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  WCC Overview
 Steinitz and Tchigorin, 1889
 Steinitz and Chigorin face off in Cuba
Steinitz vs Chigorin 1889

Wilhelm Steinitz was one of the first truly original thinkers in chess. What Steinitz gave to chess could be compared to what Newton gave to physics: he made it a science. By identifying a number of positional features, Steinitz realized that all sound attacks stem from weaknesses in the opponent's position. When such weaknesses do not exist, attacking is not warranted, and proper positional play dictates that one must strive for the slow addition of many small advantages.

Mikhail Chigorin was one of the last of the great romantic players, and his fighting spirit embodied the character of the Soviet school of chess which was to dominate the chess world in the latter part of the 20th century. Chigorin rejected the doctrinal approach of Steinitz and Tarrasch, but he accepted some of Steinitz's ideas, notably a belief in the soundness of the defensive center, and his investigations into the Closed Defense to the Spanish Opening have proved of lasting value.[1]

Although Chigorin's lifetime record against Steinitz is very respectable, Steinitz's mastery of chess proved to be too much for him in this match.

click on a game number to replay game 1234567891011121314151617

FINAL SCORE:  Steinitz 10;  Chigorin 6 (1 draw)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Steinitz-Chigorin 1889]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #17     Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1889     1/2-1/2
    · Game #7     Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1889     1-0
    · Game #5     Chigorin vs Steinitz, 1889     0-1


  1. The Oxford Companion to Chess

 page 1 of 1; 17 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Chigorin vs Steinitz 1-0581889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
2. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0381889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD02 Queen's Pawn Game
3. Chigorin vs Steinitz 1-0831889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
4. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0221889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD02 Queen's Pawn Game
5. Chigorin vs Steinitz 0-1261889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
6. Steinitz vs Chigorin 0-1371889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD02 Queen's Pawn Game
7. Chigorin vs Steinitz 1-0341889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
8. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0381889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
9. Chigorin vs Steinitz 0-1561889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
10. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0271889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD07 Queen's Gambit Declined, Chigorin Defense
11. Chigorin vs Steinitz 1-0311889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
12. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0611889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD07 Queen's Gambit Declined, Chigorin Defense
13. Chigorin vs Steinitz 1-0641889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
14. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0351889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchD07 Queen's Gambit Declined, Chigorin Defense
15. Chigorin vs Steinitz 0-1361889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
16. Steinitz vs Chigorin 1-0521889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchA04 Reti Opening
17. Chigorin vs Steinitz ½-½701889Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship MatchC52 Evans Gambit
 page 1 of 1; 17 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: In the introduction I have to disagree with this comment slightly : "Chigorin rejected the doctrinal approach of Steinitz and Tarrasch"

I would say more something like this:

"Chigorin put Steinitz elements and deduced positional abstractions such as the value of the bishop pair into a more dynamic context - often finding contexts where for example the two bishops were ineffective.

In particular in this match, he often voluntarily played the immediate Bg4xf3 and playing for pressure on d4 and fast development and initiative. "

I would not say it is a case of "rejection", but rather contextualisation of the Steinitz abstractions. Such a contextualisation is really important for practical positional play - to factor in the specific dynamics of the position.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: It is ridiculous to subject historical games to computer analysis and then judge them "relative" to games played by today's masters in order to imply that "Today's Masters are great players" and the "Old Masters were terrible players".

Steinitz and Chigorin did not have the luxury to investigate or train with computer resources, unlike today's Masters.

It is easy to state how many "horrible moves" were played in the past when you've got an electric Grandmaster installed on your computer to "confirm" this "truth."

I've got one too. Who doesn't? Big deal.

Historically, the most important "chess truth" is found over the board between serious men at a serious time control.

I find it difficult to accept the implication that Steinitz or Chigorin were Patzers.

Even Bobby Fischer didn't regard Steinitz to be a "weakie" and he didn't have a kind word for any past Champion except Morphy.

Apr-11-10  nimh: It's not more ridiculous than comparing Francis Jarvis' performance in Paris 1900 (10.8) to that of Bolt in Bejing (9.69). Shows mercilessly how much running has evolved and the same applies to chess too.

No one has called them patzers just because computer regards them to be around 2500-2300 elo. Most of us here would give away half of their life to get to play as strongly. You're seeing ghosts.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: <Knights who until recently said Nimh>

It's not your project I took issue with, but rather with this conclusion about this Match here- which I recognize is not yours:

<the woeful quality of play>

<Whatthefat> made this conclusion, citing your project.

If you have an issue, take it up with him.

I find his conclusion to be both needlessly pejorative and inaccurate in the "big picture."

Using your own analogy, would anyone label the Paris 1900 athlete's running of "woeful quality" simply because Bolt's speed is so much faster?

This is exactly what <whatthefat's> conclusion does.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: Finally, regarding your own post:

<computer regards them to be around 2500-2300 elo>

Well, no "it" doesn't because "computer" doesn't even exist.

What you mean is "My analysis employing a chess computer(s), using the following method (fill in method here), concludes that these players are around 2500-2300 elo."

I'm not just nitpicking here for the sake of it.

Some people (I'm not saying you) have a kind of half-articulated notion in their head that "computer" really exists, and "he" knows the "truth" about all matters chessical.

Apr-11-10  nimh: What whatthefat said is true, running 100m a second slower is as woeful as playing 500 elo weaker chess. This comparison is obviously arbitrary, but describes perfectly the point.
Apr-11-10  nimh: <Some people (I'm not saying you) have a kind of half-articulated notion in their head that "computer" really exists, and "he" knows the "truth" about all matters chessical.>

If play quality is as lousy as even top humans have nowadays, one doesn't have to have perfect knowledge to assess their strength. :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: <Knights who now say Nimh again>

Yes nobody will dispute that pretty much any engine can beat the best human players today.

With regard to "woeful"- yes, what you say is true in an absolute, and technical sense.

However, a sports writer would never use the phrase "woeful" to describe the 1900 sprint champ's performance in a million years.

Similarly, neither should a chess writer use the word "woeful" to describe Steinitz's play in this Match.

At least with respect to a computer evaluation.

Recall also that another school of evaluation (Sonas) seeks to emphasize synchronic comparison in his elo analysis.

For example, Sonas reports that Steinitz's performance at the London 1872 tournament was a <2703 elo Performance rating>.

This number would not hold up to a comparative chess engine study.

At any rate, interesting discussion thank you-

That said, all due respect to <whatthefat>.

I respect him and his many contributions to this site. I wouldn't take his comment here seriously unless I took *him* seriously.

And I do.

Apr-11-10  ughaibu: I've just played through all the games, and it seems to me that the number of appalling games and the number of good games, isn't wildly different from the 1972 match.
Apr-11-10  nimh: <I've just played through all the games, and it seems to me that the number of appalling games and the number of good games, isn't wildly different from the 1972 match.>

Obviously not <wildly> different. They weren't patzers and from the standpoint of a weak amateur even a mediocre 19 century player is miles ahead of him.

Apr-11-10  whatthefat: <jessicafischerqueen: <Whatthefat> made this conclusion, citing your project.>

Perhaps there has been some misunderstanding - I actually came to this conclusion after playing through all the games of this match for the first time. I had expected to see something akin to a match between IMs today, and was rather taken aback by how sloppy some of the play was, especially when compared to something like the level of play in championship matches from 1896 onwards.

The results of <nimh>'s study placed their playing strength at around 2350-2400 by modern standards. But if I had nothing to go by other than this match, I would probably have estimated them to be weaker than this. Perhaps I'm being overly harsh, but that was my initial impression.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: <whatthefat> well you stand by your words I can respect that.

I haven't done a systematic investigation comparing all the WC Matches, and I'm neither a strong player nor a strong analyst.

I have taken a good look at many of Steinitz's games prior to this Match, and many of them certainly impressed me.

However, that said, I have at present only investigated game one of this match, in which Steinitz blunders a piece, and the game, apparently out of the blue-- which is not much of an advertisement for my argument.

So I will demur to you gentlemen until I finish the whole Match here.

Thanks for your elucidation.

Premium Chessgames Member

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

Apr-02-11  squaresquat: Bobby Fischer was a god. He was also a
great American. He made his fortune at what he loved. He obeyed the conservative maxim of 'my country; love it or leave it.' His greatness was he never sold out his ideals.
Jan-16-12  AVRO38: <Looking at the quality of the games in this match, it's a wonder the chess world championship didn't die in its cradle.>

Given that this was not a world championship match, I'm not quite sure what you mean.

I know, I know...all the kibitzers will have a cow, call me a troll, predictable!

But once again, small minds cannot grasp complex subjects. So to save you the time I know what you are going to say: Steinitz beat Zukertort which means he's the world champion, and since he's playing a match it must be a world championship match. Very simple, very easy, very tidy, a small mind can understand it.

But unfortunately (for kibitzers) it's just not true! And no matter what you say, you cannot change that fact.

Mar-05-13  Garech: One draw in seventeen games! What the chess world would give for a similar statistic at a WC match nowadays!!


Jul-29-13  chesssalamander: Why did they play game 17? Didn't Steinitz already have the required 10 wins at that point?
Sep-30-13  Karpova: From the 1889 'Wiener Schachzeitung' (Sonderheft)

P. 6: <Habana, 21. Feber. (Vom Spezial-Berichterstatter.). Im Hafen hat sich ein Haifisch gezeigt. Mehrere zu Gast hier weilende Schachspieler nahmen ihren Schwiegermüttern Abonnements für die See-Bade-Anstalt.> (Havana, February 21. (By the special correspondent). A shark showed up in the harbour. Several of the chessplayers who are guests here, took sea swimming baths subscriptions for their mothers-in-law.)

P. 7: <Habana, 22. Feber. Die gestern gemeldete Maßregel war von Erfolg begleitet. Der Haifish ist verschwunden.> (Havana, February 22. The measure reported yesterday, was successful. The shark disappeared).

Nov-21-13  jnpope: <chesssalamander: Why did they play game 17? Didn't Steinitz already have the required 10 wins at that point?>

This match was for the best of 20 games, so Chigorin could have still made it a 10-10 tie by winning 4 straight games. After the 17th game was drawn then this was no longer possible.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: I wonder if Havana will host another World Championship in the near future?
Apr-13-16  zanzibar: I'll betcha a Cohiba or two they do.
Jun-01-16  posoo: now dis - DIS - is a tornnament dat da old posoo can RESPECT. REAL FITING CHESSE with almost NO DRAUGHS.

Chuggorin would be ASHAMED of championship chesse today.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: 16 straight decisive games?

Wow, that is "not expected" in this day and age. To be mild about it...

Aug-02-19  Chesgambit: My analysis Chigorin maybe become world champion because steinitz losing but Chigorin made bludner in 1 game ( final games )
Dec-24-19  cameosis: <jessicafischerqueen> i agree with you on your point regarding the comparison between historical and modern/current players who greatly benefit from modern technology and analysis tools, except for the fact that fischer is any authority on evaluating the strength of said historical players.

while a decent chess player himself, his attitude and mental problems make him the least likely source of reference in that respect, as his callous and toxic personality polluted his chess achievements.

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