Lasker-Schlechter (1910)


Emanuel Lasker (GER) – Karl Schlechter (GER) 5-5

Vienna and Berlin 7 January till 10 February 1910

On December 2, 1908, Schlechter challenged the World Champion. As usual, Lasker sent his condition a bit later. A match of thirty games was agreed. Lasker was trying to obtain 1,000 DM per game which was a colossal amount of money at the time so much that no sponsor showed up and the match, which now will be split between different cities, was postponed until mid-December 1909. With still the lack of money, Lasker then realized that his demands were too excessive and renegotiate the contract by dropping up to 66% of his wishes. Finally, the world championship match with ten games was announced to start for January 1910.     


For the first time, the Champion went to choose his next opponent. The Austrian Karl Schlechter (1874-1918) was probably the gentlest player at the time. Very solid, positional but absolutely not a risky player. His nickname was “the king of the draw” which shows that he was not considered by some as a real fighter. However, he managed to win a couple of good tournaments like Munich 1900, Coburg 1904 or Prague in 1908.

Thirty games were originally proposed, but this was reduced to 10 because of a lack of funds. “World championship match” against Schlechter (the public after the match decided to call it a “world championship match.”) Thirty games were originally proposed, but this was reduced to 10 because of a lack of funds.

Some mystery like the match clauses surrounding this event. Schlechter lost the final game but was unusually playing very hard for a win. It could be speculated that the match conditions were such that the challenger (Schlechter) had to win by two clear points. If this were the case, in the context of such a short ten game match, then this was a heavy condition for Schlechter to accept.  It could also be speculated that Schlechter was simply being a sportsman, trying to win in the last game. Many articles have been published since on the subject. Few very interesting articles and researches were published on the subject in New in Chess in the middle of 1995 by Michael Ehm.

Game 1

Lasker repeated the Ruy Lopez defense they played a year earlier. Schlechter deviated, played a set-up, which was employed his opponent. White took on c6 making double pawns in the opponent’s camp. Black equalized by exchanging the queens, after that he switched to the queenside. Maybe he could have postponed c5 a bit, as it gave up the d5 square. The challenger managed to stop Black’s play on the queenside and fix the a-pawn weakness. Lasker should have exchanged his Knight, instead, he swapped the bishops at move 31, which was his sealed move. After that, his position became slightly unpleasant. Black decided to open up the position. White was very close to a win, but the champion played with great imagination. Move 49 White could have tried Rd5, but in the case of precious play in a highly tactical endgame Black could have hanged on. Black’s 49th move was a great one, he escaped to a pawn down. White took the second pawn, maybe it was a better chance to try to push the c pawn. After that Schlechter no longer had a real winning chance.

Game 2

Lasker played 1.e4 as well, Schlechter’s answer was the Spanish defense. The champion sacrificed a pawn early on; the compensation was that Black had problems to castle. White made a mistake by not inserting 11.axb, as Schlechter’s became less exposed. In the next two move, the challenger could have started a promising counter attack by giving the g pawn for an attack. It would have required staying in the center with the king. However, Schlechter decided to consolidate the pawn advantage by holding his position together. He forced the queen exchange. He was close to obtaining an easily winning game. He had several options to win, for example, 15.-b4 or 15.-Kd7. Even in the in move 17 c4 or Nd6 lead to a safe pawn-up ending. Lasker played 18.Nxb5, which brought him back into the game to a certain extent 19… Bd7 gave a decent winning chance for Black. In move 22 Rxb5 would have reached an endgame, Black would have had three light pieces against two rooks. That was the last chance to win in the game White stubborn defense was good enough to survive.

Game 3

Schlechter deviated from the first game by 11.Qd3 but kept the same spirit as he showed in the first game. However, Lasker, this time did not try to take the initiative. They both played safely. Eventually, they repeated moves and agreed on a draw.

Game 4

Schlechter did not take on d4 as he did in the second game. White played 13.Nd4, which allowed a simplification then moved on to the kingside. Black had an option, to push c4 or take on d4 and stop the attack with f5. The challenger took the last option. When the champion took on f6, the challenger could have re-taken on f6 with the bishop as well, because of the direct attempt 19.Qh5 to refute it would have failed, because the subtle d3 intermediate move which would have allowed a check on b6, if White wanted to sacrifice on g6. On the game continuation, Lasker nicely demonstrated the White’s advantage. The challenger did well to stay in the game. When Lasker sealed the 28th move, he had reason to hope for the full point. The game resumed, and on move 28 he allowed the exchange of one pair of rooks. Three moves later, Black decided to give up a pawn to release the pressure. It may have been a mistake. As Rd1 gave decent chance to create some counter-play. It was not easy to convert the advantage, actually when Lasker put away his queen, missing Qc3, Black’s chance turned into reality. Schlechter managed to let white King have no peace. White made no progress, in the 56th move they agreed to a draw.

Game 5

Lasker kept the Ruy Lopez. On the move 8 Schlechter had a chance to get a better endgame, by changing in the centre by 8. Bxc6. However in the game he also obtained some advantage, but let it sleep, when he did not open and occupy the “e” file with the move 16. exd. The challenger still had some space advantage, but it was not enough to provide anything real. After exchanging a pair of rooks, Lasker maneuvered his King to c7. On the move 31, the champion sealed the surprising b5. It was maybe a sign he no longer wanted just to hold the position probably came as a surprise to the challenger, who took on b5, making the a3 pawn weaker on the long run. Lasker gradually tightened the screw, move 39 White runs out of patience and sacrificed a pawn. Black won the pawn, but his king was no safe shelter on the board. The champion could have forced a draw by 42…Rb8, however, he decided to play on. Move 46 the champion raised the stake by c5, instead 46…Ra5 was less committing. Lasker won the second pawn with a check; however, his king was still vulnerable. Move 50 the champion avoided holding a perpetual check, as he did the same three moves later. Move 54 Lasker should have tried Rb7 and start a march to the center by the king to find peace in front of his pawns. Instead, he played 54.-Qc5. Schlechter’s answer was the strongest one with 55.Qa6, which created unstoppable threats. After that, the Black King was caught and was not escape from the checkmating net.

Game 6

Schlechter insisted with another Spanish, his deviation from the early game came on move 11 by putting the bishop to c5, instead of e7. Move 19 came as the first critical moment of the game. White was certainly better, but by no way was easy to get anything forced from the several possibilities. 19.Ra6 fail to win 19.-Bf5 20.e6 Qc8 or 19. Nxe5. Also 19.Nh4 did not break through, 19…Nxe5 20.Rxe5 fxe 21.Nxg6 fails to 21…Bf6. 19.Bf4 kept up the pressure but was not as forceful as the game continuation. Lasker had a difficult decision to make at move 21. He probably should have played: 21.Rxe8 Rxe8, 22.Qxb5 Rb8 and then 23.Qc5 or 23.Qa4 gave a clear edge as the tactics do not work in Black’s favor. Schlechter did well to get into the endgame with a pawn down; he made an inaccuracy move with its 28th when he did not drive away the white King right away with 28…Re1. That would have allowed him to end up in the endgame with three pawns against two pawns on the same side ending, which was a draw. Lasker could have tried 32.g3 but Black has serious resistance there as well. The challenger sealed move 34, and then it looked like a draw. This time it was Schlechter who held a pawn down rook ending, but that part of the game was already easy for hi to claim the half point.

Game 7

Lasker switched to an unusual (at the time) and risky Sicilian. Schlechter wanted to take advantage of the strange move order. He pushed a pawn to e6 very early. However, it did not cause that much of troubles, as he would have liked it. Lasker with subtle move avoided the dangers, and soon the e6 pawn became a weakness. When the queens were exchanged, his advantage grew even bigger. On the move 15, the champion castled, maybe he could have tried Bf6 or Be5 straightaway, but the game continuation was strong as well. Schlechter decided no to wait passively, but sacrifice a piece for passed pawns. On the move 20 the champion missed a golden opportunity to win the game. He should have taken on h2 and go on taking the rook on d6. Later he could have sacrificed the rook and still have pawns advantage. 22.-Bb5 on the move 22 looked dangerous; however 23.Rc7 would have kept White in the game. Lasker gave up the dark-squared bishop weakening his king. Things became even dangerous when he moved his knight from e5, which allowed white rooks were doubling on the seventh. Move 35, Schlechter could have tried to defend his pawns with the King and Kd2 would have been unpleasant to meet. Move 38, Lasker decided to free his rook at the cost of another pawn. Should Schlechter have taken the pawn a7, his position would have been very close to a win. Instead, he pushed his pawn, but then Black was able to hold and take it later. With no pawn, Lasker had to agree on a draw.

Game 8

Schlechter returned to 8.Nxd4 in the open Ruy Lopez, but Lasker this time played 10.axb, improving on his previous play. Black pieces were rather active, the challenger never looked in danger, and actually could have tried to take some advantage with 18.-Ba5. Back to the game, White got the two bishops, but Black had a nice and strong pawn on d4. Black tried to win in the slightly favorable adjourned game but soon realized White was going to hold it easily.

Game 9

Lasker employed another surprising Sicilian opening; again the challenger was embarrassed. This time he got into a greater trouble. He made a mistake right away with 6.Nb3, which gave later White to play with a second pawn on the “c” file. Schlechter decided to compensate the weakness with a kingside attack. Lasker took a pawn first, later instead of castling, which allowed an attack at least good enough for a draw, played the imaginative 15.-Kd7. It just stepped aside from the attack. Schlechter answer was imaginative as well, which probably took his opponent by surprise. It was witty; however White’s position was not good. Lasker did not dare to take a piece with Qb6 and g6. He would have had a problem to bring his pieces into the game, however slowly he could have done, as White’s attack was not going to be that strong. Lasker settled for a better ending, with no chance to win for the challenger. White should not have changed Queens, 28.Ne6 looked a better option than the game. It took some time till Black managed to activate his King, White gradually got into deeper trouble. The adjourned position, in move 52 already gave excellent winning chances. White decided to move his c pawn. On the move 56, the champion made a curious blunder missing Kb6, which would have safely won a pawn, and later the game. Instead, he fell into a nice tactical shot, which simplified to a drawish ending. Maybe he still could have tried to squeeze but settled for a draw.

Game 10

Lasker wisely switched to 1.d4 for the first time of the match. It looks like Schlechter played the opening with irritation, probably the huge stake took its toll. Instead of 7.Na6, 7.-dxc with c5 equalized quickly. However the real mistake came on move 9, b5 was premature, as Black could not get rid of his weakness. Instead, 9.-dxc was playable. White cleverly avoided any dubious pawn-winning but concentrated on fixing the c6 pawn. Move 14.Ne5 was played stopping Nd7; both gave White a nice advantage. 14…Nh5 was an awkward move from the challenger, as he put his second knight to the edge of the board. Lasker underestimated it, or because of he needed to win, he went too sharp. 15.Nc5 or f4 were better moves than the game. Once White’s g pawn disappeared, Black had the chance against the white king. 18.f4 would have to lead a pawn up for White after c5 19.Rg1 Rab6 20.Fxa6. However White would have had difficulties to improve on the position, as his king is shaky. Move 19 Lasker again did not take the pawn with Bg6 for the same reason. Lasker did not change queens, which gave him a slightly better endgame. In the next few moves, Schlechter radically improved his queen and fully got back into the game. Move 28 with the excellent g5 he opened Lasker’s king. Then in the 34th the champion took on c6 instead of the natural Nc5, which would have resulted a highly unclear game. Move 35 the challenger sacrificed an exchanged voluntarily. He had many options where at least a draw would have been secured, but the champion should have played extremely careful not to go down. For example, on 35…Rd8 36.Ke1, or 35.-Nd6 36.Rc5 with Kd1-e1 march. Black could even try 35.-e5 as well. On the move 39 Black missed an easy draw by Qh4 check, at least he would have won back the exchange on c8 with an easy draw. Black still had a pawn for the exchange, and White had only one pawn left on the board, but Black can never change queens, and his king is vulnerable. In the 46th move, Qa2 gave some hope to survive. When the Knight entered the game with 47.Nc5 it was all over for the challenger. The last obstacle disappeared when Lasker managed to swap queens as a result of Schlechter’s mistake. Black resigned on the move 71.


The ACB had a close look at the match in his issue of March 1910:

“Not in the annals of the game is there recorded a match for the championship of the world which quite parallels the one between Dr. Emanuel Lasker and Carl Schlechter, began in Vienna on January 7 and concluded in Berlin on February 10. The play took place first -in the rooms of the Vienna Chess Club, where five games were contested, and later at the Hotel de Rome, Unter den Linden 39, Berlin, the scene of the remaining five games.

At the very start, the Austrian master displayed the keenest courage, and the close of the opening game found him with an advantage of two pawns. Owing to the peculiarity of the position, a draw was forced by the champion. Three more drawn games followed, all of them highly interesting, and then the masters engaged in life and death grapple in the fifth of the Vienna series.

Schlechter won the titanic struggle, after being finely outplayed by Dr. Lasker, who last his hearings under most trying conditions. The outcome of this game created a wholly novel situation, at least since Dr. Lasker has held the supremacy. The famous expert, invincible up to that time, had met a player who in five games not alone would not be downed but actually was able to score the odd point.

The scene then shifted to the German capital, where drawn games followed each other in regular succession. In six games both had adhered tenaciously to the Ruy Lopez, which was thoroughly threshed out. Dr. Lasker was the first to break the monotony if this term can properly be applied to high-grade chess. In the seventh and ninth games, he resorted to the Sicilian defense and these games gave Schlechter the fullest opportunity to demonstrate his splendid ability as an attacking player. In each instance, the champion found an adequate defense. –

Finally, the day dawned when Dr. Lasker had to face the inevitable by making the most of his last chance to defeat an opponent, who, a clear point ahead, had shown himself to be a good peer. To him, he practically conceded the odds of a draw. The world-master rose to the occasion and accomplished his end, which was to save the title from passing into other hands, he chose a close opening for the fateful struggle.

The state of affairs in the fifth game was almost exactly reversed for Schlechter, with a sound position, though hard pressed, and entered upon a semi- speculative line of play requiring sacrifice of the exchange. Even then well-nigh superhuman efforts were needed on the part of Dr. Lasker to force the position to a winning ending.

In this most complex of chess battles, Schlechter, though permitting the coveted prize to slip through his fingers at the last moment, deservedly shared both the material and moral honors which reward the efforts of well-matched combatants.

The final game almost baffles analysis so full is it of exciting situations from beginning to end. It will go on record as one of the historical games of chess played by the greatest masters, past, and present. The conduct of it on the part of Dr. Lasker was nothing short of superb, while Schlechter never gave a finer exhibition of stubborn resistance, coupled with the counter maneuvering of the highest daring. Dr. Lasker scored his victory in seventy-one moves, following one of the most heartbreaking encounters of his long and brilliant career. To form a proper appraisal of the champion’s feat, it is necessary to take into consideration the remarkable circumstances attending this last game of the match. Nine games had been played, eight of which had been drawn and one won by Schlechter. Then the masters sat down to play the last one, for the result of which the whole chess world waited in thrilled expectancy. Lasker’ s title, wrested from the aged Steinitz and defended successfully against Marshall and Tarrasch, hung in the balance and almost had slipped from his grasp. Then, at the eleventh hour, with the Austrian eager to taste the sweets of victory his consistent efforts had practically earned for him, the champion called upon all of his reserve force and snatched the cup of triumph from his opponent’s lips. In so doing, and, thanks to the powerful opposition, he produced a game that possessed all the characteristics of a classic and as such will be handed down to posterity.”


In the ACB issue of June 1910, Robert Buckle gave some analyses of the match:


“The result of the late match points to a contest on different terms a match for the world championship. The ten games lately played constituted a sort of match, but the object was not the settlement of the championship, as many have supposed. If Schlechter had won all the games. Lasker would still have been the titular world championship. The champion agreed to play a series of games, but it was expressly stipulated that the result was not to touch the title.

This consideration affects the opinion of the result. (In reply- to a query on board the S. S. Vasari, on May 20, Dr. Lasker, southward bound, said, “Yes, I placed the title at stake’ thereby confirming our understanding of the matter. Notwithstanding this, we can we can believe that, owing to the unusual circumstances of the match, many people would have continued to regard Dr. Lasker as champion, even had he lost the final game—Ed., A. C. B.)…

Concerning the ten games, we have bided our time out until careful examination should enable us to speak. Our opinion inclines to the verdict that for ten consecutive games between the same players they are the most wonderful ever played. They do not astonish the lover of brilliancies. But they command the profound admiration of the connoisseur.  The skilled amateur thinks them colossal. They are, we suggest, a perfect specimens of scientific match play in existence. Not entertaining to the superficial, they are full of beauty for the serious. They are models of accuracy, yet not devoid of imagination. Neither party effects brilliant mates after starting sacrifices, but either was certain to see all that was on the board. Close examination of such chess should make us a very modest. The more fully we realize the difference between such play and that of the strong amateur of commerce, the more convincing the evidence of our chess understanding. From Lasker, we always expect great things, and we are never disappointed.  From Schlechter also great things are expected. But Schlechter exceeded anticipation. Nevertheless we favour Lasker for a real championship match, and we do so on a basis not of sentiment but of figures. And these are eloquent indeed.”


Chess Amateur of March 1910 also commented the match:  “Lasker has narrowly escaped the loss of the championship after holding it for sixteen years. He may well have taken an over-confident view of his match with Schlechter after so easily defeating Tarrasch and Janowski, but -it is evident that he anticipated a long struggle, for the original conditions of the contest provided for the unprecedented number of 30 games. Schlechter was well known to be a most. a difficult man to beat. He bad been through two important competitions without the loss of a game; he had all but won the Championship Tournament at Ostend, and he had nearly defeated the champion at Cambridge Spring. Schlechter is only thirty-six six years younger than Lasker and probably is at the beginning of his chess maturity. That his style is developing and expanding is evident from his having given the indication of enterprise and fearlessness as his opponent. Lasker after playing four draw games and perhaps thinking it was time to make his effort committed the error of trying to win a position that could only yield a draw. His loss of the fifth game seriously imperiled his title, for Schlechter had only to rely on his well-tried tactics of avoiding risk to maintain his advantage in the score. Lasker made a great effort in the ninth game, but it ended in another draw, and then all depended on the tenth and final encounter, in which at last he secured a victory and saved the championship. It must he said that Schlechter in drawing eight games out of ten, played in no pusillanimous spirit, but with such readiness in the assault that the champion had continually to look for his safety. It was a fine contest, yet an unsatisfactory one, for the championship of the world is not, after all, to be conclusively won by drawing several games after single victory, and this until the very end looked like being the result. The conditions were at fault. It is a salutary custom to eliminate drawn games from the score of great matches, and Lasker would probably never have consented to their being counted had he anticipated that only ten games would be played. This came about through inability to carry out the project of playing portions of the match in various centers, in itself a Questionable arrangement, and the whole affair emphasizes the need for the regulation of the championship by a constituted authority. Some tentative efforts have been made to establish an International Committee for the purpose, but now that the necessity presses because a return match between Lasker and Schlechter there should be less difficulty in carrying a satisfactory scheme into effect.”


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total
E. Lasker GER = = = = 0 = = = = 1 5.0
K. Schlechter GER = = = = 1 = = = = 0 5.0