Fun Facts About the Steinitz – Zukertort Match

Something that I think I will be doing going forward is providing some historical overviews of the matches for the game of the day feature.

Since the first two of this match have already been published, let’s kick that off here, then I can add this stuff to the posts with the games going forward.

Prior to Steinitz – Zukertort 1886 the title of “World Champion” had been completely unofficial.

Wilhelm Steinitz had long been considered the strongest player of his day, having defeated his top rival Adolf Anderssen 20 years prior +8-6=0.  However, it wasn’t until this match with Zukertort that talk of an official world championship began.

Three years prior, in the London 1883 tournament, which had been a 14 player double round robin, Zukertort had finished at the top of the table with +18 (22/26) compared to Steinitz’s +12 (19/26).

With the death of Paul Morphy in 1884 there was no longer anyone who could reasonably claim the title of the strongest player (and keep in mind that Morphy’s last serious game had been much earlier in 1859) the path was clear to hold a match between the two.

The terms of the match were the same as Bobby Fischer would propose 89 years later – first player to ten wins, draws not counting.

The time control was to be 30 moves in two hours, then 15 moves per hour thereafter.

Although Steinitz would not become a US Citizen until 1888, he insisted on playing this match under the flag of the USA as he had been living in New York for a few years by then.

In 1888 he officially became a US citizen and changed his name to William.

The championship itself saw three different cities, with the first five games coming in New York, the next four in Saint Louis, and the concluding games in New Orleans.

Here is the table from Wikipedia showing the match results.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

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