Mastery: Master Games

World Champions (2): The Lasker Years

World Champions (2): The Lasker Years

Jeremy continues his historical trek, moving on to the games of the man whose reign as World Champion lasted longer than any other -- an amazing 27 years. Emanuel Lasker was a polymath; in addition to his chess, he was an accomplished mathematician and philosopher who was also a personal friend of Albert Einstein. Lasker believed that chess was a struggle, and was probably the first champion to take a psychological approach to chess.

  • Lasker-Steinitz, New York 1894

    As fate would have it, Steinitz (1836-1900) met the strongest challenger of his life at the age of 58. Facing a much younger man is one thing, but facing a player of Lasker's (1868- 1941) enormous genius when you are on the downside of your own career is a hopeless task. This position (the first moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 Nge7 6.Bc4 Nxd4 7.Nxd4 exd4 8.Qxd4 Nc6 9.Qe3 Ne5 10.Bb3 c6 11.Qg3 Ng6 12.h4 Be6 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.Bg5 Be7 15.0-0-0 e5 16.Be3 0-0 17.Ne2 Rf7 18.h5 Nf4 19.Bxf4 exf4 20.Qf3 Qa5 21.Kb1 Qe5 22.Nd4 Bf6 23.c3 Re8 24.Rhe1 Bd8 25.Qg4 Bc7 26.Nf3 Qf6 27.Nd2 Rfe7 28.f3 d5 29.Rh1 Re5 30.g3 Rg5 31.Qd7 Qf7 32.Qxf7+ Kxf7 33.g4 Bb6 34.exd5 cxd5 35.Nb3 Re3 36.Rhf1 Rge5) is from the first game of the 1894 Lasker-Steinitz World Championship Match. Black's active pieces seem to give him a good game. How did White make progress here?

    • 5 challenges
  • Possible variation from the first match game (from the first match) between Lasker-Steinitz, New Yor

    White appears to be winning a pawn. Black must either find a defense against these threats or come up with a way to get adequate compensation for the pawn he is about to lose.

    • 6 challenges
  • Steinitz-Lasker, New York 1894

    After winning the first game of the 1894 World Championship Match, Lasker may have felt that the aging Steinitz was not going to be a big problem. This position (the first moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.c3 Bd7 6.Ba4 g6 7.Nbd2 Bg7 8.Nc4 0-0 9.Ne3 Ne7 10.Bb3 c6 11.h4 Qc7 12.Ng5 d5), from the second game, showed that the Champion could still bite. How did he conduct the attack?

    • 16 challenges
  • Lasker-Steinitz, Philadelphia 1894

    After Lasker defeated Steinitz 12-7 in their match for the World Championship, one would have thought that he would have been given all the respect that a champion normally enjoys. Surprisingly, this was not the case. Lasker had done what nobody else could with weapons that nobody else had ever possessed. This match ushered in a new age of chess in which positional understanding and technique overcame the crass attacking style that had been so prevalent a few short years before. This position (the first moves were 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Bd3 c5 7.dxc5 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1 Nc6 10.a3 Bxc5 11.b4 Bb6 12.Ke2 Bd7 13.Bb3 Rac8 14.Bb2 a5 15.b5 Ne7 16.Ne5 Be8 17.a4 Bc7 18.Nc4 Bd7 19.Rac1 Ned5 20.Nxd5 Nxd5 21.Ne5 Bxe5 22.Bxe5 f6 23.e4 fxe5 24.exd5 Kf7 25.Rhd1 Ke7 26.d6+ Kf6 27.Ke3 Rxc1 28.Rxc1 Rc8 29.Rxc8 Bxc8) is from the 11th game of the match. White is clearly better but it is not so easy to transform that advantage into a certain win.

    • 5 challenges
  • Steinitz-Lasker, Philadelphia 1894

    World Champions are made of different stuff than normal grandmasters. Aside from possessing a greater understanding of the mysteries of chess, they also have a strength of will that is unheard of in normal humans. The present position (the first moves were 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bd6 6.Bd3 Nbd7 7.0-0 0-0 8.e4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 h6 11.Bc2 f5 12.Re1 Nf6 13.Bd2 Bd7 14.Bc3 Qc7 15.Ne5 Be8 16.Qd3 g5 17.Qh3 Qg7 18.Rad1 g4 19.Qe3 Bh5) is from the 14th game of the match. Steinitz made one final effort to keep his title by winning two games in a row (this victory put him down by three games). How do you think things proceeded?

    • 9 challenges
  • Lasker- Steinitz, Philadelphia 1894

    This position (The first moves were: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.Nc3 a6 5.Bc4 Be6 6.Bxe6 fxe6 7.d4 exd4 8.Nxd4 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Ne7 10.Bg5 Nc6 11.Bxd8 Nxd4 12.0-0-0 Nb5 13.Nxb5 axb5 14.Bxc7 Rxa2 15.Bb6 Be7 16.c3 Kf7 17.Kc2 Rha8 18.Kb3 R2a4 19.f3 R8a6 20.Bd4 g6 21.Rd3 Ke8 22.Rhd1 e5 23.Be3 Kd7) is from the ninth game of the match. Steinitz, playing Black, had just lost two games straight (putting him two down) and desperately needed to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, his position is very poor. How did Lasker claim his third straight win?

    • 7 challenges
  • Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896

    Though Steinitz put up a real fight in their first match, the second proved to be rather anticlimactic: it became an immediate rout, with Lasker winning the first four games in a row! This position, the second in the return match, began as follows: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 Nge7 5.0-0 Ng6 6.d4 exd4 7.cxd4 Bb6 8.Nc3 0-0 9.a4 a6 10.Bc4 h6 11.h3 d6 12.Be3 Nce7 13.Re1 c6 14.Qb3 Bc7 15.Nd2 Rb8. White is obviously better, but how did he deal with Black's threatened ...b7-b5 advance?

    • 26 challenges
  • Steinitz-Lasker, Moscow 1896

    After winning the title from Steinitz, Lasker was inundated by criticism from all corners of the globe; nobody really considered him to be the world's best player (they all said that his victory was due to his opponent's advanced age). This position, the third game of the return match, came about after the following moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.0-0 Bxc3 9.bxc3 d5 10.Ba3 dxc4 11.Re1 Be6 (11...f5 was played in the first game but, even though Black won, he feared an improvement and tried the text instead) 12.Rxe4 Qd5 13.Qe2 0-0-0 14.Ne5 Rhe8 15.Nxc6 Qxc6 16.Re1 Rg8 17.Re5 b6 18.Bc1. Black is a pawn up, but does the presence of Bishops of opposite colors make winning attempts harder or easier?

    • 9 challenges
  • Marshall-Lasker, New York 1907

    For various reasons, ten years went by between Lasker's title defenses (against Steinitz and Marshall). This position is from the first game of the match (the initial moves were: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Be7 6.e5 Ne4 7.Nxd4 0-0 8.Nf5 d5 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Nxe7+ Qxe7 11.Re1 Qh4 12.Be3 f6 13.f3 fxe5 14.fxe4 d4 15.g3 Qf6 16.Bxd4 exd4 17.Rf1 Qxf1+ 18.Qxf1 Rxf1+ 19.Kxf1). Neither side seems to have anything special. What amazing plan did Lasker come up with?

    • 8 challenges
  • Marshall-Lasker, Philadelphia 1907

    Lasker's first title defense after his rematch with Steinitz was against an American Grandmaster named Frank Marshall. it turned into another typical Lasker rout. The final score of 11 1/2-3 1/2 (eight wins, no losses, seven draws) showed just how dominant a player Lasker really was. This, the 7th game of the match, started with the following moves: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Bxe7 Ngxe7 8.dxc5 Qa5 9.e3 Qxc5 10.Bd3 Bg4 11.0-0 Rd8 12.Re1 f5 13.h3 Bh5 14.Be2 0-0 15.Nd4 Bxe2 16.Ncxe2 Rf6 17.Qb3 Na5 18.Qd3 Nc4 19.b3 Nd6 20.Rac1 Qb6 21.Rc2 Ne4 22.Rfc1 a6 23.Nf4 g5 25.Rc7 Nc6 25.Nfe6 Ne5. Marshall missed a golden chance to score a victory. Can you do better?

    • 8 challenges
  • Lasker-Marshall, Philadelphia 1907

    This, the eighth game of the match with Marshall, started with the following moves: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Qd2 Bxc3 8.Qxc3 Nc6 9.Nf3 Qe4+ 10.Kd2 Bd7 11.Re1 Qf4+ 12.Qe3 Qd6 13.Kc1 0-0-0 14.Rd1 Rhg8 15.g3 Nb4 16.Qa3 Bc6 17.Bg2. In this promising position, Marshall made a mistake and missed another chance for victory. Can you find what the great American failed to see?

    • 8 challenges
  • Lasker-Tarrasch, Dusseldorf 1908

    Tarrasch (1862-1934), a true intellectual and a man who had earned the highest educational attainments, was fond of telling everyone and anyone that he was the greatest chessplayer on earth. Tarrasch publicly tormented Lasker for years, putting the Champion's skills down in a strange attempt to make him seem second-rate. When the match was finally held the whole chess world couldn't wait to see who the better player really was. Lasker won decisively: 10 1/2-5 1/2).

    • 8 challenges
  • Tarrasch-Lasker, Dusseldorf 1908

    This match, played in Dusseldorf and Munich, almost never happened. Both players disliked each other and negotiations went on for years. When the smoke cleared, Tarrasch had been soundly beaten, 10 1/2- 5 1/2. Lasker was still King and would remain so for another thirteen years.

    • 4 challenges
  • Lasker-Janowsky, First Match (Paris) 1909

    The Russian born Janowsky (who made his home in Paris) was a small, energetic man who loved to attack. Janowsky was a chess professional (which meant paychecks were few and far between) and also had a weakness for gambling. Lasker completely dominated Janowsky in matches. The present game (the first moves were: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nc3 Bc5 6.d3 Qe7 7.Be3 Bxe3 8.fxe3 Bg4 9.Qe2 Nh6 10.0-0-0 0-0-0 11.h3 Bh5 12.d4 exd4 13.exd4 Rhe8 14.Rhe1 f6 15.g4 Bf7 16.Qf2 Kb8 17.Kb1 Bg8 18.Nh4 Nf7 19.Nf5 Qf8 20.b3 Nd6 21.Rd3 Nb5 22.Na4 b6 23.c4 Na3+ 24.Kc1 g6 25.Ng3 Qe7 26.Qd2 Kb7 27.Qc3 a5 28.Rf3 Rf8 29.Ref1 h5 30.gxh5 gxh5) is the fourth game of this mini-match. Lasker was one point down and had to win to break even. Naturally, he rose to the occasion, won this game and tied the match. How did White make use of his many positional plusses to drag his opponent into oblivion?

    • 10 challenges
  • Janowsky-Lasker, Second Match (Paris) 1909

    The present position, from the second game of the second match between Janowsky and Lasker and came about as follows: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 d6 7.Bg5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Ne7 9.Bc4 Ng6 10.Nh4 Nf4 11.Bxf4 exf4 12.Nf3 Bg4 13.h3 Bh5 14.Rb1 b6 15.Qd2 Bxf3 16.gxf3 Nh5 17.Kh2 Qf6 18.Rg1 Rae8 19.d4 Kh8 20.Rb5.

    • 11 challenges
  • Schlechter-Lasker, Vienna 1910

    Carl Schlechter (1874-1918) was a Viennese player who, from 1900 until his death, ranked among the top six players in the world. This match against Lasker was originally meant to consist of thirty games but lack of funds cut it to a ridiculously low ten. Playing such a short match was an enormous risk for Lasker because one bad game could cost him the championship (in other words, luck entered the picture in a short match while skill dominated in a longer contest). Lasker had completely outplayed his opponent and had reached a winning position. However, his fifty-fourth move was a blunder that lost the game (54...Rb7 was correct) and almost turned the chess world upside down. How did Schlechter take advantage of this error?

    • 5 challenges
  • Lasker-Schlechter, Vienna 1910

    The position in front of you is from the tenth game of this match. The first moves saw the advantage swing back and forth and finally rest with the challenger: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Bd3 0-0 (This system of development for Black is known as the Schlechter Variation) 7.Qc2 Na6 8.a3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 b5 10.Bd3 b4 11.Na4 bxa3 12.bxa3 Bb7 13.Rb1 Qc7 (White has come out of the opening with the advantage but now he over-presses and ends up in trouble) 14.Ne5 Nh5 15.g4 Bxe5 16.gxh5 Bg7 17.hxg6 hxg6 18.Qc4 Bc8 19.Rg1 Qa5+ 20.Bd2 Qd5 21.Rc1 Bb7 22.Qc2 Qh5 23.Bxg6 Qxh2 24.Rf1 fxg6 25.Qb3+ Rf7 26.Qxb7 Raf8 27.Qb3 Kh8 28.f4 g5 29.Qd3 gxf4 30.exf4 Qh4+ 31.Ke2 Qh2+ 32.Rf2 Qh5+ 33.Rf3 Nc7 34.Rxc6 Nb5 35.Rc4. At this point Schlechter went wrong and lost the game and the title with it. How could history have been changed?

    • 4 challenges
  • Janowsky-Lasker, Third Match (Berlin) 1910

    The position under discussion is from the fourth game of the third match (the first moves were: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c4 e6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Bxc4 a6 8.a4 Be7 9.Nc3 0-0 10.b3 cxd4 11.exd4 Nb4 12.Bb2 b6 13.Qe2 Bb7 14.Rad1 Nfd5 15.Ne5 Nf4 16.Qg4). The game is imbalanced and sharp. Lasker was clearly superior to Janowsky in endgames and in positional struggles, but now he shows that he is the stronger player in tactical situations also. How did Black proceed?

    • 7 challenges
  • Lasker-Janowsky, Third Match (Berlin) 1910

    A third match was arranged and this time Lasker humiliated his opponent by winning nine games, losing none, and drawing just three (Lasker's lifetime score versus Janowsky was twenty-six wins to just four defeats with seven draws). The position before you is from the fifth game of the third Lasker- Janowsky match (the first moves were: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Be6 6.e4 dxe4 7.Nxe4 Nc6 8.Be3 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Qa5+ 10.Nc3 0-0-0 11.a3 Nh6 12.b4 Qe5 13.Ncb5 Nf5 14.Rc1 Nxe3 15.fxe3 Qxe3+ 16.Be2 Be7 17.Rc3 Bh4+ 18.g3 Qe4 19.0-0 Bf6). Janowsky, as Black, had gained a winning advantage right in the opening. However, several errors allowed the Champion to turn the game around. How did Lasker turn almost certain defeat into a stunning victory?

    • 10 challenges
  • Lasker-Janowsky, Second Match (Paris) 1909

    The present position is from the third game of the second match (won by Lasker with seven wins to one, and two draws). The first moves were: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d4 exd4 6.Qxd4 Bg4 7.Nc3 Qxd4 8.Nxd4 0-0-0 9.Be3 Bb4. We have a typical Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez scenario. Janowsky wants to cripple White's pawn structure on the queenside. How did Lasker deal with this threat?

    • 7 challenges
  • Schlechter-Lasker, Berlin 1910

    The present game (The first moves were: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Bc4 d6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.e6 f5 10.0-0 Bg7 11.Bf4 Qb6 12.Bb3 Ba6 13.Na4 Qd4 14.Qxd4 Bxd4 15.c4 0-0 16.Rad1 Bf6 17.Rfe1 g5 18.Bxd6) is the seventh of the match between Lasker and Schlechter, when Lasker was down by one point (he lost the fifth game from a vastly superior position) and had to try and win as either color. Here he's gone a bit too far, allowing White to sacrifice a piece and grab the initiative. How did Lasker survive this attack?

    • 8 challenges
  • Lasker-Tarrasch, Berlin 1916

    Lasker routed poor Tarrasch with five straight wins in a 1916 match. This position, from the sixth and final game, shows the kind of brutality that Tarrasch had to endure. The first moves were: 1.e5 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 Be7 7.Re1 b5 8.Rxe4 d5 9.Nxe5 Nxe5 10.Rxe5 bxa4 11.Nc3 Be6. How did Lasker punish his opponent for his poor opening play?

    • 7 challenges
  • Corzo-Capablanca, Cuba 1902

    Jose Raul Capablanca (born in Cuba: 1888-1942) was a true chess genius who liked to brag that he won the first game of chess he ever played (against his father) while only four years of age. The present position has nothing to do with Lasker. However, I have included it for the following reason: the fourteen year old Capablanca's play is so beautiful that it gives the student a better idea of the genius that Lasker had to face in 1921.

    • 7 challenges
  • Capablanca-Lasker, Cuba 1921

    A confident Capablanca had tried for several years to organize a match with the aging Lasker. When the match was finally held in 1921, Lasker was far past his prime while Capablanca was at the height of his powers. The present position (The first moves were:1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 Be7 6.Nc3 0-0 7.Rc1 b6 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Qa4 c5 10.Qc6 Rb8 11.Nxd5 Bb7!? 12.Nxe7+ Qxe7 13.Qa4 Rbc8? 14.Qa3) is better for White but this doesn't mean that Black is without chances. How did Lasker (playing Black) keep himself in the game?

    • 7 challenges
  • Capablanca-Lasker, Havana 1921

    In the present position (the eleventh of the match) Capablanca has built up an impressive space advantage (the first moves were: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 Be7 6.Nc3 0-0 7.Rc1 Re8 8.Qc2 c6 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nd5 11.Bxe7 Rxe7 12.0-0 Nf8 13.Rfd1 Bd7 14.e4 Nb6 15.Bf1 Rc8 16.b4 Be8 17.Qb3 Rec7 18.a4 Ng6 19.a5 Nd7). How did the Cuban handle the position from here?

    • 12 challenges
  • Variation of 10th Lasker-Capablanca match game

    Many thought Lasker's career over after he lost the world title. Still needing to earn a living, he came back in 1924 to compete in the New York International. Lasker won this event, one of the greatest tournaments in history, by a full point and a half over Capablanca (who placed clear second). Lasker finished ahead of Capablanca in three more tournaments (one as champion and the other four after losing his title). Capablanca only came ahead of Lasker when the old man was in his 68th year. This position came about in the 10th game of their match (the first moves were: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Qc2 c5 8.Rd1 Qa5 9.Bd3 h6 10.Bh4 cxd4 11.exd4 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Nb6 13.Bb3 Bd7 14.0-0 Rac8 15.Ne5 Bb5 16.Rfe1 Nbd5). Lasker failed to find the correct continuation. Can you do better?

    • 7 challenges
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