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Isidor Gunsberg
From Hans von Minckwitz's column in Illustrirte Zeitung, 1890.
Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Number of games in database: 453
Years covered: 1876 to 1925

Overall record: +173 -157 =113 (51.8%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 10 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (35) 
    C77 C65 C67 C78 C66
 French Defense (25) 
    C01 C11 C14 C13 C10
 Giuoco Piano (25) 
    C50 C53
 Queen's Pawn Game (23) 
    D00 D05 D02 D04 D01
 King's Gambit Accepted (20) 
    C39 C33 C35 C34 C36
 French (13) 
    C11 C13 C10 C00 C12
With the Black pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (46) 
    C67 C65 C83 C77 C80
 French Defense (20) 
    C01 C11 C10 C02 C13
 Queen's Pawn Game (20) 
    D02 D00 A46 D05 D04
 King's Gambit Accepted (18) 
    C33 C39 C38 C37
 French (12) 
    C11 C10 C13 C00 C12
 Giuoco Piano (12) 
    C50 C53
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 1-0
   Gunsberg vs NN, 1879 1-0
   Chigorin vs Gunsberg, 1889 0-1
   W Paulsen vs Gunsberg, 1883 0-1
   Gunsberg vs Steinitz, 1891 1-0
   J Mason vs Gunsberg, 1889 0-1
   Gunsberg vs Von Gottschall, 1887 1-0
   Gunsberg vs NN, 1907 1-0
   Gunsberg vs J Mieses, 1903 1-0
   Gunsberg vs Bird, 1889 1-0

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Steinitz - Gunsberg World Championship Match (1890)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Blackburne - Gunsberg (1887)
   Hamburg (1885)
   Blackburne - Gunsberg (1881)
   Chigorin - Gunsberg (1890)
   6th American Chess Congress (1889)
   London (1900)
   London (1904)
   British Championship (1908)
   Manchester (1890)
   Breslau (1889)
   Monte Carlo (1901)
   Monte Carlo (1902)
   Frankfurt (1887)
   Hastings (1895)
   Nuremberg (1883)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   New York 1889 by suenteus po 147
   Challengers Zukertort & Gunsberg by Imohthep
   Chigorin-Gunsberg Match by keypusher
   Chigorin-Gunsberg Match by Chessical

   Lasker vs Steinitz, 1895
   Von Bardeleben vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Bird, 1895
   Steinitz vs Burn, 1895
   Burn vs Janowski, 1895

Search Sacrifice Explorer for Isidor Gunsberg
Search Google for Isidor Gunsberg

(born Nov-02-1854, died May-02-1930, 75 years old) Hungary (federation/nationality United Kingdom)
[what is this?]

Isidor Arthur Gunsberg was born in Budapest. He began his chess career as the hidden operator of the chess automaton Mephisto (Automaton). In 1876 he moved to Britain, and was later granted citizenship.

Gunsberg's success in match play leaves no doubt that he was one of the strongest competitors of his era: he defeated Henry Bird (+5 -1 =3), Joseph Henry Blackburne (+5 -2 =6), and drew with Mikhail Chigorin (+9 -9 =5). In 1890, he challenged Wilhelm Steinitz for the world championship, but lost (+4 -6 =9), see Steinitz - Gunsberg World Championship Match (1890).

Gunsberg's career reached its peak at the end of the 1880s, with impressive results in Game Collection: New York 1889 and Manchester (1890) (second behind Tarrasch).

According to Chessmetrics, he was 2-5th in the world 1886-90. 1; whilst EDO Chess estimates Gunsberg to have been 2nd-7th for the same period. 2

At New York, Gunsberg came third. He beat Chigorin 2-0, but lost to Weiss by 0.5 to 1.5. Gunsberg then seized an unexpected and sudden opportunity. With the joint tournament winners Chigorin and Weiss declining to play a match to select a challenger to world champion Steinitz, Gunsberg challenged Chigorin. At the time of the match Gunsberg was 35 years old, four years younger than his opponent.

Gunsberg had struggled for his place in the limelight. He had never been seen as the preeminent British player and was usually eclipsed by Joseph Henry Blackburne .Gunsberg had emerged in the third German Chess Congress 1883. Gunsberg was 17th with 5/18 whereas Blackburne won with 13.5/18. At the fourth German Chess Congress, Hamburg July 13th - 25th 1885, Gunsberg was victorious, followed by Blackburne in equal second.

At Hereford, August 4th – 12th, 1885, Blackburne won and Gunsberg was fifth equal, whilst at the Second BCF championship London 1886, July 12th – 29th, he was third equal with Taubenhaus behind Blackburne and Burn.

At the fifth German Chess Congress, Frankfurt July 17th - August 2nd, 1887, Blackburne was fourth and Gunsberg was far back in 14-16th place. He scored only two points against the top ten players.

The Third BCF Congress London 1887, November 29th - December 12th, improved his status. Gunsberg was first equal with Burn ahead of Blackburne by 1 1/2 points; and at the Fourth BCF championship in Bradford, August 6th – 18th 1888, Gunsberg won, 1 1/2 points ahead of all his important British rivals including: George Henry Mackenzie, Mason, Amos Burn , Blackburne and Henry Bird.

In 1887, Blackburne - Gunsberg (1887), Gunsberg defeated Blackburne in a match , played in Bradford and London, 26th September – 9th November 1887 scoring +5 -2 =6.

Having tied for first in 1887 and won the title outright in 1888, and at least temporarily drawn ahead of his most obvious rival, his victory in this match gave him the status as a credible challenger to Steinitz for the world championship.

"The difference in style between the two players has been very well brought out in the present match. Gunsberg is impetuous and Blackburne is careful, but both have a wonderful power of combination, and are capable, of very brilliant strokes." 3

Gunsberg's problem was that he was not consistent. At 6th DSB Congress, Breslau (1889) , 15th – 26th July 1889, he was equal fourth, but Tarrasch eclipsed all the other participants with a magnificent +9. At Amsterdam (1889) , 26th August – 1st September 1889, he came only half-way up the field (+2 -2 =4).

"There is a pretty firm conviction at the clubs that that Gunsberg, especially since the death of Zukertort, is the strongest and hardiest of the professional masters of the game, and that in his present condition he can be more trusted than anyone else to play up to his best form over a fortnight's course….It will soon be time, by the way, to demand a match between Gunsberg and Steinitz -the old Achilles who sulks on his reputation in America. Mr Steinitz is giving us time enough in England to forget his prowess, and people already say that his victory over Zukertort, when the decline of the doctor's powers had manifestly set in, was not of sufficient importance to provide him with laurels for the remainder of his life. No doubt, this is said partly by way of defiance, and in course of time it is pretty certain that the champion will have to descend into the lists again, and try conclusions with Mr Gunsberg." 4

Steinitz, however, saw Chigorin as his most credible challenger and chose to defend his world championship title against him in Havana (20th January 1889 - 24th February, 1889). Steinitz defeated his Russian challenger by 10-6, in the Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Match (1889).

Gunsberg, however, by coming third at the Game Collection: New York 1889 , was given an unexpected opportunity. The co-winners of the tournament, having tied a short match intended to decide a single winner, preferred not to challenge Steinitz. The rules then allowed Gunsberg as the third player to challenge Chigorin for a match which would effectively be a Candidates Final. See Game Collection: Chigorin-Gunsberg Match.

By tying this match, Gunsberg felt he could challenge for the world championship. He went on to give a good account of himself in the Steinitz - Gunsberg World Championship Match (1890), losing 8.5 to 10.5.




3 Morning Post - Monday 10th October 1887, p. 2.

4 Bristol Mercury - Tuesday 21st August 1888, p.8.

Wikipedia article: Isidor Gunsberg

Last updated: 2023-05-02 12:03:11

 page 1 of 19; games 1-25 of 474  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Gunsberg vs F G Janssens 1-0401876Casual gameC39 King's Gambit Accepted
2. Mephisto vs Gunsberg 1-0381878Leicester Square ExhibitionC52 Evans Gambit
3. Gunsberg vs NN 1-0201879LondonC35 King's Gambit Accepted, Cunningham
4. G C Heywood vs Gunsberg  1-0251881City of London CC Handicap t000 Chess variants
5. Gunsberg vs Blackburne 0-1321881Blackburne - GunsbergB45 Sicilian, Taimanov
6. Blackburne vs Gunsberg 1-0581881Blackburne - GunsbergC45 Scotch Game
7. Gunsberg vs Blackburne 1-0521881Blackburne - GunsbergB23 Sicilian, Closed
8. Blackburne vs Gunsberg ½-½571881Blackburne - GunsbergC45 Scotch Game
9. Gunsberg vs Blackburne 0-1261881Blackburne - GunsbergB44 Sicilian
10. Blackburne vs Gunsberg 0-1351881Blackburne - GunsbergC55 Two Knights Defense
11. Gunsberg vs Blackburne 0-1351881Blackburne - GunsbergB45 Sicilian, Taimanov
12. Blackburne vs Gunsberg 1-0201881Blackburne - GunsbergC50 Giuoco Piano
13. Gunsberg vs Blackburne 1-0721881Blackburne - GunsbergC01 French, Exchange
14. Blackburne vs Gunsberg 1-0231881Blackburne - GunsbergC45 Scotch Game
15. Gunsberg vs Blackburne ½-½501881Blackburne - GunsbergC14 French, Classical
16. Blackburne vs Gunsberg 0-1361881Blackburne - GunsbergC01 French, Exchange
17. Gunsberg vs Blackburne ½-½391881Blackburne - GunsbergE01 Catalan, Closed
18. Blackburne vs Gunsberg 1-0561881Blackburne - GunsbergC11 French
19. W L Newham vs Gunsberg 1-0461883London (Vizayanagaram)C48 Four Knights
20. J S West vs Gunsberg 0-1361883London (Vizayanagaram)C49 Four Knights
21. G MacDonnell vs Gunsberg 1-0661883London (Vizayanagaram)C37 King's Gambit Accepted
22. Gunsberg vs T H Piper  1-0331883London (Vizayanagaram)D05 Queen's Pawn Game
23. J Minchin vs Gunsberg  1-0411883London (Vizayanagaram)D05 Queen's Pawn Game
24. F S Ensor vs Gunsberg  0-1301883London (Vizayanagaram)C44 King's Pawn Game
25. Gunsberg vs A Hunter  1-0271883London (Vizayanagaram)A84 Dutch
 page 1 of 19; games 1-25 of 474  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Gunsberg wins | Gunsberg loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: R.I.P. <POTD>: World championship challenger Isidor Gunsberg.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: ♔ Quote of the Day ♔

< "Schlechter also showed us the generous side of his nature by declining to compete for any of the brilliancy prizes, for which he undoubtedly would have had the best chance. 'I have won enough', he said. 'Let others get something too.'" >


I guess that's why they call Schlechter "the draw master".

Feb-10-15  poorthylacine: TO KNIGNT 13:

I agree absolutely about Gunsberg, only about Blackburne, we must consider that this guy played very good games from 1862 until 1914!!!!!!

May-08-16  zanzibar: Here is a beautiful game by Gunsberg, where he just destroyed Mackenzie in the opening:


[Event "Bradford (1888)"]
[Site "Bradford ENG"]
[Date "1888.08.??"]
[Round "12"]
[White "Gunsberg, Isidor"]
[Black "Mackenzie, George Henry"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C50"]
[EventDate "1888.08.06"]
[Source "TB G-34 p52/59"]
[PlyCount "49"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.Nd5 Bxd5 8. Bxd5 Ne7 9.Bb3 c6 10.Qe2 Qd7 11.O-O-O Bb6 12.d4 Qc7 13.dxe5 dxe5 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15.Nh4 Ng6 16.Nf5 Bc5 17.Nh6 Rf8 18.Qf3 Be7 19.Qh5 Bc5 20. Ng4 Qe7 21.Qf5 Bd4 22.Nxf6+ Kd8 23.c3 c5 24.cxd4 cxd4 25.Kb1 1-0


Aug-18-16  zanzibar: The above is one reason why the Source tag might be better with the nominal PGN limit of 255 characters.

I got the game from Harding, who got it from Barza, who got it from Schwarz's original.

Aug-18-16  zanzibar: This game is full of inaccuracies, but one might excuse a few of them, since Gunsberg was but 12:


[Event "causal (?)"]
[Site "Pest HUN"]
[Date "1867.12.??"]
[Round "-"]
[White "Gunsberg, Isidor"]
[Black "Beer, Henrik"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C31"]
[EventDate "1867.12.??"]
[Source "Harding - EVCP p281 / Hungarian Chess History (Barcza) / Magyarorzág és a nagyvilág (Schwarz) 1867-12-28"]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bc4 Bc5 6.d4 Bb4 7.Bd2 e3 8. Bxe3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nxd5 10.Bxd5 Qxd5 11.Ne2 O-O 12.O-O Re8 13.Qd2 Bf5 14.Bf2 Be4 15.c4 Qxc4 16.Nc3 Nc6 17.d5 Nb4 18.a3 Nxc2 19.Rac1 Nxa3 20.Qb2 Nc2 21.Rxc2 Bxc2 22.Qxc2 b5 23.Qd2 b4 24.Nd1 Rad8 25.Bxa7 Rxd5 26.Qf2 Re2 27.Qf3 Rd8 28.Ne3 Qa2 29.h3 h6 30.Kh2 Rdd2 31.Qa8+ Kh7 32. Qe4+ g6 33.Bd4 Qc4 34.f5 Qxd4 35.fxg6+ 1-0


Aug-18-16  zanzibar: The above is one reason why the Source tag might be better with the nominal PGN limit of 255 characters.

I got the game from Harding, who got it from Barcza, who got it from Schwarz's original.

Takes a little bit more space than allotted to tell the story.

Aug-18-16  Retireborn: <z> "The kid's a genius!" "Quick, stick him in Mephisto" LOL

Does Harding's book annotate any of Gunsberg's games? I only have 27 of his games, most of them losses.

Aug-18-16  zanzibar: <RB>, yes, Harding does indeed annotate several (many?) of the games.

You can check out some of them here:

How many, I'm not sure, as it's just a preview. But I find even a limited preview is quite enriching when it comes to anything written by Harding.

Aug-18-16  zanzibar: Oh, and just to be clear - Harding devotes an entire chapter to Gunsberg.
Aug-18-16  zanzibar: I don't have access, but does anybody have the assessment of Alekhine on Gunsberg's play?

It on Harding's EVCP - p313, quoting Alekhine's <La Nación (ar?)> 1930-08-10 obituary of Gunsberg.

(Not sure why the obituary only showed up in August, given Gunsberg's death in May.)

Aug-19-16  Paarhufer: Harding's quotes are taken from Edward Winter's translation of Alekhine's tribute to Gunsberg, see "Kings, Commoners and Knaves" (1999), p 212-213.
Aug-19-16  zanzibar: Thanks <Paarhufer>, I saw that too, but my library doesn't have that one.

I was hoping to find an online source for it.

Aug-19-16  Paarhufer: <zanzibar: but my library doesn't have that one.> How awful! And you are really interested in chess history? ;)

Please, when you ask for help, describe clearly what you have and what you want to have. I could have saved the time scrolling both books and the C.N.s in NIC magazine 1999, too.

Winter's translation is still a couple of decades copyrighted, so maybe you should ask him for help.

Aug-19-16  Retireborn: <z> Winter doesn't quote the whole of the La Nacion piece, but the gist of what he does put in <KC&N> is that Gunsberg was not a genius and lacked originality, but he was clever at understanding the weaknesses of Chigorin & Steinitz and adapting to them; and that Gunsberg was to be praised for his efforts to "disseminate chess".
Aug-19-16  Retireborn: Alekhine's views, not Winter's, I should have made clear.
Aug-19-16  zanzibar: Thanks <Retireborn>, as always.

Makes me wonder a bit about how Alekhine ranked past masters as well as his contemporaries. E.g. who did he consider a genius? Or an original?

Aug-19-16  zanzibar: <Paarhufer> First, consider the original request:

<I don't have access, but does anybody have the assessment of Alekhine on Gunsberg's play?

It on Harding's EVCP - p313, quoting Alekhine's <La Nación (ar?)> 1930-08-10 obituary of Gunsberg.>

It's clear I'm hoping to get Alekhine's assessment, and that I don't have access to it.

I perhaps should have mentioned that I knew Winter had it as well, though that wouldn't help me much, given that I didn't have access to that either.

Clearly, I'm hoping someone is kind enough to provide the assessment - either via a link, or by actually typing it in for me (which is a bit of a favor - so thx again <retireborn>).

In an ideal world, someone would have a link to the original <La Nación> article. Primary sources are always my preference.

The copyright issues deserve a post of their own, as perhaps does the question about my interest in chess history!

Aug-20-16  zanzibar:

His obituary from the NY Sun 1930-05-23 p37.

Nov-02-16  TheFocus: Happy birthday, Isidor Gunsberg.
Mar-06-18  Nosnibor: Surely the bio. is wrong as it states that Blackburne won the Hamburg 1885 event after a tie with Mason. This was of course won by Gunsberg with a tie for the next five places including Blackburne, Mason, Tarrasch etc.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Nosnibor: Surely the bio. is wrong as it states that Blackburne won the Hamburg 1885 event after a tie with Mason. This was of course won by Gunsberg with a tie for the next five places including Blackburne, Mason, Tarrasch etc.>

Looks like somebody fixed it. Though the paragraph now reads a little strangely:

<Gunsberg had struggled for his place in the limelight. He had never been seen as the preeminent British player and was usually eclipsed by Joseph Henry Blackburne .Gunsberg had emerged in the third German Chess Congress 1883. Gunsberg was 17th with 5/18 whereas Blackburne won with 13.5/18. At the fourth German Chess Congress, Hamburg July 13th - 25th 1885, Gunsberg was victorious, followed by Blackburne in equal second.>

Seems like at a minimum, there should be a "however" or a "but" at the beginning of the last sentence. And it's literally true that Blackburne finished =2 (or in a tie for 2nd-6th), but why leave out Mason, Weiss, Englisch, and Tarrasch?

Mar-08-18  Jean Defuse: ...

The Sydney Mail - Jan 16, 1892:

On the 21st November last Mr. Gunsberg played 24 games simultaneously against that number of strong city of London Club players, winning 20, drawing 3 and losing 1.

Play began at 3.30. In the first 6 minutes Mr. Gunsberg managed to get over 100 moves. After 15 minutes play Mr. Gunsberg had made the stupendous number of 220 moves were recorded after 25 minutes' play, and 300 moves were played in the first half-hour. Play proceeded at this rate, and one by one the opponents of the master had their colours lowered.

The whole performance terminated at 5.30 occupying in all but two hours. Mr. Gunsberg has established a record in fast play, having moved 600 per hour.

[Event "24-board simultaneous exhibition"]
[Site "London, City of London CC"]
[Date "1891.11.21"]
[White "Gunsberg, Isidor"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C24"]
[PlyCount "37"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5 6. O-O Bc5 7. c3 Bb6 8. Re1 Bg4 9. h3 Bxf3 10. Qxf3 Nf6 11. d4 Qd6 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Bf4 Nfd7 14. Bxe5 Nxe5 15. Qxf7+ Kd8 16. Qxg7 Re8 17. Na3 Qc5 18. Rad1+ Kc8 19. Qd7+ 1-0

Source: London Evening News And Post - November 28, 1891.


Research by Gerard Killoran -


Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: How quickly a year passes...

Gunsberg indulging in his favourite game of pocket billiards:

May-03-19  Nosnibor: On November 5th 1889 Gunsberg visited the Leicestershire Chess Club and played a simultaneous against 19 players winning 17 losing 1 and drawing 1.The following night at the same venue he played 13 opponents winning 10 drawing 2 and losing 1 to Henry Atkins a 17 year old stripling.
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