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1882 – Vienna

Wilhelm Steinitz and Szymon Winawer shared first and second place at the Second International Chess Tournament in Vienna, Austria from May 10th to June 24th, 1882. The tournament was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Chess Society. Vienna was previously the site of one of the very first international tournaments in 1873, which was also won by Steinitz in a two-game playoff over Joseph Henry Blackburne.

Coming into the tournament, Steinitz was the favorite despite his long absence from tournament chess (nearly 10 years). Steinitz was also bringing a 25-game winning streak into the tournament, but was bound to have that streak broken as a result of being rusty from his long layoff. The streak was indeed broken early on in the tournament in round three, as he drew a game with George Henry Mackenzie. Ironically enough, this was Steinitz’s first draw since the 1873 Vienna tournament. He would then lose three consecutive games to Johann Zukertort, Vincenz Hruby, and Preston Ware.

The game format for the event was a grueling double round-robin, consisting of 34 games. The time control was 15 moves an hour, with 2 hour breaks after 4 hours of play. All games started at 10:00am and were adjourned at Midnight if necessary. The rigorous format took it’s toll on several players, as Henry Bird would become very ill between rounds 29 and 33; and Bernhard Fleissig would actually withdraw from the event after the 20th round.

Steinitz would regain his form and storm back to the top of the tournament leader board, moving into third place at the halfway point, just a point behind the leader Mackenzie. His strong play continued in the second half of the tournament and he would end up tying for first place with Winawer, subsequently splitting a 2-game playoff with the Polish player.

The American contingent of Mackenzie and James Mason made a very strong showing for the United States. Mackenzie would lead for much of the tournament and eventually tie for fourth place with Zukertort. Mason, in one of the best performances of his career, would finish by himself in third place in a tournament considered by many to be the strongest of the 19th century.

Vienna marked the greatest success in Winawer’s career, but he withdrew from competitive chess only a year later. Steinitz, on the other hand, had strengthened his reputation as the best player in the world, with the realization that his competitors were not far behind him.

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