Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A. E. Blackmar

By Anders Tejler and Tom Purser
Although born in Bennington, Vermont on May 30, 1826, Armand Edward Blackmar became a Southerner by choice. From 1852 to 1855 he was professor of music at Centenary College in Jackson, Louisiana. In 1860 he and his brother established a music publishing house in New Orleans. However, the city was captured in 1862 in a naval attack led by Farragut, and occupied by Union forces. It became necessary to publish music for the Confederacy elsewhere. Armand's brother, H. C., opened a publishing house in Augusta, Georgia, where he continued to publish patriotic music. Armand continued business in New Orleans, where he died on October 28, 1888.
Armand was a very good violinist and pianist, a chess expert, and a charter member of the Chess, Checkers and Whist Club of New Orleans. In 1882, in the July issue of Brentanos Chess Monthly, he introduced his gambit to the chess world. In that issue he commented that he had been playing the gambit for more than a year, that he had never found it in any book or published game, and that White's second and third moves constituted the new gambit. (We emphasize the last point, since we still see 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4-with f3 never played--referred to as the Blackmar--or worse yet, the Blackmar-Diemer--Gambit). In the August/September issue of Brentanos another example of Blackmar's gambit appeared: A. E. Blackmar - Love New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club Other examples of Blackmar's gambit are Blackmar - Lapeyre, Blackmar - Farrar, and Maurian - Daponte. These games are also in Diemer's book, pages 148-149.
There are still more of Blackmar's games which have not been as widely published, and with which readers may not be as familiar. The 1884 edition of Cook's Synopsis of Chess Openings contains a supplement, called American Inventions in the Chess Openings, which contains five pages of Blackmar's analysis of his openings. The introduction notes that "Mr. A. E. Blackmar, of New Orleans, sends to the editor the following analysis of winning positions in two interesting gambits invented by him, and which he has been playing for four years. The second gambit is not played much, because few make use of the Hollandish Defense... (Blackmar's thematic f2-f3 is also found in a line in the Staunton Gambit against the Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.f3). This line, which often results in BDG-like positions, is referred to, appropriately enough, as Blackmar's second gambit. But that is another story, of which we will have more to tell in a future issue.
It is interesting to note that many of the thematic moves in the BDG (such as the routine attacking sequence Qd1-e1-h4) were already appearing in Blackmar's games. A. E. Blackmar - L. S. Atkinson Correspondence, 1884 A. E. Blackmar - D. Daponte. Still another game by Blackmar appeared in an article by Jacques Le Monnier in the February 1981 issue of Europe Echecs. The article has a number of errors (1.d4 d5 2.e4 as the Blackmar Gambit, Blackmar's first name as Abel--a mistake Diemer also made in his earlier writings, but corrected in his book), but does provide several interesting games. A. E. Blackmar - W. H. Lyons New Orleans, February 6, 1884.
So much for Blackmar's own games. But what happened to his gambit between his death in 1888 and Diemer's rediscovery of it in 1932? In his book, Diemer credits von Popiel for the pioneering work in the development of the zwischenzug 3.Nc3. Von Popiel's analysis appeared in Deutsches Wochenschach in 1893, and as Diemer notes, a reference there to the Blackmar Gambit indicates that von Popiel was familiar with Blackmar's analysis. Although Diemer reprinted much of von Popiel's analysis, we have few examples of his games.