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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Number of games in database: 604
Years covered: 1890 to 1905

Overall record: +217 -92 =102 (65.2%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 193 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (69) 
    C67 C80 C62 C78 C71
 Orthodox Defense (55) 
    D60 D50 D63 D55 D51
 French Defense (39) 
    C14 C13 C11 C00 C12
 Vienna Opening (32) 
    C25 C29 C28 C27 C26
 Queen's Pawn Game (25) 
    D00 D02 D05 D04 A40
 French (24) 
    C13 C11 C00 C10 C12
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 B30 B32 B58 B56
 King's Gambit Declined (11) 
    C31 C30 C32
 Four Knights (11) 
    C49 C48
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
   Pillsbury vs Winawer, 1896 1-0
   Pillsbury vs Maroczy, 1900 1-0
   Lasker vs Pillsbury, 1895 0-1
   Pillsbury vs NN, 1899 1-0

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

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   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 JoseTigranTalFischer
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by StuporMundi
   Pillsbury, the Extraordinary by Okavango
   Noteworthy Games by BAJones
   Noteworthy Games by Southernrun
   Pillsbury winning on f5. by nikolaas
   London 1899 by JoseTigranTalFischer
   London 1899 by suenteus po 147

   Burn vs Lasker, 1895
   Tarrasch vs Chigorin, 1895
   Schlechter vs Lasker, 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 for the Eden Musee as the operator of Ajeeb (Automaton), a chess- and checkers-playing automaton. He held this job with periodic leaves of absence until 1898 when he moved to Philadelphia and married. 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 (1897) (+10-8=3) and Pillsbury - Showalter (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's inability to obtain a title match against Lasker was most likely due to Pillsbury's failure to secure enough financial backing to induce Lakser to agree to a match.

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 Edward Bird, Blackburne, Chigorin, David Janowski, Lasker, William Ewart Napier, Georg Marco, Frank James 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

 page 1 of 25; games 1-25 of 615  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Pillsbury vs F Young 1-0201890Offhand gameA02 Bird's Opening
2. Pillsbury vs Burille  ½-½701891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
3. Pillsbury vs Burille 0-1451891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
4. Pillsbury vs Burille  1-0291891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
5. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0351891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
6. Pillsbury vs Burille 1-0531891Odds Match vs. Burille, -92000 Chess variants
7. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 1-0371892BostonC51 Evans Gambit
8. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0661892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
9. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 1-0311892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
10. Pillsbury vs Steinitz 0-1361892Odds match (pawn and move)000 Chess variants
11. Steinitz vs Pillsbury 0-1301892Simul, 20bC30 King's Gambit Declined
12. Pillsbury vs J W Young 0-1491893SimulC14 French, Classical
13. Pillsbury vs W P Shipley 0-1101893PhiladelphiaA07 King's Indian Attack
14. F Young vs Pillsbury 1-0161893BostonC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
15. Pillsbury vs K Walbrodt ½-½641893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal MatchA07 King's Indian Attack
16. Pillsbury vs K Walbrodt 1-0271893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal MatchC25 Vienna
17. K Walbrodt vs Pillsbury 0-1371893Pillsbury -- Walbrodt Informal MatchC30 King's Gambit Declined
18. Pillsbury vs Gossip 1-0471893New YorkA07 King's Indian Attack
19. J M Hanham vs Pillsbury  1-0521893New YorkC55 Two Knights Defense
20. Pillsbury vs J S Ryan 1-0541893New YorkA40 Queen's Pawn Game
21. E Delmar vs Pillsbury 1-0251893New YorkC46 Three Knights
22. Pillsbury vs L Schmidt 1-0411893New YorkD04 Queen's Pawn Game
23. E N Olly vs Pillsbury 0-1451893New YorkA01 Nimzovich-Larsen Attack
24. Pillsbury vs F J Lee 0-1601893New YorkB01 Scandinavian
25. Lasker vs Pillsbury 1-0551893New YorkC60 Ruy Lopez
 page 1 of 25; games 1-25 of 615  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 43 OF 43 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Published in the <Illustrated Buffalo Express>, 1893.12.10, p8. This is the earliest Pillsbury portrait found in my collection.
Jan-21-22  Z truth 000000001: That Pillsbury photo looks to me to be a scan of a photograph, rather than from a newspaper illustration - it's that high-res.

Is that possible?

(That doesn't mean the source ref didn't utilize the same source photo).

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: The JGW Collection has the photograph that was submitted to Winter. The earliest publication of that photograph was in the <Illustrated Buffalo Express>.
Jan-22-22  Z truth 000000001: Who took the photo, do you know? And who donated it to JGW?
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Professionally taken at McMichael's studio in Buffalo during Pillsbury's exhibition in that city. Dale Brandreth acquired a copy of the photo and he donated it the JGW collection in the 1990s according to Winter.
Jan-22-22  Z truth 000000001: PS- Have they scanned that image yet?

This is the earliest Pillsbury I could find, online, from their collection:


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Scanned? Yes, obviously as they sent a scan to Winter. Posted? It doesn't appear to be posted on the CPL website.
Jan-22-22  Z truth 000000001: Thanks for that (I always like to find the details of the photos when I can).

Just a point for clarification -

<Yes, obviously as they sent a scan to Winter>.

You guys are clearly in the know - but you might consider helping this poor reader by noting Winter's mention of the photo in the link <Jean Defuse> mentioned above (very bottom)

It's a fairly recent update - from Dec 21, 2021.

Seems wrong of CPL to send the scan to Winter and not simultaneously make it available to the public.

Aside - I assume you used the photo in your new book(s). Did you use Urcan's version or the original?


Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I have the lower res version from the <Illustrated Buffalo Express>, but I'm debating on upgrading it...
Jan-22-22  Z truth 000000001: It's a quandary for book publication. On my blog I include both the original source and my photoshopped versions.

(I have to admit Urcan did a pretty job with his restore).

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: I'm working on my own restoration. Urcan's restoration looked a little ham-handed to me in his spraying black over the hair region stain instead of "lifting" the stain digitally. And it looks like he created some bleed from the head onto the background. Boils down to time and technique... I think he took the fast approach instead of a more methodical restoration.
Jan-22-22  Z truth 000000001: Sounds like you have some experience, and maybe a sharper eye than I - ha!

I forget the actual terminology but I use a "patch"-copy of an adjacent area to then "blend" in with the blemished patch - since you really can't lift a stain digitally (afaik). Then sometimes I gaussian-blur, or even smudge, the corrected patch to, well, blend in better.

Someday maybe we can compare notes, but it's getting a little off-topic for the moment - so I'll stop there.

Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: <since you really can't lift a stain digitally (afaik)>

Well, if there is enough transparency in the stain you can digitally select the affected region and then color/brightness/contrast adjust the region to remove the stain. Usually you work your way from the outside of the stain inward; once you have the outer-region corrected you then select the remaining pixels and do the same process, shrinking the stain out of existence. It looks like this will work above the part in his hair, but below the part it looks like there is some loss of physical media (the bright white spots), which will require some patch-work after the "lift" pass.

Jan-22-22  Z truth 000000001: (nodding head)
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: "Castle because you will or because you must; but not because you can." - Harry Nelson Pillsbury.
Premium Chessgames Member
  jnpope: Attributed to Pillsbury by Koltanowski?
Premium Chessgames Member
  nizmo11: <jnpope: Attributed to Pillsbury by Koltanowski?> According <Edward Winter> the attribution comes from Napier’s "Amenities"
"18. Once I asked Pillsbury whether he used any formula for castling. He said his rule was absolute and vital: castle because you will or because you must; but not because you can."
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: This is a new profile picture of Pillsbury, isn't it? And why is the Player Profile file (only visible to editors) at the bottom of the page empty?.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Maybe it's not new after all. But the second part stands.
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?
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