By Tim Harding
The editors of databases including historic games must reform their procedures and chess historians need to be wary of trusting the databases. Even the primary printed sources are sometimes wrong about how games went.
In my book Steinitz in London and the article about Steinitz for New In Chess magazine 2020/7 there are several examples of games where the accepted score is either dubious or definitely wrong.
Producing an exhaustive list of such cases may be impossible but in this article, the first of a planned series for chessmail.com, we look at problems concerning several games between Steinitz and Lasker.
The full article, which is 9 pages long in PDF, deals with all the Steinitz v Lasker games where we found discrepancies, though some are minor.
The most serious cases are presented here in HTML.
After reading the article, you can download an annotated PGN file of all the Steinitz v Lasker games which you can use to correct your own databases.
See also our second article dealing with games against Gunsberg and other opponents from 1882 onwards which are sometimes wrong in books or databases.
A note on printed sources
The standard work on the first world champion is Schachmeister Steinitz by Ludwig Bachmann (4 volumes in the 1920s). The Weltgeschichte des Schachs (Wildhagen) volume about Steinitz was edited by David Hooper; it has some corrections but omits many of the minor games. Sid Pickard's The Games of William Steinitz is the largest so far but is not entirely reliable; curiously, the scores of some games are different in his database which appeared later.
My book Steinitz in London has all Steinitz's known games up to the Vienna 1882 tournament (including about 50 not in previous books), and also includes his games from the London 1883, Hastings 1895 and London 1899 international tournaments and a game from his last simultaneous display played in London shortly before he left England for the last time.
Several games which Steinitz played in America from 1882 onwards are not in any of these books but have been published in various volumes of the Quarterly for Chess History and elsewhere, but there is a great need for some historian to produce a companion volume, Steinitz in America, which should also include his tournaments, matches and exhibitions played in continental Europe in the 1890s.
There are many printed collections of Lasker's games, and books about his career and various matches and tournaments, but I have not made a special study of Lasker. The 11th volume in the Wildhagen series was edited by Ludwig Rellstab. Egon Varnusz's collection appeared in two volumes and more recently there was a 2-volume collection from Russia Chess House. Somebody should use the Chess Suite to check Lasker's games but I shall not be doing it.
Back to introduction for this series.
Acknowledgments: Thanks are due to Thomas Niessen, whose Chess Suite software enabled me to detect the majority of these problems, and to Tim Spanton who volunteered to proof-read.