A Century of Chess: Berlin Grandmasters 1918
Berlin grandmasters, 1918

A Century of Chess: Berlin Grandmasters 1918

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Again, it’s hard to believe that this tournament really took place. It was held in September-October of 1918 with Berlin facing food shortages and the Armistice a month away. Schlechter would die of some combination of starvation or pneumonia before the end of the year. Observers reported the participants looked malnourished. Hard to believe that any of them had time for chess - and, yet, here they were, having a perfectly credible high-end tournament.

Lasker seemed to be none the worse for wear and won smoothly, with two victories over Tarrasch and one over Schlechter. Rubinstein rebounded from an embarrassing performance at the Berlin Masters earlier in the year to take second place. As in his 1916 match with Lasker, Tarrasch no longer seemed like himself. He had lost three sons in six years, and, despite the brave front that he put on, his play reveals signs of psychic distress.

This is, tragically where we say goodbye to Carl Schlechter. After the tournament he traveled to Budapest, played in a small tournament and simultaneous exhibition, but collapsed shortly afterwards and died at age 44. It's always been a bit unclear what actually happened. The print-the-legend version is that, as Hannak writes in Emanuel Lasker: The Life of a Chess Master, he was too proud to ask for any help and "literally starved to death." In some accounts the appearance is made of a small room "without any money, heat, or food." Contemporary accounts paint a slightly different picture - after all, Schlechter had just won some tournament prizes - and point to tuberculosis, exacerbated in any case by the impoverished conditions of Central Europe at the end of the war. 

Sources: The tournament is discussed in various biographies of Lasker - by Hannak, Soltis, Linder, etc. Rubinstein's perspective is given in Donaldson and Minev's The Life and Games of Akiva RubinsteinLikely, the best account of Schlechter's end is in Warren Goldman's Carl Schlechter!: The Life and Times of the Austrian Chess Wizard. There's an excerpt here but I don't have access to the book.