31 January 2007

The Most Infamous World Championship Game

The next game in Lasker's Moves that Matter, is the infamous last game of the 1910 Lasker - Schlechter World Championship match (game 10). On the controversy about whether Schlechter was required to win by two games to win the title, Kasparov wrote:

To all appearances, one of the points stated stated that to win the title the challenger had to gain an advantage of two points, and that if Schlechter were to win by one point (5.5-4.5) the match would be declared drawn.'

He produced no evidence to support his statement and it has been criticized as unfounded. Soltis was more prudent and took no position. In the April 2005 Chess Life (p.52), Larry Evans wrote,

'It's doubtful a two-point clause existed. Lasker set the record straight in his report to the New York Evening Post two days BEFORE the 10th game started on February 8, 1910: "The match with Schlechter is nearing its end and it appears probable that for the first time in my life I shall be the loser. If that should happen a good man will have won the world championship."'

Edward Winter, the authority on all matters related to 19th and 20th century chess history, translated a contemporary account in his February 2006 Chess Notes (C.N. 4144):

It was generally assumed that the last game would end in a draw and that Schlechter would thereby ensure victory for himself. Curiously enough, however, Lasker won, which meant that the match ended indecisively. It is very strange that Schlechter, who lost none of the first nine games, succumbed in the final one, and the assumption suggests itself that this outcome was intentional. A narrow victory by Schlechter would by no means have given him the world championship but, instead, it would have brought him a serious return match to be carried out irrespective of its financing.

The moves of the game are just as controversial. In his introduction to the game, Soltis pointed out a half-dozen moves that are worthy of detailed analysis. Kasparov wrote:

The game was ahead of its time, and the commentaries on it, even later ones, often do not sustain criticism: so complicated and deep were the variations that occurred.

To play through the complete game see...

Emanuel Lasker vs Carl Schlechter, World Championship Match 1910

...on Chessgames.com.


Robert Pearson said...

In other words--still a mystery! And sometimes that's the most fun.

Mark Weeks said...

If the Evans quote is accurate, I don't understand why there is any doubt: 'If that should happen a good man will have won the world championship'. Did Lasker say or write something contradictory afterwards? - Mark

Robert Pearson said...

To clarify my rather cryptic first comment--yes, the Evans quote of Lasker seems to resolve whether there was a need to win by two games, but the Winter quote, while it's just the speculation of a reporter, brings up some old issues that still seem unresolved.

If Schlecter just needed to draw Game 10, why did he play "a game ahead of it's time" instead of just trying to make the game as simple and equal as possible? There has always been the theory that he didn't want to win the match by a single game based on a chance error, but that seems a little strange, too.

It reminds me of the 1951 Botvinnik-Bronstein affair, where I understand that Bronstein never said clearly that he was forced to draw the match by losing the last game, but something like that he was 'better off' not being the champion at that time.

Maybe the whole explanation is psychological, that Schlecter wanted to win clearly or not at all, that he had a mental block against being the champ, or in the heat of the battle forgot his plan to play it safe. In that case, it was all in his interior life and we'll never really know. I guess that would maintain at least part of the mystery...