Emanuel Lasker - Early Years



Early years

Emanuel Lasker as a young man.

Emanuel Lasker was born at Berlinchen in Brandenburg (now Barlinek in Poland), the son of a Jewish cantor. At the age of 11 he was sent to Berlin to study mathematics, where he lived with his brother Berthold, eight years his senior, who taught him how to play chess. Berthold, a strong player in his own right, was according to Chessmetrics among the world's top ten players in the early 1890s. He was also possibly distantly related to International Master Edward Lasker.

To supplement their income Emanuel Lasker played chess and card games for small stakes, especially at the Cafe Kaiserhof.

Lasker shot up through the chess rankings in 1889, when he won a tournament at Cafe Kaiserhof and the "second division" tournament at the German Chess Federation's (DSB) congress, held in Breslau; finished second in an international tournament at Amsterdam, ahead of some well-known masters including Isidore Gunsberg, who finished 3rd in the New York 1888 "Candidates Tournament" and unsuccessfully challenged for Wilhelm Steinitz' World Chess Championship title, also in 1889. In 1890 Lasker shared first prize with his brother Berthold in a tournament in Berlin and finished third in Graz. He followed up with tournament victories at London 1892 (by 4½ points) and New York 1893, in both cases without losing a game.

His match record was equally impressive: at Berlin in 1890 he drew a short play-off match against his brother Berthold; and won all his other matches from 1889 to 1893, mostly against top-class opponents: Curt von Bardeleben (1889; 9th), Jacques Mieses (1889; 11th), Henry Edward Bird (1890; then 60 years old; 29th), Berthold Englisch (1890; 18th), Joseph Henry Blackburne (1892, without losing a game; Blackburne was aged 51 then, but still 9th in the world), against Jackson Showalter (1892-1893; 22nd) and Celso Golmayo Zúpide (1893; 29th). Chessmetrics calculates that Emanuel Lasker became the world's strongest player in mid-1890, and that he was in the top 10 from the very beginning of his recorded career in 1889.

In 1892 Lasker founded the first of his chess magazines, The London Chess Fortnightly, which was published from August 15, 1892 to July 30, 1893. In the second quarter of 1893 there was a gap of 10 weeks between issues, allegedly because of problems with the printer. Shortly after its last issue Lasker traveled to the USA, where he spent the next two years.