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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 527
Years covered: 1890 to 1905

Overall record: +213 -92 =104 (64.8%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 118 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (56) 
    C67 C80 C71 C78 C62
 Orthodox Defense (49) 
    D60 D50 D63 D55 D51
 French Defense (37) 
    C14 C13 C11 C10 C12
 French (23) 
    C13 C11 C12 C10 C00
 Queen's Gambit Declined (23) 
    D31 D37 D06 D30
 Vienna Opening (20) 
    C25 C29 C28 C27 C26
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (55) 
    C67 C65 C60 C79 C78
 Petrov (22) 
    C42 C43
 Queen's Pawn Game (14) 
    D00 D02 D04 A41
 Sicilian (13) 
    B73 B30 B32 B58 B56
 King's Gambit Declined (11) 
    C31 C30 C32
 Four Knights (11) 
    C49 C48
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 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)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Hastings (1895)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1897)
   Munich (1900)
   Vienna (1898)
   Paris (1900)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   13th DSB Kongress (Hanover) (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
   N O P Players by fredthebear
   HNP: "A Genuis Ahead of His Time" by chocobonbon
   Vienna 1898 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   Vienna 1898 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by StuporMundi
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury winning on f5. by nikolaas
   London 1899 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   Monte Carlo 1903 by suenteus po 147
   Pillsbury miniatures. by CoryLetain
   Pillsbury - Showalter 1897 match by crawfb5

   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Janowski vs Steinitz, 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 22; games 1-25 of 527  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-0201890Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½701891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
3. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0351891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
4. Pillsbury vs Burille  0-1451891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
5. Pillsbury vs Burille  1-0291891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92C02 French, Advance
6. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0531891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
7. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 1-0371892BostonC51 Evans Gambit
8. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0661892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
9. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 0-1361892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
10. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0311892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
11. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-1301892Steinitz 20 board simultaneousC30 King's Gambit Declined
12. Pillsbury vs W P Shipley 0-1101893PhiladelphiaA07 King's Indian Attack
13. Pillsbury vs J W Young 0-1491893SimulC14 French, Classical
14. F Young vs Pillsbury 1-0161893BostonC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
15. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt  ½-½641893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()A07 King's Indian Attack
16. Pillsbury vs K A Walbrodt 1-0291893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C25 Vienna
17. K A Walbrodt vs Pillsbury  0-1371893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal Match ()C30 King's Gambit Declined
18. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-0471893New YorkA07 King's Indian Attack
19. J M Hanham vs Pillsbury  1-0521893New YorkC55 Two Knights Defense
20. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-0541893New YorkA40 Queen's Pawn Game
21. E Delmar vs Pillsbury 1-0251893New YorkC46 Three Knights
22. Pillsbury vs Louis Schmidt 1-0411893New YorkD04 Queen's Pawn Game
23. E N Olly vs Pillsbury  0-1451893New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
24. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-1601893New YorkB01 Scandinavian
25. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-0551893New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
 page 1 of 22; games 1-25 of 527  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Pillsbury wins | Pillsbury loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 28 OF 38 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jan-16-12  JoergWalter: <ughaibu: Capablanca's eight years without a loss has less to do with his style than it has to do with his opposition.>

Sorry guys, you lost me. I need a slow and lucid explanation for this statement.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <joergWalter> I think he is trying to say that Capablanca played weaker opposition that Lasker did.
Jan-16-12  JoergWalter: <TheFocus>

does that mean he would have lost with his particular style against stronger opposition? Happy bs, imo.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: I agree with you.

When Capablanca played strong opposition, I think he came off pretty well, too.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <TheFocus: <joergWalter> I think he is trying to say that Capablanca played weaker opposition that Lasker did.>

And what I am saying is (compared to modern masters) all opposition 80-90 years ago was weak. Nunn looked at the Carlsbad 1911 supertournament some time back, in which almost all the leading masters besides Lasker and Capablanca participated. Nunn concluded that an average master at Carlsbad would be about a 2100 in modern terms. This text has been posted before.

<[Watson: Here Nunn shows that openings weren't a problem in this tournament for the older players (who specialised in a few systems). Then he points out the generous time-limits in Karlsbad. Having eliminated those factors, he gives three reasons for his the weak play of the Karlsbad group:]

"The first was a tendency to make serious oversights. It is quite clear that the Karlsbad players were far more prone to severe errors than contemporary players. Even the leading players made fairly frequent blunders. Rubinstein, for example, who was then at virtually the peak of his career (1912 was his best year) failed to win with a clear extra rook against Tartakower ... He also allowed a knight fork of king and rook in an ending against Kostic..."

"The second problem area was an inclination to adopt totally the wrong plan...[examples follow]..."

"The third main problem area was that of endgame play...[horrendous examples of elementary blown endgames follow]..."

[Watson: In the course of research for a book, I made a lengthy look at endgames from a comparable period and found similar butchery, including some terrible blunders by top players such Lasker. The endgame skills of the great masters - excepting Rubinstein - are much exaggerated in books, for the reasons that Nunn gives, i.e, the understandable selection of a very small set of games for reasons of instruction and beauty.] >

Link doesn't work anymore, unfortunately.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Here is a working link. You have to scroll down to Watson's discussion of Nunn's chess puzzle book.

More excerpt. Here Watson is quoting Nunn:

<The method I chose to examine the games was a two-step process. I reasoned that a good way to eliminate differences resulting from 80 years' advance in chess theory was only to look for really serious errors - if you blunder a piece, it doesn't matter whether you understand Nimzowitsch's pawn-chain theories or not."

[Watson: Notice this important step. I'm always hearing (and reading) that "If the players of yesteryear could only catch up with opening theory, they'd be as good or better than today's players". The funny thing is that the many years (usually decades) of study that modern players put into opening theory should not only count towards their strength, but that study and practice contributes vastly to their understanding of the middlegame and even some endgames. The silly idea that you can just 'catch up' in opening theory ignores the vast undertaking that this would involve, especially to absorb the vast number of openings and opening variations necessary to a complete chess education. Nunn removes this factor from the equation, to the enormous detriment of the modern masters' strength assessment! Surely this will roughly equalise things? Let him continue: ]

"To analyse almost 800 games from scratch by hand would take years, so first I used the automatic analysis feature of Fritz 5 to look at the games without human intervention. It was set in 'blundercheck' mode, which fitted in with my objective of looking for serious errors. Then I examined 'by hand' all the points raised by Fritz to decide whether they were genuine blunders or products of Fritz's imagination.

I had no particular preconceptions about what the results of this search would be. Like most contemporary grandmasters, I was familiar with all the standard textbook examples from the early part of the century, but I had never before undertaken a systematic examination of a large number of old games. I was quite surprised by the results. To summarize, the old players were much worse than I expected. The blunders thrown up by Fritz were so awful that I looked at a considerable number of complete games 'by hand', wondering if the Fritz results really reflected the general standard of play. They did. By comparison, the Fritz search on the 1993 Biel Interzonal revealed relatively little; many of the points raised had already been examined in the players' own notes in Informator and elsewhere. I had originally intended to have the Karlsbad and Biel positions side-by-side in this chapter, but the results were so lopsided that I decided to concentrate on Karlsbad here. Some of the more interesting Biel positions may be found scattered throughout the rest of the book. >

Nunn then looks at Suechting, who finished in the middle of the pack:

<In order to be more specific about Karlsbad, take one player: Hugo Süchting (1874-1916). At Karlsbad he scored 11.5/13.5 or 'minus 2', as they say these days - a perfectly respectable score. Having played over all his games at Karlsbad I think that I can confidently state that his playing strength was not greater than Elo 2100 (BCF 187) - and that was on a good day and with a following wind.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: If I told you a modern super-GM had gone eight years without losing a game, you'd be impressed. If I told you he did it against opposition with an average strength below 2200, I imagine you would be a good deal less impressed.
Jan-16-12  nimh: <Having played over all his games at Karlsbad I think that I can confidently state that his playing strength was not greater than Elo 2100 (BCF 187) - and that was on a good day and with a following wind.>

I wish he had explained the basis of his 'confident statement'. Nunn didn't make any comparison to modern players. It seems like he just took it out of the air...

I think he underestimated Süchting's strength. His rating throughout 1911 was above 2550, which puts him within 300-point bracket with the top-rated player. It would imply that at that time leading masters were only equal to 2400-rated modern players. 2200-2300 seems more plausible.

As for Capa and Lasker runs, it would be interesting to calculate and compare their chessmetrics TPRs.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <keypusher> Thank you for that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <I think he underestimated Süchting's strength. His rating throughout 1911 was above 2550, which puts him within 300-point bracket with the top-rated player. It would imply that at that time leading masters were only equal to 2400-rated modern players.>


Well, again, neither Lasker nor Capablanca was at Carlsbad, but I suspect Nunn would agree with a 2400 rating for leading masters there. A further excerpt: <

[Watson: You have to get the book to see these examples of Süchting's horrendous mistakes and misunderstandings. Nunn also has talks about more positions, and then includes a section of 30 Karlsbad "puzzles", representing all of the players. The positional mistakes by the top players are particularly telling.]

"Returning then to the question as to how Süchting scored 11.5 points, the answer is simply that the other players were not much better. If we assume Süchting as 2100, then his score implies an average rating for the tournament of 2129 - it would not even be assigned a category today. Based on the above, readers will not be surprised when I say that my general impression of the play at Karlsbad was quite poor...">

I've already examples of blunders by some of the leading players there.

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Lasker arranged and fixed and avoided .. that's how it was .. He was a genius, but he became lazy and arrogant in his chess.. and his legacy is diminished becuase of this.And he avoided. Big time.

Pillsbury was just a genius at chess.. advanced chess and was a character too exploding with charisma.. Pillsbury died waaaayy too young..

Jan-16-12  King Death: <ughaibu: Capablanca's eight years without a loss has less to do with his style than it has to do with his opposition. Over approximately the same period Lasker went undefeated for seven years, against generally stronger opponents, and nobody claims that Lasker had a simple style, was the unbeatable Prussian, or any similar crap.>

The result of the Tarrasch match wasn't a surprise. Lasker had already beaten him 8-3 with 15 draws 8 years before. In the Berlin tournament you had Tarrasch who was 2 years older by then plus Schlechter who was half dead of starvation. Lasker's performance at St. Petersburg was great but there's no reason to get carried away here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <harrylime> Stop talking crap about Lasker "ducking" anyone.

Lasker feared no one!

Not Tarrasch! Not Pillsbury! Not Rubinstein!

But if you wanted to challenge Lasker, you better raise the money or you should just crawl back under your rock.

Lasker - The King of Chess!

Jan-16-12  King Death: <TheFocus> It was Tarrasch who got in a bad ice skating accident when a match looked to be set with Lasker. I have no clue what this <harrylime> is blatting on about. If you haven't tried explaining to this fool about Rubinstein I think I already mentioned what happened in that case.
Jan-16-12  nimh: <but I suspect Nunn would agree with a 2400 rating for leading masters there.>

I cannot agree with that assessment, both Rubinstein and Schlechter were less than 100 pts off Lasker according to the January 1911 list.

But you have seen my study which estimates Lasker's play in 1892-96 between 2400-2500 modern equivalent. and if we take into consideration Lasker's pragmatic approach and 15-20 years of develeopment...

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Lasker ducked and dived. History proves this. The great players who never gotta a shot at the title in the 1900's proves this.. his dance around Capa until that forlorn title match in 21' proves this..

A Janowski and past it tarrasch are not exactly proof of dominance .. just corruption.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <King Death> <TheFocus> <It was Tarrasch who got in a bad ice skating accident when a match looked to be set with Lasker.>

Absolutely right.

<I have no clue what this <harrylime> is blatting on about. If you haven't tried explaining to this fool about Rubinstein I think I already mentioned what happened in that case.>

He won't listen to anyone but himself.

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Lasker was a dodger .. and that's that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: So, you don't think he transcended chess, like you claim Fischer did?
Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Anyway this is Pillsbury's page..

Lasker hid and cowered .. Pillsbury was there ..

Let you chessgames regulars re invent history on this site !

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <harry> Your crap is boring.


Premium Chessgames Member
  Petrosianic: I'll say. Lasker's charisma outweighs these petty criticisms. He transceded chess, mathematics, and even baseball.
Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: I'll say your post should be on the Lasker page ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <baseball>

Lasker was head baseball coach and math professor at Columbia University, and taught a young Jose Capablanca how to improve his swing.

In an article in <Lasker's Chesss Magazine>, he wrote, "When I first met Senor Capablanca, he was a pudgy, acne-faced youth from Havana. He had a lot of enthusiasm for baseball and a little bit of talent for chess. I used to make him run extra laps around the ballfield whenever he lost to me at blitz chess, which was fairly often. Later, he improved quite a bit in chess and achieved a lot of fame."

Premium Chessgames Member
  harrylime: Lasker was and is a chess titan and genius. Tho he did indeed outstay his welcome thru avoiding the best challengers lol

These are Harry Nelson Pillsbury's pages tho..

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