Chess enthusiasts in Massachusetts today are holding a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the great Harry Nelson Pillsbury, who died at the age of 34 on June 17, 1906. A memorial marker will be placed at Pillsbury's gravesite at a cemetery in Reading, Mass.
Pillsbury died just 11 years after pulling off the most astonishing international debut in the history of the game. The unheralded American won the 1895 Hastings International Tournament over a world-class field that included world champion Emanuel Lasker, former champion Wilhelm Steinitz and such legends as Germany's Siegbert Tarrasch and Russia's Mikhail Tchigorin.
Pillsbury in his short career created a rich gallery of greatest hits -- his wins over Tarrasch and Isidor Gunsberg at Hastings; his epic pair of Queen's Gambit battles with Lasker; numerous simultaneous and blindfold brilliancies -- but today we offer one of his lesser-known gems. The win over German master Rudolf Swiderski at a 1902 tournament in Germany, just before illness caused Pillsbury's play to decline, shows the imagination and tactical alertness that made his premature death such a loss for the game.
Pillsbury was a pioneer in the handling of the orthodox QGD lines, but he shows here he also can handle more unusual sidelines. Black is already on his heels after 6. e4! dxe4 7. Ne5 Bd6 8. Qg4!, when 8...g6 9. Bc4 Bxe5 10. dxe5 followed by 11. Bg5 is pleasant for White.
Swiderski tries to counter with 10. dxe5 Qd4, only to run into the startling 11. Bd5!! c6 (Bxd5 12. Qc8+ Ke7 13. Bg5+ and 14. Rd1 wins for White) 12. Bxe4 Qxe5 13. Bf4 Nf6 14. Qh4 Qe7 15. 0-0-0, when 15...Nxe4?? allows 16. Rd8+ and mate. Reeling, Black tries a swindle after 15...Ne8 16. Qg3 Na6 17. Rhe1 Rd8!?, hoping for 18. Bxf7? Rxd1+ 19. Kxd1 Qd8+, sidestepping the attack on the queen.