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1890-1891 World Chess Championship
Compiled by Penguincw

★★★ INTRO ★★★

The 1891 World Chess Championship was between 54 year old defending champion Wilhelm Steinitz of the United States and 36 year old challenger Isidor Gunsberg of the United Kingdom.


Gunsberg earned his qualification for placing 3rd in a 1889 New York tournament (see Game Collection: New York 1889 for games). The first place winners (Mikhail Chigorin and Max Weiss) weren't interesting in playing.


The winner would be the first to reach 10 1/2 points and 10 wins. If a 10-10 tie in wins occurs after 20 games, the match continues until one reaches 10 wins. However, if both players reach 9 wins, Steinitz would retain his title. The first round was played in 1890. Note: For this game collection, the overall score is listed, with the number of wins listed in brackets.


Game 7: Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.♘f3 ♘f6 4.e3 e6 5.♗xc4 ♗b4+ 6.♘c3 O-O 7.O-O b6 8.♘e5 ♗b7 9.♕b3 ♗xc3 10.bxc3 ♗d5 11.♗xd5 exd5 12.♗a3 ♖e8 13.c4 c5 14.♖ac1 ♘e4 15.♖fd1 cxd4 16.exd4 f6 17.cxd5

After 17.cxd5

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A knight sacrifice allows white to eventually have 2 connected passed pawns in the endgame.

17...fxe5 18.d6+ ♔h8 19.♕d5 ♘xf2 20.♖d2 ♘d7 21.♖xf2 ♘f6 22.♖xf6 gxf6 23.d7 ♖g8 24.dxe5 ♖g5 25.♕xa8 ♕xa8 26.♖c8+ ♖g8 27.♖xa8 ♖xa8 28.e6

28.e6 1-0

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The finish is very simple. One way I see to finish black off is 28...♖d8 29.e7 ♖xd7 (29...♖g8 30.e8=♕ ♖xe8 31.dxe8=♕+) 30.e8=♕+ forking both the rook and king. In other words, white will have a winning endgame.

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Game 9: Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890

1.♘f3 ♘f6 2.d4 e6 3.e3 c5 4.c4 d5 5.dxc5 ♗xc5 6.♘c3 ♗b4 7.♗d2 dxc4 8.♗xc4 O-O 9.O-O ♘c6 10.♕e2 ♕e7 11.e4 ♗xc3 12.♗xc3 e5 13.♕e3 ♗e6 14.♗e2 ♘g4 15.♕c1 ♖ac8 16.h3 ♘h6 17.♕e3 f6 18.a3 ♘f7 19.b4 a6 20.a4 ♘xb4 21.♗xb4 ♕xb4 22.♖fb1 ♕e7 23.♖b6 ♖c7 24.♖ab1 ♖fc8 25.♘e1 ♘d8 26.♘d3 ♕a3 27.♔h2 ♖d7 28.♖xe6 ♘xe6 29.♗g4 ♖e8 30.♗xe6+ ♖xe6 31.♘c5 ♕xe3 32.fxe3 ♖ee7 33.♘xd7 ♖xd7 34.♔g3 ♔f7 35.a5 ♔g6 36.♔f3 ♖c7 37.♖b2 ♖c5 38.♖a2 ♖b5 39.♔e2 ♔f7 40.♔f3 ♔e6 41.h4 h5 42.♖a1 g6 43.g4 hxg4+ 44.♔xg4 ♖b4 45.♔f3 f5 46.exf5+ ♔xf5 47.♖h1 ♖b5 48.e4+ ♔f6 49.♖d1 ♖xa5 50.♖d6+ ♔g7 51.♖d7+ ♔h6 52.♖xb7

After 52.♖xb7

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At this point, for the next 25 moves (approx.) the battle is to get the a-pawn to a1.

52...♖a3+ 53.♔f2 ♖a5 54.♖b6 ♔h5 55.♖c6 ♖a4 56.♔f3 ♖a3+ 57.♔f2 ♔h6 58.♖e6 ♖a5 59.♔g3 ♔g7 60.♔g4 ♔f7 61.♖b6 ♖a1 62.♖b7+ ♔f6 63.♖b6+ ♔g7 64.♖e6 a5 65.♖xe5 a4 66.♖a5 a3 67.♔g5 a2 68.♖a7+ ♔f8 69.♖a8+ ♔f7 70.♖a7+ ♔e6 71.♖a6+ ♔e5 72.♖a5+ ♔xe4 73.♖a4+ ♔f3 74.♖a3+ ♔f2 75.♔xg6 ♖g1+ 76.♔f7 a1=♕ 77.♖xa1 ♖xa1 78.h5 ♖h1 79.♔g6 ♖g1+ 80.♔f6 1/2-1/2

80.♔f6 1/2-1/2

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Black can try as hard as they want to try to get the h pawn without giving up the rook, but it won't work. I would play something like 80...♖h1 81.♔g6 ♖g1+ 82.♔f6 ♔f3 83.h6 ♖h1 84.♔g7 and the pawn is mere steps away from queening. The black king is too far away from stopping. If I were black, I would take the white pawn as soon as possible.

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Game 12: Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891

1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.♗c4 ♗c5 4.b4 ♗xb4 5.c3 ♗a5 6.O-O ♕f6 7.d4 ♘h6 8.♗g5 ♕d6 9.d5 ♘d8 10.♕a4 ♗b6 11.♘a3 c6 12.♗e2 ♗c7 13.♘c4 ♕f8 14.d6 ♗xd6

After 14...♗xd6

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Early on, black has been fishing for material, and while they are up 2 pawns, white will win at least one back.

15.♘b6 ♖b8 16.♕xa7 ♘g4 17.♘h4 ♘e6 18.♗xg4 ♘xg5 19.♘f5 ♘e6 20.♖fd1 ♗c7 21.♘a8 ♖xa8 22.♕xa8 ♔d8 23.♖xd7+ ♔xd7 24.♖d1+

24.♖d1+ 1-0

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In this position, white is down a bishop for pawn, but white is getting compensation. Something like 24...♘d4 25.cxd4 exd4 26.♘xg7 + ♔e7 27.♗xc8 c5 28.♘f5+ ♔f6 29.♕xb7 ♕xc8 30.♕c6+ ♕e6 31.♕xc7 ♕xe4 32.♘g3 leaves white up a full piece.

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★★★ FINAL ★★★

The last round (19) was played sometime in early 1891. Entering the round, Steinitz had a 10-8 advantage in wins, and just needed one draw in the remaining two games to retain his title. He would get his first chance with the white pieces.

Game 19: Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1891

1.d4 d5 2.e3 ♘f6 3.c4 e6 4.♘c3 ♗e7 5.♘f3 O-O 6.♗e2 dxc4 7.♗xc4 c5 8.O-O ♘c6 9.dxc5 ♗xc5 10.♕xd8 ♖xd8 11.♗d2 a6 12.♖ac1 ♗a7 13.♖fd1 ♗d7 14.♗e1 ♘g4 15.e4 ♘ce5 16.♘xe5 ♘xe5 17.♗e2 ♗c6 18.♔f1 ♗d4 19.f3 ♖d7 20.♗f2 ♖ad8

After 20...♖ad8

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This game is about half way over. Both sides have a king, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, a knight and 6 pawns. Unless someone blunders, it's going to be an easy draw.

21.♗xd4 ♖xd4 22.♖xd4 ♖xd4 23.♖d1 ♖xd1+ 24.♘xd1 ♔f8 25.♔e1 ♘g6 26.♘e3 ♔e7 27.♔d2 ♔d6 28.♔c3 ♔c5 29.g3 ♗b5 30.b4+ ♔b6 31.♗d1 ♔c7 32.a4 ♗d7 33.f4 ♗c6 34.♔d4 ♘e7 35.♗b3 ♗e8 36.♘c4 ♘c6+ 37.♔c5 ♘d8 38.♘b6 f6 39.b5 axb5 40.axb5 ♗g6 41.♗c2 h5 1/2-1/2

41...h5 1/2-1/2

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Gunsberg didn't put in much of an effort to try to win, and that's what he got: a draw. Here, I'm going to try to exchange off all the kingside pawns, and see what'll happened. 42.f5 exf5 43.exf5 ♗f7 44.♗d1 g6 45.fxg6 ♗xg6 46.h3 f5 47.g4 fxg4 48.hxg4 hxg4 49.♗xg4 ♗e8 50.♗e2 ♗xb5 51.♗xb5 ♘e6+ 52.♔b4 ♔xb6 Even though white can not win, the bishop is there to prevent the knight pawn from promoting.

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★★★ MINI TABLE ★★★

Steinitz 1/2 1 1/2 0 0 1 1 1/2 1/2 1 1/2 0 1 1/2 1/2 0 1/2 1 1/2 (6 wins, 4 losses, 9 draws) <55.3% score>

Gunsberg 1/2 0 1/2 1 1 0 0 1/2 1/2 0 1/2 1 0 1/2 1/2 1 1/2 0 1/2 (4 wins, 6 losses, 9 draws) <44.7% score>


See also: Steinitz - Gunsberg World Championship Match (1890)

Head to Head Match up Prior to 1890: (haven't faced yet)

Previous World Championship Title: Game Collection: 1889 World Chess Championship

Next World Championship Title: Game Collection: 1892 World Chess Championship

Game 1, Match tied 1/2-1/2 (0-0)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890 
(D35) Queen's Gambit Declined, 25 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 2, Steinitz leads 1 1/2-1/2 (1-0)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1890 
(C62) Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense, 40 moves, 0-1

Game 3, Steinitz leads 2-1 (1-0)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890 
(D31) Queen's Gambit Declined, 27 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 4, Match tied 2-2 (1-1)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1890 
(C50) Giuoco Piano, 57 moves, 1-0

Game 5, Gunsberg leads 3-2 (2-1)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890 
(D20) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 28 moves, 0-1

Game 6, Match tied 3-3 (2-2)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1890 
(D00) Queen's Pawn Game, 43 moves, 0-1

Game 7, Steinitz leads 4-3 (3-2)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890 
(D26) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 28 moves, 1-0

Game 8, Steinitz leads 4 1/2-3 1/2 (3-2)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1890 
(C53) Giuoco Piano, 36 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 9, Steinitz leads 5-4 (3-2)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1890 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 80 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 10, Steinitz leads 6-4 (4-2)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 
(C53) Giuoco Piano, 43 moves, 0-1

Game 11, Steinitz leads 6 1/2-4 1/2 (4-2)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1891 
(D05) Queen's Pawn Game, 29 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 12, Steinitz leads 6 1/2-5 1/2 (4-3)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 
(C52) Evans Gambit, 24 moves, 1-0

Game 13, Steinitz leads 7 1/2-5 1/2 (5-3)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1891 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 40 moves, 1-0

Game 14, Steinitz leads 8-6 (5-3)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 
(C52) Evans Gambit, 33 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 15, Steinitz leads 8 1/2-6 1/2 (5-3)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1891 
(E14) Queen's Indian, 39 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 16, Steinitz leads 8 1/2-7 1/2 (5-4)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 
(C52) Evans Gambit, 21 moves, 1-0

Game 17, Steinitz leads 9-8 (5-4)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1891 
(D06) Queen's Gambit Declined, 56 moves, 1/2-1/2

Game 18, Steinitz leads 10-8 (6-4)
Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 
(C52) Evans Gambit, 54 moves, 0-1

Game 19, Steinitz wins 10 1/2-8 1/2 (6-4)
Steinitz vs Gunsberg, 1891 
(D00) Queen's Pawn Game, 41 moves, 1/2-1/2

19 games

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