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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 531
Years covered: 1890 to 1905

Overall record: +213 -92 =104 (64.8%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 122 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (57) 
    C67 C80 C62 C71 C78
 Orthodox Defense (49) 
    D60 D50 D63 D55 D51
 French Defense (36) 
    C14 C13 C11 C12 C10
 Queen's Gambit Declined (23) 
    D31 D37 D06 D30
 French (23) 
    C13 C11 C12 C10 C00
 Queen's Pawn Game (20) 
    D00 D02 D05 A40 D04
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (56) 
    C67 C65 C60 C79 C78
 Petrov (22) 
    C42 C43
 Queen's Pawn Game (14) 
    D00 D02 D04 A41
 Sicilian (13) 
    B73 B30 B32 B24 B56
 Four Knights (11) 
    C49 C48
 Giuoco Piano (11) 
    C50 C53
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs NN, 1899 1-0
   Pillsbury vs G Marco, 1900 1-0
   Lasker vs Pillsbury, 1895 0-1

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Hastings (1895)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1897)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1898)
   1st City Chess Club Tournament (1893)
   Munich (1900)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Paris (1900)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (1902)
   Vienna (1898)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   London (1899)
   Budapest (1896)
   Monte Carlo (1903)
   Vienna (1903)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   pillsbury's best games of chess by bengalcat47
   Pillsbury vs World Champions Decisive Games by visayanbraindoctor
   Ideas by LaBourdonnaisdeux
   N O P Players by fredthebear
   HNP: "A Genuis Ahead of His Time" by chocobonbon
   Vienna 1898 by suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1898 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by StuporMundi
   Pillsbury winning on f5. by nikolaas
   London 1899 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147
   Monte Carlo 1903 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury miniatures. by CoryLetain
   Pillsbury - Showalter 1897 match by crawfb5

   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 1895
   Janowski vs Steinitz, 1895
   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   Steinitz vs B Vergani, 1895

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Search Google for Harry Nelson Pillsbury

(born Dec-05-1872, died Jun-17-1906, 33 years old) United States of America

[what is this?]
Harry Nelson Pillsbury was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, the Boston Chess Club being not far to the south of town. He learned to play chess at the age of sixteen, when he was encouraged by family to study chess as a distraction after his mother died. Within four years Pillsbury had improved to the point of winning a three-game match from Wilhelm Steinitz in 1892 by the score of 2-1 at the odds of pawn and move. He also scored one of two wins against Steinitz in the World Champion's 20-board simultaneous exhibition. In 1893, he won a close match against John Finan Barry (+5 -4 =1) that earned him entry into his first international tournament in New York as Boston's representative. Although the congress fell through, most likely due to problems in the financial world, the so-called “Impromptu” 1893 tournament was organized in its place. Playing in his first tournament with European masters, Pillsbury barely managed a plus score and finished seventh. Pillsbury returned to New York a few months later and finished clear first in the 1893 New York Masters (sometimes called the “Manhattan Cafe”) tournament ahead of a number of American masters. Pillsbury then moved to New York and began working for the Eden Musee as the operator of Ajeeb (Automaton), a chess- and checkers-playing automaton. He held this job with periodic leaves of absence until 1898 when he moved to Philadelphia and married. In 1894, Pillsbury finished second to Jackson Whipps Showalter in a small tournament in Buffalo (Staats-Zeitung Cup) and had a poor result of =5th in a master's tournament in New York. Nevertheless, he still made a sufficiently good impression for the Brooklyn Chess Club to sponsor his trip to the 1895 chess congress in Hastings.

At Hastings, Pillsbury stunned the chess world by taking clear first in perhaps the greatest tournament of the 19th Century, ahead of a field that included Mikhail Chigorin, Emanuel Lasker, Siegbert Tarrasch, Wilhelm Steinitz, Joseph Henry Blackburne, Amos Burn, Richard Teichmann and others. On the basis of this result, Pillsbury was invited to an elite four-player tournament in St. Petersburg, with Lasker, Steinitz, and Chigorin. Pillsbury was leading by a full game halfway through the tournament (+5 -1 =3), but fell ill during the second half, with catastrophic results (+0 -6 =3). Had Pillsbury managed to win or finish a close second he might well have secured the world championship match that eluded him. Nevertheless, this was the start of a successful tournament career that included 1st at Buffalo 1901, =1st at Vienna 1898 and Munich 1900, 2nd at Paris 1900, Monte Carlo 1902, and Hanover 1902, =2nd at London 1899, 3rd at St. Petersburg 1895-6, Budapest 1896, and Monte Carlo 1903, =3rd at Nuremberg 1896, and 4th at the Vienna Gambit tournament 1903. Pillsbury only seriously faltered at the very end, finishing =8th with a minus score at Cambridge Springs 1904, in his last tournament.

Pillsbury negotiated the final terms of the first Anglo-American cable match with Sir George Newnes, president of the London Chess Club. Sir George donated the Newnes Cup, held by the winning team each year until the next match. Pillsbury played on the first board for the US team in the first eight cable matches (+1 -2 =5). Pillsbury also helped prepare the US House of Representatives team for their 1897 cable match against the House of Commons.

Pillsbury was considered the strongest player in the US. He played two matches for the US championship against Showalter, winning both of the Pillsbury - Showalter (1897) (+10-8=3) and Pillsbury - Showalter (1898) (+7-3=2) matches. However Pillsbury was not especially eager to be named US champion: “I was not seeking the match, and even if I should win I shall leave Showalter in possession of the title; I am not in search of any title but one.” The “one” title was, of course, World Champion. Pillsbury wrote to New York following his success at Hastings that there had been some talk of arranging a title match with Lasker, but, as with so many proposed world championship matches over the years, nothing came of it. Pillsbury's inability to obtain a title match against Lasker was most likely due to Pillsbury's failure to secure enough financial backing to induce Lakser to agree to a match.

Pillsbury was accomplished at blindfold chess and often playing mutiple games blindfolded in his exhibitions. He set an early world record for number of simultaneous blindfold games, playing 20 games at Philadelphia in 1900. He was also a skilled checkers player, and would sometimes include checkers and whist games in his exhibitions. Pillsbury's exhibitions were quite impressive for the day. Jose Raul Capablanca wrote: “The effect of Pillsbury's displays was immediate. They electrified me, and with the consent of my parents I began to visit the Havana Chess Club.”

Pillsbury played a number of consultation games over the years. Such games were sometimes played on off days of tournaments between players with no adjourned games. Pillsbury played with or against masters such as Henry Edward Bird, Blackburne, Chigorin, David Janowski, Lasker, William Ewart Napier, Georg Marco, Frank James Marshall, Carl Schlechter, Showalter, Tarrasch, Teichmann, and others.

While there is general agreement that Pillsbury died of syphilis, it is unknown when he contracted the disease. Syphilis shows great variability in its time course across patients and can easily mimic symptoms of other diseases, so a definitive answer is unlikely. Pillsbury was ill during the second half of the St. Petersburg tournament, which was attributed to influenza at the time. He was also quite ill during the Nuremberg tournament, and, of course, during Cambridge Springs. He suffered two strokes during the last year and a half of his life.

Pillsbury wrote no chess books. He wrote occasional newspaper reports on tournaments and matches and wrote a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Although there are few known correspondence games played by Pillsbury, one of the early correspondence chess organizations in the US was named in his honor (Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association).

Wikipedia article: Harry Nelson Pillsbury

 page 1 of 22; games 1-25 of 531  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-0201890Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0351891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
3. Pillsbury vs Burille  0-1451891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
4. Pillsbury vs Burille  1-0291891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
5. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½701891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
6. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0531891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
7. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 1-0371892BostonC51 Evans Gambit
8. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0661892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
9. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 0-1361892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
10. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0311892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
11. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-1301892Steinitz 20 board simultaneousC30 King's Gambit Declined
12. Pillsbury vs J W Young 0-1491893SimulC14 French, Classical
13. Pillsbury vs W P Shipley 0-1101893PhiladelphiaA07 King's Indian Attack
14. F Young vs Pillsbury 1-0161893BostonC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
15. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt  ½-½641893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()A07 King's Indian Attack
16. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt 1-0291893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C25 Vienna
17. K A Walbrodt vs Pillsbury  0-1371893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C30 King's Gambit Declined
18. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-0471893New YorkA07 King's Indian Attack
19. J M Hanham vs Pillsbury  1-0521893New YorkC55 Two Knights Defense
20. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-0541893New YorkA40 Queen's Pawn Game
21. E Delmar vs Pillsbury 1-0251893New YorkC46 Three Knights
22. Pillsbury vs Louis Schmidt 1-0411893New YorkD04 Queen's Pawn Game
23. E N Olly vs Pillsbury  0-1451893New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
24. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-1601893New YorkB01 Scandinavian
25. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-0551893New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
 page 1 of 22; games 1-25 of 531  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Pillsbury wins | Pillsbury loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 38 OF 38 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-12-16  todicav23: Pillsbury was one of the biggest talents in the history of chess. He learned chess at 16 (many players are already grand masters at that age). Despite this handicap he still managed to get to the top and only illness stopped him from becoming World Champion candidate. He is one of the greatest players who never become World Champion.
Dec-16-16  Mr. Blonde: I don't really get how you people are actully comparing Marshall and Pillsbury. In his prime, Harry play much better chess than Marshall ever did, in terms of positional judgement and even in attacking resources. Pillsbury knew when to attack. Marshall attack at any cost. Compare both of them against a wall called Lasked. Marshall was a Tal without that positional sense. Harry was a guy looking for the initiative from a positional perspective, kind of reminds me of the active possitional style that Fischer had in the 70's. In addition, in terms of natural ability, Harry MUST be seen as a Morphy or Capablanca. The guy was just a freak of nature! And his chess was super accurate and modern looking for his time. I don't know what you guys think of all of this. To my eyes, Pillsbury is the "middle step" between Morphy and Capa in terms of style. My english is not my mother language, so I apologize if there are grammar mistakes, but I think you all understood me. Thank you for your time.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Pope>, when's the book out?
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <

[Event "Brooklyn CC blindfold simul"]
[Site "BCC, 146 Montague St., Brooklyn NY USA"]
[Date "1900.10.20"]
[EventDate "1900.10.20"]
[Round "board 3/16"]
[White "Pillsbury, Harry N."]
[Black "Clarence, S. / Thompson, M. J."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D08"]
[Source "BDE 1900.10.21 Sun p11"]
[GameTime "7:30 - 10:30 pm"]
[Director "John D. Elwell (Pillsbury's NY manager)"]
[Notes "Allies members of Dutch Arms Club"]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.a3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bf4 Nge7 7.Nbd2 Ng6 8. Bg3 a5 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Nxf3 Bc5 11.h4 Qe7 12.Qa4 O-O 13.O-O-O Rfd8 14. Qb5 Ngxe5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.Qxb7 Rab8 17.Qe4 Bxa3 18.Rd2 Bxb2+ 19.Rxb2 Rxb2 0-1


(White to move after 15...Nc6xNe5)

click for larger view

r2r2k1 /1pp1qppp/8/pQb1n3/2Pp3P/P5B1/1P2PPP1/2KR1B1R w - - 0 16

Pillsbury played 16.Qxb7?? and Black pounced.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: "Inside of two hours [Pillsbury] caused the surrender of Avery at Board 16, amid hearty applause, the game lasting twelve moves."


[Date "1900.10.20"]
[Round "board 16/16"]
[White "Pillsbury, Harry N."]
[Black "Avery, T. M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C35"]
[EventDate "1900.10.20"]
[Source "BDE 1900.10.21 Sun p11"]
[GameTime "7:30 - ~9:30 pm"]
[Director "John D. Elwell, Pillsbury's NY manager"]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 Bh4+ 5.g3 fxg3 6.O-O d5 7.Bxd5 gxh2+ 8.Kh1 Nf6 9.Bb3 Bg3 10.e5 Nd5 11.Nc3 c6 12.Ne4 1-0


(Position after 12.Ne4)

click for larger view

rnbqk2r /pp3ppp/2p5/3nP3/4N3/1B3Nb1/PPPP3p/R1BQ1R1K b - - 0 12

This continue seems to hold material for the longest (?):

12...Bf4 13.Nd6+ Kf8 14.d4 Bxc1 15.Qxc1 f5 16.exf6 Be6 17.fxg7+ Kxg7 18.Bxd5 Bxd5 19.Nf5+ Kf7 20.Kxh2 h6 21.Qf4 Kf8 22.Nd6+ Ke7 23.Nxb7 Qd7 24.Ne5 Qxb7 25.Qf6+ Ke8

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: The 2006 dedication of a new grave marker has gone off-line, use this archived version instead:


Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <<Pope>, when's the book out?>


And you expect me to buy it, you uncivil wretch!?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <We revert to the complex list of words which Pillsbury is said to have learned [...] It has yet to be established when the list first appeared in print. [...] That website is referred to on page 56 of Blindfold Chess by Eliot Hearst and John Knott (Jefferson, 2009), which indicates that the memory experiment was conducted by Dr Threlkeld-Edwards and Professor Merriman of Lehigh University before Pillsbury began a blindfold exhibition in Philadelphia. [...] Jerry Spinrad has found the following report on page 3 of the Littleton Independent of 14 December 1900: [...] It is not possible to present a larger version here, but, loupe à l’appui, it will be seen that the memory display is said to have taken place ‘recently’ at the Northampton Club in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.>

Let's push it back further one hopes, to the original source.

The Wheeling (West Virginia) Intelligencer, Thursday, October 25th, 1900, p.3:

<Philadelphia Record: The wonderful memory of Champion Chess Player Harry N. Pullsbury was shown in a difficult test at the Northampton Club, South Bethlehem, on Monday evening. [...] [H]e did not have any trouble repeating them yesterday at the Franklin Chess Club. [...]>

Unless the <Wheeling Intelligencer> was particularly tardy in picking up the story, this indicates that Pillsbury's blindfold simul took place on Monday October 22nd, he was back at the Franklin CC in Philadelphia on Tuesday, and the <Philadelphia Record> published its account on Wednesday.

The <Philadelphia Record> is not online, so this calls for some actual spadework to confirm the details above:

Perhaps - who knows? - Pope's already got it covered.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <Perhaps - who knows? - Pope's already got it covered.>

Well, I do push the earliest known report for that specific incident several days earlier as it appears in the New-York Daily Tribune, 1900.10.19, p8 (fourth column, under the Personal heading towards the bottom):

This would make Monday the 15th the closest Monday (if Monday can be believed from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, the NYDT says "the other day"). I am still trying to gain access to the Philadelphia Record to nail this sucker to the wall before I go to print... it's one of the few outstanding issues I'd like to resolve...

<<Pope>, when's the book out?>

Well, I just spent the weekend splitting it into two volumes (at 1480+ pages my computer was starting to choke/crash on the manuscript).

Now that it is split I'm fighting to deal with the indexing problem. I can easily produce indices per volume, but I was really loving a single set when it was one manuscript. So the question is how to combine indices from multiple volumes. At this point each volume starts out with a page 1, but I could start the page numbering in volume 2 where I left off in volume 1 and then try to combine the indices into a single master set.... or I could just take the easy way out and force people to live with individual indices in each volume. I'm still fighting with myself on that point.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <Paraphrased from the Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition; section 1.105 - Separate versus consecutive pagination): the decision for whether page numbering continues or begins anew in a subsequent volume rests with the publisher. They recommend that a publication with two volumes with a combined index at the end of the second volume would be easier with continued page numbering, but that as the number of volumes increase beyond two, or where page numbers run in more than three digits, consider resetting the page number to 1 for each volume.

With respect to the format of the cross-reference, including the volume number is preferred for ease of use, whether pages are numbered in a continuous manner or whether they restart with each volume. Generally, the format would be something like (see bears, 2:117) where the 2 represents the volume number and 117 represents the page number in that volume.>


Although it's a little interesting to note that their (i.e. CMoS's) online index uses a slightly different notation (i.e. <>):

And did you know there's an entire society devoted to indexing?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <<<Pope>, when's the book out?>

Well, I just spent the weekend splitting it into two volumes (at 1480+ pages my computer was starting to choke/crash on the manuscript).

Now that it is split I'm fighting to deal with the indexing problem. I can easily produce indices per volume, but I was really loving a single set when it was one manuscript. So the question is how to combine indices from multiple volumes. At this point each volume starts out with a page 1, but I could start the page numbering in volume 2 where I left off in volume 1 and then try to combine the indices into a single master set.... or I could just take the easy way out and force people to live with individual indices in each volume. I'm still fighting with myself on that point.>

Let me strive to make things a bit simpler: when's the book out?

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <Let me strive to make things a bit simpler: when's the book out?>


It's like a souffle.... it'll be done when it's done. I'll ring the bell when it's ready. Assuming it (or me) do not collapse.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: I hope <Missy> doesn't die from anticipation...
Aug-18-17  Retireborn: You know she's waiting, just anticipating,for things that she'll never, never, never, never possess....
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <it'll be done when it's done. I'll ring the bell when it's ready.>

That would be fair comment, except for Harry Nelson Pillsbury

By way of recompense, I suggest you reserve me a complimentary copy of your book.

Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: Pillsbury is really sort of the missing link of great American chess players due to his early demise. No telling how high his star could've ascended.

As chess players, we can only be grateful for what he did achieve and what he left us


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <<MissScarlett: That would be fair comment, except for> Mar-24-16 jnpope: I hope to have a new edition out this year.>

Hope is not a promise or a guarantee.

But I do have a 2016 edition (digital), one copy, sitting on my laptop. Feel free to swing by Ann Arbor and I'll give that copy to you.

Dec-05-17  todicav23:
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <Schlechter's Neck> hmmm....
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: A chronicling of Pillsbury's end, as told in ACB (1906):

Contains the "I am very much alive..." letter.

(<MissS> material, to be sure)

Premium Chessgames Member

Pillsbury's brother's house, where services were held before he was buried in Reading.

I've had a beer in a Teele Square pub, just around the corner.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Pope>, you're taking liberties. Where's your @#$%* book?
Jul-16-18  TheFocus: Perhaps, while we wait, someone could put out an algebraic version of <Pillsbury's Chess Career> by Sergeant and Watts?

I'd like to see that book.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Telemus: [Event "18-board simul Franklin CC"]
[Site "Philadelphia"]
[Date "1899.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Pillsbury, Harry Nelson"]
[Black "Stuart, David"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Source "The Weekly News and Courier 1899-12-20, page 8 ('contested recently')"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Qe2 fxe4 5. Bxc6 bxc6 6. Nxe5 Bd6 7. Qxe4 Qe7 8. d4 Ba6 9. f4 Rb8 10. Nc3 Nf6 11. Qe3 O-O 12. h3 c5 13. Ne2 cxd4 14. Nxd4 Nd5 15. Qg3 Bc5 16. Nb3 d6 17. Qf3 Nb4 18. Nxc5 dxc5 19. Kd1 Bb7 20. Qe2 Rbd8+ 21. Bd2 Rxf4 22. Nf3 Re4 23. Qf2 Qe6 24. a3 Nxc2 25. Kxc2 Re2 26. Qxc5 Be4+ 27. Kc1 Bxf3 28. gxf3 Rdxd2 29. Qb4 Qc6+ 30. Qc3 Rc2+ 0-1

Pillsbury chose a very rare line, possibly inspired by K A Walbrodt vs Lipke, 1898.

Black is probably David Stuart Robinson, see the discussion at D Stuart 's page.

Jul-24-18  Jean Defuse: ...

<Telemus> ...Pillsbury logically enough began his late 1899 chess tour in the United States with a stay in Philadelphia, by then his home.

On Saturday night, October 7, 1899, Pillsbury opened the season for the Franklin Chess Club with a simultaneous exhibition of eighteen boards, winning fifteen, losing two, and drawing one.

Walter Penn Shipley earned his draw at board nine, while the exhibitioner lost to D. Stuart Robinson on board ten and George H. Stout on board two...

Source: John S. Hilbert - More Recovered Chess Games (


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