The Steinitz Papers

Letters and Documents of the First World Chess Champion


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About the Book

One of the greatest of chess masters, William Steinitz (he changed his name from Wilhelm when he arrived in America) is recognized as the first world champion. More exactly (and thanks to the efforts of the editor of this book, Kurt Landsberger) he has been officially acknowledged as the first American world chess champion. Many letters and postcards survive: After years of unflagging effort to acquire all known letters to and from Steinitz, the editor has compiled a remarkable record of Steinitz and his contemporaries. Each letter, postcard, scrapbook item, newspaper or chess magazine article or other writing is described along with details of its location, ownership, and circumstances of discovery. It is then printed, nearly always in full, in English (many are translated from the German by Landsberger).

About the Author(s)

Kurt Landsberger, born in Prague with the name Steinitz, is the champion’s great-grandnephew. He divides his time between Verona, New Jersey, and Delray Beach, Florida. Grandmaster Andy Soltis, eight times champion of the Marshall Chess Club, New York Post editor and Chess Life columnist, is the author of dozens of chess books. He lives in New York City.

Bibliographic Details

William Steinitz
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 360
Bibliographic Info: 45 photos & facsimiles (42 on glossy plates), 19 diagrams, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2010 [2002]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4704-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

To the Reader     1

Introduction     3

About the Letters     9


The First Years     21

Mason, Hoffer, Zukertort and Steinitz     28

A Glimpse of the New World     37

No “Shadowy Anonymus”     50


The Hydra-Headed Monster     71

Cuba, Chess and Congress     92

Steinitz the Author     107

“One of the Chosen People…”     117

Tschigorin and Gunsberg     131

Johnson’s Universal Cyclopaedia     150

The American Chess Master from New Jersey     159

Steinitz and Lasker     161


Hastings, St. Petersburg and Rostov     203

Letters to Pillsbury     209

Dr. Reider’s Medical Conclusions     227

Graphology     244

The Referee     246

The Last Years     252

Contracts     266


Those Whose Lives Touched That of William Steinitz<     279

Acknowledgments     313

Index     317

Book Reviews & Awards

“welcome…very useful…fascinating”—The Washington Post; “absorbing reading…recommended…a very rich collection of material”—British Chess Magazine; “high-quality…lively and entertaining…book deserves high praise… should be enjoyed by anyone who reads chess history”—IM John Donaldson (; “the book offers a wealth of archival material…it includes valuable documents, photographs, facsimiles and game scores. There is an illuminating commentary throughout”—Chessville Reviews; “impressive…an outstanding work”—Chess Mail; “the author, Steinitz’s great-grandnephew, presents all known letters to and from Steinitz”—Chess Horizons; “high-quality…lively and entertaining…the book deserves high praise”—; “an amazing collection of correspondences and documents that span Steinitz’s chess life…any true history buff or fan of Steinitz would love this collection and derive an immense amount of pleasure from it…the book is a historic gem…there is simply nothing else out there that can provide the kind of detailed information that this book has. It is a phenomenal book for the serious study of the interesting World Champion”—; “well researched and well written”—Seagaard Chess Reviews; “outstanding”—Time Travel-Journal for Chess Players.