Johannes Hermann Zukertort (SOOK-er-tort) was born in Lublin, Poland on September 7, 1842. Zukertort said that his mother was the Baroness Krzyzanovska.
Zukertort studied chemistry at Heidelberg and physiology at Berlin. In 1861, he enrolled at the University of Breslau to study medicine. Zukertort claimed he obtained his doctorate of medicine at Breslau University. Steinitz claimed that Zukertort never finished the requirements to be a medical doctor.
He studied chemistry, physiology, philology, and theology with distinction.
He was a doctor in the Prussian army.
He was fluent in at least 14 languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Sanskrit, Arabic, Turkish, Danish, and Polish).
He fought in several campaigns for Prussia against Austria, Denmark, and France. He once had been left for dead on the battlefield. He was decorated for gallantry 9 times.
He was a fancer, a world class whist and dominoe player, a pianist, a music critic, swordsman, marksman, editor of a political paper, and on the staff of Bismark's newpaper, the Allgemeine Zeitung. He was a leading spokeman for prison reform.
In 1867, he moved to Berlin.
In 1868, he lost to Adolf Anderssen in a match in Berlin, with 3 wins, 8 losses, and 1 draw.
In 1871, he beat Adolf Anderssen in a match with 5 wins and 2 losses.
In 1872, he played in a London tournament. He came in 3rd, behind Steinitz and Blackburne.
In 1872, he lost to Steinitz in a match with 1 win, 7 losses, and 4 draws. The stakes was 20 pounds for the winner and 10 pounds for the loser.
In 1876, he took 2nd in a London tournament.
On December 16, 1876, he played 16 simultaneous blindfold games in London, winning 11, drawing 4, and losing only 1 game.
In 1877, he took 1st at Cologne and 2nd at Leipzig.
In 1878, he became a naturalized citizen of England.
In June-July 1878, he tied for 1st at the Paris International Chess Congress with Winawer and beat Winawer in the play-off. Zukertort won 1,000 francs and was given two Sevres vases, worth 5,800 francs each, by the President of France. He sold them three days later at a pawn shop for half the value.
In 1879, he was co-editor, with Leopold Hoffer, of The Chess Monthly.
In 1880, he won a match in London against Rosenthal with 7 wins, 1 loss, and 11 draws.
In 1881, he was 2nd at Berlin, behind Blackburne. He then beat Blackburne in a match in London with 7 wins, 2 losses, and 5 draws.
In 1882, he tied for 4th at Vienna.
In 1883, he took 1st place at London, 3 points ahead of Steiniz. After this tournament, Zukertort was widely regarded as the unofficial World Chess Champion.
On January 11, 1886, he began a match for the World Championship against Steinitz in the USA. On March 29, 1886, Steinitz was declared the winner. Zukertort lost with 5 wins, 10 losses, and 5 draws. This was the first official world championship match. The match was played in New York, St. Louis, and New Orleans.
After the match, Zukertort suffered from rheumatism, coronary heart disease, kidney problems, and arteriosclerosis.
In 1886, he took 7th in London and 3rd in Nottingham.
In 1887, he took 15th at Frankfurt and 4th at London.
In 1887, he lost a match against Blackburne with 1 win, 5 losses, and 8 draws.
In 1888, he took 7th at London.
He died on June 20, 1888 from cerebral stroke after a chess game during a tournament at Simpson's Divan. At the time, he was in 1st place. He was scheduled to play Blackburne and Burn in the final two rounds. He was 45 years old.
He gave chess lessons to Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill's father.
It is said that at a dinner party, with both Steinitz and Zukertort attending, a toast was made to the greatest chess player in the world. Both Steinitz and Zukertort both rose at the same time.