Herman Steiner was born in Dunaszerdahely, Austria-Hungary (now Dunajska Streda, Slovakia) on April 15, 1905. He came to New York city at a young age. At age 16, he was a member of the Hungarian Chess Club and the Stuyvesant Chess Club.
In 1921, at the age of 16, Steiner and his family came to the USA from Hungary.
In August-September 1925, Steiner tied for 6th-7th in the 26th Western Chess Association (26th US Open), held at the Hotel Breakers in Cedar Point, Ohio. The tournament was won by Abraham Kupchik (1892-1970).
In 1926, Steiner took 6th-8th in the 1925-26 Manhattan Chess Club championship, won by Kupchik.
In August-September 1926, Steiner won the preliminary A section of the 27th US Open, held in Chicago. He took 2nd place in the finals, behind Leon Stolzenberg (1895-1974).
In 1927, Steiner took 8th-9th place in the 1926-27 Manhattan Chess Club championship, won by Geza Maroczy (1870-1951).
In August 1927, Steiner took 3rd place in 49th New York State championship, held in Rome, New York. The event was won by Rudolph Smirka (1887-1947), who had also won it in 1923.
In August-September 1927, tied for 3rd-5th in the first National Chess Federation Congress, held at the New Burdick Hotel in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The tournament was won by Norman Whitaker (1890-1975).
In 1928, Steiner took 3rd-5th in the Manhattan Chess Club championship, won by Kupchik.
In July-August 1928, he was a member of the USA team that played in the 2nd Chess Olympiad in The Hague. Steiner played board 2, behind Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985). USA won the silver medal, behind Hungary.
In January 1929, he was first in the Premier Reserves at Hastings, England, with 7 wins and 2 draws.
In June 1929, he was 8th out of 10 at Bradley Beach, New Jersey. Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) won the event.
In August 1929, Steiner tied for first place with Jacob Bernstein (1890-1958) in the 51st New York State chess championship, held in Buffalo. Steiner won the play-off with 2 wins against Bernstein.
In August-September 1929, he took 2nd-4th place in the 30th US Open, held in Saint Louis. Herman Hahlbohm (1886-1963) won the event.
In July 1930, he was a member of the USA team that played in the 3rd Chess Olympiad at Hamburg.
In February 1931, he won an international tournament in Berlin.
In April-May 1931, he took 4th-6th at an international tournament in New York. The event was won by Jose Capablanca (1888-1942).
In 1931, he was a member of the USA team that played in the 4th Chess Olympiad at Prague. The USA team won and took home the Hamilton-Russell trophy. Steiner had the best winning percentage of the Americans, with 7 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses.
In May-June 1932, Steiner lost a match, scoring 4.5-5.5, against Reuben Fine (1914-1993), played in New York.
In July-August 1932, Steiner took 4th place in the 33rd US Open, held in Minneapolis. The event was won by Reuben Fine.
In August 1932, Steiner traveled from New York to Pasadena, California to participate in the Pasadena International Tournament (Chess Congress Masters Tournament), held at the Maryland Hotel in Pasadena. He tied for 4th-6th with the score of 6-5. Alexander Alekhine won the event.
In 1932, he decided to stay in Los Angeles, California.
On January 7, 1933, Herman Steiner played 80 boards with four players at each table (320 players total) at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. He won 70, lost 7, and drew 3.
In January 1933, Herman Steiner formed the International Chess Club (later the Hollywood Chess Group, then the Herman Steiner Chess Club). The club was first headquartered at the Hollywood Athletic Club at 6521 Sunset Boulevard, where he conducted a weekly chess lecture and chess class. He later formed a clubhouse next to his residence at 108 North Formosa Avenue in West Hollywood. Members and visitors of the club included Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Boyer, Rosemary Clooney, Fritz Feld, Jose Ferrer, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Louis Hayward, Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, Josef von Sternberg, and Billy Wilder.
In February 1933, Herman Steiner and his chess club sponsored a movie artists' concert to raise money for a new house project. The master of ceremonies was Neil Hamilton (1899-1984), best known for his role as Commissioner Gordon on the Batman TV series.
In March 1933, Richard Schayer became the new president of the Hollywood Chess Club (renamed the Hollywood Chess and Bridge Club), which moved to the 6735 Yucca Street in Hollywood. Herman Steiner organized the events and gave simuls.
On April 11, 1933, Jose Capablanca, in costume, played a game of living chess with Herman Steiner at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The game was referred by Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959), the famous producer, who announced the moves. Capablanca mated Steiner in 25 moves (the game was pre-arranged). Capablanca later was the guest of honor at Steiner’s wedding reception.
In July 1933, Steiner became chess editor of the Los Angeles Times and helped promote chess in the area. He would remain chess editor until his death in 1955.
By 1934, the Hollywood Chess Group had about 50 members from the movie industry. In May 1934, Herman Steiner decided to merge his chess classes with the Hollywood Chess Club.
In August 1934, he took 7th place in the 56th New York State championship, held in Syracuse, New York.
In 1934-1935, he tied for 1st place with Reuben Fine and Arthur Dake (1910-2000) at a tournament in Mexico City.
In June 1935, he lost a match, against Arthur Dake, played in Los Angeles. He had one win, one draw, and 4 losses.
In September 1935, the Hollywood Chess Club moved to a new clubhouse in the Lawlor Professionals’ School Building at 6107 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood. The club president was LeRoy Johnson with Steiner organizing and promoting events.
In 1936, the Hollywood Chess Club, with Steiner playing first board, drew a short-wave radio match, using Morse Code, with the Hawaii Army Chess Club. This may have been the first overseas radio chess match.
In 1938, the Hollywood Chess Group moved to the same Hollywood Boulevard building as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Writers Guild. The club was at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue (1655 North Cherokee Ave). Steiner provided chess lessons to its members.
In November 1939, the Hollywood Chess Group sponsored the California State Championship. The event was won by Philip Woliston (1920- ), age 19. 2nd-3rd place went to Herman Steiner and Harry Borochow (1898-1993). George Koltanowski (1903-2000) took 4th place.
In 1940, Steiner took 2nd place, behind Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992), in the American Chess Federation Championship.
By the 1940s, the Hollywood Chess Group had over 100 members.
In 1941, the Hollywood Chess Group helped raise money for the British War Relief. Herman Steiner played 400 players on 100 boards, winning 83, drawing 11, and losing 6 games in 9 hours and 20 minutes.
In 1942, he tied for 1st place with Daniel (Abe) Yanovsky at the 43rd U.S. Open, held in Dallas.
In 1943, Steiner won the California Open State Championship with the score of 17-0.
In November 1944, the Hollywood Chess Group helped raise money for the Russian War Relief. Herman Steiner gave a number of simultaneous exhibitions.
In 1944, he lost a match against Reuben Fine in Washington, D.C.
In January, 1945, Adolf Fink (1890-1956) and Herman Steiner tied for 1st in the California State Championship, held at the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco. It was a 10-player round robin.
In 1945, Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) and his new wife (they were just married and both were chess players), Lauren Bacall (1924- ), along with Charles Boyer (1899-1978) and Herman Steiner, appeared on the cover of the June-July Chess Review magazine. The shot was taken during the filming of The Confidential Agent.
In July-August 1945, the Hollywood Chess Group and the Los Angeles Times, with the help of Herman Steiner, organized the Pan-American International Tournament. Singer and actress Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) was there to open the event and draw the players’ numbers for the pairings. Humphrey Bogart, a tournament director of the U.S. Chess Federation, was selected as the Master of Ceremonies. One of the spectators of the tournament was actress Marlene Dietrich (1904-1992). Samuel Reshevsky won the event and $1,000.
In September 1945, he played on the USA team in the USA vs. USSR radio match. Steiner was the only U.S. player to achieve a plus score. He scored 1.5 out of 2 against the Soviet player Igor Bondarevsky (1913-1979).
In 1946, he won the 1946 London Victory International. This was the first major European tournament held after World War II.
In 1946, Steiner challenged Arnold Denker (1914-2005) to a match for the U.S. Chess Championship. It was held in Los Angeles. Denker won with the score of 6-4.
In July, 1946, Herman Steiner won the 47th US Open, held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Pittsburgh. There were 58 players.
Actor and restaurant owner Mike Romanoff (1890-1971) was a strong chess player. He played many games against Humphrey Bogart. In 1946, he won $100 from Bogart in a chess game played at Romanoff's restaurant. That evening, Bogart went home, and then called Romanoff to play one more game over the phone for another $100. Romanoff agreed, and then lost the game. Bogart just happened to have Herman Steiner over his house, and Bogart's moves were really Steiner's moves.
In 1947, Steiner was the chess advisor for the movie Cass Timberlane, starring Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. Steiner told Lana Turner, "Don't play chess. Sitting at a chess board for hours might make you fat and spoil your perfect figure." There were several chess scenes in the movie.
In 1947, he lost a match against Reuben Fine, played in Los Angeles. Fine won with the score of 5-1.
In April, 1948, Sven Almgren (1900-1973) won the U.S. Championship Preliminary tournament, held in Los Angeles. Herman Steiner took 2nd.
In 1948, Herman Steiner and Jim Cross (1930- ) tied for 1st in the Hollywood Open
In 1948, he won the U.S. Chess Championship tournament, held at South Fallsburg, New York, ahead of Isaac Kashdan.
In 1948, Herman Steiner won the California State Speed Championship.
In 1948, Herman Steiner won the Los Angeles County speed championship.
In 1949, Steiner took Max Euwe and Samuel Reshevsky on a Hollyuwood tour, where they met Clark Gable, among others. A picture of the four appears in the 1949 March issue of Chess Review.
In 1949, Herman Steiner won the California State Speed Championship.
In 1950, a Hollywood Invitational was held at the Hollywood Chess Club. It was won by Ray Martin, ahead of Herman Steiner and Jim Cross.
In July 1950, the United States Chess Federation published its first rating list. The top California player was Herman Steiner, rated 2394.
In 1950, he was a member and the captain of the USA team that played in the Chess Olympiad at Dubrovnik.
In 1950, Herman Steiner was awarded the International Master title.
In May-June 1951, he took 2nd-4th at an international tournament in Madrid. Lodewijk Prins (1913-1999) won the event.
In July 1951, he took 2nd at an international tournament in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Moshe Czerniak won the event.
In February-March 1952, he took 15th-16th out of 23 in the Capablanca Memorial, held in Havana. Reshevsky and Najdorf tied for 1st place.
In April-May 1952, the Hollywood International tournament (actually played at Mama Weiss' Czardas Restaurant in Beverly Hills) was held and won by Svetozar Gligoric, followed by Oscar Pomar. Herman Steiner took 3rd place. George Koltanowski was invited to play in the event, but a feud between him and Steiner prevented that from happening.
In June-July 1952, Herman Steiner played a match against Larry Evans in Los Angeles for the US championship. Evans won with the score of 10-4. It was the last match for the US championship.
In 1952, he won a tournament in Dallas, scoring 6.5 out of 7.
In September-Octber 1952, he took 11th-13th place in the Stockhom Interzonal, won by Alexander Kotov.
In 1953, the USCF awarded the 1954 U.S. Open to Hollywood after a proposal submitted by Herman Steiner. A month later, the USCF Tournament Committee rescinded that award. The reason for the change was a fundamental disagreement between the Committee and the Hollywood sponsors. The Hollywood plan was to have the Open in a number of sections. The sponsors were to raise a large prize fund so as to guarantee cash prizes and extra money for the Master Section to attract master chess players. Prizes for the other sections were to be trophies only. The plan was rejected by the USCF, and they awarded the site to New Orleans (won by Larry Evans).
In 1953, he won the 20th California State Chess Championship.
In 1953, he took 3rd at a Hollywood Invitational tournament, won by Isaac Kashdan.
In 1953, Steiner won a tournament in Los Angeles with the score of 10 out of 10.
In April, 1954, the Hollywood Chess Group held the California Women's Championship, organized by Herman Steiner.
In August 1954, Herman Steiner organized the Second Pan-American Chess Congress. It was won by Arthur Bisguier. Steiner tied for 3rd-4th.
In 1954, he won at Long Beach. He scored 10.5 out of 14.
In 1954, he won California Open, held in Santa Barbara, scoring 6.5 out of 7. There were 81 players.
In November 1954, he won the California State Chess Championship, held in San Francisco. It was a 10-player round robin.
In 1955, he won the California Open, held in Fresno.
In June-July 1955, he played board 8 in the USSR vs USA match, held in Moscow. He lost both games to Alexander Kotov.
In August 1955, he took 11th-19th out of 156 in the 56th US Open, held in Long Beach.
In 1955, he was defending his California State Championship in Los Angeles. On November 25, 1955, after obtaining a draw after 62 moves against William Addison, he felt unwell and had had his afternoon game postponed. Around 9:30 p.m, he died of a heart attack. He had won 3 games and drew 2. By agreement of the players, the 1955 California State Championship tournament was cancelled.
After Steiner died, his chess club was headed by Jacqueline Piatigorsky (1911-2012). The Hollywood Chess Group was renamed the “Herman Steiner Chess Club,” in memoriam to Herman Steiner.
In 1959, the Herman Steiner Chess Club moved to 8371 Beverly Blvd in West Hollywood, where it remained until 1964.
In 2010, Herman Steiner was elected into the U.S.Chess Hall of Fame.