Sometimes I read postings
that are worth preserving but which I know will eventually be lost in the
tide of the mundane. Here's a worthwhile discussion about Steinitz's claim
to the title of World Champion prior to his 1886 match with Zukertort.
Wilhelm Steinitz played many matches, and won almost all of them. The only
exception being his two losses to Lasker. Wilhelm Steinitz, was a Champion
in every sense of the word. He was always willing to take on all comers.
After he defeated Anderssen Steinitz became the (self proclaimed) World
Champion. Many others had serious reservations in placing so much weight
on a single match. It was because, as chancho
notes, willing to take on all comers
that enabled Steinitz to keep his title and later actually become
recognized as the World Champion. It was also Steinitz himself that
publicized the term 'World Champion". Probably a good example of the
'Power of Positive Thinking'.
If his claim as champion after the Anderssen match was recognized, his 28
years,1866 to 1894, would be the record. Not Lasker's 27 years as
Nobody has yet produced any record of Steinitz (or anyone else) making a
claim in the 1860s that Steinitz was the World Champion. Steinitz himself
argued (in 1874) that he had a claim to the title of champion, by noting
that he had "not yet lost any set match on even terms" and had "come out
victorious in the last two international tournaments". Is that the
argument of someone who believed that he had won the title in 1866? As far
as we can tell, it was much later when claims were made about Steinitz
having been World Champion since 1866.
lblai you may have a point there, but some players from the past
thought he was champion after the Anderssen match. Reti wrote in his book
Masters of the Chessboard, "In 1866 Steinitz played a match against
Anderssen again the leading player after Morphy's retirement, and won 8:6
without a draw. Although the title did not exist at the time, Steinitz had
actually become World Champion. Raymond Keene wrote in his pocket book of
Chess, "Steinitz unofficial reign as World champion began in 1866,but it
was only in 1886 that Steinitz felt able to call himself World Champion
after defeating his greatest rival Zukertort". I cannot say for sure that
Steinitz claimed he was champion after the Anderssen Match. I just
followed the ckr post, saying if 1866 was
recognized as the start of his reign, he would have been champ for 28
years. I did say something about a claim but I mistakenly wrote that in.
lblai Nobody has yet produced any record
of Steinitz (or anyone else) making a claim in the 1860s
Kurt Landsberger's book pg.66
"When Steinitz defeted Anderssen he announced that he
was the World Champion. Nobody objected to his claim, especially since
Steinitz was always willing and never hesitant in defending his title."
. . . . .
"In Williams Winter's analysis of Staunton, Anderssen Morphy and
Steinitz as World Champions of the 19th century he explains that of
these, [Just on what he said about Steinitz] Steinitz after his victory
over Anderssen was the first to claim himself World Champion, and his
right to the title was generally recognized by the chess world."
Reading from this source it would appear that Steinitz did
indeed claim himself to be World Champion, as to how wide the recognition
was (or how well accepted) I am not sure of.
Kurt Landsberger did indeed make the claim that
Steinitz announced that he was the World Champion when he defeated
Anderssen in 1866. However, when asked for specifics to back up that
claim, he had absolutely nothing from the 1860s to document the claim. He
had simply believed what he had read in another history book. Chess
history authors are notorious for making assertions without checking the
One can see Kurt Landsberger writing on the subject (and quoting nothing
from the 1860s) in the third issue of the Quarterly for Chess History. It
seems like a good guess that he had relied on what William Winter wrote.
Unfortunately, Kings of Chess does not inspire confidence. In the
introduction, 1867 (instead of 1866) is given as the year of the Steinitz
victory over Anderssen, and, in the first chapter, William Winter confuses
the 1909 non-championship Lasker-Janowski match with the 1910 championship
Lasker- Janowski match. In Championship Chess, P. W. Sergeant asserted
that Steinitz "did not claim any title when he defeated Anderssen in a
match in 1866". According to William Hartston, "In later years, Steinitz
was to backdate his tenure of the World Championship to that match with
Anderssen in 1866 ..., though at the time there was no suggestion of any
title at stake."
An 1866 claim that Steinitz was world champion would have been
the subject of considerable discussion. I found no such discussion in 1866
issues of the magazine, Chess World.
found no such discussion in 1866 issues of the magazine
You have access to excellent resources. It is unfortunate that those type
of references are not available over the net for all to view. Also, I
agree, something so newsworthy certainly would have appeared in print
somewhere. I also remember reading something that stated Steinitz was not
comfortable claiming the World Championship while Morphy was still alive.
Apparently, another myth is the belief that Steinitz was not comfortable
claiming the World Championship while Morphy was still alive. As early as
1874, Steinitz was willing to argue that he had a claim to the title. (See
my Jul-23-05 note above.)
lblai As early as 1874, Steinitz was
willing to argue that he had a claim to the title.
If you could provide some references and quotes to support the statement
it would be greatly appreciated.
During this period Landsberger continues to refer to 1866 regarding the
title, however, none of the sources being quoted in his book seem to
support the claim he has made. Also, there is no mention of Steinitz
making assertions or defending his claim to the title during the period
you mention. (as that would contradict previous statements in the book).
Prior to the 1886 match at a banquet a toast was proposed to the world
champion and both Zukertort and Steinitz rose, marking the event as the
first official world championship, to which both players had agreed.
Later, Landsberger again asserts that Steinitz had claimed the title since
he was 30 and that 20 years later the world believed him.
I would conclude that because the stakes and title of world champion were
recognized prior to the match play that any previous claims (self
proclaimed or not) were not completely accepted and this match would be
the deciding factor.
The 1874 Steinitz quote (along with information about where the quote
originally appeared) can be found in the Steinitz entry of The Oxford
Companion to Chess.
It appears to be yet another myth that both Steinitz and Zukertort rose
after a toast proposed to the world champion. Landsburger found an account
of the 1884 dinner. "Neither Steinitz nor Zukertort responded to the
toast," Landsberger wrote on page 41 of his book, The Steinitz Papers.
If Morphy is considered a World Champion before the title even existed,
Then Steinitz should also have that acknowledgement as well, commencing
with his defeat of Anderssen in 1866. But it appears that he never did
consider himself a World Champion until his match with Zukertort in 1886.
As I have noted before, Kurt Landsberger did indeed make the claim that
Steinitz announced that he was the World Champion when he defeated
Anderssen in 1866.
However, as ckr notes, none of the sources
quoted in Landsberger's book seem to support the claim. Referring to the
subject in the third issue of the Quarterly for Chess History, Landsberger
again had no 1860 quotes of anyone commenting on whether or not Steinitz
was world champion. It seems like a good guess that Landsberger had
(unwisely) chosen to believe Kings of Chess by William Winter.
Unfortunately, that book does not inspire confidence. In the introduction,
1867 (instead of 1866) is given as the year of the Steinitz victory over
Anderssen, and, in the first chapter, William Winter confuses the 1909
non-championship Lasker- Janowski match with the 1910 championship Laker-Janowski
As early as 1874, Steinitz was willing to argue that he had a claim to the
title. (See my Jul-23-05 note above.)
lblai, From pg.36 Landsberger
Staunton writes, "... the defeat of the Prussian
champion by an antagonist scarcely recognized among the magnates must
have appeared incredible .... Mr. Anderssen was beaten because his day
for match playing is over ...." The October issue of Chess World
wondered about "... the unjust elevation which they would assign to the
latter [Steinitz] ... though his claim to be placed in the first rank
rests on this match alone" (112). Despite his victory over Anderssen,
Steinitz was still not regarded as his equal (3).
When Morphy previously defeated Anderssen, it was just another chess
match. When Steinitz defeated Anderssen he announced that he was the
world champion. Nobody objected to his claim, especially since Steinitz
was always willing and never hesitant in defending his title (109, 128,
etc.). Morphy would have been entitled to such a title if he would have
accepted and won challenges against Paulsen and Kolisch. Since he did
not care to do this, the question of the championship was left open
until the claim of Steinitz (112). Steinitz by intuition was a great
public relations expert. With mastery of the English language, Steinitz
acquired a journalist's appreciation of the value of terms, and the
title - world champion - he made for himself was destined to stay, and
to be taken up all over the world. It is difficult to imagine why no
previous journalist had thought of popularizing the title. We must give
Steinitz the credit of making a title to fit that supremacy. He had a
firm conviction of the importance of chess among the activities of the
human brain, and still firmer conviction of the glory of being the best
player at it. "Here I am William Steinitz," he is alleged to have said,
"the youngest child of a poor rabbi; and I am Steinitz, the Chess
Champion of the World" (112) (He was in fact neither the youngest nor
the son of a rabbi.)
For years to come little was said about the title, until the 1886
Steinitz and Zukertort agreed that the loser would recognize the winner
as the world champion (46). Chess historians seem to agree that Steinitz
not only claimed, but also invented this new title.
In Williams Winter's analysis of Staunton, Anderssen Morphy and Steinitz
as World Champions of the 19th century he explains that of these, [Just
on what he said about Steinitz] Steinitz after his victory over
Anderssen was the first to claim himself World Champion, and his right
to the title was generally recognized by the chess world... (128)"
(3) Zukertort. Yorklyn, Del.:Cassia Editions 1989
(109) Schonberg, H. Grandmasters of Chess. Philadephia:J.B.Lippincott,
(112) Championship Chess. New York:Sterling, 1960
(128) Winter, W. Kings of Chess, New York:Pitman Press 1954
lblai The October issue of Chess World
Can you quote from it? Then Landsberger cites (112) as a reference and
not Chess World??
Landsberger (seems to me) to imply that it was Steinitz own Journalism
that lays this claim and coining of the term World Champion as it is noted
as being self a proclaimed title.
However, the Oxford Chess Companion lists Steinitz' literary contributions
Ashore or Afloat (1883)
New York Tribune(1890)
New York Herald(1890-93)
The Field (1873-82)
International Chess Magazine (1885-91)
The OCC [Oxford Companion to Chess] does not show that in 1866 he was
contributing to a publication in which he could have published his claim.
Very muddy waters.
lblai Referring to the subject in the third issue
of the Quarterly for Chess History
Year and quote would be greatly appreciated.
As to Morphy not accepting Paulsen and Kolisch challenges and not being
able to lay the claim and coining of the term world champion (bunkum).
After the Mongredien match the Era quotes Mongredian toasting
Morphy at the London Chess Club to the "Health of the Champion of the
Chess World". Not exactly 'World Champion' but the implication is the same
indicating that the conceptual idea of a world champion existed well
Lowenthal aknowledged after the 1872 Zukertort match that Steinitz may be
fairly regarded as the present occupant of that exceptional position
formerly held by Morphy and Burn wrote that Steinitz was "now probably the
strongest player in the world".
As early as 1874, Steinitz was willing to argue
that he had a claim to the title.
I would agree and justifiably so, perhaps even back to the 1866 Anderssen
However, the question is did he make the claim in 1866.
The 1866 Staunton quote does not mention the idea of considering Steinitz
to be World Champion.
Schonberg (author of Grandmasters of Chess) wrote, "when Steinitz won, he
trumpeted the fact everywhere and announced that he was the world's
champion. There was no dispute about the claim; no magazines, newspapers,
or, indeed, the chess world rose to object." Judging from the 1866
Staunton quote, it is unlikely that there would have been no dispute after
a well-publicized world champion claim in 1866 by Steinitz. Schonberg was
another author who (like William Winter) apparently did not put much care
into checking his facts. His discussion of the Morphy-Staunton dispute is
a mess. (Schonberg's book was published in the 1970s.)
P. W. Sergeant made his position clear in Championship Chess, asserting
that Steinitz "did not claim any title when he defeated Anderssen in a
match in 1866".
As I have mentioned before, Landsberger's book produced no 1866 quote
about Steinitz being world champion. Referring to the subject in the third
issue of the Quarterly for Chess History, Landsberger again had no 1866
quotes of anyone commenting on whether or not Steinitz was world champion.
It seems like a good guess that Landsberger had (unwisely) chosen to
believe Kings of Chess by William Winter.
Schonberg may have made the same mistake.
I can not quote everything that Landsberger did write. That would be too
much to type. The same goes for the October 1866 issue of Chess World. In
any event, what is needed is for an 1866 world championship quote to be
produced by someone who claims that such a quote exists.
lblai, Thanks, so what I bought thinking it may be a good biography
on Steinitz may be full of more bunkum than facts. Now where is that sales
I, myself, would not be too hard on Landsberger. His mistake was to
unwisely trust some chess history books. For a newcomer to the chess
history subject, that is an easy mistake to make. I think the Steinitz
biography book is still worthwhile in view of the large amount of primary
source material that it contains.
By the way, there is not an obvious choice for the year of the third issue
of the Quarterly for Chess History. On the cover, it says: Autumn 1999,
but that probably does not correspond very well to when it was published.
Inside the book, the date, "October 14, 2000", appears.