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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 616
Years covered: 1890 to 1905

Overall record: +217 -91 =102 (65.4%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 206 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (71) 
    C67 C80 C78 C62 C71
 Orthodox Defense (55) 
    D60 D50 D63 D55 D51
 French Defense (40) 
    C14 C13 C11 C00 C12
 Vienna Opening (35) 
    C25 C29 C28 C27 C26
 Queen's Gambit Declined (26) 
    D31 D37 D06 D30
 French (25) 
    C13 C11 C10 C12 C00
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (58) 
    C67 C65 C60 C79 C78
 Petrov (24) 
    C42 C43
 Queen's Pawn Game (14) 
    D00 D02 D04 A41
 Sicilian (13) 
    B73 B32 B30 B58 B24
 Giuoco Piano (11) 
    C50 C53
 King's Gambit Declined (11) 
    C31 C30 C32
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Gunsberg, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Tarrasch, 1895 1-0
   Pillsbury vs G Marco, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1904 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Fernandez, 1900 1-0
   Lasker vs Pillsbury, 1895 0-1
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 1-0
   Pillsbury vs J Mason, 1895 1-0

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   1st City Chess Club Tournament (1893)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1897)
   Hastings (1895)
   Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (1898)
   12th DSB Congress, Munich (1900)
   Buffalo (1901)
   Vienna (1898)
   Paris (1900)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   13th DSB Congress, Hanover (1902)
   London (1899)
   Nuremberg (1896)
   Budapest (1896)
   Monte Carlo (1903)
   Impromptu International Congress, New York (1893)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   pillsbury's best games of chess by lobsters
   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 suenteus po 147
   Vienna 1898 by Mal Un
   Vienna 1898 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by Okavango
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by StuporMundi
   Noteworthy Games by BAJones
   Noteworthy Games by Southernrun
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147

   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Janowski vs Steinitz, 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 at the Eden Musee as the operator of a chess and checkers playing automaton. 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 US Championship (1897) (+10-8=3) and Pillsbury - Showalter US Championship (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 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 Bird, Blackburne, Chigorin, David Janowski, Lasker, William Ewart Napier, Georg Marco, Frank 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

Last updated: 2022-12-08 15:30:23

 page 1 of 25; games 1-25 of 616  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-0201890Casual gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0351891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
3. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0291891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
4. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½701891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
5. Pillsbury vs Burille 0-1451891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
6. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0531891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
7. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0661892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
8. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0311892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
9. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 0-1361892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
10. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-1301892Steinitz Simul 20b, BostonC30 King's Gambit Declined
11. Pillsbury vs J W Young 0-1491893SimulC14 French, Classical
12. Pillsbury vs W P Shipley 0-1101893PhiladelphiaA07 King's Indian Attack
13. F Young vs Pillsbury 1-0161893BostonC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
14. K Walbrodt vs Pillsbury 0-1371893Walbrodt Exhibition, Match GameC30 King's Gambit Declined
15. Pillsbury vs K Walbrodt 1-0271893Walbrodt Exhibition, Match GameC25 Vienna
16. Pillsbury vs K Walbrodt ½-½641893Walbrodt Exhibition, Match GameA07 King's Indian Attack
17. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-0471893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkA07 King's Indian Attack
18. J M Hanham vs Pillsbury  1-0521893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkC55 Two Knights Defense
19. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-0541893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkA40 Queen's Pawn Game
20. E Delmar vs Pillsbury 1-0251893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkC46 Three Knights
21. Pillsbury vs L Schmidt 1-0411893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkD04 Queen's Pawn Game
22. E N Olly vs Pillsbury 0-1451893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
23. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-1601893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkB01 Scandinavian
24. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-0551893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
25. Pillsbury vs N Jasnogrodsky 1-0271893Impromptu International Congress, New YorkD00 Queen's Pawn Game
 page 1 of 25; games 1-25 of 616  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 44 OF 44 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: The Bio input box? Still full of text at my end.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: No, for super-editors (for want of a better term), there's an extra facility (recently added) to upload images as profile pics.

I realise now that what's actually missing, compared to some other players, e.g. Fabiano Caruana is that there's no text explaining the circumstances and source of the photo. The jpg file address is hidden.

May-13-22  Jean Defuse: ...

From the Deutsche Schachblaetter 1918 no. 13/14, p. 96:

'Endgame 201. End of a game played in 1891 (Baltimore Sunday News).'

[Event "USA"]
[Date "1891.??.??"]
[White "NN"]
[Black "Pillsbury, Harry Nelson"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "

click for larger view


1... Rg8 2. Nf6+ Kh8 3. Nxg8 And Black announced mate in 8 moves. 0-1

<Any further information on this endgame was welcome!>


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I wasn't able to locate the <Baltimore Sunday News> for 1891/92 at the JGW collection, but this ending was published in the <New York Clipper>, however Black's queen is on e1 and not d1 (which does not appear to alter the solution):

click for larger view

[Event "?"]
[Site "USA Boston, MA"]
[Date "1892.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "NN"]
[Black "Pillsbury,HN"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "12"]
[EventDate "1892.??.??"]
[Source "New York Clipper, 1892.02.20, p830 (cites Baltimore Sunday News)"]
[SetUp "1"]
[PlyCount "4"]
[FEN "2r5/p3QRpk/1pPp3p/1P1Np3/P2n4/7P/6PK/4q3 b - - 0 1"]

1...Rg8 2.Nf6+ Kh8 3.Nxg8 {Pillsbury announced mate in 8, but mate in 6 is possible.} 0-1

Clearer image taken from the scrapbook at the JGW collection:

May-16-22  Jean Defuse: ...

Thank you!


Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Pope>, when, to your knowledge, was the story of Pillsbury's demise from syphilis - and its alleged contraction in Moscow in 1895/96 - first committed to print?
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <<Pope>, when, to your knowledge, was the story of Pillsbury's demise from syphilis - and its alleged contraction in Moscow in 1895/96 - first committed to print?>

Moscow? To my knowledge, never.

Now if you want to change that to St. Petersburg 1895/96... there is a growing body evidence starting immediately upon his death.

The <British Chess Magazine>, v26, July 1906, p290, gives the following:
<"On his return to Philadelphia he was examined by the best medical experts, one of whom, Dr. Charles K. Mills, a noted specialist of great repute in the United States, expressed the opinion that Mr. Pillsbury's affliction was not caused by his chess-playing, and this testimony was supported by Dr. Chase, also an expert on the subject of paresis.">

In 1901 Dr. Charles K. Mills was appointed clinical professor of diseases of the nervous system at the University of Pennsylvania according to the <Boston Medical and Surgical Journal>, v145 n21, 21 November 1901, p578.

Dr. Robert Howland Chase was the physician-in-chief and superintendent of the Friends Asylum starting in 1893. In 1902 he authored the text book <General Paresis: Practical and Clinical>.

The Physician's Certificate, filled out by Dr. Robert H. Chase, lists Pillsbury's chief cause of death as "General Paresis" with a contributing cause being "Convulsions". The City of Philadelphia Death Certificate records the cause of death as "General Paresis".

Now linking the disease to St. Petersburg, <Pillsbury's Chess Career>, Sergeant and Watts, London, 1922, p5, gives the following while discussing 1895/96 tournament:
<"He was, however, very unfortunate in contracting an illness there which seriously impaired his health, and ultimately proved fatal to him.">

As for actually using the word "syphilis" the earliest example I know of comes from <Grandmasters of Chess>, Schonberg, New York, 1972, p146, which gives the following while mentioning St. Petersburg 1895/96:
<"It was there that he contracted the syphilis that was responsible for his early death.">

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Pillsbury's birth:

Criticism and attacks can be posted in the Biographer Bistro

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <jnpope>, that is most interesting; I had never heard of what you term a 'blink simultaneous'.
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I never did come up with a satisfactory term but settled on "blink" over "partial blindfold" due to brevity (not only in length of the terminology but also in the duration of time in playing sans voir).
Dec-05-22  stone free or die: Congratulations <jn> on the work, and on getting it done by deadline.

You know of course, by leaving it in such malleable form (such as a PDF), your work will never really be done (as new work and corrections come in).


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Thanks.

I fully expect new discoveries to be uncovered using these volumes as a road map of Pillsbury's touring travels and I plan on keeping them as up-to-date as time permits.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: I'm not sure if <courtesty> is a word (English isn't my native language).
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I clearly have a fat-finger issue when it comes to typing (and poor vision when it comes to reading what I've typed in an 8-point font).
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Republished both volumes under today's date (making the 22 November 2022 printing a collector's item!).
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: All those <courtesty> typos were introduced after John Hilbert had proofread the manuscripts (during a last round consistency check on using "credit" and "courtesy" throughout the two volumes).
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I see no new discoveries/complaints posted overnight. I shall take that as a good sign.

<z>, I did end up completing/using my own restoration of that Pillsbury photo.

Dec-06-22  stone free or die: <<jn> I see no new discoveries/complaints posted overnight. I shall take that as a good sign.>

Maybe some of us are giving you a day or two to enjoy the moment before....


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I would still like to hunt down some of the sources cited in the Quarterly for Chess History articles as there is probably much that can be added to the Pillsbury canon. If anyone has access to any of that material I would be grateful for copies for future editions.
Dec-09-22  stone free or die: <jn> too bad <Focus> isn't here anymore (and <Phony> too)...

J F Barry vs Pillsbury, 1899 (kibitz #14)

I think <jfq> on occasion quoted QfCH as a source, but she's been a bit scarce of late.

Anyone else?

Dec-09-22  stone free or die: Oh yeah, maybe <BobCrisp>

G Reid vs Alekhine, 1926 (kibitz #1)

(A google search on

<"quarterly for chess history">

is funny - a lot of hits from <> that somehow redirect over to <>.


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Being that I didn't include these things in my Desiderata section, here is a list of wanted Pillsbury material cited in the Quarterly for Chess History articles (along with four games where a source was not cited):

Games (my game number followed by Quarterly's cited source):
1065: Western Daily Mercury, 1902.04.25
1071: (no source cited)
1098-1109: Blindlingspartien des Schachmeisters H. N. Pillsbury 29. Juni 1902, K├Âllner Schachclub
1187, 1189: (no source cited)
1214: Der Sammler, 1906.08.25
1259: Pall Mall Gazette, 1903.01.10
1263: Western Daily Mercury, 1903.01.23
1282: Western Daily Mercury, 1903.02.06
1290: Daily Chronicle and Argus, 1903.02.02
1326: (no source cited)
1331: St. John Globe, 1905.11.17

De Telegraaf, 1903.01.04
Evening North Wilts Herald, 1903.01.24
Western Daily Mercury, 1903.01.28
Cornish Post and Mining News, 1903.01.29
Sussex Daily News, 1903.04.25

I would also like to acquire copies of the material cited by Chessist:
1148: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.09.21
1149: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.08.31
1150: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.10.05
1151: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.10.26
1152: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.11.09
1153: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.09.28
1154: Bremer Nachrichten, 1902.08.24
1156: Hamburgischer Correspondent, 1902.08.30
1157: Hamburgischer Correspondent, 1902.08.23

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Nosnibor.

They played twice.

search "Pillsbury vs charousek"

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: I expect he did a search but mispelled Pillsbury as Pilsbury.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Anyway, exciting, hard-fought games, just like you would expect.
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