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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 511
Years covered: 1890 to 1905
Overall record: +214 -93 =104 (64.7%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      100 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (54) 
    C67 C80 C78 C62 C71
 Orthodox Defense (48) 
    D60 D63 D55 D53 D50
 French Defense (31) 
    C14 C13 C11 C10 C12
 Queen's Gambit Declined (25) 
    D31 D37 D06 D30
 Queen's Pawn Game (20) 
    D00 D05 D02 A40 D04
 Vienna Opening (19) 
    C29 C25 C28 C27 C26
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (53) 
    C67 C65 C60 C79 C78
 Petrov (22) 
    C42 C43
 Queen's Pawn Game (14) 
    D00 D02 D04 A41
 Sicilian (13) 
    B73 B30 B32 B58 B72
 Four Knights (11) 
    C49 C48
 King's Gambit Declined (11) 
    C31 C30 C32
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 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?]
   1st City Chess Club Tournament (1893)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1898)
   Hastings (1895)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1897)
   Munich (1900)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Vienna (1898)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (1902)
   Paris (1900)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   Budapest (1896)
   London (1899)
   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
   HNP: "A Genuis Ahead of His Time" by chocobonbon
   Vienna 1898 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by StuporMundi
   Pillsbury winning on f5. by nikolaas
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147
   Monte Carlo 1903 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury miniatures. by CoryLetain
   Pillsbury - Showalter 1897 match by crawfb5
   Munich 1900 by Phony Benoni
   Selected 19th century games II by atrifix
   Vienna 1903 by LaBourdonnaisdeux

   Janowski vs Steinitz, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   Schiffers vs Chigorin, 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 21; games 1-25 of 511  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-020 1890 Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-053 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
3. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-035 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
4. Pillsbury vs Burille  0-145 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
5. Pillsbury vs Burille  1-029 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92C02 French, Advance
6. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½70 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
7. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 1-037 1892 BostonC51 Evans Gambit
8. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-130 1892 BostonC30 King's Gambit Declined
9. Pillsbury vs Steinitz  0-136 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
10. Pillsbury vs Steinitz  1-031 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
11. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-066 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
12. Pillsbury vs A Ettlinger 0-151 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentC14 French, Classical
13. Albin vs Pillsbury 0-141 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD02 Queen's Pawn Game
14. J M Hanham vs Pillsbury  1-052 1893 2, New YorkC55 Two Knights Defense
15. Pillsbury vs J W Baird 1-053 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentA83 Dutch, Staunton Gambit
16. K A Walbrodt vs Pillsbury  0-137 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C30 King's Gambit Declined
17. Pillsbury vs Showalter 1-039 1893 12, New YorkC67 Ruy Lopez
18. E Delmar vs Pillsbury  1-025 1893 4, New YorkC46 Three Knights
19. Pillsbury vs J M Hanham 1-031 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
20. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-047 1893 1, New YorkC25 Vienna
21. E N Olly vs Pillsbury  0-145 1893 6, New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
22. W Pollock vs Pillsbury  1-052 1893 11, New YorkC20 King's Pawn Game
23. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-054 1893 3, New YorkB06 Robatsch
24. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-055 1893 8, New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
25. Pillsbury vs E Delmar 1-039 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
 page 1 of 21; games 1-25 of 511  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Pillsbury wins | Pillsbury loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Doing some bkgd on <Monte Carlo (1902)> I found this game:


[Event "simul "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1902.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Pillsbury"]
[Black "Howe"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C62"]
[EventDate "1902.??.??"]
[Source "Chicago Tribune 1902.02.16"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 exd4 6.Nxd4 Nxd4 7.Bxd7+ Qxd7 8.Qxd4 Ne7 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Qd2 Be7 11.Nd5 O-O 12.O-O-O a5 13.a3 b5 14.f4 a4 15.f5 Rfb8 16.g4 Ne5 17.g5 Nc4 18.Qf2 c6 19.Nxe7+ Qxe7 20. Qf4 b4 21.axb4 Rxb4 22.Bd4 a3 23.b3 Ne5 24.f6 gxf6 25.gxf6 Qe8 26.Qh6 1-0


With this brief commentary:

<Pillsbury's Ruy Lopez

The following was played by Harry N. Pillsbury in a simultaneous shortly before his sailing for Europe>

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: I think I transcribed the moves correctly, but around move 20 some of the typesetting was faded and hard to read. Let's assume the above is correct, then this point of the game could have Black claiming a win:

(Pre-move: 22.Qf2-f4)

click for larger view

But Howe (who was he, and where was the game played?) missed it.

Pillsbury apparently blundered with 20.Qf4 allowing Black's Q-side attack to beat out White's K-side attack.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Actually, having accidentally leaving the engine running on White's 19th move I was quite surprised to see Stockfish's best move vs Pillsbury's natural 19.Nxe7:

(Pre-move 18...c6)

click for larger view

involves a fork. A very dynamic point in the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: I don't understand your posts. Do you bother reviewing them first?

As to the identity of <Howe>, the DB has two such who played in Chicago:

Lasker vs H Howe, 1902

Capablanca vs H M Howe, 1910

One and the same?

Alekhine played an equally patzerish but presumably different <Howe> in Los Angeles in a 1929 simul.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Pillsbury vs E. F. Wendel. E. F. Wendel not one of the 40 Chicago simultaneous games (played on 1901.11.01). There is no Wendel listed as an opponent in the Chicago Tribune, 1901.11.03, p19. And there is no Wendel listed in the blindfold simultaneous played on 1901.11.02.

I'm convinced that this game was wrongly attributed to Pillsbury and is in fact just the Steinitz game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Probably H. M. Howe and played during Pillsbury's November 1st Chicago simultaneous.

The Chicago Tribune, 1901.11.03, p19, gives H. M. Howe as an opponent who played a Ruy Lopez.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <<Chessical:> Pillsbury's comparative failure at St. Petersburg (1895/96) was felt very heavily by himself and his American fans.

I have found another explanation as to his poor form.

It seems that Pillsbury encouraged by Steinitz, contracted with the St.Petersburg chess club to buy the copyright of the tournament's games for $600 dollars (about $17,000 in 2015 value). The deal soon went wrong as the games were anyway published by third parties making their value to Pillsbury effectively nugatory. This was a considerable financial loss top Pillsbury.>

Covered in my 1996 Pillsbury book, pp20-21.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Probably H. M. Howe and played during Pillsbury's November 1st Chicago simultaneous.

The Chicago Tribune, 1901.11.03, p19, gives H. M. Howe as an opponent who played a Ruy Lopez.>

Seems grounds enough to submit <zanzibar>'s score with this name and corrected date. The only question is whether Lasker's opponent was H.M. or Henry A.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <The Chicago Tribune, 1901.11.03, p19, gives H. M. Howe as an opponent who played a Ruy Lopez>

It also gives a game score, Pillsbury vs Charles Nourse, which goes along swimmingly....until it doesn't.

I hate it when that happens!

1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. Nc3 Qe6 5. Nf3 exf4+ 6. Kf2 Be7 7. Bb5+ Bd7 8. d4 a6 9. Re1 Qg4 10. Bc4 Nc6 11. Nd5 O-O-O 12. Bxf4 Be6 13. Nxe7+ Ngxe7 14. Bxe6+ fxe6 15. Qd2 Nxd4 16. Nxd4 Rhf8 17. g3 g5 18. Qe3 gxf4 19. Qxe6+ Qxe6 20. Nxe6 fxg3+....

and then 21.Kh1 (huh? whaaat?) Ng6 22.NxR (which one?) RxN 23.Re2 1-0

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <<MS> I don't understand your posts. Do you bother reviewing them first?>

Yes. I don't trust myself to post any analysis without verification with an engine.

(That is, if that is what you don't understand. I'd suggest firing up an engine and playing the game up to that position - should clear up matters)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Caissanist: In a brief article on, Daniel Naroditsky describes Pillsbury as "The Architect of Modern Chess": .
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <Caissanist> Thx for the link.

Oh, and nice avatar.

Have you ever visited the Jet d'Eau jetty?

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I don't like to do it but I am making a ruling on this one. The winner is <Zanzibar>. Appeals to this verdict must be made through the moronically named Biographer Bistro.
Sep-09-15  The Kings Domain: One of Chess' great tragedies. He could have been part of The Holy Trinity of American Chess together with Morphy and Fischer. In a way, he is.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <jnpope> <<Chessical:> <Pillsbury's comparative failure at St. Petersburg (1895/96) was felt very heavily by himself and his American fans. [...] I have found another explanation as to his poor form. It seems that Pillsbury encouraged by Steinitz, contracted with the St.Petersburg chess club to buy the copyright of the tournament's games for $600 dollars (about $17,000 in 2015 value). The deal soon went wrong as the games were anyway published by third parties making their value to Pillsbury effectively nugatory. This was a considerable financial loss top Pillsbury.> Covered in my 1996 Pillsbury book, pp20-21.>

Would you happen to know if those annotations are available anywhere? I have never seen them.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: <The Focus> I do not know, but I suspect the joint Pillsbury-Steinitz annotations quoted in Mason and Pollock's St. Petersburg tournament book may be from that source.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Covered in my 1996 Pillsbury book, pp20-21.>

This is the first picture I've seen of Mrs. Harry Pillsbury:

I believe she remarried. How much is known about her later life?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: There's some kibitzing about her here:

jnpope chessforum (kibitz #64)

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: This is a great quote:

<C.N. 4679 gave item 26 in Napier’s Amenities and Background of Chess-Play (New York, 1934):

‘I remember seeing Showalter in a match game with Pillsbury brood 45 minutes over a fourth move. It was a Ruy López. Afterwards there came the explanation. “The cigar was good; and I thought that long looking might uncover some better move and sequel than those used.”’>

"The cigar was good." Can't top that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Was Showalter playing Black or White?
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Here's the original (as re-edited and re-titled by Horowitz):

No mention of colors, or exactly which game. There's quite a full potential games:

One might think a newspaper account would mention such an exceptional move by Pillsbury.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Happy birthday, Harry!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: From Wiki to save me re-typing from the Edward Lasker I own):

As a teenager, Edward Lasker played Pillsbury in a blindfold exhibition in Breslau, against the wishes of his mother, and recalled in Chess Secrets I learned from the Masters:

But it soon became evident that I would have lost my game even if I had been in the calmest of moods. Pillsbury gave a marvellous performance, winning 13 of the 16 blindfold games, drawing two, and losing only one. He played strong chess and made no mistakes [presumably in recalling the positions]. The picture of Pillsbury sitting calmly in an armchair, with his back to the players, smoking one cigar after another, and replying to his opponents' moves after brief consideration in a clear, unhesitating manner, came back to my mind 30 years later, when I refereed Alekhine's world record performance at the Chicago World's Fair, where he played 32 blindfold games simultaneously. It was quite an astounding demonstration, but Alekhine made quite a number of mistakes, and his performance did not impress me half as much as Pillsbury's in Breslau.

Jan-10-16  cunctatorg: Harry Nelson Pillsbury is of course well-respected but -imho- is also underestimated!

As I see it, Pillsbury is the very first chronologically, among the great players that were familiar with the Steinitz teachings, who was also a superb attacking player!! Neither Steinitz of course (he was essentially a superb defending player) nor Lasker, Tarrasch, Schlechter, Rubinstein or even Capablanca made so often so furious, awesome and impressive attacks in the highest level of competition!! Therefore I do consider H. N. Pillsbury the chronologically first great attacking player among the positional players!

His play was so impressive and convincing that it's not a coincidence that BOTH Capablanca and Alekhine had mentioned that they accepted a greatest inluence when they followed Pillsbury's blindfold exhibitions!!

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