Lasker's Chess Wisdom

Lasker's Chess Wisdom

| 45 | Middlegame

The second world champion in chess history, Emanuel Lasker, was a unique person. Besides being the champion for 27 years (this record will never be beaten for sure!), he was also a famous mathematician and philosopher. 

In his prime Lasker was so much stronger than his rivals that sometimes the scores of his world championship matches look ridiculous. Judge for yourself:

Lasker-Marshall, 1907: 11.5:3.5 -- Many-time U.S. champion Frank Marshall didn't manage to win one single game there!

Lasker-Janowski, 1909: 8:2 -- At least David Janowski won one game!

Lasker-Janowski, 1910: 9.5:1.5 -- No wins for Janowski this time!

I don't think we'll see results like these in matches for the world title any time soon!

So, what's Lasker's secret? There are many legends around Lasker's name; one of them we discussed here. 

If you read Lasker's famous books, like "Common Sense in Chess" or "Lasker's Manual of Chess," you'll see that there is no mystery and his approach to chess is very logical. Indeed, some of his rules are so well known, and sometimes overused today, that I bet many people don't even realize who was the author of the famous chess saying they just quoted.

Here are some of the most famous:

  • Chess is, above all, a fight.
  • On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not last long.
  • The hardest game to win is a won game.
  • Get the knights into action before both bishops are developed.
  • Show me three variations in the leading handbook on the openings, and I will show you two of those three that are defective.

And finally, the one that is especially important for most chess players:

"When you see a good move, look for a better one!"

I cannot tell you how many times I saw a typical situation in scholastic tournaments when a young player quickly sees a good move, gets excited about it and plays it right away without checking if there is anything better. 

The famous Russian coach Vladimir Zak gives a good example in his book (roughly translated its Russian title is "The Ways of Chess Improvement"). Here is a game played by two beginners:

It is quite typical for many chess players to think: "I can win a bishop with a check, why should I bother looking for anything better?"  

That's how a checkmate in one move was missed!

I bet many of you are saying right now: "I would never make such a stupid mistake.  Only beginners can take a bishop while they have an opportunity to checkmate the opponent's king!"  

Only beginners? Take a look at the following game:

In case you are wondering how "a grandmaster could overlook such a banal tactical motif," you can find an explanation of what happened here.

Now, can you find the best move in the following position?

And here is what happened in the real game:

Before you suggest that a very strong GM, Denis Khismatullin, should hit the books on basic chess tactics, try to find the move (and the whole combination) he played three days later in the same tournament!

So how could a tactical wizard who found an unbelievable concept against Eljanov miss a simple tactical trick vs. Shimanov? The explanation is very simple: GM Khismatullin saw that by playing 32...Nxe4 against Shimanov he was winning a pawn and probably didn't look for anything else.

So, if you want to become a better chess player, don't forget the Lasker's wisdom: "When you see a good move, look for a better one!"

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