Chess Tournaments – A History
A chess tournament is a series of chess games played competitively to determine a winning individual (or team for team tournaments). Chess tournaments are the standard form of chess competition among serious players.
In September 1467, the first known chess tournament of Middle Europe was held in Heidelberg, Germany.
In 1575, a chess tournament was held at the Royal Court in Madrid. It was a series of matches arranged by King Phillip II. The winner was Giovanni Leonardo Di bona da Cutri (1542-1597).
In January 1841, the first modern chess tournament, in the sense of a structured competition, was in Leeds, England. It was the first time that the word “tournament” was used as a chess term.
In 1843, Ludwig Bledow (1795-1846) was the first person to suggest an international tournament. He intended the winner of the proposed tournament, to be held in Trier, Germany (the oldest city in Germany, founded before 16 BC), should be recognized as the world champion.
In 1843, the first documented American chess tournament was held in New York.
In January 1849, there was a 12-player knockout elimination chess tournament held at Samuel Ries’ Chess Divan in the Strand in London. The tournament was won by Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862), followed by George Medley (1826-1898) and John R. Medley. The 12 competitors were paired by lot. The 6 players winning two out of three (not including draws) were declared the victors of the First Section of the tournament. The 6 winners were then paired off by lot to form three matches. The three winners then played a match between themselves to determine the winner.
From May 5, 1851 to July 15, 1851, the first international chess tournament was held in London. It took place during The Great Exhibition of Art and Industry and was a 16-player knockout elimination match-tournament. The tournament was held at St. George’s Chess Club, Polytechnic Building, Cavendish Square. It was won by Adolf Anderssen(1818-1879) of Germany (Prussia), who became regarded as the world’s best chess player, until he was beaten in a match by Paul Morphy (1837-1884) in 1858. 2nd place went to Marmaduke Wyville (1815-1896). The tournament was organized by Howard Staunton.
In June 1851, there was a one day knockout chess tournament held in Amsterdam with 38 players. The winner was Maartin Van’t Kruijs (1813-1885).
From June 6, 1851 to July 15, 1851, a “London Provincial Tournament” was organized for British players not strong enough for the International Tournament . The winner was Samuel Boden (1826-1882), followed by Charles Ranken (1828-1905).
From July 28, 1851 to August 8, 1851, a club tournament was held in London. The winner was Adolf Anderssen.
In January 1853, the first unofficial Berlin Chess Championship was won by Jean Dufresne (1829-1893) followed by Max Lange(1832-1899) and Karl Mayet (1810-1868). There were 12 players in the event.
In 1855, a chess tournament was held at Kling’s Coffee House in London. The winner was Adolf Zytogorski (1807-1882) in this 8-player event.
In January-February 1856, a tournament was held at the McDonnell Chess Club in London. The event was won by Ernst Falkbeer (1819-1885) in this 12-player event.
In 1856, a knockout tournament was held in Berlin. The winner was Hermann Balduin Wolff (1819-1907) in this 8-player event.
In August 1857, the first British Chess Association (BCA) Congress was held in Manchester. The winner was Johann Jacob Loewenthal (1810-1876) in the 8-person major section. Loewenthal was supposed to play Boden in the final round, but after the first game was drawn, Boden was unable to remain in Manchester, and conceded the prize to Loewenthal. First prize was a set of Chinese carved ivory chessmen. John Owens (1827-1901) won the 16-player minor section. The first place prize was a set of Staunton chessmen made of wood.
From October 5, 1857 to November 10, 1857, the First American Chess Congress was held in New York. It was the first American chess tournament to determine the national champion. It was won by Paul Morphy. The top 16 players in the country took place in the Major tournament. William Horner won the 16-player Minor tournament.
In August 1858, Loewenthal won the 2nd British Chess Association (BCA) Congress, held in Birmingham, England. Falkbeer took 2nd place. 12 players participated.
In 1858, Carl Hamppe won the Vienna, Austria championship.
In 1860, Ignatz Kolisch won the 3rd British Chess Association Congress, held in Cambridge, England.
In 1861, Louis Paulsen won the 4th British Chess Association Congress, held in Bristol, England.
In 1861, Wilhelm Steinitz won the Vienna, Austria championship.
In 1862, the first study-composing chess tournament was organized by Johann Lowenthal and won by Horwitz.
From June 13, 1862 to July 5, 1862, the first major round-robin (every competitor plays against every other competitor) chess tournament was held in London. The 14-player event was won by Adolf Anderssen with a score of 12 out of 13. All drawn games had to be replayed until there was a winner.
In 1865, Wilhelm Steinitz won a 5-player round robin tournament in Dublin, Ireland.
In 1866, Cecil De Vere won the first British Chess Association Challenge Cup, held in London.
In 1866, George Mackenzie won a chess tournament held in New York.
In June 1867, Ignatz Kolisch won a 13-player international tournament in Paris. He was presented with a Sevres vase by Napoleon and 5,000 francs. Kolisch later gave up chess tournament play, became a banker for the Rothshchilds, and a millionaire that could sponsor chess tournaments.
In 1867, Gusev Neumann won a 10-player round robin tournament in Dundee, Scotland. It was the first time that drawn games were counted and worth ½ point and did not have to be replayed.
In 1868-69, Joseph Henry Blackburne won the 2nd British Chess Association Challenge Cup. Drawn games, which did not count, were replayed.
In January 1869, the largest round robin tournament was held in New York. There were 48 players who faced each other twice, making it 94 rounds. The winner was George Mackenzie with 82 wins and 8 losses.
In 1870, Adolf Anderssen won a 10-player tournament in Baden-Baden, Germany.
In 1870, John Wisker won the 3rd British Chess Association Congress, after a play-off with Amos Burn.
In 1870, Johann Berger won the 1st Austrian Chess Federation Congress. It was a double round robin with 14 players. It was the first tournament in the Austro-Hungarian empire, held in Graz.
In 1871, Arthur Skipworth won the 3rd British Chess Association Challenge Cub in Malvern, England.
In December 1871, the 2nd American Chess Congress was held in Cleveland. George Mackenzie won the 9-player event. Drawn games, which did not count, were replayed. It was the first round-robin tournament in the United States.
In 1872, Wilhelm Steinitz won the 2nd British Chess Federation Congress, held in London. There were 8 players. Drawn games, which did not count, were replayed.
In 1873, Steinitz beat Blackburne in a play-off game at Vienna. There were 12 players. Each player played a match for the best of 3 games vs. the other players.
In 1873, B.W. Gifford won the 1st Netherlands Chess Federation tournament, held in The Hague.
In 1874, the 3rd American Chess Congress was held n Chicago. George Mackenzie won this 8-player event.
In 1874, A. De Lelie won the 2nd Netherlands Chess Federation tournament after a play-off.
In 1875, Pietro Seni won the 1st Italian National tournament in Rome.
In 1875, George Jackson won the 3rd Canadian championship, held in Ottawa.
In 1876, James Mason won the 4th American Chess Congress, held in Philadelphia. It was an 8-man double round robin. It was the first tournament to award a brilliancy prize.
In August 1876, George Mackenzie won the Café International Tournament in New York. It was a 17-player double round robin.
In November 1876, James Mason won the Clipper Tournament in New York. There were 21 players. Draws did not count and not replayed.
In 1877, Andrei Asharin won the first major tournament in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
In 1877, Louis Paulsen won a tournament in Leipzig, Germany. There were 12 players.
In 1878, the first intercontinental chess tournament in Europe was held in Paris. The winner was Johannes Zukertort after a play-off with Szymon Winawer. This was the first tournament that had an adjournment and the sealing of a move.
In 1878, Mephisto (Gunsberg) won the England Counties’ Chess Association Handicap tournament. MacDonnell withdrew from the tournament unless the Mephisto player was identified.
In 1879, Mikhail Chigorin defeated Semyon Alapin in a play-off to win the Best Russian Players tournament in Saint Petersburg.
In 1879, Berthold Englisch won the 1st German Federation tournament, held in Leipzig.
In January 1880, the 5th American Chess Congress was held in New York. George Mackenzie won the play-off against James Grundy in the major section. The tournament was a 10-player double round robin. The minor section was won by Nicolai Gedalia.
In July 1880, the first international tournament in Germany was held in Weisbaden. It was also the first major tournament interrupted by war (the Franco-Prussian war). The tournament was the first to introduce chess clocks. It was a three-way tie for first between Blackburne, Englisch, and Adolf Schwarz. 16 players participated.
In 1880-1881, Samuel Rosenthal won the 1st French National tournament. There were 7 players in this double round robin.
In 1881, Joseph Blackbunre won the 2nd German Chess Federation tournament.
In 1881, Edward Chamier won the 2nd French National tournament.
In 1882, an international tournament was held in Vienna. The top 10 players in the world participated. William Steinitz and Winawer tied for 1st place. It was the first time that the top 10 players in the world had met and played in a tournament. It was an 18-player double round robin.
In 1883, an international tournament was held in London and won by Zukertort. It was a 14-player double round robin. The first two draws did not count and were replayed. The third draw counted. It was the first time that double-headed chess clocks were used. At the same time, a minor tournament, called the Vizayanagaram Tournament, was won by Curt Von Bardeleben.
In 1883, the first International Problem Tournament for Ladies was held, and won by Frideswide Beechey.
In 1884, the first Scottish championship was held in Glasgow. The winner was John Crum.
In 1884, the first international correspondence chess tournament was organized by the French chess magazine, La Strategie.
In 1884, the first women’s chess tournament was held, sponsored by the Sussex Chess Association.
In 1885, the second Scottish championship was held in Edinburgh. The winner was Daniel Mills.
In 1885, the first Irish Chess Association tournament was held in Dublin. The winner was William Pollock.
In 1885, the first British Chess Federation championship was held in London. The winner was Isidor Gunsberg.
In 1886, the second British Chess Federation championship was held in London. The winner was Blackburne after he defeated Amos Burn in a play-off.
In 1886, the first British Amateur championship was held in London. The winner was Walter Gattie.
In 1886, the second Irish Chess Association tournament was held in Belfast. The winner was William Pollock.
In 1886, the third Scottish championship was held in Glasgow. The winner was Georges Barbier.
In 1886, the first Bavarian Chess Federation tournament was held in Munich. The winner was Hermann Neustadtl.
In 1886, the first New York State Association championship was held in Cooperstown, NY. The winner was Walter Shipley.
In 1887, the second Australian championship was held in Adelaide. The winner was Henry Charlick.
In 1887, the 3rd British Chess Federation Congress was held in London. Amos Burn and Isidor Gunsberg tied for 1st place.
In 1887, the 2nd British Amateur championship was held in London. The winner was Charles Locock.
In 1888, the first United States Chess Association tournament was held in Cincinnati. It was won by Jackson Showalter. The tournament was a 6-player double round robin.
In 1888, the first international correspondence chess tournament was organized.
In 1889, America organized the 6th American Chess Congress and its first international chess tournament, held in New York. The event was won by Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908) after a play-off with Miksa Weiss. It was a 20-player round robin. Chigorin won 27 games in this event. MacLeod lost 31 games in this event, the most losses ever in one tournament.
In 1890, the 3rd USA Chess Association tournament was held in St. Louis. The winner was Jackson Whipps Showalter.
In 1891, the 4th USA Chess Association tournament was held in Lexington, Kentucky. Showalter beat William Pollock in a play-off to take 1st place. There were 7 players.
In 1895, an international chess tournament was held in Hastings. It was one of the strongest tournaments ever held. The event was won by Harry Nelson Pillsbury. The tournament had 22 world class chess players. The women’s tournament was won by Lady Thomas.
In 1895, the first tournament that used the Swiss pairing system has held in Zurich, Switzerland.
In 1897, the first Women’s International chess tournament was held at the Ladies’ Club at Hotel Cecil in London. The event was won by Mary Rudge.
In 1897, the first Nordic Congress was held in Stockholm. The winner was Johan Svensson.
In 1899, the second Nordic Congress was held in Copenhagen. The winner was Jorgen Moller.
In 1899, an international tournament was held in London and won by Emanuel Lasker. It was a 15-player double round robin.
In 1899, the first All-Russia chess championship was held in Moscow, won by Chigorin.
In 1899, the first Baltic Chess tournament was held in Riga, Latvia. The winner was Roberts Betins after a play-off with Karl Rosenkrantz.
In 1900, the first U.S. Open (Western Chess Association) was held in Excelsior, Minnesota. The winner was Louis Uedemann. There were 20 players.
In January 1901, Chigorin won the 2nd Russian National Tournament in Moscow.
In 1901, the second U.S. Open (Western Chess Association) was held in Excelsior, Minnesota. The winner was Nicholas MacLeod. There were 16 players.
In 1901, an international tournament was held in Monte Carlo. The winner was Dawid Janowski with a score of 10 ¼ out of 13. Drawn games were worth ¼ point and were replayed.
In 1904, Frank Marshall won the international tournament at Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.
In 1907, a quadruple round robin elite chess tournament was held in Ostend. It included the top six players in the world, except for Lasker. The event was called the “World Tournament championship.” It was won by Siegbert Tarrasch. It was the first time that the title of grandmaster was used.
In 1909, Alexander Alekhine won the All-Russian Amateur tournament in St. Petersburg.
In 1911, an international tournament at San Sebastian, Spain had 9 of the 10 top players in the world. The event was won by Jose Capablanca, his first appearance in Europe. This was the first international tournament that reimbursed all the competitors for their travelling and living expenses.
In 1914, the 19th German Chess Federation Championship was held in Mannheim, Germany. The tournament was interrupted by World War I. Alekhine was leading 9.5-1.5 before the tournament ended. He and the other Russian became prisoners of war in Germany.
In 1924, the first unofficial Chess Olympiad team tournament took place in Paris.
In 1925, the first international tournament in Germany after World War I was held in Baden-Baden. The event was won by Alexander Alekhine.
In 1925, the first chess tournament financed by government funds was held in Moscow.
In 1927, the first official Chess Olympiad was held. 16 countries participated in the event.
In 1929, an international tournament was held at Carlsbad with 9 of the top 10 players in the world participating. The event was won by Aron Nimzovich.
In 1933, Dr. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) banned all Jewish players from official chess tournaments in Germany.
In 1935-36, the USSR Trade Unions chess championship was held. It had 700,000 entrants, the larges of any chess tournament.
In 1936, the strongest tournament ever held on British soil was played in Nottingham. Botvinnik and Capablanca tied for first place.
In 1936, the first U.S. championship that was played in a tournament instead of a match was held in New York City and won by Samuel Reshevsky.
In 1937, an international chess tournament was held at Jurata, Poland. The 22 masters had to play 21 games in 14 days with no adjournments.
In 1938, the AVRO tournament in the Netherlands had the top 8 players in the world. The event was won by Paul Keres and Reuben Fine.
In 1941, the US Chess Federation sponsored its first postal tournament, won by Louis Persinger.
In 1942, the first tournament in the United States that used the Swiss pairing system was the 1942 Texas championship.
In 1946, the first international chess tournament after World War II was held at Groningen, the Netherlands. It was won by Mikhail Botvinnik.
In 1945-1946, the first Pan-American Intercollegiate chess tournament was played in New York and won by City College of New York. It is the largest and most prestigious collegiate chess tournament in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1946, Mikhail Botvinnik won the first major international chess tournament after World War II, at Groningen, the Netherlands.
In 1947, the first World Correspondence Chess Championship start with 78 players. It was won by Cecil Purdy several years later.
In 1948, the first world championship match-tournament was held and won by Botvinnik.
In 1948, the first Interzonal chess tournament was held at Saltsjobaden, Sweden. The event was won by David Bronstein, who survived an assassination attempt on his life in the last round.
In 1949, the first USSR correspondence chess championship started.
In 1950, Bronstein and Boleslavsky won the first Candidates tournament in Budapest, Hungary. First prize was $5,000.
In 1952, the first international chess tournament restricted to college students was held in Liverpool, England.
In 1953, the Zurich/Neuhausen Candidates tournament had 9 out the top 10 players in the world. The event was won by Vassily Smyslov.
In 1954, the first official college student Olympiad chess tournament was held in Oslo.
In 1959, the first ham radio chess tournament was organized.
In 1962, Japan held its first international chess tournament.
In 1967, the first chess computer to play in a chess tournament with humans occurred when MacHack VI from MIT participated in the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
In 1969, the first National High School Chess Championship was held in New York.
In 1969, Japan held its first national chess tournament.
In 1970, the first tournament just for chess computers was held in New York City, called the North American Computer Chess Championship (NACCC).
In 1971, the first Women’s Interzonal Tournament was held in Ohrid. It was won by Tatiana Zatulovskaya.
In 1973, Bill Goichberg was the first tournament director to ban smoking from chess tournaments.
In 1974, the first World Computer Chess Championship (WCCC) chess tournament was held in Stockholm, Sweden. It was won by Kaissa, a chess program created in the USSR.
In 1974, China held its first championship chess tournament.
In 1977, Nona Gaprindashvili became the first woman to win a “men’s” chess tournament when she tied for first place at Lone Pine, California.
In 1980, the first international tournament in China was held.
In 1986, the World Open in Philadelphia drew 1,506 players. The winner was Nick de Firmian.
In 1989, an international tournament was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. 89 grandmasters participated, the most grandmasters in one tournament. This was the strongest Swiss tournament of all time. The winner was Krunoslav Hulak.
In 1993, the top 10 players in the world played in an international tournament in Linares. The event was won by world champion Garry Kasparov.
In 1994, Anatoly Karpov won the Linares tournament with a performance rating of 2899, winning 11 out of 14.
In 1996, the Las Palmas chess tournament was a Category 21 tournament with an average rating of 2756. The six best players in the world participated. Five of the six players had been world champions. The event was won by Kasparov.
In 2004, the Calvia Olympiad drew 1,135 players with 250 grandmasters participating.
In 2004, the UK Challenge Tournament had over 71,000 chess players involving 2,000 schools. It was the world’s largest chess tournament.
In 2005, the Supernationals scholastic chess tournament was held in Nashville, Tennessee. There were 5,270 junior players competing.
In 2005, the HB Global Chess Challenge, held in Minneapolis, drew 1,358 players and 43 grandmasters. The prize fund was $500,000.
In 2009, the Pearl Spring chess tournament was held in China. It was a category 21 tournament, with an average rating of 2764, making it the highest tournament ever held. It was won by Magnus Carlsen.