Editor: Dr Tim Harding
© Dr Tim Harding
15 September 2021
The following premature obituary appeared on 27 February 1897 in Isidor Gunsberg's chess column for the Penny Illustrated Paper.
The Death of Mr. Steinitz, aged sixty, at a private lunatic asylum in Moscow will be learnt with deep regret by all P.I.P. chess-players. The strain of playing his games with Mr. Lasker for the title of champion of the world proved too much for Mr. Steinitz. His mind gave way, and he had to be removed to the private asylum in which he expired. William Steinitz was born on May 14, 1836, at Prague, where he was also educated, finishing his studies, however, at the Polytechnic Institute, Vienna...
The paragraph continued with further biographical details about Steinitz's life and career. (It may be noted that Gunsberg had the correct date of birth for Steinitz; incorrect dates had often appeared in print, and continue to do so.) The complete article can be downloaded here (PDF format).
Gunsberg, who himself had played a match for the World Championship with Steinitz six years previously, must have soon discovered that he had been misinformed. The following appeared in his column the following weekend (6 March).
MR. STEINITZ STILL ALIVE. We are happy to be able to state that the report of the death of Mr. Steinitz proved incorrect. We learn, however, that the condition of the veteran chess-player, whose mind is affected, is serious, and that but faint hopes of his recovery are entertained by the Moscow chess-players unless he could be removed either to London or New York.
According to Kurt Landsberger's biography of Steinitz, the ex-champion was released from hospital on 12 March and left Moscow on the 16th of March for Vienna, where chess master Max Judd was US Consul. Although Landsberger did not clarify the point, these were presumably western style dates; Russia was still on the Julian calendar during the Tsarist era.
Landsberger said Steinitz arrived in Vienna on the 18th, which is confirmed by a report of the 19th in the Neue Freie Presse which reported that "the chess matador" was staying at the home of a local doctor who was a childhood friend.
Steinitz remained in Vienna for several weeks, during which time he gradually recuperated and played friendly games with local masters Hugo Fähndrich and Carl Schlechter. By 11 April he was well enough to play a simultaneous display over 22 boards at Vienna Chess Club and subsequently he travelled via Hamburg back to New York in mid-May.
This story does not appear in Tim Harding's book Steinitz in London as it falls outside the scope of that work.
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