Part 3: Em. Lasker; The Champion returns to Europe.

Apr 19, 2011, 4:33 PM |

In the last post, we explored the ramp up to Emanuel Lasker’s  becoming the 2nd official World Champion following Willhelm Steinitz. He returns to Europe in the later part of 1894 on the heels of his new title but was seriously ill with typhoid fever and had a very long recovery.  His brother, Berthold, kept vigil the whole time.  He was invited to play at Hastings in the spring of 1895.  While he was convalescing, he gave a series of lectures in Europe which later became the material for a book, Common Sense in Chess.  This series focused on some of the basics and I found a CBH version available on line for free. So if anyone is interested in this and can’t find it, drop me an email  and I might be able to help.


Lasker really needed to finish strong at Hasting’s to dispel the doubts of critics who were still unconvinced  by the match with Steinitz.   Here is one of his wins against Pillsbury  who went on to win the event despite this loss.


This turns into a day at the races.  Even though Lasker  placed third,  Tarrasch, who was his biggest rival admitted that  at Hastings “ Lasker has proved for the first time that he is a strong player.”

Shortly after this event, Lasker dominated the St. Petersburg  event in 1895/96 in the famous Quadrangular Tournament.  His victory was decisive as well as his games were on the ”high artistic plane” ( so claims Fred Reinfeld).  Here is a game against Tchigoran where Lasker takes his opponent to task after a premature attack.



After St. Petersburg,  he had another convincing victory at Nuremberg in the summer of 1896 where he took an early lead in the event never to have any of his rivals catch up. Here is a game against one of his biggest rivals, Tarrasch. He gets an early lead with a massive and mobile pawn center that soon becomes unstoppable.



He follows up this event with a return match With Steinitz. This time Steinitz’ games are less strenuous for Lasker. Rather than show a game where a strong up and comer takes over a Legend who’s prime has passed, I will take a play from Lasker and offer  a tribute to Steinitz’ genius  through the eyes  and words of Lasker  (from his book ” Lasker’s Manual of Chess” where he writes in great detail on this legendary genius):

“Another circumstance, a weakness of Steinitz, handicapped his style. He was obstinate. Naturally, he wanted to follow his maxim and beat those who did not follow it,; but thereby, though he was not aware of it, his Chess style became provocative. He provoked his antagonists into playing to win, by giving them an excuse  or at least a pretext for doing so. To this end he made the most unusual moves. Then, as a punishment for their presumption, he would beat them. That by his new methods he manifested his desire not to play to win from the start was entirely lost on his opponents, because their experience had taught them to expect just the contrary. This whole process was subconscious with Steinitz, and no logical necessity brought it about, but it was the outcome of Steinitz’s Psychology.”


Sounds like Lasker took a lead from his greatest predecessor as it is said that Lasker emulated the very obstinate nature o f this in some of his “unusual moves” as a psychological ploy.


Next, Lasker’s brief break and triumphant return to chess into the new century.