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A Giant from the Past - Henry Edward Bird (part III)

A Giant from the Past - Henry Edward Bird (part III)

Dec 5, 2017, 3:46 AM 3

In my last blog post on H.E. Bird I mentioned that I had found four new Bird games, of which I published two back then. In the meantime I was pointed towards two more, so all in all I have now six additional games, compared to my book which was published a bit over a year ago. 

In this book, I offer the opinions of several players on Bird, and I noticed that these were more positive than one would be inclined to think on basis of his reputation. During the past year I found out another interesting one - written by none other than Alekhine during the Carlsbad 1929 tournament. In his short note about Bird the fourth world champion is remarkably positive about the nineteenth century player whom he didn't know. It even suggests that he studied Bird's games, for example from tournament books like the one on Hastings 1895. This can also be seen in his games, because Alekhine, early in his career, repeatedly employed Bird's defense against the Ruy Lopez. In his notes to one of these games (to be found in Verhoeven & Skinner, p. 70), Alekhine writes that the opening is not as bad as its reputation, though he didn't have much trust in Bird's anti-positional approach of pushing h5. Nowadays this way of playing is nevertheless considered to be acceptable! It is remarkable, though, that Alekhine knew what Bird's preference was. Below the note by Alekhine on Bird:

Sir Thomas and Yates are typical representatives of the English school and style of chess, especially Yates. This school, founded by the great combination of players, Blackburne and Mason and the ingenious, although less profound, Bird, always lay greater stress on a thorough study of each tactical unit of a scheme than on judging the expediency of such a scheme. (New York Times, 25 August 1929)

As said, I would like to present in this article four recently discovered games played by Bird. A first one was sent to my by Tim Harding. The game was published in a Newcastle newspaper in 1910, two years after Bird's death, and is clearly a typical romantic miniature. I find it curious that this kind of game, with no information of Bird's opponent or no indication of the year in which it was played, pops up more than a decade after the termination of his chess career. Bird offered the odds of the knight in this game. The game itself doesn't need much comment.

The following game was forwarded to me by Brian Denman. During my research I had contact with him on a few occasions and he helped me out with information about Hastings and Sussex chess players, while he also provided several game references. Sadly I omitted to mention his name in my word of thanks.
This game was published in the Illustrated London News - and hence it is a bit surprising and disappointing that I overlooked it and didn't include in my book - especially as this magazine is preserved at my home university, and I checked it year by year.
The game was played sometime during the spring of 1897 and coupled Bird and Trenchard against Blackburne and Chapman. In my book I stress the importance of Horace Chapman for chess, and especially his support of professional chess players. As mentioned, Brian Denman has done a great deal of research on Hastings players, and a very detailed bio of Chapman can be read HERE.
Here I would like to write a bit more about Bird's partner in this game, Herbert William Trenchard (1857-1934). He was a strong amateur, whose name I know for a long time already as he was a participant of the Vienna 1898 tournament. He got severely outclassed on that occassion, and was only able to win a single game against Marco. 
Apart from that he, as his record shows, was mainly active in London, but also he took part in a few Anglo-American cable matches. A picture exists of him and was published at the illustrious chesshistory.com site (LINK).
H.W. Trenchard (www.chesshistory.com, C.N. 9643)
The following game is also one which omission is to be regretted, as it was published in the highly important column of the New York Clipper, but at a time when Bird had already left the U.S. It was played towards the end of 1877 at the Brooklyn Chess Club with partners whom Bird encountered in a few other games that have been preserved as well. Around this time the Manhattan Chess Club was founded, in which Bird played a major part, but it seems that his contribution to it has been completely neglected. It might be interesting to have a look at the Manhattan C.C. Archives (if they exist) if something can be found about it.
This game is a peculiar one and perhaps the most interesting of the recent finds. Bird's play throughout is consistent and relatively strong, though not so coherent and direct that he steadily exploits his advantage. He toys around with some hypermodern-kind of looking play, by largely neglecting the center and instead he tries to dominate the game from the flanks.

The final game was found by Fabrizio Zavatarelli. It concerns a game played by Bird during his 1880 tour in Germany. I found it curious that another game, an interesting one, which Bird lost against a certain Frensdorf (p. 270 in my book) got published in a local newspaper like the Croydon Guardian only. Perhaps by Bird, who visited the chess club there in 1879.  Another game (S. Hamel-Bird) I found in an Australian newspaper, because a brother of Hamel lived there and got it published this way... Originally it was from the same Nottingham newspaper from which the game below comes. Yet, sometimes it is curious how 19th century games travelled around and were published in a completely different part of the world.

A few notes in the following game are very long, but they are worth reading - especially the one before the first move is insightful about the circumstances in which this game was played.

Chessbase prevents me from naming all the players correctly. White was Bird, Zimmermann, G. Henschel and Haack. Black was Bier, Rocamora, F. Henschel and others.

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