Harry Nelson Pillsbury

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Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Association United StatesUnited States United States
Born December 5, 1872
Somerville, Massachusetts
Died Philadelphia June 17, 1906
Best Elo rating 2816 (July 1901) ( historical rating )

Harry Nelson Pillsbury (born December 5, 1872 in Somerville , Massachusetts , † June 17, 1906 in Philadelphia ) was an American chess player .


Pillsbury did not learn to play chess until he was sixteen; but then made rapid progress and joined the Deschapelles Chess Club in Boston . Two years later he was already the strongest player in his city. Instead of learning a commercial profession in Boston as planned , he mainly devoted himself to playing chess there. In 1893 he took part in the first chess tournaments in the region. This year he met Emanuel Lasker for the first time at a tournament in New York , to whom he lost after a hard fight. In two other tournaments of the City Chess Club in New York in the following year he was able to win one before Jackson Whipps Showalter . For a while he worked as a hidden player in Ajeeb , the American version of the European chess Turk .

Participants in the Hastings chess tournament in 1895.
Standing (from left): Albin , Schlechter , Janowski , Marco , Blackburne , Maróczy , Schiffers , Gunsberg , Burn , Tinsley .
Sitting (from left): Vergani , Steinitz , Tschigorin , Em. Lasker , Pillsbury, Tarrasch , Mieses , Teichmann .

His greatest success was the victory in the international tournament of Hastings in 1895, which was associated with prize money of US $ 1,000 and which he won in front of world champion Emanuel Lasker and the entire world elite at the time. The Brooklyn Chess Club , which had collected donations, made it possible for him to take part in this competition .

In 1896 he was temporarily in the lead at the championship tournament in Saint Petersburg , whose win would have meant a match with Lasker for the world title. But his famous defeat against Lasker there threw him mentally off track: From then on he lost five of the last eight games and only came third, so there was no longer any prospect of a challenge from the world champion. According to rumors, he had only been diagnosed the previous evening with a serious illness from which he would later die. In the same year he took part in an international tournament in Nuremberg , where he shared third place with Siegbert Tarrasch . He was also third in a subsequent tournament in Budapest . Then he returned to America and was national champion after a match with Showalter.

In 1898 he achieved the same number of points as Siegbert Tarrasch in the Kaiser anniversary tournament in Vienna , but was defeated in the playoff for the first prize. In the following year he took second place behind Lasker at a tournament in London together with David Janowski and also only had to sort himself behind Lasker in Paris . In 1900 he finished tied with Carl Schlechter and Géza Maróczy first place in Munich . After Maróczy had resigned from the jump-off for first price for health reasons, Pillsburys argument with Schlechter resulted in a draw. Pillsbury came in second at the championship tournament of the German Chess Federation (13th DSB Congress) in Hanover in 1902 , which Janowski won. At the international tournaments of Monaco in 1902 and 1903 he came second. His last appearance in the international world class was at the Cambridge Springs tournament in 1904. Although he was able to defeat world champion Lasker here again, he did not end up on any of the top ranks. Except for a successful game against Frank Marshall in a team competition for the Franklin Chess Club , he did not play tournament chess until the end of his life.

His performances in the blind simul game also caused a sensation , in which he played more than 20 games simultaneously, took part in whist rounds and memorized long lists of senseless syllables under scientific supervision. These mental exertions were seen by many contemporaries as the cause of his untimely death at the age of only 33. In fact, Pillsbury died of syphilis .

His best historical rating was 2816. This he reached in July 1901. From January 1903 to April 1904 he was the world's best player.

In the main line of the Orthodox Defense , 7.… b7 – b6 leads to 8. c4xd5! e6xd5 by building up Ne5, Bd3, f4, 0–0 for the Pillsbury attack.



  • Jacques N. Pope: Harry Nelson Pillsbury, American chess champion . Pawn Island Press, Ann Arbor 1996.
  • Helmut Wieteck: The super-brain Harry Nelson Pillsbury on the 75th anniversary of his death . Schach-Echo 1981, Issue 13/14, pp. 212 to 215 (report and commented games).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ André Schulz : Genius and madness of Henry Nelson Pillsbury In: de.chessbase.com. December 5, 2017, accessed August 21, 2019.
  2. a b c d e f g Harry N. Pillsbury, Chess Genius, dead . New York Times, June 18, 1906, p. 6.
  3. Michael Ehn , Hugo Kastner: moments of fate in chess history: Dramatic decisions and historical turning points . Schlütersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Hannover 2014, ISBN 978-3-86910-206-1 , pp. 91, 92.
  4. Garri Kasparow : My great champions: The most important games of the world chess champions (Volume 1: Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker and the first unofficial world champions) . Edition Olms, Hombrechtikon / Zurich 2003, ISBN 3-283-00470-6 , p. 146.
  5. The International Tournament Munich 1900 (12th DSB Congress) on TeleSchach (cross table and all games)
  6. The International Tournament Hanover 1902 (13th DSB Congress) on TeleSchach (cross table and all games)
  7. Michael Ehn , Hugo Kastner: moments of fate in chess history: Dramatic decisions and historical turning points . Schlütersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Hannover 2014, ISBN 978-3-86910-206-1 , p. 92.
  8. Edward Winter : Pillsbury's death , Chess Notes 4948
  9. Harry Nelson Pillsbury's historic Elo numbers at chessmetrics.com (English)

Web links