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Blackburne, Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1924) was an English player of grandmaster strength, perhaps ranked number 2 in the world at one time.  He learned the game at age 19 after learning of Morphy's chess exploits.  In 1860, he joined the Manchester Chess Club.  He won the second British championship in 1868.  His nickname was the Black Death (der schwarze Tod), given to him by a comment in the tournament book of Vienna 1873.  He was also known for his temper. After losing to Steinitz in a match, he threw him out of a window.  Luckily for Steinitz that they were on the first floor.   From 1870 to 1888 he was one of the top five chess players in the world.  He was once arrested as a spy because he sent chess moves in the mail and it was thought the moves were coded secrets.  In the 1890s, he was playing over 2,000 games a year in simuls.  He tied for first in the British Championship of 1914 at the age of 72.  During a simultaneous exhibition at Cambridge University, the students thought to gain the advantage by placing a bottle of whisky and a glass at each end of the playing oval.  In the end he emptied both bottles and won all his games in record time.  During the temperance movement in England, he declared that whisky drinking improved one's chess because alcohol cleared the brain and he tried to prove that theory as often as possible.  It is estimated he played 100,000 games of chess in his career.  He married twice, and had a son with his second wife, Mary Fox.

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