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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 521
Years covered: 1890 to 1905

Overall record: +214 -92 =104 (64.9%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 111 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (54) 
    C67 C80 C78 C62 C71
 Orthodox Defense (49) 
    D60 D63 D55 D53 D50
 French Defense (34) 
    C14 C13 C11 C10 C12
 Queen's Gambit Declined (25) 
    D31 D37 D06 D30
 Vienna Opening (21) 
    C25 C29 C28 C27 C26
 Queen's Pawn Game (20) 
    D00 D02 D05 A40 D04
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (54) 
    C67 C65 C60 C79 C78
 Petrov (22) 
    C42 C43
 Queen's Pawn Game (14) 
    D00 D02 D04 A41
 Sicilian (13) 
    B73 B32 B30 B58 B56
 King's Gambit Declined (11) 
    C31 C30 C32
 Four Knights (11) 
    C49 C48
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 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)
   Hastings (1895)
   Munich (1900)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1897)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1898)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   Vienna (1898)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (1902)
   Paris (1900)
   Budapest (1896)
   Nuremberg (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
   N O P Players by fredthebear
   Pillsbury winning on f5. by nikolaas
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147
   Monte Carlo 1903 by suenteus po 147
   jeta's guess the move by jeta
   Pillsbury miniatures. by CoryLetain
   Pillsbury - Showalter 1897 match by crawfb5
   Selected 19th century games II by atrifix

   Janowski vs Steinitz, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 1895
   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   B Vergani vs Blackburne, 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 521  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-020 1890 Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-035 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
3. Pillsbury vs Burille  0-145 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
4. Pillsbury vs Burille  1-029 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92C02 French, Advance
5. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½70 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
6. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-053 1891 Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
7. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 1-037 1892 BostonC51 Evans Gambit
8. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-066 1892 Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
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. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-130 1892 BostonC30 King's Gambit Declined
12. Pillsbury vs J Young 0-149 1893 SimulC14 French, Classical
13. Pillsbury vs W P Shipley 0-110 1893 PhiladelphiaA07 King's Indian Attack
14. F Young vs Pillsbury 1-016 1893 BostonC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
15. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt  ½-½64 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()A07 King's Indian Attack
16. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt 1-029 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C25 Vienna
17. K A Walbrodt vs Pillsbury  0-137 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C30 King's Gambit Declined
18. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-047 1893 1, New YorkC25 Vienna
19. J M Hanham vs Pillsbury  1-052 1893 2, New YorkC55 Two Knights Defense
20. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-054 1893 3, New YorkB06 Robatsch
21. E Delmar vs Pillsbury 1-025 1893 4, New YorkC46 Three Knights
22. Pillsbury vs L Schmidt 1-041 1893 5, New YorkD04 Queen's Pawn Game
23. E N Olly vs Pillsbury  0-145 1893 6, New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
24. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-160 1893 7, New YorkB01 Scandinavian
25. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-055 1893 8, New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
 page 1 of 21; games 1-25 of 521  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
  TheFocus: <jnpope> <Ugh. Current MS of the 2016 edition is 1,688 pages (so far). Electronic edition can be one volume but I think a pb edition will need to be a two volume set.>

Oh, wow! Really looking forward to the MS.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I'm down to one corrupt gamescore that I need to "solve"...

Can anyone make sense of this game (HNP was white)?

Jul-30-16  morfishine: Nope <jnpope> I tried
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Well, I've spent the better part of today trying to figure this out (for about the 18th time since I've found this game).

1.e4 e5 2.f4 d6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bd7 5.fxe5 dxe5 6.Nxe5 Be6 7.d4 c6 8.Bc4 Bxc4 9.Nxc4 b5 10.Ne3 b4 11.Nb1 Nxe4 12.0-0 Nf6 13.Qd3 Be7 14.Nd2 0-0 15.h3 Nd5 16.Nf5 Bf6 17.Ne4 Kh8 18.Nxf6 Qxf6 19.Qf3 h6 20.Bd2 a5 21.Rae1 Ra7 22.Re4 Kh7 23.Rg4 Rg8 24.Re4 Qd8 25.Rg4 h5 26.Rg3 g6 27.Ne3 Qb6 28.Kh1 Nxe3 29.Bxe3 c5 30.Qf4 Rh8 31.Qh6+ Kg8 32.dxc5 Qb5 33.Rxg6+ fxg6 34.Rf8# 1-0

I went as far forward as I could, then I started with the mate and worked my way backwards... I think I found a "path" between the two that isn't completely lacking in all merit, but I'm still not happy with the results.

Maybe someone can improve upon my "solution"?

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <Maybe someone can improve upon my "solution"?>

Very doubtful...

I cringe seeing these "challenges", knowing how hard it is to resist taking a stab at 'em, while at the same time realizing they don't get posted without already being vetted as "impossible".

OK, that aside, congratulations on arriving at even a plausible movelist. Really.

My attempts almost always had 10.Ne5 (10. Kt - Kt 5), though I did try 10.Ne3.

16.Kt-K 5 is problematic.

17.Q-Kt 3 is ambiguous.

17...P-K R 3 is a big error if 17.Qg3 was played.

22... P - Q 1 is good for a laugh

28.Q - Q B 3 huh?

The scoresheet is really so full of inconsistencies that I really don't think anything can be done to save it right when it gets interesting.

I tried working backwards as well, but was always troubled by the final move:

<31.R-B8 mates>

<Mates> is different than <mate> in my mind. It implies that the mate is soon to follow, rather than saying the final position is a mate.

Does this correspond from other articles by the same editor in other columns?

I did get this interesting position out of one try:

(White to move)

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <Does this correspond from other articles by the same editor in other columns?>

Sadly all I have is a photocopy of this game from the article (I'm not even sure if it was a regular column or just something thrown together because of Pillsbury's visit), so I don't have any other material to use as comparison. Hopefully, later this month, I will get a chance to take a road trip to a library that I suspect has the original source material. I'll still have to hunt for it...

Dec-03-16  cunctatorg: The Lasker-Pillsbury score (+5, -4, =4) is an eternal testimony to Harry Nelson Pillsbury's dominance to the game of chess!! However the real testimony of Pillsbury's excellence is the very content of these games, played from 1893 up to 1904!!

Imho Pillsbury's chess as well as his contribution to the game, being widely known and praised, is simultaneously highly underrated...

Harry Nelson Pillsbury was the unique great attacker of the Steinitz-Lasker era, thus the first greatest positional attacker ... or -if you like- the second only to Paul Morphy...

The whole set of greatest attackers of the positional era only includes Paul Morphy, H. N. Pillsbury, ... (!!) A. A. Alekhine, Paul Keres, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky and ... Garry Kasparov!!

Dec-03-16  cunctatorg: Well, I should also include Jan Timman in the aforementioned glorious list!!
Dec-03-16  john barleycorn: <cunctatorg: Well, I should also include Jan Timman in the aforementioned glorious list!!>

I would have my doubts to do so.

Dec-05-16  cunctatorg: <john barleycorn> Well, I also had but Jan Timman's achievements were by far the best of every Westerner from 1945 until 2000 (with one unique -and titanic!!- exemption...) and his style of play was essentially aggressive ... and very imaginative! You should also notice that Jan Timman's chess carrier was (during its peak) in the shadow of two chess greatest... as H.N. Pillsbury's in the deadly shadow of a severe (back then) illness...
Dec-05-16  Pyrandus: "Pillsbury wrote no chess book" =
"Pillsbury do'nt wrote chess book"?
Dec-05-16  WorstPlayerEver: Pillbury no did write chesse book?

And ze Timmetje wonz world titlez? Yeah right. Portisch -to name one- wasn't worse than Timmetje.

I am zDutchz but Pillbury was a genius!

Dec-05-16  cunctatorg: Imho if Lajos Portisch was as strong as Jan Timman, then ... perhaps Frank Marshall was as strong as H. N. Pillsbury.

However Marshall's results with Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine were hardly like Emmanuel Lasker vs. H. N. Pillsbury; the reading of the score tables gives enough testimony but the real difference was the process of the construction of the attack from these attacking players.

Frank Marshall was an original, highly gifted, fascinating and "honest" attacking chess player, a real sportsman that is but H. N. Pillsbury's chess was much better!! My guess is that there are more among us, amateur chess players who know Marshall than Pillsbury and if this conjecture of mine is true, it would be -more or less- a pity.

Lajos Portisch had been a real super-grandmaster with a long and great carrier that only a minimal number of chess players could ever dream off, however he wasn't as original, imaginative, creative and efficient as Jan Timman ... or even Nigel Short...

Dec-05-16  WorstPlayerEver: Yeah, but Euwe was a methodical guy and contributed to the development of the (chess) computer. And though he wasn't a natural born genius -just my opinion- as Pillsbury was, Euwe became World Chess Champion. And his opponent was not the weakest one when it comes to creative chess.

Tout est relatif.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Happy birthday, Harry Nelson Pillsbury!!

One of my favorite players.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I spent the morning in Knoxville TN (on my way back from 2 weeks in FL) and I found 3 new Pillsbury games. I'd post one here tonight, but I'm tired from my drive back to Ann Arbor. Perhaps tomorrow.
Dec-05-16  capanegra: Happy birthday, Maestro.

Carlsen-Karjakin last month was ok; but your premature departure deprived the world of what could have been one of the greatest matches in chess history.

Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: <jnpope> ...

What? No info about venue, date, opponents?

Oh the anticipation!

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Here is one of the three new games I unearthed yesterday during my visit to the University of Tennessee. It was from a five board blindfold consultation simultaneous. Pillsbury scored +4=1-0.

Date: 1904.02.17
Site: USA Memphis, TN
White: McDonald,RA + Allies
Black: Pillsbury,HN (sans voir)
Opening: [B01] Scandinavian

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e5 6.d3 Nc6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Bd2 Qc5 9.a3 h6 10.Be3 Qd6 11.h3 Bh5 12.b4 Qe6 13.Nb5 Bd6 14.c4 a6 15.Nc3 Rd8 16.Qc2 g5 17.c5 Bf8 18.Rad1 Bg6 19.Qb2 Bg7 20.Rfe1 0-0 21.Bf1 Nd5 22.d4 Nxc3 23.Qxc3 e4 24.Bc4 Qf5 25.Nh2 Kh7 26.Rd2 Qc8 27.Red1 f5 28.f4 exf3 29.Nxf3 Bh5 30.Rf1 f4 31.Bf2 Kh8 32.Rfd1 Qf5 33.Bb3 Qf6 34.Bc2 Bg6 35.Bxg6 Qxg6 36.Qc4 Qe4 37.Qd3 Qxd3 38.Rxd3 Rd5 39.Ne1 Rfd8 40.Nc2 Kh7 41.Kf1 Kg6 42.Ke2 h5 43.a4 g4 44.hxg4 hxg4 45.b5 axb5 46.axb5 Na7 47.Nb4 Rh5 48.b6 cxb6 49.cxb6 Nb5 50.R1d2 Rh1 51.Rd1 Rh2 52.Kf1 g3 53.Bg1 Rh1 54.Ke2 Kf5 55.Kf3 Rxg1 56.Rxg1 Nxd4+ 57.Rxd4 Rxd4 58.Rb1 Rd2 59.Rf1 Bc3 0-1

source: Memphis Commercial Appeal, Morning Edition, 1904.02.21, Part III, p12

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Great, Mr. Pope!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Nosnibor: <cuncatorg> It is generally acknowledged that Pillsbury and Lasker halved there life time scores The one game omitted from your score was the rapid transmission game won by Pillsbury Apart from this I agree with your findings on the relevant standings on Marshall and Pillsbury despite the fact that Marshall had a slight plus against Pillsbury
Dec-07-16  cunctatorg: <Nosnibor>: perhaps the trivial excuse regarding Pillsbury's illness is the explanation of this oddity; all these games had been played from 1900 until 1904 and during these years the severely ill Pillsbury didn't fight Frank Marshall (whom he had faced a few years ago in simultaneous exhibitions) as he did fight Emmanuel Lasker...

Anyways though evaluations regarding chess are more reliable than the evaluations regarding politics or political history, these evaluations are neither as reliable as laws of physics nor as reliable as mathematical theorems. Regardless, the Lasker vs. Pillsbury score, the Lasker vs. Pillsbury quality of games plus Pillsbury's condition of health provide (imho) more than some evidence...

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?
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