Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chess and Whisky: Strange Bedfellows?

When one imagines what beverages are sipped by the giants of chess while playing, usually a crisp glass of water comes to mind. If we let our imaginations wander freely, maybe that water has a lemon slice. If our imagination is on some sort of hallucinogenic bender maybe, just maybe, we would we would imagine that the water is carbonated. Anything else, it seems, would distract the player who needs to be alert and astute for every second of each match. Right?


Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841–1924), nicknamed "Black Death," would argue, and probaby quite violently, that a little fire water can fuel a fierce match!

"Whiskey stimulates the imagination," he would often remark as we would demonstrate this claim while playing blindfolded after liberal libations.

He once went as far as drinking his opponent's glass of whisky during a match, prompting his adversary to resign. Defending himself, he said that: "My opponent left a glass of whisky en prise and I took it en passant". Meaning it was in a place to be taken and it was taken in passing. While many people have been known to black out after drinking whisky, Blackburne would do remain conscious and rein victoriously in chess.His chess success rocketed him to the second best in the world at the height of his career. He remains an icon of Romantic Chess and continues to be studied today.

To chess and to Mr. Blackburne, CHEERS!

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