Mikhail Chigorin (Tchigorin) popularized chess in Russia through his skill as a player, his writings and lectures, and his efforts to establish chess organizations in his home country. Though he learned the game in his teens and began playing competitively in his twenties, his enthusiasm for the game quickly grew. He rose to the top of the Russian chess scene in the 1870s, securing his position with a win in an 1879 tournament of the country’s best players.
During the following decades Chigorin participated in tournaments featuring the best players of his day. Known as one of the first great Russian players, Chigorin contested two world championship matches with the renowned Austrian player William Steinitz in 1889 and 1892, but was not victorious. In 1893, he drew a match against the talented German player Siegbert Tarrasch in St. Petersburg. Chigorin took second place at a tournament at Hastings in 1895, though he defeated the tournament’s winner, Harry Nelson Pillsbury. He won the first three All-Russian Masters’ Tournaments, which were held in 1899, 1901, and 1903. An expert in the Evans Gambit and the King’s Gambit, Chigorin edited the influential chess magazine, Shakhmatny Listok (Chess Sheet), from 1876-1881 and is famed as the founder of the Russian school of chess.