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The First Lasker - Janowsky Match. 1909.

The First Lasker - Janowsky Match. 1909.

May 28, 2017, 6:57 AM 7

The above photograph is from the players' second match, played a few months later in the year.


I decided to do a small post on this match for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the games are fascinating, and little known. Secondly, it allows me to introduce a few things to people.

In the early years of the 20th century, there was a wonderful series of books published in England under the title 'The Year-book of Chess'. They were edited by E.A.Michell in London, who also published them until his death in 1912. The work was then taken on by M.W.Stevens, W.H.Watts, and A.W.Foster. They brought together all the best chess of the year, with reports and annotations from a huge variety of sources. Later the compiler Fred Wilson brought out two books based on them. 'Classical Chess Matches:1907-1913' and 'Lesser Known Chess Masterpieces'. For me, these two books are as good an introduction to the chess of the period as you will find.

One of the sources used in the 'Year-book's was Marco's 'Wiener Schachzeitung'. As mentioned elsewhere, my late friend Barry (B.H.) Wood considered that particular magazine, along with Potter's 'City of London Chess Magazine', to be the best chess periodicals ever published. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there is no need to scour the World for copies and keep them in the 'treasure cupboard', as Barry did! They can be viewed online here.



I have used the games of this match as an introduction to, (or an advertisement for!) Marco's work. Having spent an hour or two with my head in chess magazines, I find myself agreeing with Barry. Marco and Potter were truly wonderful.


There have been, and still are, authors who have a pronounced 'anti-Lasker' viewpoint - generally based on no facts at all, and I will come back to that in a post I am working on. His three matches with Janowsky have been used against him. On the match in question, it has been suggested that he deliberately failed to win the match, in order to obtain a longer match, for more money, that he knew he would win. Well, those kind of things are easily said. No-one can prove or disprove someone's private motives, and if the accused is not around to defend himself, then there is no need to worry about possible consequences! My viewpoint is simple. Lasker was very, very clever indeed!! Let's not insult his intelligence by saying that if he had been motivated in that way, he would have gone about it by putting himself in the position of having to win the last game of the match in order to draw. Much better to have put himself in the lead, and then lose the last game!! Other opinions are available.


O.K. On to the match. Janowsky was a player in a fortunate position. He had someone who was prepared to finance his chess. That 'someone' was Leo Nardus, who can be seen in the background in the above photograph. At the time, he was variously described as 'a wealthy Parisian art dealer', or 'Wealthy Dutch artist'. He supported Janowsky in a number of matches, most especially against Frank Marshall, in 1905 and again in 1912, amongst others.


More on him can be found here.



It has been said that the first Lasker - Janowsky match was arranged as a kind of test, to see if it was worth while for Nardus to sponsor a match between the two for the world title. What actually happened was that Nardus sponsored a second 'exhibition match' later in the year. Despite Janowsky being decisively beaten - +1 -7 =2, a match for the World Championship did in fact follow, That took place in November and December 1910, and Janowsky was hammered to the tune of 8-0 with 3 draws.

According to 'The Field', May 22, 1909. Nardus asked Lasker under what conditions he would play a World championship match with Janowsky. Lasker stated that he would play for a stake of 10,000 francs, but would not be able to play the match for two years. ( he was in negotiations with Schlechter at the time). Nardus agreed. and quote. 'M.Nardus therefore arranged this short match of four games in the meantime'. Nardus then agreed to contribute 6,000 francs towards the 10,000 that Lasker was looking for. (see batgirl's comment below)

This is confirmed by Marco in Wiener Schachzeitung.



The first match took place in Nardus' villa in Suresnes, near Paris, one source I have names it as 'Villa Lea', from May 12th to 21st. According to Deutches Wochenschach, 1909, the patron provided the accommodation and a prize fund of 2500 francs. This was split into three part. 750 to each player, with 1000 to the winner. As the match was drawn, the players received 1,250 francs each. The games of the match speak for themselves. Contrary to what you may read, Janowsky was capable of great chess! He is one of only two players - Tarrasch being the other - with tournament wins over the first four World Champions (Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine) Certainly by 1905 he was regarded as a serious challenger for the World title. He was, however, of notoriously 'artistic' temperament! Forster, in his book on Amos Burn, relates a story of Burn winning some off-hand games against him. Janowsky was so enraged that he challenged Burn, who was known as an expert in odds - play to play for stakes, receiving the odds of Pawn and move! Burn gratefully accepted the odds, and pocketed the money! Such a temperament is not ideal for hard match play, as you can see from the two later matches with Lasker. However, in a match of just four games like this one, even so great a match player as Lasker had every reason to be concerned, and so it proved.

I give the four games, with Marco's Wiener Schachzeitung notes.






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