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The Top 10 Chess Games Of The 1910s (And 110+ Honorable Mentions)

The Top 10 Chess Games Of The 1910s (And 110+ Honorable Mentions)

SamCopeland
| 8

The 1910s were a decade interrupted. The first half of the decade was (from a chess perspective) the most exciting that had yet been seen. Lasker drew a dramatic World Chess Championship match against Schlechter and  won a crushing match against Janowsky. He was soon pressed with challenges first from Capablanca and soon from Rubinstein. Both Capablanca and Rubinstein were playing excellently, winning consistently and brilliantly, and were obvious challengers to the great Lasker.

Sadly Lasker engaged in tactics of delay, making it difficult for either challenger to gain a commitment to a match that the chess world was desperate to see. Capablanca had the funds, but Lasker imposed ridiculous conditions, including a requirement that Capablanca had to win by two. Rubinstein for his part was unable to raise the funds. The lack of a deserved match developing highlights the problems of a world championship cycle controlled by the champion. In modern times, while I am sad that Carlsen will not defend his title, I am glad that he is not trying to retain his title outside of a fair world championship cycle. Interestingly, I did hear a proposal for a hybrid modern chess title system that I liked: a two year cycle run by FIDE through which one challenger would be selected, BUT in the off year, the champion could accept any challenger he deemed worthy provided they raised the funds. In such a system, one could finally see a Carlsen vs. Firouzja match if Carlsen is so motivated.

Returning to 1910, things came to a head in the great St. Petersburg tournament of 1914. Capablanca tore through the first half of this two-stage tournament, winning with an undefeated score of 8/10, a point and a half clear of Lasker and the rest of the field. Rubinstein meanwhile didn't finish in the top five, and thus he was unable to advance to the second stage.

In the final five-player stage at St. Petersburg, Lasker was triumphant, scoring a remarkable 7/8 and winning a masterpiece, my #1 game of the decade, against Capablanca. With this victory, Lasker reasserted the legitimacy of his title. Had Capablanca won the tournament and their individual game, Lasker would have been a champion in name only. Still, the world remained eager to see a full match.

The participants in St. Petersburg, 1914.

Then, the interruption... World War I was a human-made cataclysm that cost tens of millions of lives and disrupted all aspects of global life, including chess matches. Even after the war was over in 1918, civil wars, revolutions, and a deadly influenza pandemic ravaged nations. It would not be until the 1920s that a match with Lasker and Capablanca would finally come to fruition. In fact, the matches between Schlechter and Lasker and Janowsky and Lasker in 1910 were the only World Chess Championship matches played in the decade, and it's even disputed if the world championship title was at stake against Schlechter!

In the war years, Capablanca's mystique only grew. He began a streak of unbeaten tournament games in 1916 that would last 63 games and nine years, only ending in 1924. While not comparable to Carlsen's 125 game unbeaten streak, it was a testament to Capablanca's stature as the strongest player in the world.

The drama surrounding the World Championship was not the only drama at play in the decade. Many of the most legendary chess games and stories were played in this decade. Nimzowitsch and Tarrasch were feuding in the press. Hypermodern masters such as Nimzowitsch, Tartakower, and Breyer were founding new opening and strategic ideas, and Marshall was swindling. The 1910s, though interrupted, were a great chess decade. Who knows how many more brilliant games would have been played in a world without war.

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See also: 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: Lasker vs. Capablanca, 1914

#2: Lasker vs. Thomas, 1912

#3: Nimzowitsch vs. Tarrasch, 1914

#4: Capablanca vs. Marshall, 1918

#5: Schlechter vs. Rubinstein, 1912

#6: Janowski vs. Chajes, 1916

#7: Spielmann vs. Rubinastein, 1911

#8: Reti vs. Flamberg, 1912

#9: Rubinstein vs. Vidmar, 1918

#10: Nimzowitsch vs. Baron Ungern-Sternberg, 1910

Honorable Mentions