07 October 2020

Early World Championship Tournament Play

Continuing with two posts on the early World Championships...

...in that second post I quoted H.J.R.Murray from his 'History of Chess'...

After 1860 the opinion that the Tournament was not the best way of discovering the strongest player of the day became general, and the match became the recognized test.

...and wondered...

On what evidence did [Murray] conclude that 'the opinion became general'? I'm afraid that might be looking for a needle in a haystack, but a good place to start would be the Early Chess Periodicals that I collected last year.

That 'Early Chess Periodicals' post leads to Tabulating the Rabbit Hole (June 2019), where I counted the number of early periodicals in my digital collection by year. For the 1860s, that totals 46 annual volumes; for the 1870s (through 1878), 14 volumes.

Since that is too many volumes for practical guidance, I turned to another good source, 'Chess: the History of a Game' by Richard Eales (Batsford, London, 1985), for further guidance. Here is a long paragraph from the book.

Eales p.152

There are two passages in that excerpt relevant to the issue of match vs. tournament play. The first is:-

In 1866 Steinitz met Anderssen in a match in London, both players being backed entirely by stakes subscribed in England. Steinitz won by eight games to six, and this was the basis of his later claims to have been 'chess champion for twenty-eight years', though contemporaries were not so sure. Now over fifty (he was born in 1818), Anderssen won the Baden tournament of 1870 and defeated Steinitz in both their individual games, though Steinitz finally established his superiority in the Vienna tournament of 1873.

The second is:-

When in 1883 [Zukertort] convincingly won the great London tournament, Steinitz challenged him to a match rather than the other way round, so recognizing that the title of champion was still at the mercy of public opinion.

The first passage mentions the 1870 and 1873 tournaments as having an influence on thinking about the early World Championship. Those are the same tournaments that I flagged in the 'Official Unofficial' post. The second passage mentions the 1883 tournament. Since I've already documented the 1883 event, perhaps I should look more closely at the two earlier events. The 'Tabulating' post counts only a handful of periodicals from the early 1870s. Even though they are in the German language, it's a manageable number.

One more thought: there must have been a 'list zero' of unofficial early World Championship events. Since an introduction to chess history consists of parroting what recognized historians have already documented -- that's how I started -- there must be a chain of lists of unofficial early events. Who compiled the first such lists? Where were they published or otherwise documented? Perhaps the first official World Championship, the 1886 Steinitz - Zukertort match, is a logical place to start looking.

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