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Steinitz, William (Wilhelm)

William (Wilhelm) Steinitz (1836-1900) was the official world champion from 1866 to 1894.  Steinitz took 6th place in the London 1851 tournament.  After the tournament, he challenged the 5th place finisher to a match. Steinitz won.  It would be another 31 years and 25 matches before anyone could defeat him.  He won prize money in every tournament he ever played in except his last tournament, London 1899.  The first recognized world champion who won the first official world championship match against Zuckertort in 1886.  Steinitz started badly, being 1-4 down, but finally won with a 12.5 - 7.5 score.  His daughter sold programs and photographs to spectators during the New York phase of the world championship match to earn a few extra dollars for the family.  They couldn't afford a winter coat for her as she stood shivering in the vestibule in the cold January weather.  He held the world chess championship for 27 years (from age 31 to age 58).  After he lost his title, he showed signs of mental illness.  He challenged God to a match and occasionally beat Him at chess with pawn odds.  He believed he could move chess pieces through mental telepathy.  He imagined he could draw energy from the earth and emit electrical currents.  He was once held against his will in an insane asylum in Moscow in 1897.  He had the delusion that he was phoning somebody in New York.  He was sent to the asylum protesting violently. However, he enjoyed the food and played chess with other inmates.   He stayed a week.  He died in the East River mental asylum on  New York's Ward Island, penniless, in 1900.  When he died he left a wife and two small children destitute.  He once spit on Blackburne and Blackburne hit him.  From 1873 to 1882, Steinitz won 25 games in a row.  He won 16 straight games at Vienna in 1873, 7 straight games from Blackburne in a match in London in 1876, then the first 2 games at Vienna in 1882 before drawing to Mackenzie in round 3.  He moved to the United States in 1883 and became a naturalized citizen in 1884.  In 1896, Steinitz had to convince the Russian government that he was not telegraphing State secrets when he was telegraphing chess moves back to New York while he played in a chess tournament in St. Petersburg.  Irving Chernev, in a 1935 issue of Chess Review,  states that Steinitz was arrested as a spy for telegraphing chess moves.  Steinitz claimed he was the 13th of 13 children, which may not be true.  He is buried at Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn, bethel slope plot, lot 5896, grave number 5893.  His grave says that he was born May 14, 1837, but other sources say he was born May 17, 1836.

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