The Top 10 Chess Games Of The 1900s (And 80+ Honorable Mentions)

The Top 10 Chess Games Of The 1900s (And 80+ Honorable Mentions)

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The 1900s were a chess decade in development. Just as the world was observing rapid modernization, the chess world was also modernizing. Lasker remained the reigning world champion at the decades outset, but he had not defended his title since his rematch with Wilhelm Steinitz in 1896. Where Steinitz defended his title every year or two, against Chigorin twice and against Gunsberg before Lasker, Lasker proved more difficult to pin down for a match and was focused on his doctoral studies.

That is not to say that Lasker did not play and play very, very well. He played in multiple tournaments and routinely won in the latter half of the 1890s. He also began the 1900s with perhaps his finest tournament victory ever, first place in Paris in 1900, in a tournament organized concurrently with the World Fair. Lasker won 14 games, lost only one to the newcomer, Frank Marshall, and took a short final-round draw against Mikhail Chigorin. With such performances, who could challenge him?

Lasker is missing in this photo from Paris, 1900, but a future challenger, Carl Schlechter, is in thought at the board. Marshall stands in the back and center.

In fact, two of Lasker's most promising potential challengers, Rudolf Charousek and Harry Pillsbury, died in the 1900s before a match could possibly materialize. Charousek died at the outset of the decade in April of 1900, most probably from tuberculosis. Pillsbury died later in 1906, most probably from syphilis. Both had suffered previous to their passing, and their play had deteriorated in the later events they did play.

Lasker's next major tournament was the great Cambridge Springs tournament of 1904. The event was a huge victory for Frank Marshall who won 11 games and drew only 4. Lasker finished in shared second with Dawid Janowski, a full two points back. By the end of the decade, in 1907, Lasker would accept a World Championship match against Marshall. This was his first title defense in 11 years, and he won the most decisive match in championship history. He scored 8 wins with 0 losses. He also accepted a match in the following year against Seigbert Tarrasch, again winning 8 games but this time losing 3.

It seemed Lasker's dominance was so great that there was little point in accepting challenges from players who were just not at the same level. However, by the end of the decade, two challengers of serious stature emerged, both vying for their own shot at the title. The first was Akiba Rubinstein who in 1907 had won one of the great chess masterpieces against Georg Rotlewi and who, in 1909, shared first with Lasker in St. Petersburg. The second was Jose Capablanca who in the same year defeated Frank Marshall with another eight victories though he did lose one game, thus coming short of Lasker's mark against the many-time American champion. Rubinstein and Capablanca would only achieve more illustrious victories in the beginning of the 1910s, expanding their case for a title challenge.

Lasker(l) and Rubinstein(r) seated across the board and surrounded by the St. Petersburg 1909 field.

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See also: Top 10 of the 1910s, Top 10 of the 1920s, Top 10 of the 1930s, Top 10 of the 1940s, Top 10 of the 1950s, Top 10 of the 1960s, Top 10 of the 1970s, Top 10 of the 1980s, Top 10 of the 1990s, Top 10 of the 2000s, and Top 10 of the 2010s

Top 10 Games of the 1910s

#1: Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein, 1907

#2: Caldas vs. Silvestre, 1900

#3: Marshall vs. Lasker, 1907

#4: Halprin vs. Pillsbury, 1900

#5: Daly vs. Young, 1907

#6: Toupalik vs. Ort, 1907

#7: Marshall vs. Capablanca, 1909

#8: Janowski vs. Tarrasch, 1905

#9: Krejcik vs. Krobst, 1908

#10: Chigorin vs. Mortimer, 1900

Honorable Mentions

    NM Sam Copeland

    I'm the VP of Chess and Community for I earned the National Master title in 2012, and in 2014, I returned to my home state of South Carolina to start Strategery: Chess and Games. In late 2014, I began working for and haven't looked back since.

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