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  WCC Overview
Zukertort vs Steinitz 1886
New York / St. Louis / New Orleans

 Steinitz and Zukertort, 1886
 Zukertort (left) and Steinitz.
Wilhelm Steinitz was born in Prague, Bohemia (today Czech Republic) in 1836.[1] He dominated the chess world for most of the second half of the 1800s,[2] and beat his strongest active contemporaries in matches: Anderssen - Steinitz (1866), Steinitz - Zukertort (1872) and Steinitz - Blackburne (1876). Steinitz considered his world championship tenure to have started with his win over Adolf Anderssen,[3] although in these matches the title of world champion was probably not officially at stake.[4] In 1882, Steinitz challenged Johannes Zukertort to another match but the negotiations failed.[5] Zukertort was born in Lublin, Poland in 1842,[6] and by the 1870s he had become one of the world's strongest chessplayers.[7] Zukertort scored an overwhelming victory at London (1883) ahead of Steinitz. Contemporaneous periodicals openly questioned Steinitz's superiority.[8] At the end of June 1883, Steinitz again challenged Zukertort to a match, and proposed conditions.[9] Zukertort agreed in principle to the match, but his poor health after his tournament victory did not permit the stress of such a match in the near future.[10]

Steinitz emigrated to the USA in late 1883.[11] The negotiations for a match with Zukertort now dragged on. The main disagreement was location: Steinitz wanted to play in the USA, but not in London, where he had encountered unfairness and hostility.[12] Zukertort, on the other hand, insisted on a match in London, where his financial backers resided.[13] Finally, in mid-1885 Zukertort agreed to a match in the USA and Steinitz agreed to play a return match in London.[14] At first, the preliminary seconds were to be Gustave Simonson for Steinitz and James Innes Minchin for Zukertort, but by the time the match started, Steinitz had chosen Thomas Frere and Zukertort Charles Moehle as their respective seconds. Frère and Minchin went on to conduct the match negotiations.[15] A forfeit deposit of $250 was imposed.[16] Steinitz forwarded the sum at the beginning of December 1885.[17] Zukertort arrived in New York on December 13 but the transmission of his deposit was delayed, so the match began later than originally planned.[18]

The conditions for the first official world chess championship match were signed on December 29, 1885. The stakes were $2,000 a side,[19] with a guarantee of at least $750 to the winner and $500 to the loser.[20] The winner would be the first to win 10 games. In case of 9:9 (draws not counting), the match was to be declared drawn. The time control was 30 moves in 2 hours and then 15 moves in 1 hour. The match was to begin in New York and remain in that venue until one player had scored 4 wins. Then it would move to St. Louis until one player had won 3 games there. The rest of the match was to take place in New Orleans. An umpire for each player was chosen from the chess club hosting the match during each of the three legs. The two umpires supervised the games and settled all disputes. In the case of a disagreement between the umpires, or of a player feeling that an umpire's decision contradicted the rules, the referee had the final say.[19] A change was made in St. Louis that the match would be considered drawn if the score reached 8:8, draws not counting.[21]

The match began on January 11, 1886 [18] in Cartier's Hall, Fifth Avenue, in New York.[22] The New York leg ended January 20, when Zukertort scored 4 consecutive victories after losing the first game. Play was resumed on February 3 in St. Louis.[23] The games were played during the day in the Harmonie Hall and at night in the Chess, Checkers and Whist Club.[24] The umpires were Ben R. Foster for Steinitz and William Duncan for Zukertort.[25] The St. Louis leg ended on February 10 after Steinitz scored 3 wins and a draw.[23] After a rest of almost 2 weeks, the New Orleans leg began on February 26.[26] Charles Francis Buck was the referee. The umpires were Fernand Clairborne for Steinitz and Charles Maurian for Zukertort.[27] Play took place in the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club at the corner of Baronne and Canal Street.[28] Carnival activities led to a suspension of the match for a few days.[29] After a draw, Steinitz pulled ahead with 2 wins. Zukertort struck back with a win, but managed only 3 draws and another loss in the next games. Steinitz then went on to win the last 3 games, becoming the first official world champion on March 29, 1886 with a final score of (+10 -5 =5).[23]

click on a game number to replay game 1234567891011121314151617181920

FINAL SCORE:  Steinitz 10;  Zukertort 5 (5 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Steinitz-Zukertort 1886]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #19     Zukertort vs Steinitz, 1886     0-1
    · Game #1     Zukertort vs Steinitz, 1886     0-1
    · Game #9     Zukertort vs Steinitz, 1886     0-1


  1. Jeremy Gaige, Chess Personalia: A Biobibliography, (McFarland 1987, softcover reprint 2005), p. 406
  2. Rod Edwards, Wilhelm Steinitz
  3. Obituary in the New York Times, 14 October 1900, quoting Steinitz from My advertisement to anti-Semites in Vienna and Elsewhere. In Edward Winter, Early Uses of ‘World Chess Champion’
  4. Edward Winter, Early Uses of ‘World Chess Champion’
  5. Kurt Landsberger, William Steinitz - Chess Champion 2d ed. (McFarland 1995), p. 168
  6. Gaige, pp. 481-482
  7. Rod Edwards, Johannes Zukertort
  8. The Chess Player's Chronicle mentions that Zukertort had become champion "in the opinion of some" (18 July 1883, p. 50. In Edward Winter, Early Uses of ‘World Chess Champion’). According to the Cincinnati Commercial, the "indications are that Mr. Z. is the strongest living player" (7 July 1883. Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology, Item 2). The Baltimore Sunday News was quoted as saying that Zukertort was now the acknowledged world champion chessplayer (Newark Sunday Call, 8 July 1883. Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology) and the New York Turf, Field and Farm announced Steinitz's soon to be published match challenge to be a challenge to Zukertort's "title to the championship" (6 July 1883. Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology, Item 1). Johannes von Minckwitz writes, that their rivalry grew more and more acute after the tournament, and a match between them moved closer and closer (Source #cite_15>15, pp. 4-5. Reprinted in Internet Archive). Charles Devide described the tournament as a bitter disappointment and that then all of Steinitz' energies were bent on securing a match (Devidé, A Memorial to William Steinitz, New York and London, 1901, p. 7. Reprinted in Internet Archive).
  9. New York Turf, Field and Farm, 13 July 1883. Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology, Item 1
  10. British Chess Magazine, August-September 1883, pp. 282-283
  11. Landsberger, p. 138
  12. Landsberger, p. 146
  13. Landsberger, p. 145
  14. Landsberger, p. 148
  15. Johannes von Minckwitz, Der Entscheidungskampf zwischen W. Steinitz und J. H. Zukertort um die Meisterschaft der Welt, Leipzig, 1886, pp. 7-8. Reprinted in Internet Archive
  16. Landsberger, p. 150
  17. Nashville Union, 6 December 1885 (originally from the New Orleans Times Democrat). Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology, Item 3
  18. British Chess Magazine, February 1886, p. 69
  19. Chess Monthly, January 1886, pp. 136-137. In Edward Winter's World Chess Championship Rules
  20. Landsberger, p. 150
  21. British Chess Magazine, May 1886, p. 184
  22. British Chess Magazine, February 1886, p. 54
  23. Rod Edwards, Steinitz-Zukertort (1886)
  24. British Chess Magazine, March 1886, p. 116
  25. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 3 February 1886. Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology
  26. Charleston Sunday News, 21 February 1886. Reprinted in Jacques N. Pope, Chess Archaeology, Item 1
  27. British Chess Magazine, April 1886, pp. 139-140 (originally from the New Orleans Times-Democrat, 28 February 1886)
  28. Landsberger, p. 163
  29. Brooklyn Chess Chronicle, 15 March 1886, volume 4, number 6, p. 81. Reprinted in HathiTrust Digital Library

 page 1 of 1; 20 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Zukertort vs Steinitz 0-1461886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
2. Steinitz vs Zukertort 0-1461886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC47 Four Knights
3. Zukertort vs Steinitz 1-0471886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
4. Steinitz vs Zukertort 0-1391886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC67 Ruy Lopez
5. Zukertort vs Steinitz 1-0321886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
6. Steinitz vs Zukertort 1-0611886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC67 Ruy Lopez
7. Zukertort vs Steinitz 0-1351886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD35 Queen's Gambit Declined
8. Steinitz vs Zukertort ½-½221886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC67 Ruy Lopez
9. Zukertort vs Steinitz 0-1381886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
10. Steinitz vs Zukertort ½-½211886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC67 Ruy Lopez
11. Zukertort vs Steinitz 0-1421886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC49 Four Knights
12. Steinitz vs Zukertort 1-0441886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC67 Ruy Lopez
13. Zukertort vs Steinitz 1-0861886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD35 Queen's Gambit Declined
14. Steinitz vs Zukertort ½-½481886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC67 Ruy Lopez
15. Zukertort vs Steinitz ½-½491886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD50 Queen's Gambit Declined
16. Steinitz vs Zukertort 1-0491886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
17. Zukertort vs Steinitz ½-½521886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
18. Steinitz vs Zukertort 1-0401886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
19. Zukertort vs Steinitz 0-1291886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
20. Steinitz vs Zukertort 1-0191886Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship MatchC25 Vienna
 page 1 of 1; 20 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Jun-23-12  Open Defence: from the bio


Steinitz was more adept at winning matches than tournaments in his early years, a factor, which alongside his prolonged absences from competition chess after 1873, may have prevented more widespread recognition of his dominance of chess as world champion until the first “official” world championship match in 1886. Nevertheless, between 1859 and his death in 1900, the only tournament in which he did not win prize money was his final tournament in London in 1899>

Dec-31-13  MarkFinan: Did I ever tell anyone that when Steinitz's clock broke he had it fixed in a jewelers called Fatorini's in my hometown?

No? Okay, I'll copy and paste some lengthy articles and post them here later. 👌

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: <Mark Finan>

<Did I ever tell anyone that when Steinitz's clock broke he had it fixed in a jewelers called Fatorini's in my hometown?>

Are you referring to an earlier <Stenitz> match that was played in England?

This match was played in New York, St. Louis, and New Orleans. Wouldn't your hometown be in England?

There is a broken clock being sent to the jeweler's story from this match, though it might be a different incident then the one you refer to.

<Zukertort's> clock broke during the 3d game in St. Louis: Steinitz vs Zukertort, 1886

<"The third game attracted an even larger audience, but was interrupted when <<<Zukertort's clock broke down>>> and refused to tick. While the time-piece was carried to a neighboring jeweler, the two players wandered about and conversed with those who approached them...">

The clock was repaired in time to restart the game, but then it stopped again. Both <Steinitz> and then <Zukertort> shook the clock until it started again, and they were able to finish the game.

-Kurt Landsberger, "Wilhelm Steinitz, Chess Champion." (McFarland 1995), p. 161.

If your story is from a different match, it would be excellent if you gave us more information and a source for it. Sounds intriguing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Losing a World Championship match after being 4-1 ahead was also achieved by Alekhine in Alekhine - Euwe World Championship Match (1935).

No one else has managed it, but Karpov came quite close in the epic Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Match (1978); he was 4-1 up but Kortschnoi managed to level the match at 5-5 in the first-to-6-wins match.

Kasparov had similar troubles in Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Rematch (1986). He was 4-1 up but contrived to lose 3 games in a row to his resourceful opponent. But he finished the match strongly and won by a point.

Premium Chessgames Member

This event has a new introduction, researched and written by <Karpova>.

May-11-15  A.T PhoneHome: Oh 1886, how I miss the smell of cigars and the bottles of wise men's liquid!

How I miss the daring gambit play and boast of men, by the young and by the old!

The above is a short introduction to what I am going to say. There was no clear international chess federation, moreover, the players themselves worked out the details between themselves. The very best had the last say most often.

Phenomenal talents like Anderssen, Staunton and Morphy made people talk about the best players in the world as World Champions.

To settle the score, the best players started to play matches and the conditions were largely decided by them.

After this independence of such arrangements, one could say that the Championship title became something of a personal belonging which eventually prompted the talks of choosing an impartial chess federation to host these said events.

Today our top-level players fight for their spots in the Candidates Tournament, after which the winner plays against the World Champion. Sounds really simple, but it hasn't always been like that.

This is where it all started!

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <RookFile: I'm curious. What do you make of Vienna 1882?>


May-12-16  AlicesKnight: <thegoodanarchist> <Sausages?> - if that is all you can say, I fear the wurst...
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: < AlicesKnight: <thegoodanarchist> <Sausages?> - if that is all you can say, I fear the wurst...>

That's a bunch of bologna. You're being a brat.

May-14-16  AlicesKnight: <thegoodanarchist - That's a bunch of bologna. You're being a brat.> Just because I'm old and pasta my best, don't you schnitzel on me ...
Premium Chessgames Member

Max Judd, in the "St Louis Republican", gives a graphic pen-and-ink portraiture of the players for the chess championship:

"Mr Steinitz a fat, phlegmatic little man, with fine forehead, and mussed hair and clothes. His legs are very short, although his circumference around the equator is rather large and it was peculiar sight to watch the great chess player seated upon an ordinary chair, and feeling unsuccessfully for the continent of North America with his feet.

Both men are hirsute, but Zukertort is better groomed than Steinitz. Both have fine heads. Steinitz is all curves; Zukertort all angles. One of them gives the impression of large-mindedness, the other acuteness. Steinitz all solidity and ardipose tissue; Zukertort all brilliancy and nerves.">

Source: "Edinburgh Evening News" - Saturday 20th March 1886.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <Chessical:...Max Judd, in the "St Louis Republican", gives a graphic pen-and-ink portraiture of the players for the chess championship.>


Jan-22-17  ZonszeinP: Had they stayed in New York
Zukertort would have been the first WC.
Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: How Zukertort, pupil of the incomparable Anderssen, let this one slip through his fingertips, I'll never know

Maybe Steinitz had something to do with it


Jan-22-17  ZonszeinP: He seems to have recovered very well during those many days Between a city and the other
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Here is a good question I thought of:

Which matches for the World Chess Championship have been between players who were indisputably the World's number 1 and 2?

This 1886 match, Lasker v Capablanca 1921, possibly Botvinnik-Bronstein 1951, probably Botvinnik-Smyslov 1954, 1957 & 1958, Fischer-Spassky 72 and all the Karpov-Kasparov matches. There could be more.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <off> I think perhaps the Alekhine--Capablanca (1927) might be included.

It was in Sept, keep in mind, when looking at this graph:

And also this early 1927 tournament:

New York (1927)

OK, some people might contest "indisputable", but who's to say who's "officially" #1 and #2?

Feb-23-17  Retireborn: I would add the 1974 & 1978 Karpov vs Korchnoi matches as well, although the Fischer fans probably won't agree :)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <Retireborn> Well then using that logic, Steinitz was never number one!! 1.) Morphy and Steinitz were separated by 13 months, which is basically NADA. 2.) Had they played a few games, and then Morphy stopped, one could have a legit argument as to who was better. With Fischer and Karpov, you've got eight years of separation. But seeing how Korchnoi gave Karpov everything he could handle and almost prevailed a couple of times in their matches, it's safe to say Fischer would have been number one at least until 1981..and it's even possible Bobby could have won the 1981 match. But Bobby would and should have been number one until 1981 for sure, IMHO.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Actually, the case could be made that Fischer--Spassky (1972) wasn't really between the #1 and #2 best players.

Certainly the #1 was there, but the #2, ah, there's the rub:

Premium Chessgames Member
  Lambda: Steinitz-Zukertort.
All the Karpov-Korchnoi/Kasparov matches. (Looking at someone who last played serious chess six years ago and has clearly retired is silly.)

And I think you can make an argument for Kramnik-Anand.

Lasker-Tarrasch deserves to be thought about since absolutely nobody would have disputed it at the time, but we trust statistics more nowadays.

Capablanca-Alekhine happened far too close to Lasker's tournament successes of the mid-20s, since it wasn't clear that he had retired again at the time. (What is anyone doing quoting "Fischer" over Karpov-Korchnoi 1978 but not "Lasker" over Capablanca-Alekhine 1927?)

Nothing in the 50s/60s, the top players were far too closely matched. And Spassky as mentioned was losing his lustre by 1972.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <CG> this link in the footnotes is stale

fn8 ... <#cite_15>15> ...

Jan-06-18  sudoplatov: Edo has for 1908 the following rankings.
1 Lasker, Emanuel 2712
2 Rubinstein, Akiba 2629
3 Schlechter, Carl 2629
4 Dùras, Oldøich 2620
5 Maróczy, Géza 2616
6 Capablanca, José 2594
7 Teichmann, Richard 2590
8 Tarrasch, Siegbert 2588
9 Bernstein, Ossip 2588
10 Vidmar, Milan 2579
11 Marshall, Frank 2556
12 Janowsky, Dawid 2549
13 Nimzowitsch, Aron 2528
14 Leonhardt, Paul 2526
15 Spielmann, Rudolf 2525
16 Tartakover, Saviely 2524
17 Salwe, Georg 2513
18 Perlis, Julius 2508
19 Fleischmann, Léo 2508
20 Mieses, Jacques 2507

Lasker was only #8

Jan-07-18  sudoplatov: Actually, I meant Tarrasch was only #8.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <sudoplatov> I like seeing the graphs too...

Other years available too:

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