What is it about?

GeorgeWalker’s March 1840 article for Fraser’sMagazine entitled ‘Chess Without the Chess-Board’ outlined the history and method of blindfold chess (or chessplay without sight of the board and pieces). Arriving as chess was becoming increasingly visible within nineteenth-century literary and urban culture, Walker’s essay covered familiar issues on the topic concerning spectacle, utility, and bodily and mental damage, as well as furthering his own concerns with the history of the game and the possibility of expanding participation.

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Why is it important?

This assessment of ‘Chess Without the Chess-Board’, part of wider research concerning chess in urban and literary modernity, complements research published in the author’s monograph on the cultural chess-player and previously within Sport in History. Prominent themes of Walker’s article include the multiple identities of the blindfold chess-player and the game’s everchanging relationship to standards of respectability. ‘Chess Without the ChessBoard’, offering a lengthy ‘how-to-play’ to the beginning player and outlining the national prestige and celebrity of historical blindfold chess-players, also presents a potentially disreputable reading of practice and player, denying any wider social utility.


This is the second of a series of planned articles on the chess-player in Victorian society, examining the work of the chess-writer and chess-player George Walker.

Dr John J Sharples
Lancaster University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: ‘This dark world’: the blindfold chess-player in Victorian literary and urban culture, Sport in History, April 2017, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2017.1307783.
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