Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 492
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.
      81 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (50) 
    C67 C80 C71 C84 C62
 Orthodox Defense (48) 
    D60 D63 D55 D53 D50
 French Defense (27) 
    C14 C13 C11 C12 C10
 Queen's Gambit Declined (25) 
    D31 D37 D06 D30
 Queen's Pawn Game (20) 
    D00 D05 D02 A40 D04
 Vienna Opening (17) 
    C29 C25 C27 C28 C26
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (52) 
    C67 C65 C60 C79 C88
 Petrov (22) 
    C42 C43
 Queen's Pawn Game (14) 
    D00 D02 D04 A41
 Sicilian (13) 
    B73 B30 B32 B58 B56
 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 Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs NN, 1899 1-0
   Pillsbury vs G Marco, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 1-0
   Lasker vs Pillsbury, 1895 0-1

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Hastings (1895)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   Pillsbury - Showalter (1897)
   Vienna (1898)
   Pillsbury - Showalter (1898)
   London (1899)
   Paris (1900)
   Munich (1900)
   Buffalo (1901)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (1902)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   Monte Carlo (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
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury winning on f5. by nikolaas
   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
   bengalcat47's favorite games by bengalcat47

   Janowski vs Steinitz, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Schiffers vs Chigorin, 1895
   Burn vs Lasker, 1895

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Harry Nelson Pillsbury
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(born Dec-05-1872, died Jun-17-1906) United States of America

[what is this?]
Harry Nelson Pillsbury was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. 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 came to worldwide attention by taking clear first over a large, strong 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 in 1900 in Philadelphia. 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, when he contracted the disease is debatable. 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 20; games 1-25 of 492  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young  1-020 1890 Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-130 1892 BostonC30 King's Gambit Declined
3. Pillsbury vs Steinitz  0-136 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
4. Pillsbury vs Steinitz  1-031 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
5. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-066 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
6. Steinitz vs Pillsbury  1-037 1892 BostonC51 Evans Gambit
7. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 0-133 1892 BostonC51 Evans Gambit
8. Pillsbury vs J M Hanham 1-031 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
9. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-047 1893 1, New YorkC25 Vienna
10. E N Olly vs Pillsbury  0-145 1893 6, New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
11. W Pollock vs Pillsbury  1-052 1893 11, New YorkC20 King's Pawn Game
12. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-054 1893 3, New YorkB06 Robatsch
13. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-055 1893 8, New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
14. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt  ½-½64 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()A07 King's Indian Attack
15. Pillsbury vs E Delmar 1-039 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
16. Showalter vs Pillsbury 0-131 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentC60 Ruy Lopez
17. Pillsbury vs Taubenhaus 1-030 1893 10, New YorkD00 Queen's Pawn Game
18. J C Halpern vs Pillsbury 0-167 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentB30 Sicilian
19. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-160 1893 7, New YorkB01 Scandinavian
20. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt  1-029 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C25 Vienna
21. F Young vs Pillsbury 1-016 1893 BostonC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
22. Pillsbury vs L Schmidt 1-041 1893 5, New YorkD04 Queen's Pawn Game
23. Pillsbury vs N Jasnogrodsky 1-027 1893 9, New YorkD00 Queen's Pawn Game
24. Pillsbury vs D G Baird 1-032 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
25. A Hodges vs Pillsbury  1-042 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentC60 Ruy Lopez
 page 1 of 20; games 1-25 of 492  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
  Chessical: Extract from Pillsbury’s interview on page 6 of the New York Times, 29th September 1895 as given in <Chess Notes no.7760>

"Lasker has greater analytical knowledge, but his body is too feeble to stand the strain of a long tournament. If advancing years have impaired Steinitz’s powers of crossboard play he is still as keen an analyst as ever. My game with him was the hardest I had to play in the tournament, but Tarrasch gave me a good deal of trouble...."

"I feel Chigorin to be the strongest player alive, so far as match playing is concerned. I should not feel at all troubled if I had to meet either Steinitz, Lasker or Tarrasch in a set match. I fancy my chess is as good as theirs, and if I should not beat either of them I feel pretty certain of not being disgraced. Neither would I fear Chigorin, as I have a good deal of confidence in myself...."

From the Database (Classical games)

Mikhail Chigorin beat Harry Nelson Pillsbury 8 to 7, with 7 draws. Harry Nelson Pillsbury tied Siegbert Tarrasch 5 to 5, with 2 draws. Harry Nelson Pillsbury tied Emanuel Lasker 5 to 5, with 4 draws.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <He held this job with periodic leaves of absence until 1988 when he moved to Philadelphia and married.>

I don't think so...

Oct-10-12  RookFile: Lasker did great in long tournaments, winning events such as NY 1924.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: While just looking around, I ran into a game from a Pillsbury blindfold simul that's not yet in our database, published in the <Omaha Daily Bee> for March 18, 1900. Pillsbury starts to lower the boom around move 29.

[Event "Blindfold Exhibition"]
[Site "Lincoln, NE"]
[Date "1900.??.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "1.8"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Pillsbury, Harry Nelson"]
[Black "Joyce, M L"]
[ECO ""]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 f5 3.c4 c6 4.Ne5 g6 5.Nc3 e6 6.e3 Bg7 7.f4 Nh6 8.h4 Bxe5 9.fxe5 Ng4 10.h5 Qg5 11.hxg6 h6 12.Be2 h5 13.Rh3 Qxg6 14.Qc2 Na6 15.cxd5 Nb4 16.Qa4 Nxd5 17.Nxd5 exd5 18.Bd2 Bd7 19.Qb4 0-0-0 20.a4 Rhg8 21.a5 Nf2 22.Rf3 Ne4 23.a6 b6 24.Bf1 Ng3 25.Bd3 Rde8 26.Rc1 Kc7 27.Kd1 Re6 28.Qb3 Kb8 29.Ba5 b5 30.Bxb5 cxb5 31.Bc7+ Ka8 32.Rxg3 Qxg3 33.Qxd5+ Bc6 34.Rxc6 Qg4+ 35.Kc1 Qe4 36.Qxe4 fxe4 37.Rxe6 Rc8 38.Re7 1-0

This was board 8 of the exhibition. Probably <jnpope> knows all about it already.

Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: R.I.P. master Harry Nelson.
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: The earliest BF win I have for Pillsbury... happy birthday Harry.

<Mr. H. N. Pillsbury of the Boston Chess Club performed the remarkable feat of playing eight games of chess last night at the Boston Press Club, simultaneously and without sight of the boards or pieces.

This is the first time Mr. Pillsbury had done this and he is the only American, with the single exception of Paul Morphy, who ever accomplished this feat.

Not only did he not make a single error in calling his own moves, but he won seven of the eight games.

Eight tables were set up in the reading room of the Press Club and Mr. Barry, acting as teller for Mr. Pillsbury, communicated the moves to that gentleman and announced the replies. Mr. Pillsbury being in another room in the darkness.>

[Event "Pillsbury BF Exhibition"]
[Date "1892.12.09"]
[Round "1.8"]
[Site "USA Boston, MA (Boston Press Club)"]
[White "Pillsbury,HN"]
[Black "Lord,E"]
[ECO "A02"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.f4 e6 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.b3 Nf6 4.Bb2 d5 5.e3 Bd6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.0-0 Qe7 8.d4 a6 9.Be2 h5 10.c4 b6 11.Nc3 h4 12.b4 Nxb4 13.Ne5 c5 14.Na4 Bc7 15.dxc5 bxc5 16.Nxd7 Kxd7 17.a3 Nc6 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.cxd5 exd5 20.Qxd5+ Qd6 21.Qxf7+ Kc8 22.Bg4+ Kb7 23.Rab1+ Ka7 24.Nxc5 Rab8 25.Ne6 Qe7 26.Qxe7 Nxe7 27.Nxc7 1-0

<Boston Daily Globe, 1892.12.10>

Premium Chessgames Member
  talisman: happy birthday harry...r.i.p.
Jan-17-13  Owl: Pillsbury like Chigorin favored the Knight over the Bishop but I dont think Pillsbury favored the double knights like Chigorin. I think he only favored the old school of single knight is better than single bishop.

Does anyone have quotes about his views on knight being better than the bishop?

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I think Pillsbury's etheric double may have been W B Yeats:
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Happy Nelson Mandela Day!
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Had he survived until WWI he would've become a doughboy.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: William Hartston makes an unusual observation. At Hastings (1895) Pillsbury was the only player without facial hair.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Game Collection: Pillsbury vs World Champions Decisive Games

Pillsbury's decisive games against world champions.

Dec-05-13  LoveThatJoker: Master Pillsbury, you are remembered today and always!!


Dec-05-13  RookFile: If anybody ever finds a boring Pillsbury game, let me know. Every one I've ever played over has been quite interesting - win, lose, or draw.
Dec-05-13  Penguincw: R.I.P. Harry Pilsbury, one of the greatest American players ever.
Mar-12-14  capafischer1: Pillsbury had an even score with lasker over 14 games. 5 wins each. fantastic memory and his best games are truly beautiful.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: I consulted the following references this weekend:

Harry Nelson Pillsbury, American Chess Champion - Jacques N. Pope, 1996, Pawn Island Press

Pillsbury Chess Career - P.W. Sergeant and W.H. Watts, 2002, Hardinge Simpole Pub

Pillsbury, the Extraordinary - Andrew Soltis, Ken Smith 1990, Chess Digest

The Sargeant book is a reprint of the original (and the first) classic, the Soltis book is a thin copy of the best games, but it's the Pope book that looks to be the more comprehensive and thorough collection of Pillsbury's games.

Mind you, I only had access to the books for 15 minutes, but that was time enough for me to determine that Pope's book was the only one with any game from the Pillsbury-Stone 1890 match. It was also the only one with the complete record of the 1893 match Pillsbury played against the German master, Carl August Walbrodt.

My understanding was that the match with Stone was the first(*) match of note of the young Pillsbury (only 18 years old in 1890, having only learned the game at sixteen).

Match vs. Henry Nathan Stone, 1890
Site: Boston, MA, USA
Purse: Unknown

Pillsbury/Stone +5 =2 -2 6/9

The Baltimore Sunday News, 1890, White Collection Scrapbook, p172 Schachmeister Pillsbury, Bachmann
Boston Weekly Post, August, 1890

I will submit the following game for inclusion, according to Pope it is the only available game from the match:

[Event "H.N. Pillsbury - H.N. Stone match"]
[Site "Boston, Massachusetts"]
[Date "1890.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Harry Nelson Pillsbury"]
[Black "Henry Nathan Stone"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C51"]
[EventDate "1890.??.??"]
[Purse "Unknown"]
[Source "Harry Nelson Pillsbury, American Chess Champion - Jacques N. Pope, Pawn Island Press, 1996"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bd6 6.d4 Nf6 7.O-O O-O 8. Re1 h6 9.Nh4 exd4 10.Nf5 Bc5 11.cxd4 Bb4 12.Re3 d5 13.Nxh6+ gxh6 14. Rg3+ Kh8 15.exd5 Ne7 16.Bxh6 Rg8 17.Bg5 Rxg5 18.Rxg5 Qd6 19.Qe2 Bd7 20.Qe3 Rg8 21.Rxg8+ Kxg8 22.Nd2 Bxd2 23.Qxd2 Nexd5 24.Qg5+ Kf8 0-1

(*) CG has another 1890 game between Pillsbury-Young that I'll comment on later.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Nosnibor: In Moscow during 1902 Pillsbury gave a blindfold display over 22 boards against several strong Russian players.In this exhibition Alexie Alekhine (Alexander Alekhine`s older brother)played and obtained a draw.Does anyone have the score to this game? His brother also competed in an International Correspondence Tournament organised by the "Schweizerische Schachzeutung" in 1908 which he went on to win.
Mar-24-14  ughaibu: Did Alekhine have a younger brother? Alexus, maybe. And a sister, Alexandra.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Nosnibor: <ughaibu> No he did not but if you care to check it out he had a sister called Varvaria who also played chess but no other sibling.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Alekhine had an older brother. Alexei.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <Nosnibor> I hope to have another look at Pope's book, either this weekend or next (it's a non-lending book at a library I have access to).

If I do, I'll look specifically for the game in question. That is, if nobody posts a reply before. Hopefully somebody has the book and can reply sooner.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Alexei Alekhine did not play Pillsbury during his 22 board blindfold simultaneous, nor did he play in the 14 board blindfold simultaneous. Between the two Russian magazines, Chernyi Korol and Schachmatny Obozrenye, all the blindfold games from both exhibitions have been published. Also multiple contemporary sources list all the opponents from those exhibitions, and Alexei Alekhine is never given as an opponent.

Pillsbury did give three large simultaneous exhibitions in Moscow during his 1902 trip:

1902.12.08: 40 chess [+27=6-7]
1902.12.14: 22 chess [+17=4-1]
1902.12.16: 33 chess [+28=3-2]

It is very possible that Alexei played in, and obtained a draw in, one of the regular simultaneous exhibitions. But no game has surfaced to date.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Nosnibor: <jnpope><zanzibar> Thank you for your posts.My source is from the BCM of March 1957 under "Quotes and Queries"No. 499 page 57.F.Emdin quoted the year 1901,which I assumed must be wrong because according to Sergeant, Pillsbury was married in January that year and played no chess outside of America.He also stated that Alexander was only nine years old at the time but was not allowed to frequent chess clubs in his early days but was allowed to play correspondence chess.
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