The turn of the century sees Lasker finishing strong in a couple of major events after he took a couple of years off. We first see him in London in 1899, where he was in first place by a clear 4 ½ points! Georg Marco, a Romanian Chess master who came in 2nd place in the event ( and finished 17that Hastings a few years earlier), remarked: “ Lasker was there, Lasker I, Lasker the Unique!”
The following year, he has another convincing victory in Paris (1900) with a 2 point lead ahead of Pillsbury. This game against Amos Burns, is a masterpiece of how Lasker took a slight lead in the opening and pressed on through the entire game.
In 1900, David Hilbert, a world renowned German mathematician of his day, became aware of Lasker’s published mathematical articles and encouraged him to register for his doctorial studies. Lasker attended the University of Erlanger-Nuremberg in the period of 1900-1902. He presented his thesis in 1901 and was awarded a doctorate in mathematics in 1902. His contributions to the academic world are now regarded as fundamental importance to modern algebraic geometry.
After accomplishing his doctorate, he appears back on the chess scene in 1904 and plays at the Cambridge Springs event. He doesn’t come in first place, rather, he ties for 2ndplace with Janowski. Frank Marshall came in first place. In this game here, Lasker ties with the first place winner. Marshall “the swindler” plays a gambit with a pawn down and manages to keep the edge against the World Champion to get the draw.
In another game at Cambridge Springs, the American ( with British roots) William Napier will most likely be remembered for this tough game he lost against Lasker for its tactical acumen by both parties. Lasker comes out of the opening with an inferior position as he didn’t spend a whole lot of time looking at opening variations and relied more on his tactical and positional skills to win the game. This causes the world champion to spend a considerable amount of time coming up with the right moves.
By move 21, Lasker only had 3 minutes left on his clock to make time control for the next 9 moves. This happens at one of the sharpest points in the game. The notes in the embedded chess game are transposed from Georg Marco’s through Fred Reinfeld. It’s simply amazing that Lasker can come from behind after an opening misstep and find just the right tactical play to restore balance. Lasker mentioned to the 26 year old: "It is your brilliancy, even though I won it." The young Napier was impressed at how Lasker kept his composure under such time pressure.
As a footnote: The Cambridge Springs 1904 event was where the Cambridge Springs Defense ( Pillsbury contribution) was debuted by several masters at this event. Lasker was not one of them so I chose not to showcase that defense.
Next time we will look at Lasker defending the world title.