Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Great Pillsbury's 100th Death Day

My last post reminds me of a famous saying by one of the worlds greatest ever chess champions, the late Emanuel Lasker:

‘Chess is a fight’

Which brings me to my next subject.

Harry Nelson Pillsbury was one of the greatest chess talents of his time. He died exactly 100 years ago yesterday, but his chess games continue to inspire me. Chess is not only a fight, but an art, and Pillsbury was a master of this art.

‘Pillsbury would play up to 22 simultaneous games of chess and draughts blindfold while also taking part in a game of whist. ‘Before the display he would ask the audience for lists of words or objects, and repeat them at the end of the display. On one famous occasion in London two professors came up with the following curious list of words:

Antiphlogistine, micrococcus, Etchenberg, Bangmanvate, periosteum, plasmodium, American, Schlechter's Nek, taka diastasi, Mississippi, Russian, Manzinyama, plasmon, Freiheit, philosophy, theosophy, ambrosia, Philadelphia, Piet Potgelter's, catechism, Threlkeld, Cincinnati, Rost, Madjesoomalops, Streptococcus, athletics, Salamagundi, staphylococcus, no war, and Oomisellecootsi

Pillsbury looked at the list, repeated the words, and then again in reverse order. The next day he recited them again’ (The Complete Chess Addict, Fox and James, p. 99)

In honour of his memory, I’ve uploaded one of his games and lightly annotated it. However, bear in mind that this game was played blindfold simultaneous with twelve other chess and four other draughts games - plus a game of whist on the side!

Click here to play through the game.

Here is another superb article celebrating the occasion.



At 6/18/2006 2:56 PM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

I have a very dog-earred copy of Fox and James as well. Great book, and Pillsbury, not a bad player. Glad to hear you're feeling a bit better too.

At 6/18/2006 7:07 PM, Anonymous Rick Sumner said...

Black's lines were. . .ummm. . .interesting. I'm going to guess he was playing out of book.

At 6/19/2006 11:56 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Jonathan, I must get round to bunging you on my blog roll! You play chess often?

Hi Rick, Yea, black was not a strong player, for sure. Especially his Bxf3.

At 6/20/2006 2:53 AM, Anonymous danielbradley said...

Great! Another chess fan! By the way, whats your take on the
upcoming Topalov v. Kramnik match?

At 6/20/2006 3:26 AM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

I haven't been able to play much OTB for a while, but I'm planning to over this next year if possible (see how the studies go). BTW did you get my email reply?

Daniel, I'd like to see Topalov win, much more entertaining! What about you (and Chris)?

At 6/20/2006 5:03 PM, Anonymous danielbradley said...

Yeah Jon, I'm a Topa fan too. But with the way Kramnik played in Turin, he's bound to give Topalov a load of trouble.

At 6/20/2006 10:27 PM, Anonymous Rick Sumner said...

Hi Rick, Yea, black was not a strong player, for sure. Especially his Bxf3.

It was definitely an unexpected play!

A very nice mate though--two bishops, gotta like that. And it's always enjoyable to see the series of (seemingly) winning exchanges leading to the inevitable; one of those mates that even the losing party has to applaud.

Thanks for sharing it.

At 6/21/2006 12:43 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Daniel,
Yep, I was a real chess nut, but I just don't have the time for it anymore. As to the Drawnik, Topalov game, I sure hope Topa wins. He is such a nice guy, so humble. I really respect that. But I'm sure you're right that Topa will have a hard fight against Spamnik.

Hi Jonathan,
Yes, I did get your mail - I've had an idea actually, given your Christology specialisation - but I'll talk with you about that another time. As I said above, and like you - I'm a Topa man. And I prefer his chess style

Hi Rick
"Thanks for sharing it."
My pleasure. I love annotating games, too.


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