1895 - Part I



Hastings 1908

Hastings, England - 1908

One of the most famous chess tournaments of all time took place at the site where William the Conqueror invaded England and fought the history-altering Battle of Hastings in 1066.  The tournament held in Hastings in 1895 was equally hard fought and history-altering, relative to the chess world. 

Brassey InstituteIn 1882, the residents of this port town formed the Hastings & St. Leonards Chess Club. The club grew and by the mid 1890s was able to, by virtue of substantial guaranteed prizes contributed by wealthy residents - which was doubled by contributions throughout England, attract the greatest names in chess to participate in their annual chess festival. This tournament was held at the Brassey Institute (now the Hastings Public Library, pictured above) and all the participants (except Pillsbury) stayed at the Queen's Hotel, where the Chess Club itself always met.

The tournament was played from August 5th until September 4th.

The Queen's Hotel

The seaside Queen's Hotel in Hastings (1909)

There were several things that made this tournament special, but the quality of the participants heads the list. Attracted by the prize fund: £150, £115, £85, £60, £40, £30 and £20 and £1 per win for non prize winners, the entry list included the current World Champion, a former World Champion, two former World Champion contenders and three future World Champion contenders. The winner, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, was none of these.  

Pillsbury, sponsored by the Brooklyn Chess Club, preferred not to stay with the other players feeling that the distractions would interfere with his preparations. The 22 year old American chess darling wasn't yet well known in the international chess scene and his ultimate success took everyone by surprise.

Although Pillsbury became famous, not just for his chess, but for his incredible photographic memory, it noteworthy that the 23 year old Dutch player Norman Willem van Lennep  whose entry was rejected by the organizers but stayed in Hastings as a reserve player and a journalist, also had a photographic memory. He would die just two years later at age 25.

The result of the tournament:

  1. Harry Nelson Pillsbury, 16.5 
  2. Mikhail Chigorin, 16.0
  3. Emmanuel Lasker, 15.5
  4. Siegbert Tarrasch, 14.0
  5. Wilhelm Steinitz, 13.0
  6. Emanuel Schiffers, 12.0
  7. Curt von Bardeleben, 11.5
  8. Richard Teichmann, 11.5
  9. Carl Schlechter, 11.0
  10. Joseph Henry Blackburne, 10.5
  11. Carl Walbrodt, 10.0
  12. Amos Burn, 9.5
  13. David Janowski, 9.5
  14. James Mason, 9.5
  15. Henry Bird, 9.0
  16. Isidor Gunsberg, 9.0
  17. Adolf Albin, 8.5
  18. Georg Marco, 8.5
  19. William Pollock, 8.0
  20. Jacques Mieses, 7.5
  21. Samuel Tinsley, 7.5
  22. Beniamino Vergani, 3.0

Young Geza Maróczy won the Minor Tournament, while Lady Edith Thomas (the mother of George Thomas), won the Ladies' Tournament. 

Hastings 1895 
Hastings 1895

   Front: Vergani, Steinitz, Tchigorin, Lasker, Pillsbury, Tarrasch, Mieses, Teichmann
   Back: Albin, Schlecter, Janowski, Marco, Blackburne, Maroczy, Schiffers, Gunsberg, Burn, Tinsley


The Hastings Tournament has endured ever since that time, making it the longest serial chess event. While several tournaments were held in the Summer months, the tradition has been mainly the Hastings Christmas Tournament. Tradition also has it that the participants annotate some of their own games for the accompanying tournament books.