Wilhelm Steinitz, known as The Father of Chess, was the first official World Chess Champion. In this article, we will dive deep into Steinitz’ background and playing style as the father of chess.
Last Updated: May 22nd, 2022
One of the most interesting and challenging games in the world is the game of chess. Its origins are uncertain, but it is thought to have developed from ancient war gaming. The objective of this game is for two players to take turns placing a single piece on one of 64 squares on a board, trying to capture their opponent’s pieces and checkmate their opponent or run out of pieces and lose.
In terms of modern chess however, there is a “father figure” that many attribute to its success and popularity, and that man is Steinitz, the first official World Chess Champion from 1886 to 1894.
Who is Wilhelm Steinitz?
Wilhelm Steinitz is known as the father of chess. The primary reason he has this title is because he was the first World Champion in Chess in 1886.
Steinitz was born in the town of Bohemia in what is now Prague. He trained as a theologian before becoming interested in chess, which he began playing when he was about 20 years old. His first success in chess came at the age of 22 at a tournament in Prague, where he won ahead of the Austrian Josef Harrach and the German Paul Lasker.
Steinitz is also given this title because he was a prolific writer on the topic, and wrote strong defenses of his strategies, which still hold today. He instigated a debate about strategy that was so feverous that it was later dubbed the “Ink War”. By the early 1890s, after he had been crowned world champion, his strategies were widely acknowledged by other top players, including the next world champion to follow him, a man by the name of Emanuel Lasker.
What Was Wilhelm Steinitz’ Strategy?
Steinitz is credited with creating a new style of play in the late 1870s. His playing style was based on positional play, which meant that he would consider his options on the board before commencing an attack, making tactical moves only when necessary.
He is also thought of as the man who invented training techniques to improve his game and that of others. He studied the openings of games, especially those beginning 1.e4 – a move that begins the game by placing a pawn in front of an opponent’s king.
For more information, you can read the article on who invented chess.
However he is most famous for his all-out attacking style within chess, in which he competitively tried to dominate the board by taking out his opponents pieces as quickly as possible in a blitz-like fashion. Too many this seemed to be immature and lacking nuance and strategy, but in reality, there was significant strategy behind it that helped him perfect this aggressive playing style.
He did have some weaknesses, including experimental moves that often left his king too exposed. While he was dethroned in a few short years, his style and legacy have cemented him as the father of chess.
What is Chess Theory?
Steinitz was a major proponent of chess theory. Chess theory is the academic study of chess, and a wide variety of factors that make chess play itself interesting. In modern times, there are a lot of ways for players to distinguish between various styles and strategies in chess. These systems have evolved over the years to help players better understand the game at their own level.
In these modern times, we would consider both classical and modern openings. Classical openings include the French Defense, the Dutch Defense, and various different variations of King’s Pawn games. These openings have been used for many years and have been dubbed ‘classical’ as these were the main styles permitted during chess’ earliest days.
Modern openings however are new systems that break down old barriers and create a more level playing field between high level players and low level players. These are still in use today in almost all major and minor chess tournaments.
The study of chess theory has also come a long way, with thousands of books and articles published on the subject every year. Some examples of these books include “Perfect Your Chess”, “Chess Strategy in Action”, and many more.
We can conclude this article by saying that Steinitz was a strong chess player with an aggressive style of play. His strategies are still studied and used today, and many are long-forgotten about his humble beginnings, but the memories of him and his legacy will never fade.
Did you enjoy reading about Wilhelm Steinitz? If you did, you might be interesting in reading other player profiles such as Bobby Fischer, Daniil Dubov, and Hans Niemann.