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Wilhelm Steinitz
Number of games in database: 894
Years covered: 1859 to 1899
Overall record: +459 -191 =157 (66.6%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      87 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Vienna Opening (89) 
    C25 C29 C28 C26
 French Defense (75) 
    C00 C11 C01 C02 C13
 King's Gambit Accepted (51) 
    C39 C37 C38 C35 C33
 French (46) 
    C00 C11 C13 C10 C12
 King's Gambit Declined (35) 
    C30 C31
 Evans Gambit (25) 
    C51 C52
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (125) 
    C62 C70 C60 C64 C65
 Evans Gambit (72) 
    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 Mongredien, 1862 1-0
   Steinitz vs Mongredien, 1863 1-0
   Steinitz vs Rock, 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)
   2nd City Chess Club Tournament (1894)
   Schiffers - Steinitz (1896)
   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
   World Champion Nr. 01: 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
   The tT Players (Bonus Addition) by fredthebear
   Vienna 1898 by suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1882 by suenteus po 147
   London 1883 by suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1873 by suenteus po 147
   Bouncy Castle, Tombola, Face Paint... by offramp
   1892 World Chess Championship by Penguincw

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

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Wilhelm Steinitz
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(born May-14-1836, died Aug-12-1900, 64 years old) Austria (federation/nationality 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 894  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Lenhof vs Steinitz 0-145 1859 ViennaC23 Bishop's Opening
2. Hamppe vs Steinitz 0-128 1859 ViennaC38 King's Gambit Accepted
3. Hamppe vs Steinitz 0-123 1859 ViennaC29 Vienna Gambit
4. Steinitz vs Meitner 1-034 1859 ViennaC52 Evans Gambit
5. Steinitz vs Lenhof 1-032 1859 Vienna (Austria)C52 Evans Gambit
6. E Pilhal vs Steinitz 0-121 1859 ViennaC53 Giuoco Piano
7. Strauss vs Steinitz 0-131 1860 Vienna m3C51 Evans Gambit
8. E Jenay vs Steinitz 0-135 1860 Vienna m1C44 King's Pawn Game
9. Steinitz vs Reiner 1-019 1860 Vienna (Austria)C51 Evans Gambit
10. Steinitz vs Lang 1-029 1860 ViennaC25 Vienna
11. Steinitz vs Lang 1-019 1860 ViennaC37 King's Gambit Accepted
12. Steinitz vs Strauss 1-033 1860 Vienna m3C29 Vienna Gambit
13. E Jenay vs Steinitz 1-022 1860 Vienna m1C53 Giuoco Piano
14. Steinitz vs Meitner 1-026 1860 Vienna (Austria)C55 Two Knights Defense
15. Steinitz vs NN 1-012 1860 UnknownC25 Vienna
16. Steinitz vs Lang 1-023 1860 Vienna m2C44 King's Pawn Game
17. Hamppe vs Steinitz 0-131 1860 ViennaC25 Vienna
18. Reiner vs Steinitz 0-118 1860 Vienna (Austria)C44 King's Pawn Game
19. Steinitz vs F Nowotny 1-031 1860 ch Vienna Chess ClubC55 Two Knights Defense
20. Steinitz vs E Jenay 0-132 1860 Vienna m1A13 English
21. Steinitz vs Reiner 1-032 1860 Vienna m4C51 Evans Gambit
22. Steinitz vs E Jenay 1-033 1860 Vienna m1D32 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
23. Steinitz vs Strauss 1-029 1860 Vienna (Austria)C52 Evans Gambit
24. Steinitz vs NN 1-031 1861 ch Vienna Chess ClubC30 King's Gambit Declined
25. Steinitz vs NN 1-015 1861 Casual Game000 Chess variants
 page 1 of 36; games 1-25 of 894  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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Premium Chessgames Member
  thomastonk: <TheFocus: The bio above is incorrect.> Yes, the biography above contains many mistakes - like Landsberger's book does.

<He was the seventh of thirteen. He half[sic] six brothers and six sisters.> Here you introduced two mistakes. Note that nos. 12 and 13 were born before Wolf/Wilhelm/William, and so he was the ninth child. And moreover the 13 children in this list are only those from his father's first marriage. The second marriage gave Wolf at least one more half-brother.

Btw, the story that Steinitz was the last of thirteen children is based on a well-known anecdote ...

<And his father was a tailor, not a hardware retailer.> Landsberger also quotes Zmatlik on page 6, who claims that his father was an ironmonger. Zmatlik gave also some (other) mistakes ... it will never end!

Jul-12-15  ljfyffe: <The Steinitz father a tailor.>Perhaps he was always promoting the importance of pressing one's clothes; hence the label of <"ironmonger">.... sorry.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <thomastonk> Thank you. Ninth would be right, which Lansberger did point out. I looked again and there were two more siblings before him left off original list.

Steinitz was a really fantastic character and World Champion.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Oy vey! And a half-brother!!
Jul-13-15  ljfyffe: Landsberger: In 1982, the Prague archives<informed me that there were 11 children in the Steinitz family. It was not until 1990...that two additional siblings of Wilhelm were found. It took me another year to find out that after the death of Wilhelm's mother his father remarried and that another child, a half- brother, was born when Wilhelm's father was 61 years old.>The Steinitz Papers.
Jul-13-15  ljfyffe: The following kind letter was sent to me re The Steinitz Papers(2002): <All this would not have been possible without the help I received from chess enthusiasts like you. I am sure that other than you, very few would have known about the letters you found and sent to me and it certainly helped to complete the book.> With best regards,
Kurt Kandsberger.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Perhaps... he never existed at all, and is simply a fig newton of our imaginations..
Premium Chessgames Member
  thomastonk: Those following closely Winter's chess history, knew my contribution .

In these “Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Jewish Religion Communities from the years 1784-1949” there are two books for the relevant period. One seems to be the original, because it contains a lot of additions and alterations, and the other one seems to be a cleanly written copy. This second book has however an interesting feature: an index!

Here you can find the index page with Wolf Steinitz' entry on the right-hand side under 1836:

On the the left-hand side one can find the two additional siblings (1831, Simon and 1834, Elizabeth), which were overlooked, when Landsberger's first request from 1985 was executed.

In general, it is no good idea to include the way your research went into the description of the results. In this case, however, where even the final results were not completely assured, I understand why Landsberger decided to tell this, too. Nevertheless, he could have done this in a better way.

Btw, Landsberger's two mistakes from page 3 mentioned in C.N. 9200 are:

1. He gave <Deutsches Wochenschach of 1893, page 88> for Neustadtl's quote; correct are <1892> and <83>. Moreover, he didn't tell Neustadtl's story completely.

2. Then he wrote: "Steinitz acknowledged this fact in the American Chess Magazine of July 1899." I think, Steinitz acknowledged this much earlier. What happened in the ACM was: the story was told twice, but with <new wrong dates>: May 14, 1835 versus May 17, 1836 (see pages 10 and 15).

It will never end ...

Jul-13-15  ljfyffe: <It will never end>No, but having undertaken chess research involving various sources myself, I am surprised that there are not many, many more mistakes than there actually are...In Steinitz Papers, Landsberger even speculates why the book on Pollock by Rowland may not have gotten published when, of course, it had been.
Aug-14-15  WTHarvey: I posted 12 checkmates from the games of Wilhelm Steinitz @ What's the winning move ?
Aug-14-15  Atking: Good work <WTHarvey>! Thanks.
Dec-05-15  WilhelmThe2nd: A photo of Flora Steinitz, Wilhelm Steinitz's daughter, appeared on the cover of the Thursday, March 1st, 1888 issue of the Havana magazine 'El Sport' which can be viewed here:

Premium Chessgames Member
Dec-29-15  Rook e2: <after he defeated the then-acknowledged number one chess player in the world (now that Paul Morphy had retired)> + < where he sat beside a US flag> What does this add to his page? Can we add to Carlsens page that he is regarded the strongest now that Kasparov retired? When he sat beside a Norwegian flag?
Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <Can we add to Carlsens page that he is regarded the strongest now that Kasparov retired?>

That would not be correct though :). Kasparov retired in 2005, Carlsen was not even a top 100 player at that point.

Mar-11-16  zanzibar: <You win combine; let the other fellow combine; it is sure to be rotten, and then you win.> -- Steinitz

* * * * *

In a letter from D.M. Martinez to Charles Willing's son:

<"... Half a century ago David Thompson, an ingenious, strong player, and myself advanced a sufficient amount to induce the world's champion, W. Steinitz, to visit this country for the first time. Steinits was a magnificently endowed chess player. I learned to know him when I lived with him in New York, assisting him at his request in the latter periods in the cable match with the Russian. Tschlgorin. Steinitz was a great man, perhaps a little eccentric, but straightforward and sincere, and his knowledge of the game was thoroughly scientific. Steinitz loved a joke and was at times bitingly sarcastic." >

the article also gives this:

<Referring to the writer's recent comment made by Steinitz, to wit: "You win combine; let the other fellow combine; it is sure to be rotten, and then you win," Steinitz, in the opinion of Mr. Martinez, desired that emphasis should be put on the word "you," his meaning being that bad combinations are worse than no combinations, which is a chess axiom.>

Philadelphia Inquirer (1928.03.11)

Apr-08-16  zanzibar: I believe the above biography is wrong in its usage of <Ink Wars>, or, at the very least, somewhat misleading.

Of course Steinitz long battled against the world with his ideas of "modern" play.

E.g. he did so in some of his matches against Chigorin, where his ideas were specifically tested in play (e.g. the cable match). But, it's my understanding, that despite their disagreement in ideas, Steinitz and Chigorin were on friendly terms, even very friendly.

The <Ink Wars> is a very specific episode, circa 1882, involving Steinitz vs Hoffer & Zukertort. It can be viewed as an editorial battle between <The Field> and <Chess-Monthly> which spun out of control from an original disagreement in analysis. It started as being much more specific a disagreement of particulars, and quickly blew up into a major conflict of personalities.

Here is a thumbnail contemporaneous description from <BCM>:

<A serious difference of opinion having arisen between the editors of the Field and the Chess-Monthly regarding their respective comments on the Zukertort and Blackburne match games, Mr. Steinitz has astonished the Chess world by issuing a challenge to Messrs Zukertort and Hoffer offering to play them both in consultation for a stake of not less than £100 nor more than £250 a side. He will either give them the odds of two games out of the first winner of eleven, or take similar odds himself, or play even. Time limit 15 moves an hour ; two games to be played every week. Whatever may be the merits of the controversy between these Chess giants, the public will at any rate be the gainer by the splendid specimens of play which are sure to result if the match comes off.>

BCM v02 (1882) p61/72

I believe that Ken Whyld coined the phrase <Ink Wars>, but I don't have a ref handy.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: HI Zanzibar,

Tim Harding, in 'Eminent Victorian Chess Players' (page 192) says that Kurt Landsberger came up with phrase the 'ink wars'.

You are correct the bio does hint the 'ink wars' was over Steinitz's ideas and contribution to chess.

This is wrong. the 'ink wars' was a trading of published personal insults between Steinitz and mainly Hoffer.

The same page (192) of the above book also mentions that Bird writing about Steinitz in his 'Chess History' states that no other player had so many jokes about him.

(Anish Giri's 'played 14 drew 14' may be a new contender here.)

in 1889 one poem aimed at Steinitz called 'Song of a Nit' was published by Hoffer's in his 'Chess Monthly'.

Legal action was threatened and Hoffer had to retract it and (apparently) it is missing in the 1889 bound edition of 'Chess Monthly'.

Apr-09-16  zanzibar: Thanks <Sally>, that's why I didn't have a good ref, I was mistaken then.

BTW- Was it really mainly Hoffer. I have the impression Zukertort got his licks in too.

I do know the famous défi of Steinitz was to both.

Is "Song of a Nit" the one with the really ugly caricature of Steinitz in a cartoon?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Zanzibar,

I'd trust Tim as he is a pretty meticulous researcher though if pushed I would have said Ken Whyld or David Hooper.

Quite a few players seemed to have crossed Stenitz but it does appear the 'ink war' was primarily him and Hoffer with allies sniping from the side-lines.

Harding says that Kurt Landsberger (A great nephew of Steinitz) gave the poem in full in his bio on Steinitz. Never seen it.

I've read some of the 'Ink Wars' in various sources. Pretty wild stuff.

Apr-09-16  zanzibar: <Sally> looks like I was right in the first place...

<Harding> <In consequence of want of agreement between Herr Steinitz and the ... briefly by Sergeant,96 which Landsberger terms the “Ink-war” between Steinitz and Hoffer ..>

<Landsberger> <... of the First World Chess Champion William Steinitz Kurt Landsberger ... the "Ink War" erupted (the phrase of Kenneth Whyld, who with the late David Hooper ...>

both snippnets from a google search.

Proper attribution should be to Whyld from hereon.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: Do we have any historical record of where the Simul took place in 1883/NewOrleans? Morphy I presume spent the last year of his life there, hard to believe they wouldn't have discussed chess. 2 top players in the world in the same area!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Zanibar,


Harding says it was Landsberger who says it was Whyld and Hooper (who should have said they got it from Harding!)

As I said I have never seen the Landsberger book.

The main thing is the above bio is misleading.

Apr-09-16  zanzibar: <SallyS> yes, the intro would be better with a rewrite.

Landsberger looks like a good book, but I don't have it either. Like I said, a google search's snippets yielded the attribution trail.

I'd like to see a ref for the original usage of <Ink War> by Whyld though.


Premium Chessgames Member
  Ron: Yikes, Steinitz's birthday was a few days ago.

Happy Birthday to one of my chess heroes!

I've been influenced by great theoreticians of the game such as Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch, but I like to think of myself as a Steinitzian.

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