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Mikhail Chigorin
Number of games in database: 815
Years covered: 1874 to 1907
Overall record: +415 -252 =146 (60.0%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      2 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 French Defense (74) 
    C00 C01 C11 C14 C10
 Evans Gambit (55) 
    C52 C51
 French (53) 
    C00 C11 C10 C12
 King's Gambit Declined (53) 
    C30 C31
 King's Gambit Accepted (39) 
    C33 C34 C38 C37 C39
 Ruy Lopez (28) 
    C65 C77 C80 C67 C68
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (85) 
    C77 C78 C65 C66 C67
 Queen's Pawn Game (47) 
    D02 D00 D05 D04 A46
 Chigorin Defense (28) 
 King's Gambit Accepted (26) 
    C39 C37 C33 C38
 Queen's Gambit Declined (21) 
    D31 D30 D37
 Giuoco Piano (20) 
    C50 C53
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1892 1-0
   Chigorin vs Schlechter, 1905 1/2-1/2
   Chigorin vs H Caro, 1898 1-0
   Lasker vs Chigorin, 1895 0-1
   Chigorin vs J Mortimer, 1900 1-0
   Chigorin vs Znosko-Borovsky, 1903 1-0
   Gunsberg vs Chigorin, 1890 0-1
   Pillsbury vs Chigorin, 1896 0-1
   Schiffers vs Chigorin, 1897 1/2-1/2
   Chigorin vs Davydow, 1874 1-0

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Match (1889)
   Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Rematch (1892)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Chigorin - Tarrasch (1893)
   Budapest (1896)
   Vienna (1903)
   Hastings (1895)
   Monte Carlo (1901)
   London (1883)
   Berlin (1881)
   15th DSB Kongress (Nuremberg) (1906)
   Paris (1900)
   Vienna (1898)
   London (1899)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   Berlin (1897)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   Vienna (1882)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Chigorin! by amadeus
   Santasiere's "My Love Affair With Tchigorin" by Resignation Trap
   New York 1889 by suenteus po 147
   My Short Notes I (2014) by Knight13
   Vienna 1898 by suenteus po 147
   London 1883 by suenteus po 147
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147
   Chigorin-Gunsberg Match by keypusher
   Chigorin-Tarrasch match by keypusher
   Chigorin - Tarrasch (match) by Akavall

   Janowski vs A Goetz, 1891
   Tartakower vs Vidmar, 1907

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Mikhail Chigorin
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(born Nov-12-1850, died Jan-25-1908, 57 years old) Russia
[what is this?]
Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (also spelled Tchigorin, Tjigorin, or Tschigorin) was born on November 12, 1850, in Gatchina, Russia, where he grew up as an orphan.(1) He died after a long illness on January 25, 1908, in Lublin, Poland,(2) in the presence of his wife and his daughter.(1) He was first buried in the Lublin cemetery, but was later moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery in St. Petersburg. Chigorin was the first Russian player to participate in International tournaments, and he is credited with initiating the flourishing of Chess in Russia in the 20th century.(3)

Early Career

He learned to play chess already at the Gatchina orphanage, where his schoolteacher was his first chess teacher. Later, Emmanuel Schiffers became his teacher.(1) Chigorin's first tournament appearance was at the 1875 St. Petersburg Handicap tournament, where he came in 3rd (Schiffers won).(2) In the following years, Chigorin only worked as the editor of Schachmaty and Schachmatny Listok.(2)(3) Yet his playing strength increased, and he won the St. Petersburg tournaments in 1877, 1879 and 1880.(4) He was also successful in matches against Schiffers, winning in Chigorin - Schiffers First Match (1878), Chigorin - Schiffers Third Match (1879) and 1880,(5) and narrowly losing in Chigorin - Schiffers Second Match (1878). Chigorin also beat Semion Alapin in matches in 1880 and 1881.(6)

International events

His first International tournament at Berlin (1881) was a great success as he shared 3rd-4th place with Simon Winawer, both the first Eastern European players to compete internationally.(3) After a mediocre result at Vienna (1882), he came in 4th at London (1883). Chigorin had become one of the strongest players in the world,(3)(7) but took a break from tournament chess until 1889. He celebrated his comeback with a shared 1st place New York (1889) together with Max Weiss .(8)

World Championship Matches

He played two World Championship matches against Wilhelm Steinitz, losing Steinitz-Chigorin World Championship Match (1889) and Steinitz-Chigorin World Championship Rematch (1892).

Later Career

In matches, he drew World Championship Challengers Isidor Gunsberg in 1890,(9) and Siegbert Tarrasch in 1893.(10) Chigorin beat Wilhelm Steinitz in a 2-games cable match played from 1890 to 1891, which created widespread interest.(11)(12) One of his greatest successes was his 2nd place behind Harry Nelson Pillsbury in Hastings (1895) ahead of Dr. Emanuel Lasker, Siegbert Tarrasch and Wilhelm Steinitz, when his play was considered to have been the strongest in the tournament.(2)(3) Furthermore, he won 1st place in Budapest (1896) after play-off and at the King's Gambit tournament Vienna (1903). In 1906, Chigorin beat Georg Salwe in a match in Lodz.(13)

Contributions to Chess Theory

Chigorin has many openings named after him, most notably the Chigorin Variation of the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5) and Chigorin's Defense to the Queen's Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6).


Garry Kasparov : "In many respects his style was the forerunner of Alekhine's style, and in the mid-20th century the young Spassky - a great connoisseur of Chigorin's games - played in a similar manner..." (Garry Kasparov, On my great predecessors Part I, Everyman Chess, 2003, page 75)


(1) Olga M Kusakova-Chigorina, My Father, Mikhail Chigorin, Novoye Russkoye Slovo, No. 16290, February 2, 1958. Retrieved from mishanp, August 18, 2010,

(2) Adolf Julius Zinkl in the Neuen Freien Presse of January 28, 1908. Reprinted on pages 40-41 of the February 1908 Wiener Schachzeitung. Provided in "ANNO / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek"

(3) St. Petersburger Zeitung of January 15, 1908. Reprinted on pages 38-40 of the February 1908 Wiener Schachzeitung. Provided in "ANNO / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek"

(4) Rod Edwards, 1877: 1879: 1880:

(5) Rod Edwards, 1880:

(6) Rod Edwards, 1880: 1881:

(7) Rod Edwards,

(8) Rod Edwards,

(9) Rod Edwards,

(10) Rod Edwards,

(11) Kurt Landsberger, William Steinitz - Chess Champion 2d ed. (McFarland 1995), p.251

(12) Page 6 of the New York Sun, November 20, 1890 (noted by John Blackstone (Las Vegas, NV, USA). Retrieved in Jacques N. Pope's ); and Wilhelm Steinitz on page 4 of the New York Tribune, May 1, 1891. Retrieved in Edward Winter's C.N. 7851,

(13) Rod Edwards,

notes: Chigorin played consultation chess on the teams of Lasker / Chigorin / Marshall / Teichmann & Steinitz / Chigorin

 page 1 of 33; games 1-25 of 815  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Chigorin vs Davydow 1-027 1874 PetersburgC37 King's Gambit Accepted
2. V Knorre vs Chigorin 0-114 1874 St PetersburgC50 Giuoco Piano
3. Winawer vs Chigorin 1-028 1875 St. Petersburg (Russia)C52 Evans Gambit
4. Chigorin vs Alapin 1-029 1875 St PetersburgB45 Sicilian, Taimanov
5. Chigorin vs Shumov  1-025 1875 St Petersburg cgC34 King's Gambit Accepted
6. NN vs Chigorin 0-127 1875 St PetersburgC37 King's Gambit Accepted
7. Chigorin vs A Ascharin 1-029 1875 PetersburgB45 Sicilian, Taimanov
8. Chigorin vs Shumov 1-026 1876 St. PetersburgC21 Center Game
9. Chigorin vs I Miasnikov 1-016 1876 CasualC37 King's Gambit Accepted
10. Chigorin vs K Miasnikov 1-020 1876 corresp.C80 Ruy Lopez, Open
11. Alapin vs Chigorin 0-121 1877 PetersburgC33 King's Gambit Accepted
12. Chigorin vs A Ascharin  1-025 1877 PetersburgB46 Sicilian, Taimanov Variation
13. Chigorin vs A Khardin 1-037 1877 St PetersburgC33 King's Gambit Accepted
14. Chigorin vs M Beskrovny 1-040 1877 PetersburgC59 Two Knights
15. E Schmidt vs Chigorin  0-136 1877 PetersburgC67 Ruy Lopez
16. Schiffers vs Chigorin 0-155 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers First MatchC45 Scotch Game
17. Schiffers vs Chigorin 1-023 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers Second MatchC37 King's Gambit Accepted
18. Chigorin vs Schiffers 1-025 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers First MatchC48 Four Knights
19. Chigorin vs Schiffers 0-155 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers Second MatchA43 Old Benoni
20. Chigorin vs Schiffers 0-128 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers First MatchB45 Sicilian, Taimanov
21. Schiffers vs Chigorin 0-137 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers Second MatchC25 Vienna
22. Chigorin vs Schiffers 1-021 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers Second MatchB45 Sicilian, Taimanov
23. Schiffers vs Chigorin 0-141 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers First MatchC13 French
24. Schiffers vs Chigorin 1-048 1878 Chigorin - Schiffers Second MatchC38 King's Gambit Accepted
25. Chigorin vs Harkov 1-039 1878 corrC37 King's Gambit Accepted
 page 1 of 33; games 1-25 of 815  PGN Download
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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 10 OF 10 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jan-02-14  Olavi: <jdc2> In any case, the name of the Baltian German is normally spelled Seyboth. And Beratende = consultants, so that couldn't be from the tournament.
Jan-23-14  tranquilsimplicity: To Markwell: As much as I detest commenting on another's comments for reasons of politeness, the comment that Chigorin was not a Grandmaster at all but only a strong player sends within me a profound urge to respond to your comments. I will however keep my tone gentlemanly and non-confrontational and add that I understand Korifej's feelings.

I agree that Chigorin was never OFFICIALLY recognised as a Grandmaster because in his time there was no official global chess body or organisation that churned out Grandmaster titles to deserving Chess masters according certain criteria; ratings. However the term Grandmaster was already in use as far back as 1838 and was used to refer to William Lewis an English Chess player, in an influential London sports magazine. In fact Lewis is credited to have been the first Chess player referred to as Grandmaster. Later the term was used by Lewis to describe Andre Philidor and a few other Chess masters.

Meanwhile back in Leningrad Russia around the 1880s and 90s, according to Chigorin's daughter (article on the internet), letters and puzzles used to arrive at Chigorin's doorstep addressed to "Grandmaster Chigorin"! In the 1907 Ostend Tournament the event was regularly reported as a Grandmaster tournament. The tournament was even divided into 2 sections; Championship section for Grandmasters, and Masters section. Chigorin was in the Grandmaster section along with Steinitz and others. It was Tsar Nicholas II who first conferred the term Grandmaster to Marshall, Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker and Tarrasch. This was 1914 by then Chigorin was dead (1909). And even so you will find that this was still unofficial. In fact all these strong masters and 3 World Champions were never Grandmasters. This is because OFFICIAL Grandmaster status and titles were awarded by FIDE in 1950 with Botvinnik being the first officially recognised Grandmaster. But here is my question; would one really question the calibre and I venture to add, the Grandmastership of Capablanca, Akiba Rubinstein, Spielmann, Morphy, Lasker, Alekhine, Marshall, Nimzowich, Schlecter, Blackburne, Steinitz and Chigorin including a few others, because they were never OFFICIALLY granted a piece of paper signed to recognise them? And if one doubts their calibre, why not check their ratings in comparison to many many modern grandmasters on Chessmetrics (a modern mathematical model)? #

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <tranquilsimplicity.....(H)ere is my question; would one really question the calibre and I venture to add, the Grandmastership of Capablanca, Akiba Rubinstein, Spielmann, Morphy, Lasker, Alekhine, Marshall, Nimzowich, Schlecter, Blackburne, Steinitz and Chigorin including a few others, because they were never OFFICIALLY granted a piece of paper signed to recognise them?>

How could, and why would, anyone knowledgeable question these greats' abilities?

Jan-23-14  tranquilsimplicity: Precisely Perfidious! Have a great day my friend. #
Feb-11-14  Poulsen: Whether Chigorin can or should rightfully be considered a "grand master" is to me a very academic question, that cannot be answered in any fully satisfactory manner. It very much resembles the question of who should be considered the first "World Champion".

The main enigma is this:

Does a first arbitrary use of the term "Grand Master" (or "Champion of the World" for that matter) in a 'random' text by an virtually unknown writer constitute a formal title?

If "Yes", then we are left with an almost impossible task of defining, who actually were - or were not - GM's before 1950.

The Tsar installment of the title in 1914 might just be a convenient myth - I am a bit surprised, that is has never been confirmed or dismissed - since everything that the Tsar did or said is very likely to have been recorded in some way. Maybe the Tsar's archives are lost?!

But even if we accept the myth as true, we are left with the impossible task of defining, who else is to be considered "Grand Masters" - other than the original 5 players?

It's a pity, that FIDE did not settle the matter in 1950 - after all among the 27 players formally awarded the title in 1950 there were several, that no longer played at the highest level, f.x. Bernstein, Duras and Rubinstein were 68 years old - Maróczy was 80 - and Mieses 85 - and Fine was retired.

In the old days the title really mattered, but there was no system behind it - now the system is in place - and that has lead to the title not mattering much anymore.

Feb-11-14  Poulsen: .... small addition: personally I find the Tsar myth credible.

1. A reference was made to it by one of the contestants: Marshall. While maybe not allways the most credible source, I don't see, why this should not be true. After all - he was a first hand wittness.

2. The format of the tournament: the second section being settled between the top 5 players of the first section. The best of the best of Masters. It's very likely, that these players was indeed called "Grand Master".

Feb-11-14  Poulsen: This reference in Skakbladet, nr. 11, 1914 at least does not contradict the Tsar myth:

"On April 21st began in St. Petersburg the tournament for the first-prize-takers in major international tournaments. Only 11 Masters participated, but it was certainly the very best names in the chess world [...]"

(my translation from danish).

The intention of the tournament was clear: to find the best of the best of Masters. With that in mind, there is only a small, almost logical step to the term "Grand Master".

Feb-11-14  tranquilsimplicity: Firstly, let's deal with - "a very academic question that cannot be answered in any fully satisfactory manner". Indeed; just as debating whether Alekhine and Capablanca were!

The best known statistical model, the Elo system that is used by FIDE hitherto, gives a rating of 2725 to Capablanca and 2690 to Alekhine and Morphy. Chessmetrics which claims to be 'sharper' than Elo gives 2800+ to Capablanca, Alekhine, Lasker, Botvinnik and Kasparov etc. Now the point here is not so much the differing points of rating systems but that both Arpad Elo and Jeff Sonas have devised statistical rating models which show quite clearly that Alekhine and Capablanca were well above the 2500 Elo rating that is the criterion for an award as a Grandmaster of today. It therefore would be rather "interesting" to argue that it is an academic question that cannot be fully answered. And in fact Morphy, Steinitz and CHIGORIN etc, all had ratings above 2500 Elo. Therefore using the Elo system, which is what FIDE uses, it can be concluded rather easily that the aforementioned players were indeed Grandmasters. It is a well known fact that FIDE desisted from giving GM titles to Alekhine, Lasker, Steinitz and Capablanca, behind a rule that Grandmasterships could not be awarded posthumously. And if you are not convinced that Mikhail Chigorin was a Grandmaster, think about this; FIDE wanted to award a GM title to Steinitz but could not because Steinitz was 'long gone'. And the record between Steinitz and Chigorin was 26-25 with 8 draws!! Also, Paul Keres was awarded GM; Alekhine's record against Keres was 5-1 with 8 draws. So much for it is not possible to tell! I disagree. It is, in some cases.

Secondly, it is generally known that journalists and authors give early indications of men and women of talent or other famous or infamous activities by coining words that end up being in use in the public domain and even in the dictionaries. The inclusion of the etymology of the word Grandmaster was not meant suggest that a word coined by an arbitrary writer to describe (in this case) the talent of another, can be used as a criteria for measuring the degree of talent. However, the coined word may be appropriated by others in the course of time, and used to indicate a level of talent that was not meant to indicate the original talent on which the word was coined. By this I mean that I do not think that the English Chess player was a Grandmaster, even though referred to as one. But I put my money on Andre Philidor being of Grandmaster calibre, but in this case, it is really not possible to gauge owing to a lack of Masters to indicate relative strength. Nor is it possible to tell whether Philidor was the first World Champion. My money on first World Champion is on Paul Morphy. The criteria I use being the fact that he travelled widely, beat everybody, some Masters even avoided him (Staunton), and we know his rating to be over 2500. Even Capablanca showed respect for Morphy's playing style and strength.

Official recognition is not the true measurement of talent or skill.- my quote. #

Feb-11-14  tranquilsimplicity: However I accept that the question of who was the first World Champion is an academic question that cannot be satisfactorily answered.

And just to add; it is not just Capablanca who respected Morphy's colossal talent, Fischer, Kasparov, Euwe, Karpov, Bronstein etc etc all spoke of Morphy with awe.

Finally, a correction to myself; Akiba Rubinstein was awarded the GM title in 1950. I had suggested earlier that he was not officially recognised. Apologies to the reader. #

Feb-11-14  Petrosianic: However I accept that the question of who was the first World Champion is an academic question that cannot be satisfactorily answered.

Of course it can. The first official world champion was William Steinitz. It's a very easy question, not affected at all by the question of who woulda, coulda, shoulda been the first.

Feb-11-14  Petrosianic: <It's a pity, that FIDE did not settle the matter in 1950 - >

They did settle it, by declining to award the title posthumously.

the problem with this discussion is that people are confusing the FIDE "International Grandmaster" title with the word "grandmaster", which has been used both formally and informally in other circumstances. The Soviets, for example, had a National Grandmaster title. Boris Verlinsky was the first Soviet GM before they abandoned the title, in order to create a new Soviet GM title, so that they could say that Botvinnik was the first Soviet GM. Verlinsky was never a FIDE GM. FIDE only gave him the IM title in 1950.

So, if you ask "Was Verlinsky a GM?", it depends what you mean? Was he a Soviet GM? Yes. Was he a FIDE GM? No. Was he a GM in some vague, informal sense of the word? No, if the word is too vague and informal to have any specific meaning.

The same goes for anyone else you want to name. Was Capablanca a FIDE GM? No. Was Capablanca a Soviet GM? No. Was Capablanca good enough to have become a FIDE GM if the title had existed in those days? Yes. Was he good enough to be a Soviet GM if he'd been eligible? Yes. Was he good enough to have been Minnesota State Champion? Yes. DID he in fact hold any of those titles? No, he did not.

Feb-12-14  Poulsen: <tranquilsimplicity> I know, that FIDE-rating today is connected with the GM-title, but I don't think, that this is really relevant, when discussing the first use of the term.

Bear in mind, that when FIDE introduced the title officially in 1950, they had no ratinginstrument at hand.

In other words FIDE's use of the title was based on a qualitative, but somewhat subjective - or even emotional - evaluation of each masters achivements in chess - rather than a quantitative analysis of actual chessresults.

In the pre-FIDE use of term this also applies - with the main difference being, that the use often stemmed from a single source (rather than a group of experts) - and that source often intentionally meant to show respect etc. for a master.

In the Tsar myth this is also the case - however here we at least have some sort of criteria for the use of the title - the best of the best of Masters - the Grand Masters.

Of course that alone does not necessarily mean, that the Tsar myth is true ....

<Petrosianic><They did settle it, by declining to award the title posthumously>.

That's right. But in my mind, that is a pity - since it would have settled this discussion once an for all - at least formally.

<the problem with this discussion is that people are confusing the FIDE "International Grandmaster" title with the word "grandmaster">

You are absolutely right here. It's important to stay with the original criterias for the title - however wague or informal they have been.

Personally I like the "winner of a major international tournament"-criteria for the Master-title - and "the winners of winners"-sort-of-criteria as in St. Peterburg 1914.

Feb-12-14  tranquilsimplicity: The key points here are;

1) Official recognition and certain criteria by a Chess body.

2) Can the term Grandmaster or even World Champion be utilised in a wider sense to indicate a level of skill or are these terms merely used to indicate recognition?

Thank you Petrosianic for the correction regarding the first World Champion. Though again here we have to use the word OFFICIAL World Champion in order for the question of who was first to be easily answered. And yes I agree that the first OFFICIAL World Champion was Wilhelm Steinitz. It is interesting to note however that Steinitz at his peak could only manage to draw with Adolf Anderssen (11-11), whereas Morphy destroyed Anderssen 12-3 with 2 draws. Morphy then issued a challenge to the World after having crushed all Masters in Europe and the States, but nobody came forth. He retired.

And the whole point of my argument is about - OFFICIAL RECOGNITION - and level of skill. This is what Petrosianic has ended up proving better than myself!

Was Capablanca a FIDE GM? No.
Was Capablanca a Soviet GM? No.
Was Capablanca a Minnesota State Champ? No.
Had Capablanca the skill to amass all these titles? Yes.

Was Paul Morphy a World Champion? No.
Did Morphy have the skill to have been a World Champion had the title been available in his active years? Yes.

Was Chigorin a FIDE GM? No.
Was Chigorin a Soviet GM? No.
Did Chigorin have the skill to qualify for these titles had he been 'around'? Yes.

Therefore as I had concluded earlier "Official recognition is not the true measurement of talent or skill" - my quote.

So was Chigorin a Grandmaster? In my opinion he was a GM in the sense that he had the skill to match and even surpass those with GM titles; just as Capablanca, Alekhine, Morphy etc. But if one wants to be really anal about it all, then Chigorin, Capablanca, Alekhine, Morphy etc. were not Grandmasters because they were never OFFICIALLY RECOGNISED by any organisation or body through the use of certain criteria. And they were not granted a piece of paper to certify their GM credentials!

So in the end I feel the question can actually become academic but only if one goes deeper into it. But then the question will become, 'Is skill merely official recognition or is it substantive/intrinsic?' My argument proves the latter.

Ultimately everything is relative; everything is in a state of flux; and all measurement is illusory. Perhaps that is why we now have a World Champion category and a World number 1 category, and unfortunately a variety of GM and International Master titles.###

Feb-12-14  Poulsen: <tranquilsimplicity>< It is interesting to note however that Steinitz at his peak could only manage to draw with Adolf Anderssen (11-11), whereas Morphy destroyed Anderssen 12-3 with 2 draws>

This is off course beside the point in context of the pre-FIDE Grand Master title. Those 2 results can hardly be used as a way to compare Steinitz with Morphy. It's a wellknown fact, that Anderssen was a better player AFTER his match with Morphy - than AT his match with Morphy - something which is verified by Sonas et al.

Whether Morphy can or should be considered a Grand Master is another question. Clearly he was the strongest player in the World at his time.

But as I recall he never won an international tournament - let alone an international tournament with the participation of winners of international tournament (like in St. Petersburg 1914). Generally the opposition to him was very weak - as "in the land of blinds, the one-eyed is king".

In Jeff Sonas' calculations his performance equals him roughly to Oldrich Duras (way below Steinitz) - and Duras was in fact awarded the GM title in 1950.

Feb-12-14  tranquilsimplicity: I will not push the Morphy argument too much because it was you who introduced the question of the difficulty of knowing who was the first World Champion.

I agree that Chessmetrics rates Steinitz much higher than Morphy. And I have a healthy respect for Jeff Sonas and his statistical rating model. However in March 1883 Steinitz told a magazine discussing 'The World Champion on the Ex-Champion' (did you note that - EX-CHAMPION) that he went to Lousiana specifically to seek Morphy out. Steinitz tried his utmost to get an audience with Morphy. It transpired in their short discussions interrupted by crowds that though Morphy had quit competitive Chess, he was aware of the goings on in the Chess world. To a friend Morphy once quipped "His (Steinitz) gambit is wrong!"

I agree with you on the issue that it is difficult to ascertain who was stronger between Morphy and Steinitz during Morphy's career. Morphy's career was just over 2 years; Steinitz around 40 years. I would conclude that Steinitz was eventually stronger than Morphy due to experience and match wins (increasing his rating points). And this is what Chessmetrics indicates.

Regarding Morphy not winning any tournaments, this is exactly my point; official recognition not being the true measurement of skill. Had there been tournaments Morphy could attend, I have a strong feeling that he would have thoroughly routed his opposition. This argument regarding a player - not having won an international tournament to prove his mettle - was used by Tarrasch in 1892 when he was challenged to a match by Lasker and refused. Not only did Lasker go on to surpass Tarrasch and become World Champion but also beat Tarrasch when they eventually met in 1908. The same argument was used against, I believe Capablanca, but another Chess Master vouched for him, and Capa won the tournament. Anyway as I concluded earlier the main point for me is that 'official recognition is not the true measurement of skill or talent'. #

Feb-13-14  Poulsen: Poulsen: <tranquilsimplicity><'official recognition is not the true measurement of skill or talent'>

On this I agree totally. This certainly applies to the pre-FIDE-era.

By 1914 the international chesstournamentlife had evolved - slowly and unevenly - for around 60 years - using London 1851 as marker. But what tournaments that should count as 'major international tournaments' in this period might not have been entirely clear to the organizers of the 1914 event.

Not only are some important players missing - most notable Schlechter - but some - such as Gunsberg - was there on a very thin 'mandate' IMO.

Gunsberg had won a couple of national tournaments - and had played Steinitz for the World Championship - with little succes despite the fact, that Steinitz at that point was declining as player.

And all that had taken place 30 years before the St. Petersburg event - and he was by 1914 60 years old.

The fact that he none the less was in the field goes to show your main point: he had the needed recognition, but was clearly unable to live up to it. That could hardly have been a surprise to anyone.

Which brings me to a final word on Morphy: Morphy was in his lifetime hailed as a demigod - and this happens even today, because many blindly repeats the sentiments and judgment of his contemporaies - without relating critically to his actual playing strength - and his obvious shortcomings.

With this in mind I have little doubt, that he would have been included in the field at St. Petersburg 1914 - had he been alive and willing to play at the very advanced age of 77 years old.

My conclusion of all this? Well, unless we try to apply some sort of ratingtool, we do not have any really good way today to decide who among the pre-FIDE Masters should be considered 'Grand Masters' - or who should not. We face the same problems as FIDE in 1950 - and the organizers of St. Petersburg 1914.

And I think we should just accept the fact, that many of even the greatest masters from Philidor and onwards never was bestowed with a title fitting for their talent and skills.

For my part I am willing - in the lack of anything better - to accept the Tsar myth - true or not true - about the 5 original Grand Masters. At least no-one can dispute, that these 5 Masters indeed were Grand.

Thus to me Staunton, Morphy, Steinitz, Zukertort etc. were not Grand Masters - but do we think less of them for that reason? I think not.

And the same of course goes for Chigorin. He could have been 64 years old by 1914. He was no doubt a great master - but not a Grand Master.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <Amadeus>! Well done.... Brilliantly executed collections on Chigorin. Thank you very much!
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <Chigorin's talent is enormous, and possibly he is a real genius. At times the depth of his ideas can be inaccessible to mere mortals> - Alexander Alekhine.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <Chigorin was a bundle of nervous energy and he constantly swung his crossed foot back and forth. Speaking only in his native Russian, he was handicapped in getting along with the other masters> - Frank Marshall.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <Once he fixated on an idea, his theoretical point became more important to him than winning, and this lack of competitive pragmatism prevented him from making it to the top> - Garry Kasparov.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <In Russia the first player to devote all his life to the game, the man who initiated the habit of adopting a profound approach to chess, was Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin, and we can only speak of the existence of a Russian chess school from this time onward> - Mikhail Botvinnik.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <The grandiosity of Chigorin's ideas is enchanting: his every move breathes with creative force and an irresistable will to win> - Rudolph Spielmann.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <Chigorin, a genius of practical play, considers his privilege at every convenient opportunity to challenge the principles of contemporary chess theory> - Wilhelm Steinitz.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <Had Chigorin been able to rein in his fantasy on just a few occasions, the world might have had its first Russian champion decades before Alekhine> - Garry Kasparov.
Dec-26-14  TheFocus: <In difficult positions Chigorin gets very excited, and at times seems quite fierce, sitting at the board, with his black hair brushed back, splendid bright eyes, and flushed face look as if he could see right through the table. When calm, however, he is decidedly handsome, and calculated to beget confidence> - Tournament Book of Hastings 1895.
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