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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 515
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.
      104 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 (32) 
    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 (20) 
    C25 C29 C28 C27 C26
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 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 Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs NN, 1899 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 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)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1897)
   Hastings (1895)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Munich (1900)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (1902)
   Vienna (1898)
   Paris (1900)
   Budapest (1896)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   Monte Carlo (1903)
   London (1899)
   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
   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
   Pillsbury's Greatest Games by Kenkaku

   Janowski vs Steinitz, 1895
   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Schlechter 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 515  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-020 1890 Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½70 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 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 W P Shipley 0-110 1893 PhiladelphiaA07 King's Indian Attack
13. Pillsbury vs J Young 0-149 1893 SimulC14 French, Classical
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 515  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
Feb-15-16  bengalcat47: Here is a quote Pillsbury made about the board game known as Camelot. It was originally called Chivalry when it was released by Parker Brothers in the late 19th century and many years later it was released again as Camelot.

"I consider Chivalry a remarkably interesting and amusing game of skill for young or old." -- Harry Nelson Pillsbury

This quote and others can be found at the World Camelot Federation site. http://www.worldcamelotfederation.c...

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: 500+ Pillsbury games in the DB. Any idea on the size of the largest collection, in print or online?
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <MissScarlett: 500+ Pillsbury games in the DB. Any idea on the size of the largest collection, in print or online?>

Either the collections of Nick Pope or Nikolai Brunni.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: How many in Pope's?
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: I don't rightly know.
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Two of the best on-site historians, just sucking air?!

<Until now, fans of the turn-of-the-century American star Harry Nelson Pillsbury have had to be content with the short biography and couple of hundred games provided by Sergeant and Watts' book "Pillsbury's Chess Career" to study their hero. At long last, however, a work that does justice to the brief life of this excellent player has appeared, thanks to the efforts of former University of Michigan student Jacques N. Pope.

According to the author's preface, the book actually started out to be a search for additional Pillsbury games to supplement those available in the few existing sources. Gradually, the game research was expanded to include more detailed biographical information, another area sorely in need of further attention. The result was Pope's "Harry Nelson Pillsbury, American Chess Champion." To begin to understand how much more comprehensive Pope's work is compared to Sergeant and Watts, one can simply look at the numbers: S & W provide a ten-page bio and 242 games; <Pope offers 46 pages and 907 games (although the Introduction and back cover only claim 877)>.

The book contains four parts, two appendices and two indices of openings and players. One of the four parts is devoted to the biographical information, while the other three consist of the presentation of the tournament games, match games and others, such as those played at the club level or in simultaneous exhibitions including blindfold play, for which Pillsbury was justly famous. The appendices contain Pillsbury's article on the 1895 Hastings tournament, his great win, and his brief autobiography published in 1899.

In the biographical section, Pope clears up some old mysteries and creates a few new ones by bringing to light certain material that was not previously well-known. First of all, despite the many rumors to the contrary over the years, Pillsbury did die of syphilis, confirmed by Pope through a review of the death certificate (page 46). Of course, where he contracted the illness, whether it was St. Petersburg, Russia or elsewhere, remains unknown.


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: If I recall correctly, 877 actual games, there were a few place holder numbers that give a sequence of 907.

I just generated an index from the 2016 MS I'm working on: 1057 chess (including two forfeit wins), 21 odds games, 20 partials. So 1098 total chess. 200 checkers and 6 partials. 206 total checkers. And the single steeple-salta game.

So 1305 if my math is correct.

I have not indexed the chess and checker problems yet...

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Mr. Pope's book is the standard to Pillsbury's career!! I am eagerly awaiting the next book he publishes.

(I was only pulling <MissScarlett>'s chain. My Pillsbury DB is large but Mr. Pope's is light-years ahead of mine.)

My book will be on Fischer. But...

Then there are a couple of more on the burner. (Not Pillsbury.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: A question regarding this game: Pillsbury vs Harry Frank, 1900

Is the date of [Date "1900.02.10"] correct? If so, did he play the same opponent the following day in another blindfold exhibition?

Then, there's the question of Pillsbury's exhibition match in December 1899 - was it played in Louisville or Lexington?

Finally, when's the new book out?

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Pillsbury played Harry Frank twice on January 10. He beat Frank in Queens Pawn game in the afternoon simul and a Spanish in the evening blindfold simul which was unfinished. Then on Feb 10 he played Frank in another blindfold simul, the Vienna game, which Pillsbury won in 36 moves.

The exhibition games with Showalter were in Louisville, but he had given a blindfold simul the day before in Lexington.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I hope to have a new edition out this year.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <The exhibition games with Showalter were in Louisville, but he had given a blindfold simul the day before in Lexington.>

Yes, sorry, forgot to mention Showalter. So, the Lexington simul was December 21st then. Do you know how many boards? I found the score of a 32 move win by Pillsbury vs N N which I presume was from this exhibition; no doubt, you located same, but did you also turn up the opponent's name?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <My book will be on Fischer. won't be available before 2043.>
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: I will finish before 2043 if I hire <MissScarlett> as my editor. She'll weed out those nasty mistakes.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Will my duties include sitting on your knee?
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <MissScarlett: Will my duties include sitting on your knee?>

If you are a woman, the answer is yes; but I don't think we would get much work done, and 2043 would become a reality.

If you are a man, you will have your own desk to work from. Far from mine.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <So, the Lexington simul was December 21st then. Do you know how many boards? I found the score of a 32 move win by Pillsbury vs N N which I presume was from this exhibition; no doubt, you located same, but did you also turn up the opponent's name?>

The Lexington blindfold simul took place December 20th at the Phoenix Hotel and was 12 games. Pillsbury scored +9-0=3 against Mrs. Showalter, Messrs W. W. Creary, Frankfort; J. W. Ballard, of Winchester; Prof. J. L. Logan, H. Loevenhart, W. L. Searles, Colonel J. R. Allen, W. K. Shelby, L. B. Fields, C. B. Mannering [sic] and Dr. C. W. Trapp.

I have four games from this event, the NN game you mention can be found in the NY Daily Tribune, 1900.01.03, p9 and in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1900.01.04, p13. The three additional games are the draws against Nellie Showalter, Searles and C. A. Manning. NN remains unidentified at this time.

Pillsbury was in Louisville from the 21st to the 24th. Pillsbury started his first game with Showalter in the afternoon of the 21st, took a break that evening to give a simultaneous performance and finished his first game with Showalter in the afternoon on the 22nd.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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.
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...

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