Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Part 3: Em. Lasker; The Champion returns to Europe.

In the last post, we explored the ramp up to Emanuel Lasker’s becoming the 2nd official World Champion following Willhelm Steinitz. He returns to Europe in the later part of 1894 on the heels of his new title but was seriously ill with typhoid fever and had a very long recovery. His brother, Berthold, kept vigil the whole time. He was invited to play at Hastings in the spring of 1895. While he was convalescing, he gave a series of lectures in Europe which later became the material for a book, Common Sense in Chess. This series focused on some of the basics and I found a CBH version available on line for free. So if anyone is interested in this and can’t find it, drop me an email and I might be able to help.

Lasker really needed to finish strong at Hasting’s to dispel the doubts of critics who were still unconvinced by the match with Steinitz. Here is one of his wins against Pillsbury who went on to win the event despite this loss.

This turns into a day at the races. Even though Lasker placed third, Tarrasch, who was his biggest rival admitted that at Hastings “ Lasker has proved for the first time that he is a strong player.”

Shortly after this event, Lasker dominated the St. Petersburg event in 1895/96 in the famous Quadrangular Tournament. His victory was decisive as well as his games were on the ”high artistic plane” ( so claims Fred Reinfeld). Here is a game against Tchigoran where Lasker takes his opponent to task after a premature attack.

After St. Petersburg, he had another convincing victory at Nuremberg in the summer of 1896 where he took an early lead in the event never to have any of his rivals catch up. Here is a game against one of his biggest rivals, Tarrasch. He gets an early lead with a massive and mobile pawn center that soon becomes unstoppable.

He follows up this event with a return match With Steinitz. This time Steinitz’ games are less strenuous for Lasker. Rather than show a game where a strong up and comer takes over a Legend who’s prime has passed, I will take a play from Lasker and offer a tribute to Steinitz’ genius through the eyes and words of Lasker (from his book ” Lasker’s Manual of Chess” where he writes in great detail on this legendary genius):

“Another circumstance, a weakness of Steinitz, handicapped his style. He was obstinate.
Naturally, he wanted to follow his maxim and beat those who did not follow it,;
but thereby, though he was not aware of it, his Chess style became provocative.
He provoked his antagonists into playing to win, by giving them an excuse or at least a pretext for doing so. To this end he made the most unusual moves. Then, as a punishment for their presumption, he would beat them. That by his new methods he manifested his desire not to play to win from the start was entirely lost on his opponents, because their
experience had taught them to expect just the contrary. This whole process was
subconscious with Steinitz, and no logical necessity brought it about, but it
was the outcome of Steinitz’s Psychology.”

Sounds like Lasker took a lead from his greatest predecessor as it is said that Lasker emulated the very obstinate nature o f this in some of his “unusual moves” as a psychological ploy.

Next, Lasker’s brief break and triumphant return to chess into the new century.

1 comment:

LinuxGuy said...

Haven't had a chance to go through the games (been going through a lot of books myself, lately).

The insight you put at the end is great. I sense you've run into this yourself, where the opponent plays for equality even if White, and is just biding their time for a massive counter-strike.

Bronstein could do some strange slow-play like Steinitz did. It was mostly done for purposes of prevention/prophylaxis. Lasker adopted some of this himself, IMHO, but I don't think it was as strong as what Steinitz was doing. Lasker got so strong, combinationally, however, that he could blow apart an imperfect defense or come back after an opening misfortune, just because of his strength.

Then came the era where they really did know their openings and study them, and Lasker had many, many other interests, didn't spend all day studying openings would be an understatement. At some point, the "new era" of chess with it's openings studies is bound to sweep some of these players by, as talented as they became.

I say this, being not a huge believer in openings myself, but if someone knows them at a high-level, well that is how you get so many draws, and can't always play for the win straight-out.