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