1889 World Chess Championship
Wilhelm Steinitz (USA) vs. Mikhail Tchigorin (Russia)
Havana, Cuba
January 20 - February 24, 1889

Conditions:  Best of 20 Games.  In the event of a 
10-10 tie, Steinitz retains the title.



Cuba, 1889 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Score
Steinitz 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 10
Tchigorin 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 6
Result:  William Steinitz retains the World Championship.
See the Games of the Match!

  • When the match ended after 17 games, the remaining three games were played as exhibition consultation games, with both players teaming up with local Havana chess officials. Tchigorin and Judge Alberto Ponce played the final three games against Steinitz and Dr. Gavilan. Since Steinitz desired to further test his Q-B3 line in the Evans Gambit, the colors were reversed for these three games, allowing Tchigorin to have White in two of them.
    
    
    Cuba, 1889 18 19 20 Score
    Steinitz/Gavilan 0 1 1
    Tchigorin/Ponce 1 0 1

  • The 1889 Championship was unique in the history of chess. For the first and last time, match backers gave the World Champion carte blanche to choose his opponent. Steinitz chose Mikhail Tchigorin (or Chigorin), the champion of Imperial Russia, for two reasons.

  • 1) Tchigorin had a 3-1 record against Steinitz in previous encounters, a blot which Steinitz wished to erase from his record.

  • 2) Steinitz, as the Father of Positional Play, found his theories severely criticized by the Classical school. Tchigorin, as a bold gambiteer, brilliant attacking player, and greatest living exponent of the Evans Gambit, would play precisely the type of chess that Steinitz wanted to play against in order to illustrate his theories.

  • The highlight of this match is Steinitz's bizarre 6... Qf6 line in the Evans Gambit, and the outlandishly tangled positions he voluntarily accepted (sometimes successfully) to try to prove that Black could keep the Pawn and emerge with the better endgame. Henry Bird, speaking of Steinitz' style, once wrote "Place the contents of the chessbox in your hat, shake them vigorously, pour them on the board at the height of two feet, and you get the style of Steinitz." He could have easily been thinking about this variation when he said it.
         This line appears in all the odd numbered games of the regular contest, save Game 3, and also in Exhibition Games 18 and 20.

  • Another highlight of this match is Game 17, the final game, and a strong contender for the worst game ever played in a World Championship match. Take a look in the viewer at the dream of a position after White's 30th move, in which Steinitz's entire position is practically being strangled where it stands, and try to imagine that 15 moves later, White will be scrambling to draw an inferior ending, and without having made any overt material-dropping blunders. Can't be done, you say? Well, play on and see.

  • Incidentally, Tchigorin's last-round woes didn't end here. Check out game 23 of the 1892 Match, to see the jaws of victory go hungry at Tchigorin's hands again.

  • Tchigorin's name is often Anglicized as Chigorin.

  • Match Breakdown
     #    White - Black        Locale  Date        ECO  Result
     1    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  01-20-1889  C52  1-0 
     2    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  01-22-1889  D02  1-0 
     3    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  01-24-1889  C62  1-0 
     4    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  01-26-1889  D02  1-0 
     5    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  01-27-1889  C52  0-1 
     6    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  01-29-1889  D02  0-1 
     7    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  01-31-1889  C52  1-0 
     8    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  02-04-1889  D46  1-0 
     9    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  02-05-1889  C52  0-1 
    10    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  02-08-1889  D07  1-0 
    11    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  02-10-1889  C52  1-0 
    12    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  02-12-1889  D07  1-0 
    13    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  02-16-1889  C52  1-0 
    14    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  02-19-1889  D07  1-0 
    15    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  02-21-1889  C52  0-1 
    16    Steinitz - Chigorin  Havana  02-23-1889  A85  1-0 
    17    Chigorin - Steinitz  Havana  02-24-1889  C52  -
    

    See the Games of the Match!

    Steinitz describes his theories

    Steinitz introduces this match


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