The Godfather of Chess: Wilhelm Steinitz

The Godfather of Chess: Wilhelm Steinitz‎

GM Julio_Becerra
27 | Chess Players

Part 1: The Austrian Morphy

Wilhelm Steinitz, born in Prague on May 14, 17 or 18, 1835 or 1836! (the date has never been ascertained) was the last of thirteen children in a very poor family and the first acknowledged World Champion of chess. He was recognized as the world's leading player after he defeated Adolf Anderssen in a match in 1866, but it was not until his defeat of Johannes Zukertort twenty years later that he was recognized as the first undisputed world chess champion. Some contemporaries and later writers described him as world champion since 1866, when he won the match against Anderssen.

Steinitz was the first chess player to gain money from his tournament and match victories but he did not make enough to retire comfortably. “Fame, I have already. Now I need the money.” He said.

He completely changed the game as it was played by the romantics, and most likely he was the foundation upon which all modern technique of chess has been built! He started out as a player in the romantic tradition, going all out for sacrifice and combination. Then he developed a series of concepts that made him all but unbeatable during the twenty-eight years that he was the leading player. Steinitz himself wrote: “I was champion of the world for twenty-eight years, because I was twenty years ahead of my time. I played on certain principles, which neither Zukertort nor anyone else of his time understood”. Extraordinary!

“While Morphy was mainly concerned with the open game,” Reti wrote in Master of the Chessboard, “Steinitz endeavored to find the rules and principles underlying the closed positions.” That style involved what he described as “an accumulation of small advantages.”

All of Steinitz's successes up to 1872 inclusive were achieved in the attack-at-all-costs "Romantic" style exemplified by Anderssen. I have selected for this first issue about Steinitz’s approach in chess some positions from his early years, when he was called ‘The Austrian Morphy’!

More combinations from the Godfather:

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