Harry Nelson Pillsbury (December 5, 1872 - July, 1906), was United States Chess Champion from 1898 until his death in 1906.
Pillsbury was born in Somerville, Massachusetts and grew up in Philadelphia.
By 1890, having only played chess for two years he beat noted chess expert H. N. Stone. In April 1892, Pillsbury played a match against World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz, (giving Pillsbury a pawn advantage), Pillsbury won 2 games to 1. His rise was meteoric, and there was soon no one to challenge him in the New York chess scene.
The Brooklyn chess club sponsored his journey to Europe to play in the Hastings 1895 chess tournament, in which all the greatest players of the time participated. The 22-year-old Pillsbury became a celebrity in America and abroad by winning the tournament, finishing ahead of reigning world champion Lasker and former world champion Steinitz.
His next big tournament was in St. Petersburg the same year, where he appears to have contracted syphilis prior to the start of the event. Although he was in the lead after the first half of the tournament, he was affected by severe headaches in the second, and lost no less than six games, ultimately finishing third.
Pillsbury had an even record against Lasker. He even beat Lasker with black pieces in Augsburg in 1900 (moves given in Algebraic chess notation):
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bd6 6. d3 O-O 7. dxe4 Nxe4 8. Nxe4 Re8 9. Bd2 Bf5 10. O-O-O Bxe4 11. Qg4 f5 12. Qg3 Nd7 13. Bc3 Nf6 14. Nh3 Ng4 15. Be2 Be7 16. Bxg4 Bh4 17. Bxf5 Bxg3 18. Be6+ Rxe6 19. dxe6 Qe8 20. hxg3 Bxg2 21. Rhe1 Bxh3 22. Rd7 Qg6 23. b3 Re8 24. Re5 Bxe6 25. Rxc7 Qxg3 26. Kb2 h6 27. Rxb7 Rc8 28. Bd4 Qg2 29. Rxa7 Rxc2+ 30. Kb1 Qd2 0-1
Poor health would prevent him from realizing his full potential throughout the rest of his life. In spite of this, Pillsbury beat American champion Jackson Showalter in 1898 to win the American championship, a title he held until he succumbed to syphilis in 1906. The stigma surrounding the disease makes it unlikely that he sought medical treatment.
Along with Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer, Pillsbury ranks as one of America´s greatest-ever chess players. Unfortunately, like the former, Pillsbury too had a short career.