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Chigorin, Mikhail

Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1850-1908), was born on November 12 (October 31, Old Style), 1850 near St. Petersburg.   In 1860, he parents died and at the age of 10, he became an orphan.  In 1867, at the age 16, he learned chess from his school teacher.  In 1870, he settled in St. Petersburg after completing his education.  In 1872, he took a government job as a clerk in a state institution.  In 1873 he started playing chess seriously and hustling chess at the Cafe Dominika in St Petersburg. He was 23. By the age of 28, he would be the strongest chess player in Russia.  In 1874/75 - 3rd place in a St Petersburg handicap tournament.  In 1875, he gave up his government post job to be a full time chessplayer after being encouraged by Winawer.

He was the first public chess worker, organizer, and journalist in Russia.  His first chess magazine, Shakmatny Listok  (Chess Sheet), first published in September 1876, only had 200-250 subscribers in all of Russia.  He published it from 1876 to 1881.  The chess magazine operated at a loss due to lack of sufficient subsribers, but Chigorin supported it from his own modest personal means.

From 1885 to 1887, he published Chess Herald.   In 1894, he published Chess.   From 1891 to 1890, he wrote the chess section in the weekly World Illustration.  From 1890 to 1908, he wrote a chess column for the New Time magazine.

From 1878 to 1907 he was considered the best Russian chess player. In 1878/79, he took 1st place in the All-Russian chess tournament in St. Petersburg.  In 1880, he organized the first Russian chess club in St. Petersburg.

From August 29 to September 17, 1881, the 2nd German Chess Federation tournament was held in Berlin. This was Chigorin's International chess debut. He took 3rd-4th place with Szymon Winawer. Joseph Henry Blackburne took 1st place. Johannes Zukertort took 2nd.

By 1884 Chigorin was one of the top 7 players in the world.

In 1889, he unsuccessfully challenged Steinitz for the world championship in Havana, which ended after 17 games and only one draw (the last game).  Steinitz had won 10 and lost 6.  Chigorin was supplied free brandy, which he drank during the match. Steinitz drank champagne during the match.

A month later Chigorin won America's first international tournament, the 6th American Chess Congress in New York.  It was held from march 25 to May 27, 1889.  Chigorin took 1st-2nd place (along with Weiss). He won 27 games, the most tournament wins ever in a major tournament. His score was 29 out of 38 games.

In 1890-1891 he defeated William Steinitz in a telegraph match, winning two games.

From January 2 to February 28, 1892. Chigorin played in the 4th World championship match in Havana with Steinitz. Steinitz won 10, lost 8, drew 5. Chigorin made one of the worst blunders of a world championship game when on the 23rd and last match game, he moved a Bishop to attack a Rook which led to an overlooked check, threatening mate. Chigorin turned beet red after he played his final move. Before the Bishop move, he had a won game. If Chigorin had won his game, he would have tied with Steinitz. The match would have been continued until one of the players won 12 games.

Chigorin - Steinitz, Game 23, 4th World Championship, Feb 28, 1892 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e5 Nh5 5.Be2 g6 (5...d5 or 5...d6) 6.d4 Bg7 7.O-O d6 8.Nc3 O-O 9.Ne1 dxe5 10.Bxh5 gxh5 11.dxe5 Qxd1 12.Nxd1 Nc6 13.Bxf4 Bf5 14.Ne3 Be4 15.Nf3 Rfe8 16.Ng5 Bg6 17.Nd5 Bxe5 18.Nxc7 Bxc7 19.Bxc7 Rac8 20.Bg3 Nd4 21.c3 Ne2+ 22.Kf2 h4 (22...Nxg3) 23.Bd6 Nd4? (23...Bh5) 24.cxd4 Rc2+ 25.Kg1 Ree2 26.Rae1 Rxg2+ 27.Kh1 Kg7 28.Re8 f5 29.Ne6+ Kf6 30.Re7 Rge2 (30...Rxh2+) 31.d5 Rcd2 (31...Rxh2+) 32.Bb4?? (32.Rxb7 wins. If 32...Rxd5 33.Nf4)Rxh2+ (33.Kg1 Rdg2 mate) 0-1

He took second place in the Hastings 1895 tournament (behind Harry Nelson Pillsbury).  He also won a ring and a copy of Salvoli's The Theory and Practice of Chess for winning the most Evans Gambits. 

From September 14 to October 1, 1899 he played in the 1st All Russian Chess Congress in Moscow and took 1st place. From January 8-27, 1901, he played in the 2nd All Russian Chess Congress in Moscow and took 1st place.  From September 1-26, 1903, he played in the 3rd All Russian Congress in Kiev and took 1st place.

From April 25 to May 19, 1904, he played at Cambridge Springs and took 6th-7th. We won 6, drew 3, and lost 6 games. At the time, Chigorin was the 2nd strongest player in the world, behind World Champion Emanuel Lasker.

From August 20 to September 7, 1907, he played at Carlsbad and took 16th-18th place. After this tournament, he was told he only had a few more months to live. He had an advanced and untreatable case of diabetes.  So he returned to his estranged wife and his daughter, both living in Lublin, Poland.

On January 12, 1908 Chigorin died of diabetes in Lublin at the age of 57. Heavy drinking had destroyed his liver.

His lifetime score against Steinitz was 24 wins, 8 draws, and 27 losses.

In match play, Chigorin won 106 games, lost 71, drew 37, for a total of 214 match games.

His peak rating was around 2695 and he was one of the top 10 players in the world from 1880 until 1907.

In 1958 Russia issued a chess stamp honoring Chigorin. In 2000 Russia issued another chess stamp in honor of Chigorin's 150th birth anniversary.

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