Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs. Jackson Whipps Showalter Match
February 10 - April 4, 1897
Brooklyn, NY

           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
Pillsbury  ˝ ˝ 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 ˝ 1 0 1 0 1 1  10 (w/3 draws)
Showalter  ˝ ˝ 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 ˝ 0 1 0 1 0 0   8 (w/3 draws)

  • Victory was to go to the first player to win 7 games. In the event of a 6-6 tie, victory would go to the first player to win 10 games (with a final tie if the score reaches 9-9).

  • Harry Nelson Pillsbury was an enigmatic figure in US Chess History. Another world championship caliber player lost prematurely, in the grand tradition of Morphy and Fischer. Learning the moves at the age of 16, his victory at Hastings 1895 and strong showing at Saint Petersburg 1895 at the age of 22, led him to be considered a serious challenger for World Champion Emanuel Lasker.

  • In an unusual turn of events, it was Showalter who challenged Pillsbury to this match, feeling that Pillsbury's European successes seriously undermined his claim to be the best US player.

  • Pillsbury agreed to play the match, but did not want the title of US Champion, leaving it in Showalter's possession after the match was over. As Pillsbury had said beforehand: "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 match articles of agreement duly made no mention of the match being for the US Title, though in the minds of some onlookers it was, just the same. The British Chess Monthly, for example, reported that Pillsbury became uS Champion upon winning this match.

  • Pillsbury won the match all right, but Showalter did much better than anyone had expected him to do. Pre-match predictions ranged anywhere from a 7-0 to a 7-3 victory for Pillsbury. As a result, this was one of those rare matches (similar to Karpov-Korchnoi 1978 and Fischer-Spassky 1992) in which the winner was the one who found his reputation taking a hit. Losing 8 games to Showalter was a blow to those attempting to help arrange a Lasker-Pillsbury World Championship Match. The American Chess Magazine did damage control, thusly:

    "The result was somewhat disappointing for Pillsbury’s admirers, especially for those who want to bring about a match between him and Lasker. While Showalter’s score is looked upon by many as a “moral” victory, we do not think that Pillsbury has impaired his chances for a match with Lasker. All he has to do is to win a big international event and Lasker must come to the scratch. As for Showalter, he has proven a better player than he has been given credit for."

  • Play was conducted at the Hamilton Club in Brooklyn. Stakes were $1000 per side.

  • As to the level of play, the American Chess Magazine wrote this: "The chess played in this match, as a rule, is of a high order. Pillsbury’s conduct of some of the games is a model one, while in others he proved rather venturesome, and, contrary to his style, he often gave up a Pawn for a future attack. Showalter played with his wonted pluck and ingenuity, exhibiting great power of resource. His fondness for a King’s side attack by Queen and Knight is noticeable."

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