Problems of the Black Death

Problems of the Black Death

| 13 | Chess Players

     Almost everyone knows of Blackburne's quick assimilation of chess, of his simultaneous exhibitions and of his blindfold skill, but less well known is his talent at both problem solving and problem creating.

     Joseph Henry Blackburne, nicknamed The Black Death, often incorporated this talent into his exhibitions by, while he was blindfolded,  having someone read off the placement of pieces on a two-mover set up, leaving out the placement of Black's King, and then announcing the solution to the puzzle very quickly.

     In his book, "The Knights and Kings of Chess,"  George Alcock MacDonnell wrote:
     As judge and composer of problems, simultaneous" conductor of games, blindfold seancist, duellist and tourneyist—in each and all departments—he [Blackburne] stands in the very foremost rank.
     His problems are few in number, but all excellent —brilliant in idea, massive in form, perfect in composition. His general knowledge of problems is unsurpassed, perhaps not even equalled.  Show him an old problem on a diagram, and after a glance at it he exclaims: "That's very good, one of Kling's. It appeared in the "Illustrated London News" in '61."  Show him a modern gem, and the chances are he instantly laughs and says, "Capital! beautiful! It's Frank Healey's famous threemover with an additional move tacked on to conceal its identity, or, rather, to spoil its beauty."

     In 1899 Blackburne published his book, "Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess, selected, annotated and arranged by himself."  It contains 407 games (divided into match, off-hand and blindfold games), 28 problems and a short biographical sketch.   The book was edited by P. Anderson Graham who also wrote the introduction. 

     Of the 28 problems, 8 are 3-movers and 20 are 4-movers and their dates of creation span his entire chess career up to that time.  They are all clever, and while I've found alternate solutions to some of those ones I've examined, I haven't found any to be cooked.

     Here, I'm presenting ten of his problems: the eight 3-movers and two of the 4-movers, with some light notes.  In all the problems, White moves and mates.  While I realize they are numerous lines in each that I haven't commented on, none of those lines seem to improve Black's games.

     Before I give the problems with the solutions in a viewer, I'm going to list the fens so anyone can paste them into a stand-alone viewer and try to solve the problems without the solutions staring them in the face:
Mate in 3:
          FEN "5N2/7p/5p1P/1BP1nk2/n4P2/1R3P1K/3B4/6R1 w - - 0 1"
          FEN "8/2Q5/2PNp2K/B3R3/1P1k4/8/4P2P/8 w - - 0 1"
          FEN "3b4/8/1B2BN1p/3Pk2p/7P/2RP4/3NK3/8 w - - 0 1
          FEN "4nNK1/1B4p1/3P1bR1/2N4Q/1p1k4/1rpP4/8/1q6 w - - 0 1"
          FEN "4R3/n1rp1n2/5BbP/4bkp1/BQ4N1/P3P2K/8/rN6 w - - 0 1"
          FEN "7r/Bq6/5NR1/R1np1P1p/5kp1/8/6B1/2N1Q2K w - - 0 1"
          FEN "4N3/5K2/3N4/1Qnkp1p1/1n2R3/8/1b6/8 w - - 0 1"
          FEN "5KB1/2N5/2pp2P1/4kbQ1/8/1P3p2/5p2/5N2 w - - 0 1"
Mate in 4:
          FEN "3B4/3R4/4p3/1p2kp2/1P2P1p1/4N1P1/2K1N3/8 w - - 0 1"
          FEN "8/1p2B3/1p6/1K1k4/1P1N1p1P/1PR2P2/4Nb2/R7 w - - 0 1"
   Those who just wish to see the problems and follow the solutions can scroll down.













































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