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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 513
Years covered: 1890 to 1905
Overall record: +213 -93 =104 (64.6%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      103 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
 French (19) 
    C13 C11 C10 C12 C00
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 Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 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 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 (1897)
   Hastings (1895)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1898)
   Munich (1900)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   Vienna (1898)
   Paris (1900)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (1902)
   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
   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
   Selected 19th century games II by atrifix
   Munich 1900 by Phony Benoni
   Vienna 1903 by LaBourdonnaisdeux

   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   Janowski vs Steinitz, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 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 513  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. E Delmar vs Pillsbury  1-025 1893 4, New YorkC46 Three Knights
13. Pillsbury vs J M Hanham 1-031 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
14. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-047 1893 1, New YorkC25 Vienna
15. E N Olly vs Pillsbury  0-145 1893 6, New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
16. W Pollock vs Pillsbury  1-052 1893 11, New YorkC20 King's Pawn Game
17. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-054 1893 3, New YorkB06 Robatsch
18. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-055 1893 8, New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
19. Pillsbury vs E Delmar 1-039 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentD00 Queen's Pawn Game
20. Showalter vs Pillsbury 0-131 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentC60 Ruy Lopez
21. Pillsbury vs Taubenhaus 1-030 1893 10, New YorkD00 Queen's Pawn Game
22. Pillsbury vs J Young 0-149 1893 SimulC14 French, Classical
23. J C Halpern vs Pillsbury 0-167 1893 1st City Chess Club TournamentB30 Sicilian
24. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-160 1893 7, New YorkB01 Scandinavian
25. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt  ½-½64 1893 Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()A07 King's Indian Attack
 page 1 of 21; games 1-25 of 513  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: Was Showalter playing Black or White?
Oct-23-15  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!!

Feb-12-16  zanzibar:
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.
Mar-24-16  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.

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