Isidor Arthur Gunsberg Biography

Isidor Arthur Gunsberg was born on November 1, 1854, in Pest, Kingdom of Hungary.

He began his chess career operating the remote-controlled chess automaton Mephisto, which had been developed by his friend and mentor, Charles Stanley.

Gunsberg’s early life and career can be summarized as follows:

  • Toured Europe as a child prodigy, playing exhibitions against various opponents.
  • Moved to the United States in 1875.
  • In 1877, Gunsberg became the first player to defeat the chess automaton Mephisto in a series of exhibition games.
  • In 1878, he won a strong tournament in New York, which included his first victory against a leading American player, James E. Duff.
  • In 1881, Gunsberg won a match against the “American Chess Player” in a series of 15 games played before a live audience in New York City.
  • In 1882, he defeated the German champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, in a match played in New York City, but lost a rematch the following year.

World Chess Championship Challenge

In 1886, Gunsberg challenged Wilhelm Steinitz for the world chess championship. The match took place in New York City and had a purse of $10,000.

The first game was played on November 20, 1886, and the match was the first world championship contested in the United States. Gunsberg lost the match with four wins, six losses, and nine draws.

Later Career and Legacy

After the world championship challenge, Gunsberg continued to play chess professionally. His later career and legacy can be summarized as follows:

  • In 1889, Gunsberg won a strong tournament in London.
  • In 1890, he drew a match with Mikhail Chigorin, a former and future challenger for the world chess championship.
  • Gunsberg’s fame extended beyond the chess world. In 1885, he was featured on the cover of Frank Chance’s novel “Damaged Goods”.
  • In 1887, he was mentioned in Richard Dana Jr.’s novel “Two Years Before the Mast”.
  • Gunsberg’s fame was such that his name was used in an 1886 song titled “Isidor” by Harry Williams.
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Gunsberg passed away on May 2, 1930, in London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Playing Style

Isidor Arthur Gunsberg  was known for his tactical and romantic playing style, characterized by brilliant tactical blows, swashbuckling sacrifices, and buzzing piece activity.

However, some sources also describe him as a master of positional style, capable of creating more masterful plans of defense than attacks. His games were a blend of attacking play when necessary and skillful defensive strategies.