Wilhelm Steinitz

About Wilhelm Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz, the first (and greatest!) World Chess Champion, was born in the Jewish ghetto of Prague on May 17, 1836 as the last of a hardware retailer's thirteen sons. He learned to play chess at age 12, but his development in chess began while studying mathematics at the Vienna Polytecnic. At this time Morphy's exploits were widely followed, and Steinitz was early on noted for his aggressive attacking style. In the chess clubs and parlors of Vienna Steinitz seized his chance to make money at chess, and so by the age of 26 he was champion of Vienna - having progressed from third place in 1859 to first in 1861. Wilhelm Steinitz was now a full time chess player.

The real break for Steinitz came when the "Austrian Morphy" was sent to represent that state in the London 1862 chess tournament. He came in sixth place, but his win over Augustus Mongredien was awarded the brilliancy prize. Methodically Steinitz then tracked down each player who came in ahead of him, in order, and defeated them in match play. The final victim was Adolf Anderssen in 1866, after which Steinitz considered himself World Chess Champion. It was not until 1886, however that the title was officially created and won by Steinitz in his match with Zukertort. In any case, Steinitz was undefeated in match play from 1862 until 1894 with his defeat at the hands of Lasker.

Steinitz evolved as a chess player, giving up opening gambits for more positional play - positional ideas he himself invented. By the 1870s Steinitz was happily accepting all gambits and daring anyone to do something about it, and thus he garnered a reputation as a stubborn defender of "ugly" positions. After his own games and annotations, Steinitz left behind a body of writing and books about chess that mark the modern era's beginning.

The first World Chess Champion died on August 12, 1900 in his adopted United States, but even today chess players of every level would benefit from a familiarity with the games of Steinitz. His games contain a lifetime of chess enjoyment, provided by the greatest figure in the history of the game - Wilhelm Steinitz.