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         The History and The Culture of Chess

Hastings 1895
August  2007

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 Institute
In 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 ($750), 115 ($575), 85 ($425), 60 ($300), 40 ($200), 30 ($150) and 20 ($100)  and 1 ($5) per win for non prize winners (and double for any win against one of the top three prize winners); a special prize of a ring and a copy of Carlo Salvioli's Theory and Practice of Chess (Teoria e pratica del giuoco degli scacchi, 1877) went to whoever won the most Evans Gambits as either black or white; the first player to secure seven wins received a "richly produced, enlarged photograph of himself"; the non-prize-winner who had the best score against the top seven winners earned himself $25; separate unspecified cash prizes were given a Brilliancy Awards ]  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 Marczy won the Minor Tournament, while Lady Edith Thomas (the mother of Sir 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.

Picture from Pollock Memories, edited and published by Mrs. Frideswide F. Rowland of Kingstown, Ireland, Nov. 1889

William Henry Krause Pollock was one of the lesser known participants in Hastings 1895 - or maybe his shining light was just hard to see among such gleaming stars.  Unlike many of the players, Pollock was a complete amateur whose real profession was medicine.  He was born in Cheltenham, England  in 1859 and earned his licentiate from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland in 1882. He moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1889, but returned to England in 1895. He developed consumption, probably tuberculosis, and, after a brief residence in  Montreal, Canada in 1896, returned again to England where he died on October 5 of that year at age 37. His main chess accomplishments were to win the Irish Championship two years in succession (1885 and 1886), the second time with a perfect score of 8/8, even against such players as Amos Burn and Joesph Blackburne.

In Hastings 1895, Pollock came in towards the bottom - 19th out of 22, winning 6, losing 10 and drawing 4 for a score of 8/21. But his wins included games against 4th place Tarrasch and 5th place Steinitz, no mean trick.

Pollock's win against Steinitz is particularly interesting. Pillsbury, who lightly annotated the game for the tournament book, called the ending, "rather an amusing finish to a very interesting game."  It's doubtful that Steinitz, who was more accustomed to being the Amuser rather than the Amuse, was very much amused.

Pollock also annotated the game (for BCM).


                                                                                                                       Notes by Pollock
              (click each board once to activate)

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3

A favourite opening with Mr Steinitz in this tournament, in which he has beautifully demonstrated the efficiency of some new ideas contained in the last section of the Modern Chess Instructor.

Strangely enough, this valid old defence of the days of the Berlin Pleiades has escaped all notice in the work referred to. A little story comes in here: Previous to the championship match between Steinitz and Lasker, at the request of the latter I played the defence to the Giuoco in a few off-hand games with him at the Manhattan Chess Club. I adopted this old defence without success, although Lasker admitted it was new to him. But I told him that Steinitz would play it against him and beat him if he did not play the attack differently. (It is no easy matter to reply correctly to Laskers bad moves.) Lasker good humouredly suggested that we submit the theoretical question to Showalter. However, he did not adopt this attack against Steinitz. The points of the defence are well shown in the present game.


5 d4 Bb6 6 a4 a5 7 O-O d6 8 d5 
This is, as usual, a questionable advance.

8Nd8 9 Bd3 Nf6 
Whites ninth move was in order to prevent f5. Without doubt Black should now have played for the advance by 9g6.





10 Na3 c6 11 Nc4 Bc7 12 Ne3 Nh5 
If 12cxd5 13 Bb5+, followed by 14 Nxd5. Nor can Black well castle, on account of 13 Nh4, threatening to establish a knight at f5.

13 g3 g6 14 b4
Intending no doubt 15 dxc6 bxc6 16 b5, when it would be difficult to prevent the posting of the white knight at d5.

It is necessary for Black to attack, but the situation is a critical one.


15 Ng2 
15 dxc6 might have been tried as an alternative to prevent 15f4, for if then 15f4 16 cxb7, followed by Bb5+ and Nd5.
15cxd5 16 exd5
Preferable certainly seems 16 Bb5+ and if 16Bd7 17 exf5, with the threat of Nxe5 or Bg5 presently.

In order to keep the queens bishop out.

17 Re1 O-O 
Black has now an excellent position.



18 Nd4 Qf6 19 Nb5 Bb6 20 bxa5 Bxa5 21 Be2 Ng7 22 Bd2 Bd7 23 Rf1 Rac8 24 c4 Bb6 25 Be3 Bxe3 26 fxe3 Ng5 
Of  course an attack by g5 might be on the cards, but Black prefers the safer plan of Ne4 and Nc5, thus first securing the queens side.

27 Nc3 
Bad, as yielding the opponent a splendid opportunity for a kings side assault.

27... f4



28 Qc2 
If 28 gxf4 exf4, attacking the knight.

28f3 29 Nh4  
If the bishop moves, 29Nh3+, followed by 30fxg2+

29Nf5 30 Rxf3 
If 30 Nxf5 Bxf5 31 Bd3 f2+, etc.

30Nxf3+ 31 Nxf3 Nxe3 32 Qb1 Nxc4 33 Ne4 Qd8
34 Qxb7 Na5 35 Qb4 Bg4 36 Rf1 Bh3 37 Re1 Rb8
38 Qxd6 Qxd6 39 Nxd6 Rb2 40 Bd1 Rg2+ 41 Kh1 Rf2 42 Ne4 R2xf3 43 Bxf3 Rxf3 44 d6 Rf1+ 45 Rxf1 Bxf1 46 Kg1 Bd3
Not 46Bh3 on account of 47 g4.



47 Nf6+ Kf7 48 Nxh7 Ke6 49 Kf2 Kxd6 50 Ke3 Bc2
51 h4 Nc4+ 52 Ke2 Kd5  53 g4 Kd4
The ending is a good one for the gallery; either the king or pawn must advance with immediate effect.

 54 Nf8 Bd3+ 55 Ke1 Ke3 56 h5 gxh5  
Unnecessary; Black has a mate in four moves here.

57 gxh5 Be2 58 Nd7 Na3 59  
White resigns

                                        The game with Notes by Pillsbury:

Beniamino Vergani had come in second in the Italian championship to earn his place in the Hastings tournament.

Samuel Tinsley (1847-1903) scored even with Jacques Mieses. Tinsley was a chess correspondent of master's strength. He was born in Barnet, a small town outside of London..

Harry Nelson Pillsbury, who won the tournament, was a neophyte to international chess and a dark horse candidate for winning. But he did win and in impressive style. Dubbed the "Hero of Hastings," Pillsbury reached the apex of his chess career at Hastings.



Steinitz and Chigorin battle while Lasker and Pillsbury look on.

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