Lasker's Later Years...



Lasker in his later years


In January 1920 Lasker and José Raúl Capablancasigned an agreement to play a world championship match in 1921, noting that Capablanca was not free to play in 1920. Because of the delay Lasker insisted on a final clause that: allowed him to play anyone else for the championship in 1920; nullified the contract with Capablanca if Lasker lost a title match in 1920; and stipulated that if Lasker resigned the title Capablanca should become world champion. Lasker had previously included in his agreement before World War I to play Akiba Rubinstein for the title a similar clause that if he resigned the title, it should become Rubinstein's. A report in the American Chess Bulletin(July-August 1920 issue) said that Lasker had resigned the world title in favor of Capablanca because the conditions of the match were unpopular in the chess world. The American Chess Bulletinspeculated that the conditions were not sufficiently unpopular to warrant resignation of the title, and that Lasker's real concern was that there was not enough financial backing to justify his devoting 9 months to the match.

When Lasker resigned the title in favor of Capablanca he was unaware that enthusiasts in Havana had just raised $20,000 to fund the match provided it was played there. When Capablanca learned of Lasker's resignation he went Holland, where Lasker was living at the time, to inform him that Havana would finance the match. In August 1920 Lasker agreed to play in Havana, but insisted that he was the challenger as Capablanca was now the champion. Capablanca signed an agreement that accepted this point, and soon afterwards published a letter confirming this. Lasker also stated that, if he beat Capablanca, he would resign the title so that younger masters could compete for it. The match was played in March to April 1921 and Lasker resigned it after 14 games, when he was trailing by 4 games and had not won one.

By this time Lasker was nearly 53 years old, and he never played another serious match; his only other match was a a short exhibition against Frank James Marshall in 1940, which he won. After winning the 1924 New York tournament (1½ points ahead of Capablanca) and finishing 2nd at Moscow in 1925 (1½ points behind Efim Bogoljubow, ½ point ahead of Capablanca), he effectively retired from serious chess.

During the Moscow Tournament of 1925, Emanuel Lasker received a telegram informing him that the drama written by himself and his brother Berthold , Vom Menschen die Geschichte("History of Mankind"), had been accepted for performance at the Lessing theatre in Berlin. Emanuel Lasker was so distracted by this news that he lost badly to Carlos Torre the same day. The play was not a success and has little literary value.

In 1926 Lasker wrote Lehrbuch des Schachspiels, which he re-wrote in English in 1927 as Lasker's Manual of Chess. He also wrote books on other games of mental skill: Encyclopedia of Games(1929) and Das verständige Kartenspiel (means "Sensible Card Play"; 1929; English translation in the same year), both of which posed a problem in the mathematical analysis of card games; Brettspiele der Völker("Board Games of the Nations"; 1931), which includes 30 pages about Go and a section about a game he had invented in 1911, Lasca; and Das Bridgespiel("The Game of Bridge"; 1931). Lasker became an expert bridge player, representing Germany at international events in the early 1930s.

In October 1928 Emanuel Lasker's brother Berthold died.

Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, gained dictatorial powers in March 1933, and in April 1933 started a campaign of discrimination and intimidation against Jews. Lasker and his wife Martha, who were both Jews, left Germany in 1933, and all their assets in Germany were confiscated. After a short stay in England, in 1935 they were invited to live in the USSR by Nikolai Krylenko, the Commissar of Justice who was responsible for the Moscow show trials and, in his other capacity as Sports Minister, was an enthusastic supporter of chess. In the USSR Lasker renounced his German citizenship and received Soviet citizenship, and was given a post, probably honorary, at Moscow's Institute for Mathematics.

Lasker returned to competitive chess to make some money, finishing 5th in Zürich 1934 and 3rd in Moscow 1935 (undefeated, ½ point behind Mikhail Botvinnik and Salo Flohr; ahead of Capablanca, Rudolf Spielmann and several Soviet masters), 6th in Moscow 1936 and 7th equal in Nottingham 1936. His performance in Moscow 1935 at age 67 was hailed as "a biological miracle."

Unfortunately Stalin's Great Purge started at about the same time the Laskers arrived in the USSR. In 1937, after a trip to New York to visit relatives, Martha and Emanuel Lasker decided to stay in the USA. In the following year Emanuel Lasker's patron Krylenko was purged.

Martha Lasker died in 1937, soon after the couple took residence in the USA. Lasker tried to support himself by giving chess and bridge lectures and and exhibitions, as he was now too old for serious competition. In 1940 he published his last book, The Community of the Future, in which he proposed solutions for serious political problems, including anti-Semitism and unemployment. He died of a kidney infection in New York on January 11, 1941, at the age of 72, as a charity patient at Mount Sinai Hospital.