Wilhelm Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz – Biography

Wilhelm Steinitz, an Austrian chess player, later became American. The 1st World Chess Champion. Years of life: from 1836 to 1900.

He was born on the 14th of May, 1836 in Prague (Czechia). It was a family of a tailor who had many children. As Steinitz related, he was the youngest one out of 13 siblings. The boy learned to play chess at 12. And he immediately started to show great talent and high skill. 

The most important events

In 1858, Wilhelm entered a prestigious Polytechnic University in Vienna. Simultaneously, he began to earn money with chess by playing in a cafe at stakes. The same year, a significant event in Steinitz’s life happened. He was accepted into the Vienna chess community. So from then on, he had the right to participate in official tournaments. 

Three years later, Wilhelm had his first serious achievement in chess. He won 30 out of 34 games in the Vienna City championship. Thanks to that, in 1862, Steinitz took part in his first international tournament. It took place in London. There, the player was awarded 6th place. 

After the tournament, Wilhelm decided to stay in London. He saw great resources for his growth in chess and tournament participation. For the next 20 years, Steinitz worked hard to improve at chess. By the 1880s, it had made him one of the strongest players in the world. He won tournaments in Vienna (1873), London handicap tournament (1871), matches against Zukertort, Blackburne, etc. 

Moving to the USA

In 1882, Steinitz went to the USA for a job in the “International Chess Magazine”. He got citizenship in the United States in 1888. In 1884-1884, he had negotiations with Zukertort about the World Championship. Eventually, at the end of 1885, the parties came to an agreement. 

The match was played until 10 victories. Wilhelm didn’t start very well. After winning the 1st game, he lost the following 4 ones, the scores were 4-1. However, Steinitz got himself together and started to win one game after another. After all, the match finished with the scores 10-5 in his favor with 5 draws. Later, Steinitz won 2 championships against Chigorin (11,5-6,5) and Gunsberg (10-8). 

Wilhelm’s other important international match occurred in 1894 against a rising chess star, 26-year-old Lasker. After 4 games, the scores were 2-2. However, Lasker managed to change the situation in further play. Eventually, the match resulted in 10-5 with 4 draws.

After losing the title, Steinitz continued performing in international tournaments. But the results got worse with every year. A progressing mental disease found in 1876 was the reason. In 1900, he suffered a heart attack and died in New York in extreme poverty. 

Wilhelm Steinitz was the 1st Champion of the world in the chess game. He retained the crown for 8 years. The player made a great contribution to the opening theory and positional play teaching. According to many researchers, he was the one who founded the chess theory. 

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