A Brief History of the World Chess Championship

This is the first in a series of articles about the history of the Chess World Championships

Pre-official world championships:

Anderssen 1851-1857:

The Great Exhibition of 1851 (In a sense, the first world fair) prompted the chess players at the time to do something similar, yet exclusively for the chess world. This led to the London 1851 Chess Tournament, which was the first International Chess tournament ever organized. Howard Staunton, one of the world’s strongest players at the time, organized this tournament along with his compatriots. Adolf Andersson won this tournament, coming to be known, at the time, as the best player in Europe. However, there was no circumstantial evidence that people perceived him as a “world champion.”

Memorable games from this part in Anderssen’s career include:

Game 4 of London 1851 Chess Tournament - Staunton vs. Anderssen

Game 6 of London 1851 Chess Tournament - Anderssen vs. Staunton

Paul Morphy - 1858:

From 1858-1859, an American named Paul Morphy rose up quickly among world chess players, soundly beating all of the leading world players. He swiftly beat Anderssen, among others, 7-2-2 (7 wins, 2 losses, 2 draws), before retiring from chess. Many count him as the first world chess champion, and by far the best of his time.

Memorable games from the matchup between Morphy and Anderssen include:

Morphy vs. Anderssen Game 9 1858

Morphy vs. Anderssen Game 10 1858

Anderssen 1862-1866:

The London 1862 Chess Tournament:

A repeat tournament of the tournament from over a decade ago. Anderssen won this with points to spare, showing that besides the brief blip of Morphy, he was still solidified as the best active player at the time.

Wilhelm Steinitz, Unofficial World Champion, 1866-1866:

Stenitiz and Anderssen played in 1866, with Steinitz barely winning. He then crushed Zukertort and Blackburne, two other leading players at the time.

Ambrose McCullough, Head of Literary Review