Amos Burn

by Bill Wall


Amos Burn (1848-1925) was one of the world’s top ten chess players between 1886 and 1912. 

He was born on December 31, 1848, in Hull, Yorkshire, England.  He was the 7th child of Amos and Mary Burn.  As a teenager, he was sent to Liverpool to work as a merchant.

He learned chess at the age of 16 in 1865 while living in Liverpool.  His first chess teacher was John Soul and was later a pupil of Wilhelm Steinitz.  He was a cotton broker and a sugar broker from Liverpool and remained an amateur chess player. 

He was a member of the Liverpool Chess Club from 1867 until his death in 1925, serving as its president for many years.  His first tournament, at age 19, was in 1867-68 when he played in a handicap chess tournament at the Liverpool Chess Club.  He won in April 1868 with the score of 24 out of 25, losing only one game.  He became the club champion.  First prize was 5 British pounds.

Between 1867 and 1886, Burn only played chess in England.

In 1869, Burn made his first public appearance outside of the Liverpool Chess Club.  He played board 5 for the Liverpool Chess Club and won two games against the Manchester Chess Club.

He started his international chess career at the late age of 37.  He edited a chess column in The Field from 1913 to 1925.  His nickname was Bulldog or “The Highwayman.” 

In 1871, he tied for 1st in the British Championship, but lost the play-off to John Wisker. 

It was not until 1886 that Burn began his international tournament career at the age of 37.

In 1887, he tied for 1st with Isidor Gunsberg in London.

In 1889, he took 1st at Amsterdam and 2nd at Breslau, behind Siegbert Tarrasch.

In 1895, he took 12th at Hastings.

In 1898, he won the 11th German Chess Federation championship in Cologne.  He scored 9 out of 12 (75%) against an average of 2634-rated opposition.

His last tournament was Breslau 1912, taking 12th place.

He was analyzing a chess game for his chess column when he died of a stroke on November 25, 1925.

In 2004, Richard Forster published a 972-page book on Amos Burn.

The Burn Variation in the French Defense, 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4, is named after him.