1890-1 World Chess Championship
Wilhelm Steinitz (USA) vs. Isidor Gunsberg (UK)
New York, USA
December 9, 1890 - January 22, 1891

Conditions:  Best of 20 Games OR 10 Wins to win.
In the event of a 10 points to 10 points tie, play continues until one player has won 10 games.
In the event of a 9 wins to 9 wins tie, Steinitz keeps the title.




USA, 1890/1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Score
Steinitz 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 10
Gunsberg 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 8
Result:  William Steinitz retains the World Championship.

See the Games of the Match!

  • The match conditions for this match were very unusual. Essentially, it was a "Wins OR Points" match, but the Wins Option (10) could only be achieved within the 20 Game limit if there were no draws whatsoever.

    There were three ways to win the match:
    1) Scoring 10 points out of 20.
    2) By winning 10 games out of the first 20.
    3) If the score was tied 10-10 after 20 games, play continued until one player had 10 wins.

    So, in effect the match format was Best of 20, but if the match were to be tied 10-10, the format would switch to First to Win 10 Games, with a 9 wins to 9 draw clause. Since the match was not tied at 10-10, it can be regarded as a pure Best of 20 match.

  • For how this match came about, see the page on the New York 1889 tournament.

  • A British citizen at the time of this match, Gunsberg was born in Hungary.

  • The 19th and final game saw a situation that could never occur today. Steinitz offered a draw to Gunsberg on Move 14, which was refused. What's wrong with that, you may say? That happens all the time today. Well, that's not the unusual part. By the 42nd move, Gunsberg was unhappy with his position and offered his own draw. Since it won the match, Steinitz was happy to take it. However, after this, Gunsberg proposed that they play the game out to see what would have happened. Steinitz agreed and offered Gunsberg draw odds provided that they play for a small stake. Gunsberg agreed, and after a dozen or so moves, resigned.

  • Steinitz still felt guilty about taking the draw and explained in print that he felt it was more important to secure victory in the match, rather than risk making a mistake. Isn't that positively charming? A Grandmaster feeling guilty about accepting a draw? On Move 42!

  • For another example of a player taking a match-winning draw in a winning position, see the final game of the 1935 Euwe-Alekhine match.

  • This match came about as a result of the New York 1889 tournament, intended to be the world's first Candidates tournament. When neither of the two First Place finishers in that tournament (Max Weiss and Mikhail Tchigorin) were interested in playing a World Championship Match, Gunsberg, the 3rd place finisher, issued his own challenge.

  • The match was played at New York's Manhattan Chess Club.

  • Match Breakdown
     #    White - Black        Locale    Date        ECO  Result
     1    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  12-09-1890  D35  -
     2    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  12-11-1890  C62  0-1 
     3    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  12-13-1890  D31  -
     4    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  12-15-1890  C50  1-0 
     5    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  12-18-1890  D20  0-1 
     6    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  12-20-1890  D05  0-1 
     7    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  12-22-1890  E51  1-0 
     8    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  12-27-1890  C54  -
     9    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  12-29-1890  D30  -
    10    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  01-02-1891  C54  0-1 
    11    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  01-03-1891  D40  -
    12    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  01-05-1891  C52  1-0 
    13    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  01-07-1891  D37  1-0 
    14    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  01-10-1891  C52  -
    15    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  01-12-1891  E14  -
    16    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  01-15-1891  C52  1-0 
    17    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  01-17-1891  D06  -
    18    Gunsberg - Steinitz  New York  01-21-1891  C52  0-1
    19    Steinitz - Gunsberg  New York  01-22-1891  D40  -
    


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