Steinitz vs Gunsberg 1890/91|
Isidor Gunsberg was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1854. During the mid-1880s, he established himself as one of the strongest chessplayers in the world. In matches, he beat Henry Bird in 1886 and Joseph Henry Blackburne in 1887. His tournament successes included 1st at Hamburg 1885, shared 1st with Amos Burn at London 1887, 1st at Bradford 1888, and shared 1st with Bird at London 1889. In 1888, he said that before considering a challenge for Wilhelm Steinitz's title, his play should first become "a little more mature."
A year later, when Mikhail Chigorin got his shot at the title, chess journalist Leopold Hoffer asked Steinitz why he hadn't chosen George Henry Mackenzie or Gunsberg. Steinitz replied that the former had refused and the latter had a worse record than Chigorin. In support of Gunsberg, Chess Monthly declared that Chigorin should have played Gunsberg instead of Steinitz. The Havana Chess Club announced it would host a match between Gunsberg and the Russian, even if the latter lost to Steinitz. Gunsberg drew the Havana match against Chigorin in early 1890. This result was enough to convince Gunsberg to challenge Steinitz to a title match. The Manhattan Chess Club served as intermediary for this preliminary negotiation, and Steinitz settled in principle to play for a stake of $1,500. James Mason objected to the choice on the grounds that Steinitz favored challengers who were both fellow Jews and weaker players than himself. Steinitz labeled the objection "impudent" and insinuated that Mason was drunk when he made it. At New York 1889, Gunsberg had performed considerably better than Mason. Mason suggested that Gunsberg should play him first as a condition for a match against Steinitz, but the champion rejected this proposal.
The conditions were agreed upon on December 6, 1890. The winner would be first to 10 games (draws not counting), or most wins after 20 games. A draw would be declared in the case of 9 wins each. The stakes were $1,500 with 2/3 for the winner. Gunsberg received $150 traveling expenses from the Manhattan Chess Club. The winner of a game received $20, the loser $10 and in case of a draw, they both got $10. British amateurs contributed 75 pounds towards Gunsberg's share of the prize fund.
The match began on December 9, 1890 in the Manhattan Chess Club. Club Vice President Colonel G. F. Betts opened the proceedings and introduced the players. The referee was Isaac Leopold Rice, and the umpires were Holladay for Steinitz and August Vorrath for Gunsberg. Fred Mintz was in overall control of the match. They played in a small room between 13:30 to 17:00 and 19:00 to 22:30, while the spectators followed the games on a wallboard in a larger room downstairs. Initially the match received less interest than expected because Steinitz was considered a prohibitive favorite, and also because a popular ongoing cable match between Steinitz and Chigorin had to be interrupted.
Steinitz took an early lead with a win in game 2. The match was suspended after game 4 because
Steinitz had a bad cold. In game 5 Steinitz lost with the white pieces in a Queen's Gambit, after which he vowed to keep playing
this opening until he won with it. With Gunsberg pulling ahead, interest in the match increased. Still not fully recovered from his cold, Steinitz managed to
win game 6. During this game, Gunsberg exceeded the time limit but Steinitz refused to claim a win. Steinitz reached his goal of
winning with the Queen's gambit in game 7 and retained the lead for the rest of the match. After a brief Christmas break, Gunsberg
struck in game 12 with the Evans Gambit. Prior to the match, Steinitz had challenged Gunsberg to a theoretical duel in this
opening. The contested position had also previously arisen in the adjourned Steinitz-Chigorin cable match and the public had been looking forward to Gunsberg taking up
Steinitz's challenge. Steinitz did not show up for game 18. The telegram he had sent to excuse himself had been delayed. Gunsberg could have claimed the game but did
not. Gunsberg played the Evans Gambit for the 4th time in game 18. Gunsberg had previously scored well with it, but he lost this
game. Steinitz drew game 19, thereby winning the match and retaining his title (+6 -4 =9).
FINAL SCORE: Steinitz 6; Gunsberg 4 (9 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Steinitz-Gunsberg 1890]
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