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Henry Bird - chess player

Drawing of Henry Bird by Sam Loyd, 1877 Scientific American Supplement

Henry Edward Bird (Portsea in Hampshire, 14 July 1830 - 11 April 1908) was an English chess player, and also an outstanding author and accountant. He wrote a book titled Chess History and Reminiscences, and another titled An Analysis of Railways in the United Kingdom.

Although Bird was a practicing accountant, not a professional chess player, it has been said that he "lived for chess, and would play anybody anywhere, any time, under any conditions."

Tournament play

At age 21, Bird was invited to the first international tournament, London 1851. He also participated in tournaments held in Vienna and New Jersey. In 1858 he lost a match to Paul Morphy at the age of 28, yet he played high-level chess for another 50 years. In the New York tournament of 1876, Bird received the first brilliancy prize ever awarded, for his game against James Mason.


In 1874 Bird proposed a new chess variant, which played on an 8x10 board and contained two new pieces: guard (combining the moves of the rook and knight) and equerry (combining the bishop and knight). Bird's chess inspired José Raúl Capablanca to create another chess variant, Capablanca chess, which differs from Bird's chess only by the starting position.

It was Bird who popularized the chess opening now called Bird's Opening (1. f4), as well as Bird's Defense to the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4). Bird's Opening is considered sound, though not the best try for an opening advantage. Bird's Defense is regarded as slightly inferior, but "trappy".


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