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WCC: Steinitz-Chigorin 1889
Compiled by WCC Editing Project

ORIGINAL: Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Match (1889)

Havana, Cuba January 20 - February 24 1899


I want to add that the match is discussed on pp. 162-165 (then follow the annotated games) of Wilhelm Steinitz, 'The Modern Chess Instructor', Part I, 1889.


6th American Chess Congress: <At the end of the tournament there was a tie between M. Tschigorin, of St. Petersburg, and Herr Max Weiss, of Vienna. Both these masters expressed a desire not to be compelled to play a championship match, as provided by the rules, and as there was no other challenge for the title and the prizes offered for the purpose, the Committee decided that this contest should not take place.>

Source: Wilhelm Steinitz, 'The Book of the Sixth American Chess Congress', New York, 1891, p. xxiii (more on the rules for the match can be found on the preceding pages)


Karpova: Originally from 'La Strategie': According to the finally determined conditions, Steinitz and Chigorin will not just play a number of games, but a real match. Both masters will contribute $600 each to the purse. In addition to the amount of money the players have to raise, the Havana Chess Club, in whose rooms the match will be played, will pay for every game 100 Frs. to the winner and 50 Frs. to the loser. In case of a draw, each player receives 50 Frcs.. The Havana Chess Club also pays both master's travel expenses. During his stay, Chigorin will play matches against the Club's strongest players and give Simul and Blindfold exhibitions.

Source: Deutsches Wochenschach, 13 January 1889, issue 2, p. 20,


Karpova: The match had to be interrupted at game 16, since Chigorin became sick (<da Tschigorin unwohl wurde.>)

Source: Deutsches Wochenschach, 24 February 1889, issues 7/8, p. 67,


Steinitz won the match by scoring 10.5 points after 17 games, i. e. more than 50% with 20 games to be played overall.

Source: Deutsches Wochenschach, 10 March 1889, issue 10, p. 84,


Later follows a longer article on the Steinitz-Chigorin 1889 match, which I will look at later. Source: Horatio Caro, Der Wettkampf zwischen Steinitz und Tschigorin, Deutsches Wochenschach, 24 March 1889, issues 11/12, pp. 86-91,


The match was indeed declared won for Steinitz and ended after the drawn game 17 with 10.5 out of 20 possible points. They note that sources were partly `Times Democrat', 'Rivista de Ajedrez' and the 'International Chess Magazine'.

Source: Deutsches Wochenschach, 24 March 1889, issues 11/12, p. 104,


The final part of the article mentioned above: Source: Horatio Caro, Der Wettkampf zwischen Steinitz und Tschigorin, Deutsches Wochenschach, 7 April 1889, issue 14, pp. 115-117,


On Game Collection: WCC: Steinitz-Chigorin 1889

Later follows a longer article on the Steinitz-Chigorin 1889 match, which I will look at later. Source: Horatio Caro, Der Wettkampf zwischen Steinitz und Tschigorin, Deutsches Wochenschach, 24 March 1889, issues 11/12, pp. 86-91,

The article begins with biographical sketches. Steinitz first, and the match versus Zukertort is, for reasons unknown to me, not mentioned.

The part about Chigorin may be of greater interest: He was born in St. Petersburg. At the end of 1880, by beating Schiffers +7 -1 =3, he finally established himself as the strongest Russian chessplayer. He represented Russia at Berlin (1881) and came in shared 3rd-4th. At Vienna (1882), he was less successful overall, but drew his mini-matches versus Steinitz, Zukertort, Mackenzie and Noa. At the great London (1883) tournament, he came in 4th. This was his last international tournament, but notable is his match victory over Schiffers in 1885 (5 to 1). The author adds, that Chigorin is an amateur chessplayer.

I will leave out the complete game description, as it may give a wrong impression and is possibly not even necessary for a draft.

Game 1: Chigorin's favorite opening, the Evans Gambit. Steinitz introduced a novelty (6...Qf6). Chigorin won after 6.5 hours of play. The only interruption was the usual 2 hour-break after White's 35th move after 4 hours of play at 6 o'clock.

Game 2: Thursday, January 22nd, in the rooms of the Union Klub, began at 2 p.m.. Steinitz won after 4 hours.

Game 3: 24th January. Chigorin won after 9.5 hours. Chigorin sealed his 47th move and gave it to the arbiter, then began the 2 hours-break. Then, the game was continued until 12 o'clock midnight, but adjourned at move 72. Chigorin again had to seal his move. The game finished on Friday in less than 2 hours.

Game 4: 26th January. Steinitz won in 22 moves.

Game 5: Chigorin played the Evans again, and Steinitz tried his novelty 6...Qf6 for a second time. Chigorin resigned. The game had lasted 2 hours and 33 minutes.

The General Captain of Cuba together with his whole entourage was present during the whole sitting. The next 3 games will be played in the Casino de Espagnola, because this society together with the Centre de Sport have an agreement with the Union-Klub and the Klub von Ajedrez, that a part of the match is contested in their rooms.


The final part of the article mentioned above: Source: Horatio Caro, Der Wettkampf zwischen Steinitz und Tschigorin, Deutsches Wochenschach, 7 April 1889, issue 14, pp. 115-117,

Game 6: January 1889. Chigorin won.

Game 7: January 1889. Steinitz resigned on move 34.

Game 8: 3 February 1889. Chigorin resigned on move 38.

Game 9: 5 February 1889. Chigorin resigned on move 56.

Game 10: 7 February 1889. Chigorin resigned on move 27.

Game 11: 10 February 1889. Steinitz resigned on move 31.

Game 12: February 1889. Steinitz won on move 61.

Game 13: February 1889. Chigorin won.

Game 14: February 1889. Steinitz won on move 35.

Game 15: 21 February 1889. Steinitz won after 36 moves.

Game 16: 23 February 1889. Steinitz won on move 52. The game descriptions in the last part of the report have become more sketchy, he is rather describing the course of the games. It was still surprising to me, that Chigorin's sickness, which led to an interruption of the game, was not mentioned here.

Game 17: 24 February 1889. The game ended drawn after move 70.

Steinitz won 10.5-6.5, but Chigorin can be satisfied, having proven to be a master of 1st rank.

Steinitz is better in closed positions, and the safer player, but Chigorin is stronger when attacking. Chigorin is still young, so the chess world can hope for great accomplishments in the future.


<From the 1889 'Wiener Schachzeitung' (Sonderheft) P. 6: <Habana, 21. Feber. (Vom Spezial-Berichterstatter.). Im Hafen hat sich ein Haifisch gezeigt. Mehrere zu Gast hier weilende Schachspieler nahmen ihren Schwiegermüttern Abonnements für die See-Bade-Anstalt.> (Havana, February 21. (By the special correspondent). A shark showed up in the harbour. Several of the chessplayers who are guests here, took sea swimming baths subscriptions for their mothers-in-law.)>

P. 7: <Habana, 22. Feber. Die gestern gemeldete Maßregel war von Erfolg begleitet. Der Haifish ist verschwunden.> (Havana, February 22. The measure reported yesterday, was successful. The shark disappeared).


From Chess Archaeology site

-<"Charleston Sunday News" (27 Jan 1889)>

"Among the conditions of the match between Messrs Steinitz and Tshegorin, now being played in Havana, we notice the following: Second. For their expenses in Havana each will receive 240 pesos in gold. Third. From sixteen to twenty games will be played. The winner of each game to receive $20 and the loser $10. In the event of a draw each shall receive $10."


"Newark Sunday Call" (27 Jan 1889)>

"The entire expenses of the two players, Steinitz and Tchigorin, in going and returning from New York and Havana are borne by the Havana Club."


"The third contest, which ended January 24, occupied over nine hours and the Russian came off victorious."


-<"Charleston Sunday News" (3 Feb 1889)>

"The days of play are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Havana Chess Club gave a grand banquet, in honor of the visitors, on the 10th January, at which the Captain General, foreign consuls and other notabilities participated."


-<"Newark Sunday Call" (24 Feb 1889)>

"The latest reports from Havana give the score, Steintz, 9; Tshigorin, 6. Another game will make it impossible for Steinitz to lose, and two more will give him the victory."


-<"Boston Herald" (26 Feb 1889)>

"Steinitz won the 16th game. It was begun with the Zukertort gambit, and lasted six hours.

The 17th game, which was begun with the Evans gambit, and lasted five hours, resulted in a draw.

It was agreed that the match be considered as ended, with Steinitz as winner."


-<"Brooklyn Daily Eagle" (27 Feb 1889)>

"The great chess match which has been in progress at the Havana Chess Club since January 21 terminated on February 25 in a declared victory for Mr. Steinitz, who won ten out of the sixteen games played. There were four more games of the twenty to be played and Steinitz had but to win one of the four to make up the eleven necessary to bear off the prize, and in view of the near approach of the international tourney at New York he resigned from the contest.


-<"Charleston Sunday News" (3 March 1889)>

"Owing to Mr Tshigorin's attack of sickness, play in this contest was suspended for three days, hence the 13th game did not take place until the 16th ult. It was an Evans gambit, with the usual result, a victory for the Russian. The 14th game took place on the 19th and was won by Steinitz in 35 moves, the score at this stage being, Steinitz 8, Tschigorin 6, with 6 games still to play. The Times-Democrat, from whose columns we take the following score of the 14th game, says: It will be very difficult for Mr Tschigorin to overcome Steinitz's lead, for as the El Union Constitucional points out, he would have to win four of these to draw the match. The Cuban climate, too, is evidently a factor in the contest. The Russian champion experiences unfavorable results in the transition from St Petersburg to Havana; indeed, we note that at one stage he pronounced himself literally 'suffocated by the heat.'"


-<"Newark Sunday Call" (3 March 1889)>

"Steinitz having won the sixteenth and drawn the seventeenth game in the Havana engagement his score is 10½ to Tchigorin's 6½. It being now impossible for Tchigorin even to tie for the match, it has been terminated, and once more the unconquerable Steinitz arises a victor..."


-<"Kirksville Weekly Graphic" (8 March 1889)>

"Steinitz has won the great chess match in Havana, the score being Steinitz, 10, Tchigorin, 6, Drawn 1. This gives Steinitz a stake of $1,200 and maintains his supremacy as champion of the world, a position he has held by many a hard fought battle with men of weight and renown. Tchigorin the champion of Russia, is a gentleman well-known in diplomatic circles. The news will be received with disappointment in New York, the adopted home of the Austrian Jew, where he has made himself unpopular by his aggressiveness and unreasonable petty jealousies. Tchigorin on the contrary, notwithstanding his defeat, will be received with open arms at the forthcoming chess congress in New York where he is likely to meet gentlemen of his own ilk and more worthy his knightly chessic spear."


-<"Newark Sunday Call" (10 March 1889)>

"It is certainly very amusing to see the contortions resorted to by those who desire to depreciate Steinitz's play. In the latest match these wise critics say that Tchigorin was 'suffocated' by the heat in Havana. Steinitz has won matches in cold climates and in warm, against antagonists of all kinds and nationalities, but in every case the critics say that Steinitz could not, would not, or should not have won, if certain conditions had been otherwise. But the fact remains that he does win. In order to depreciate Steinitz's play it is necessary to depreciate the play of all his antagonists. What silly nonsense it all is! Entirely apart from the man's personal character, why not admit what is unmistakable, that Steinitz is the best living chess-player. An acknowledgment of his chess ability is not an endorsement of his personal character nor an approval of the literary Steinitz gambit."


-<"New York Daily Tribune" (20 March 1889)>

"The Manhattan Chess Club was again the centre of interest among the players yesterday afternoon, on account of the arrival of Michael Tchigorin, the noted player, of St. Petersburg. He had just come from Havana, where he played a match with Mr. Steinitz. To a Tribune reporter he said that during his match with Mr. Steinitz he had suffered much from the effects of the warm climate, and he brought his coat together to show how much he had lost in weight. He said, further, that he had made errors: that after three or four hours' play, on account of the heat and noise, he would get somewhat confused. He had, he said, no intention at present of remaining in this country after the Congress closes, but would be governed by circumstances."


Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1889 
(C52) Evans Gambit, 58 moves, 1-0

Steinitz vs Chigorin, 1889 
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 38 moves, 1-0

Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1889 
(C62) Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense, 83 moves, 1-0

3 games

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