The Black Death

The Black Death‎

GM Julio_Becerra
38 | Tactics

Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841–1924), nicknamed "Black Death," started playing chess as an adult but reached master level in mere months. He learned how to play draughts as a child; however it was not until he heard about Paul Morphy's exploits around Europe that he switched to playing chess. Less than two years after learning the moves, Blackburne entered the 1862 London International Tournament (the world's first chess round-robin or all-play-all tournament) and defeated Wilhelm Steinitz in their individual game! That’s talent!

He played professionally for over a half century, winning the brilliancy prize at St. Petersburg, as well as the shared British championship, in 1914 at age 72! Although he was noted for having poor health, he played over 2,000 games per year throughout his chess playing career. Blackburne played in practically one strong tournament per year from 1870 to 1899 and in the 1870s and 1880s he was almost always a high prize winner.

But he really enjoyed popularizing chess by giving simultaneous and blindfolds displays around the country. Blackburne also published a collection of his own games, and was a chess correspondent for a leading journal until his death.

He was also noted for heavy drinking of Scotch whisky, especially during those exhibition games. "Whiskey stimulates the imagination, but eating a large meal before a game is equivalent to giving knight odds," he said! He also claimed to play better after indulging in a bit of whiskey and often "proved" the point!

Let’s see four positions from Blackburne, four gems of chess!


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