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Wilhelm Steinitz

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Born: May 17, 1836 in Prague, Bohemia (now Czech Republic)

Died: August 12, 1900 in New York City, USA

Playing Style and Legacy:

Steinitz is seen as the founder of the positional chess school. His play was a sharp change from the romantic, attacking chess popular throughout most of the 19th century. In fact, Steinitz too played this style of chess early in his career, but came to believe (correctly) that subtle, safe, positional play was necessary for truly mastering chess. At first, other top players found his theories strange, but proof of their validity came through Steinitz's match victories.

At times, Steinitz's revolutionary style was also his greatest weakness. He often felt the need to dogmatically defend his approach, even playing inferior moves and positions to prove his theories were correct through experimentation.

World Championship Matches:

1886: Defeated Johannes Zukertort 12.5-7.5 (+10 =5 -5) to become first official World Chess Champion

1889: Defeated Mikhail Chigorin 10.5-6.5 (+10 =1 -6) to retain World Chess Championship

1890-1891: Defeated Isidor Gunsberg 10.5-8.5 (+6 =9 -4) to retain World Chess Championship

1892: Defeated Mikhail Chigorin 12.5-10.5 (+10 =5 -8) to retain World Chess Championship

1894: Lost to Emanuel Lasker 12-7 (+5 =4 -10); Lasker becomes World Chess Champion

1896-1897: Lost to Emanuel Lasker 12.5-4.5 (+2 =5 -10)

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Won 1861 Vienna Championship with 30/31 score
  • Won 1862 London Championship with perfect 7/7 score
  • Defeated Adolf Anderssen 8-6 (+8 -6) in 1866 match
  • Won London 1872 tournament with 7.5/8 score
  • Shared first in major Vienna tournaments of 1873 and 1883
  • Won 1894 New York Championship with 8.5/10 score
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