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Wilhelm Steinitz
Number of games in database: 899
Years covered: 1859 to 1899
Overall record: +467 -194 =157 (66.7%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      81 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Vienna Opening (89) 
    C25 C29 C28 C26
 French Defense (76) 
    C00 C11 C01 C02 C13
 King's Gambit Accepted (52) 
    C39 C37 C38 C35 C33
 French (47) 
    C00 C11 C13 C10 C12
 King's Gambit Declined (35) 
    C30 C31
 Evans Gambit (25) 
    C51 C52
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (123) 
    C62 C70 C60 C64 C65
 Evans Gambit (73) 
    C52 C51
 Giuoco Piano (34) 
    C50 C53 C54
 King's Gambit Accepted (25) 
    C33 C39 C38 C34 C37
 Scotch Game (21) 
 Three Knights (15) 
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Steinitz vs Von Bardeleben, 1895 1-0
   Steinitz vs Chigorin, 1892 1-0
   Zukertort vs Steinitz, 1886 0-1
   Dubois vs Steinitz, 1862 0-1
   Steinitz vs Paulsen, 1870 1-0
   Steinitz vs Rock, 1863 1-0
   Steinitz vs Mongredien, 1862 1-0
   Steinitz vs Mongredien, 1863 1-0
   Steinitz vs Bird, 1866 1-0
   M Hewitt vs Steinitz, 1866 0-1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship Match (1886)
   Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Match (1889)
   Steinitz - Gunsberg World Championship Match (1890)
   Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Rematch (1892)
   Lasker - Steinitz World Championship (1894)
   Lasker - Steinitz World Championship Rematch (1896)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Anderssen - Steinitz (1866)
   Vienna (1873)
   Steinitz - Zukertort (1872)
   Steinitz - Blackburne (1876)
   Vienna (1882)
   Schiffers - Steinitz (1896)
   2nd City Chess Club Tournament (1894)
   Baden-Baden (1870)
   London (1883)
   St. Petersburg 1895/96 (1895)
   Paris (1867)
   Vienna (1898)
   Hastings (1895)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   London (1899)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Match Steinitz! by amadeus
   The Dark Side by lonchaney
   Chess World Champion Nr. 1: Steinitz by Olanovich
   World championship games A-Z by kevin86
   the rivals 1 by ughaibu
   Wilhelm Steinitz's Best Games by KingG
   Match Chigorin! by amadeus
   Vienna 1898 by suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1882 by suenteus po 147
   London 1883 by suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1873 by suenteus po 147
   Standing on my bed with my skis on by offramp
   1892 World Chess Championship by Penguincw
   WCC Index [Steinitz-Chigorin 1892] by suenteus po 147

   Showalter vs Gossip, 1889
   Chigorin vs Gunsberg, 1889
   J McConnell vs Steinitz, 1886
   Burn vs N MacLeod, 1889
   Pillsbury vs Schlechter, 1895

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(born May-17-1836, died Aug-12-1900, 64 years old) Austria (citizen of United States of America)
[what is this?]
Wilhelm Steinitz was the first official World Champion of chess.


The last of thirteen sons of a hardware retailer, he was born in Prague in what was then the Kingdom of Bohemia within the Austrian Empire and which is now within the Czech republic. Like his father he was a Talmudic scholar, but then he left to study mathematics in the Vienna Polytechnic. He eventually dropped out of the Polytechnic to play chess professionally. Soon after he played in the London tournament of 1862, settling in London for over twenty years and making his living at the London Chess Club. He emigrated to the USA in 1883, taking out US citizenship, living in New York for the rest of his life, and changing his first name to “William”.


He was recognized as the world's leading player, and considered to be the world champion by many, after he defeated the then-acknowledged number one chess player in the world (now that Paul Morphy had retired), Adolf Anderssen, in a match in 1866 which he won by 8-6. However, it was not until his victory in the Steinitz - Zukertort World Championship Match (1886) – where he sat beside a US flag - that he was recognised as the first undisputed world chess champion. He successfully defended his title three times in the Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Match (1889), the Steinitz - Gunsberg World Championship Match (1890), and in the Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Rematch (1892). In 1894, Emanuel Lasker won the crown from Steinitz by winning the Lasker - Steinitz World Championship (1894) and retained it by winning the Lasker - Steinitz World Championship Rematch (1896).

Steinitz was an extremely successful match player. Between 1860 and 1897, he played 36 matches, winning every serious match with the exception of his two matches against Lasker. Some of the prominent players of the day that he defeated in match play other than in his world championship matches included Max Lange, Serafino Dubois, Frederic Deacon, Dionisio M Martinez, Joseph Henry Blackburne, Anderssen, Augustus Mongredien, Henry Edward Bird, Johannes Zukertort, George Henry Mackenzie, and Celso Golmayo Zupide.


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. His wins include the Vienna Championship of 1861 which he won with 30/31 and earned him the nickname the “Austrian Morphy”, the London Championship of 1862, Dublin 1865 (equal first with George Alcock MacDonnell), London 1872, equal first at Vienna 1873 and 1882 (the latter was the strongest tournament to that time, and Steinitz had just returned from 9 years of absence from tournament chess), and first in the New York Championship of 1894. Other successes include 3rd and 2nd at the Vienna Championships of 1859 and 1860 respectively, 2nd at Dundee in 1867, 3rd in Paris in 1867, 2nd in Baden Baden in 1870, 2nd in London in 1883, 5th at the Hastings super tournament in 1895, 2nd at the sextuple round robin St Petersburg quadrangular tournament behind Lasker and ahead of Harry Nelson Pillsbury and Mikhail Chigorin, 6th at Nuremburg in 1896, and 4th at Vienna in 1898.

Steinitz’s Legacy

The extent of Steinitz’s dominance in world chess is evident from the fact that from 1866, when he beat Adolf Anderssen, to 1894, when he relinquished the world crown to Emanuel Lasker, Steinitz won all his matches, sometimes by wide margins. His worst tournament performance in that period was third place in Paris in 1867. This period of Steinitz’s career was closely examined by Chessmetrics exponent and advocate, Jeff Sonas, who wrote an article in 2005 in which he found that Steinitz was further ahead of his contemporaries in the 1870s than Robert James Fischer was in his peak period (1970–1972), that he had the third-highest total number of years as the world's top player, behind Emanuel Lasker and Garry Kasparov, and that he placed 7th in a comparison the length of time great players were ranked in the world's top three.

Despite his pre-eminence in chess for those decades in the late 19th century, Steinitz’s main contribution to chess was as its first true theoretician. He rose to prominence in the 1860s on the back of highly competent handling of the romantic attacking style of chess that had been popularised by Morphy and Anderssen and which characterised the style of the era. However, in the Vienna tournament of 1873, he introduced a new positional style of play which not only commenced his run of 25 consecutive high level victories, but profoundly transformed the way chess was played from shortly after that time, when its efficacy was embraced by the chess world. It enabled him to establish his complete dominance over his long time rival, Johannes Zukertort, and to easily win the first official match for the World Championship.

Lasker summarised Steinitz’s ideas as follows:

"In the beginning of the game ignore the search for combinations, abstain from violent moves, aim for small advantages, accumulate them, and only after having attained these ends search for the combination – and then with all the power of will and intellect, because then the combination must exist, however deeply hidden."

Although these ideas were controversial and fiercely debated for some years in what has become known as the <Ink Wars>, Lasker and the next generation of the world’s best players acknowledged their debt to him.

"He was a thinker worthy of a seat in the halls of a University. A player, as the world believed he was, he was not; his studious temperament made that impossible; and thus he was conquered by a player ..." - <Emanuel Lasker>.

"He understood more about the use of squares than did Morphy, and contributed a great deal more to chess theory.' - <Bobby Fischer>.

Sources: Wikipedia article: Wilhelm Steinitz and <jessicafischerqueen>'s YouTube documentary - in turn sourced mainly from <Kurt Landsberger's> biography "Bohemian Caesar."

Steinitz played on the following consultation teams: Steinitz / Bird / Blackburne, Steinitz / Boden, Burn / Steinitz / Zukertort, Steinitz / Allies, Steinitz / Zukertort, Schiffers / Steinitz, Steinitz / Chigorin, Steinitz / Blackburne & Blackburne / Steinitz / De Vere.

 page 1 of 36; games 1-25 of 899  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Hamppe vs Steinitz 0-123 1859 ViennaC29 Vienna Gambit
2. Steinitz vs Meitner 1-034 1859 ViennaC52 Evans Gambit
3. E Pilhal vs Steinitz 0-121 1859 ViennaC53 Giuoco Piano
4. Lenhof vs Steinitz 0-145 1859 ViennaC23 Bishop's Opening
5. Hamppe vs Steinitz 0-128 1859 ViennaC38 King's Gambit Accepted
6. Steinitz vs Lenhof 1-032 1859 Vienna (Austria)C52 Evans Gambit
7. E Jenay vs Steinitz 1-022 1860 Vienna m1C53 Giuoco Piano
8. Steinitz vs Strauss 1-029 1860 Vienna (Austria)C52 Evans Gambit
9. Steinitz vs Lang 1-029 1860 ViennaC25 Vienna
10. Steinitz vs NN 1-012 1860 UnknownC25 Vienna
11. Steinitz vs Lang 1-023 1860 Vienna m2C44 King's Pawn Game
12. Hamppe vs Steinitz 0-131 1860 ViennaC25 Vienna
13. Steinitz vs Reiner 1-019 1860 Vienna (Austria)C51 Evans Gambit
14. Steinitz vs F Nowotny 1-031 1860 UnknownC55 Two Knights Defense
15. Steinitz vs E Jenay 0-132 1860 Vienna m1A13 English
16. Steinitz vs Meitner 1-026 1860 Vienna (Austria)C55 Two Knights Defense
17. Steinitz vs Reiner 1-032 1860 Vienna m4C51 Evans Gambit
18. Steinitz vs Lang 1-019 1860 ViennaC37 King's Gambit Accepted
19. Steinitz vs E Jenay 1-033 1860 Vienna m1D32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
20. Reiner vs Steinitz 0-118 1860 Vienna (Austria)C44 King's Pawn Game
21. Strauss vs Steinitz 0-131 1860 Vienna m3C51 Evans Gambit
22. E Jenay vs Steinitz 0-135 1860 Vienna m1C44 King's Pawn Game
23. Steinitz vs Strauss 1-033 1860 Vienna m3C29 Vienna Gambit
24. Steinitz vs NN 1-015 1861 Casual Game000 Chess variants
25. Steinitz vs NN 1-031 1861 London 5C30 King's Gambit Declined
 page 1 of 36; games 1-25 of 899  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Steinitz wins | Steinitz loses  

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Jan-08-14  micartouse: <donjova: The question here is not whether players from the past were capable of learning, they were. The question is whether the chess ideas have advanced so much that those players, by absorbing them, would have to lose or suppress some of their traits that made them so great.>

This is a great point. People often claim Fischer with computers would be the strongest today. Maybe he would, but we have a lot of evidence that he wouldn't have appreciated the type of work that is done with the computers. He was the king in an era of books, and he moved chess forward that way. Same with Morphy, Botvinnik, and Capablanca - they made most sense in their era.

I think the mindset that helps one to be a chess professional today is different. Chess is extremely concrete now, so the best players are just focusing on practical skill and time management.

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: Again, a lot of people are SPECULATING that the players of a bygone era would be out of place today, but no one has offered any concrete evidence along those lines.
Jan-08-14  RookFile: I guess the fact that Steinitz lost numerous games on the black side of gambits such as the Evans' Gambit shows that his strengths were more geared towards closed play rather than dynamic, open games. On a routine basis, medicore masters would take the white side of the Evans, or some similar gambit, and slap Steinitz silly.
Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: I guess I gotta repost this old post from July 2013:

<chancho: Steinitz overall record with the Evans Gambit (from both sides)

(C51 C52):

52 wins 25 losses 17 draws.

With White: 19 wins 3 losses 1 draw.

With Black: 33 wins 22 losses 16 draws.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: <chancho> It appears that Steinitz did most of the slapping!!!
Jan-09-14  RookFile: Well, as I mentioned, I was referring to his record with black in the Evans. I think it's actually 23 losses with black, although one of them may have been a fake game by Deacon. This is just one opening, but it's a little different than Fischer losing only 8 games in the 77 Najdorf Sicilians he played. Steinitz was more of a passive defender than modern players are.
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: But it does not change the facts that - apparently - Steinitz had a plus score, despite his penchant for occasionally pushing the defense beyond the bounds of convention & reason.
Jan-15-14  RookFile: I was just looking at this game, it looks like a good effort by Steinitz.

Pillsbury vs Steinitz, 1892

A plus score is good, it's just a question of opinion as to whether he should do better. Personally, I think the French Defense would have been better for Steinitz to focus on.

Premium Chessgames Member
  john barleycorn: Stenitz played the french just once under particular circimstances:

J McConnell vs Steinitz, 1886

<1. e4 Notes by Wilhelm Steinitz. 1... e6 As is well known Steinitz never adopted this defense excepting in the present game where it had been agreed that the line of play which occurred in the first tie game of the Vienna tournament of 1882 between Steinitz (White) and Winawer (Black) should be followed by the two parties up to White's 14th move from which point McConnell claimed that the game could be won by White in a manner that had escaped the attention of all analysts who had commented on that game including the writer.>

Jan-15-14  RookFile: Interesting game. Steinitz's strengths were geared more towards the closed games.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A cartoon of Steinitz doing an impersonation of Percy Dovetonsils but with a beard can be seen at this hilarious site:
Mar-01-14  thomastonk: I'm a little bit surprised that his biography here, as well as his English and Dutch Wikipedia pages have May 17, 1836 as his birthday, whereas the French, German and Spanish Wikipedia have May 14, 1836.

In the very first paragraph <Background> I found at first glance two (more) mistakes, and a few points that should be checked. Then I stopped.

May-04-14  SBC: <thomastonk>
"There is a book on chess in Vienna: "Luftmenschen" written by Ehn and Strouhal. It lists 7 chess cafes for the time before 1850, and 33 for the time 1851-1918, but no Cafe Romer or Römer!"

Cafe Römer was located in Nagler Alley (Nagler gasse) in Vienna

May-15-14  ljfyffe: For Steinitz-Schiffers games, see The Steinitz Papers , edited by Kurt Landsberger.
Jun-27-14  ljfyffe: Re:McConnell-Steinitz(1886). Matters would be clearer if "the writer" was identified by name.
Premium Chessgames Member

click for larger view

Steinitz - NN, Rotterdam simul May/08/1896

1. cxd5 Rxg2+ 2. Qxg2 Bxg2 3. Rxf7+ Kd8 4. Rf8 Bxd5 5. Nc3 Bc4 6. Rxe8+ 1-0

Jul-24-14  ljfyffe: <Steinitz left Rostov, stayed briefly in Moscow and St.Petersburg, and travelled on to Germany and Holland........There has been a gap in our understanding of his whereabouts between the games in Holland, the last one according to Bachmann as being played in Leyden on May 11, 1886,(has to be 96 L.F.), and July 12, with Steinitz playing in Hamburg. The American Ellis Island website notes that a W. Steinitz , age 60, an American citizen, arrived on May 22, 1896 ....(11 days after playing in Holland).> Landsberger: The Steinitz Papers.
Aug-15-14  ljfyffe: Steinitz edited the Book to the Sixth American Congress (1889) , which John De Soyres subscribed to. Rev. DeSoyres, from England, became chess champion of Saint John, N.B. after he moved there in 1887.
Sep-04-14  drnooo: Can anyone here make heads or tails out of the 25 consecutive wins by Steinitz 1873 -82. I can't from how it's set up
on him here at this site. It's semi chronological but jumps around a bit. There is a staggering bit of consecutive wins against Blackburn that certainly seems the equal of Fisher's against either Taimonov or Larsen and if indeed he did beat 25 in tournament play that certainly has never been equaled since.
Sep-05-14  ljfyffe: <drnooz>Quoted in The Steinitz Papers by Landsberger: <He won his last 14 games at Vienna 1873, beat Blackburne 2-0 in the play-off, blitzed the same opponent 7-0 in an 1876 match, and won his first two games at Vienna 1882...>
Sep-09-14  ljfyffe: A thousand pardons ....didn't intentionally mis-spell your "name"
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Didn't think <drnooo>'s post was a snoozer. (wink)
Sep-09-14  ljfyffe: In any event, some good puns do come out of spelling errors!
Sep-09-14  ljfyffe: Historical info:an infamous put-down pun printed in Hoffer's magazine, Chess Monthly: "But who with barge-pole, boots, or tongs/Would touch Bohemian sty-nits".....a line, by the way, that I would not touch with a ten-foot pole ......even if I had one !
Sep-13-14  ljfyffe: Landsberger:(Steinitz's) final resting place is at Bethal Slope 5893, at Evergreen Cemetery. Straddling Brooklyn and Queens, the cemetery is easily assessible and a short drive from the Belt Parkway. WIth patience the grave can be found near one of the roadways. (The Steinitz Papers).
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