player, from about the mid-1860s until his effective retirement when the First World War broke out, Blackburne travelled extensively to give exhibitions. He was famous in his day for the annual tours he made for several decades around the United Kingdom, visiting chess clubs to give blindfold and regular simultaneous displays.

It has been calculated that this involved playing a thousand games or more against amateurs in many years. This was on top of official matches and tournaments, which brought him all around England and to several European countries.

Blackburne may have played as many as 100,000 chess games, the majority of which were never recorded. At least 1,500-2000 exhibition games (blindfold, simuls, and consultation games) and some casual games were probably published in various newspapers, periodicals and books.

The book contains over 1,000 games including a selection of consultation and exhibition games, but concentrating on Blackburne's matches and tournaments.

The quantity of games he played effectively means that a 'complete games' book is impossible. Errors in Blackburne game scores in current databases (plenty of which have already been found) have been highlighted and the most serious ones are also listed in an appendix.

There is also much more detailed coverage of Blackburne's life and family than was presented within the confines of a single book chapter in Eminent Victorian Chess Players.

Blackburne travelled outside Europe on three occasions. He sailed at various times to Australia (1884/5), Cuba (1891), and the United States (1889 and when en route to/from Cuba).

Not only the quantity but also the quality of Blackburne's play was very high. For several years he ranked in the world's top five, even the top three as a tournament player. However the documentation of his career is rather poor. There are even some current web pages saying he had two wives, when in fact he had three. Very little is yet known about his first wife, Eleanor Driscoll, and any children of that marriage.

Database collections are very unreliable, with even ChessBase's Mega Database having major errors, omissions and misattributions. Some of Blackburne's games from his early major matches and tournaments appear not to have been preserved - or at least are not to be easily found, either in print or databases. My research has turned up a number of the missing games and verbal comments on others where the scores are lost.

Even tournament books can be unreliable sources. The game that Blackburne lost to James Mason at Hamburg in 1885 is not in the book of the 4th German Federation Congress; the editors included a Blackburne win from another tournament by mistake. The correct game is still being sought.

As for Blackburne's career record of matches and tournaments, research has already revealed additions and corrections to the appendix in my Eminents book, which relied for that data largely on previously published information.

Tim went back wherever possible to the primary sources, especially contemporary newspapers, to find missing games and information and to check the scores of the games that are known. Tim is still keeping an eye on releases of newly digitized papers at the British Newspaper Archive and would like to hear of any new discoveries that may come to light as a result of the publication of his book.

Mr. Blackburne's Games of Chess (1899), the only substantial book about him, was largely compiled by Blackburne himself, and edited by P. Anderson Graham, but it contains mistakes and omits some of his best games. The Dover reprint of some years ago (under a different title) is essentially the same book, but it included an introduction by the late David Hooper.