Master Class vol.5 - Emanuel Lasker

by Albert Silver
7/28/2015 – It is interesting that the World Champion of 27 years, Emanuel Lasker, is also one of the hardest to define. In the fifth volume of the Master Class series, the topic is not only the breakdown of all the individual features of his play, from openings to endgames, with all the videos and games you could hope for, but a remarkably deep investigation of the secret of his success.

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The latest edition of the Master Class series, after covering Robert Fischer, Mikhail Tal, Alexander Alekhine and José Raúl Capablanca, now focuses on one of the greatest champions the game has ever known: Emanuel Lasker. No champion has led to more debate and disagreement than the second world champion in terms of chess. The most common description repeated ad nauseam is that he was the greatest chess psychologist, playing his opponent as much as the position, and that is what will be challenged the most.

The contents of the DVD are by now nearly rote, defined perfectly in the first edition on Bobby Fischer, and follow the tried-and-true recipe:

  • Huschenbeth: Openings (6 Clips)
  • Marin: Strategy (5 Clips)
  • Reeh: Tactics (20 Clips)
  • Müller: Endgames (12 Clips)
  • Biography (by Albin Pötzsch)
  • 1862-1894
  • 1894-1900
  • 1900-1920
  • 1920-1933 1933-1941
  • Lasker All Games (many with annotations)
  • Lasker's white games as a tree (without simul)
  • Lasker's black games as a tree (without simul)
  • Lasker: Training Questions (106 games with training questions)

Nevertheless, despite a bullet list that seems to say all there is to say, there is a great deal of material hidden that should definitely not be missed, covering Lasker’s fantastic career and seeking to investigate even further how he was able to dominate for so long

The first and foremost content of the DVD is of course the hours of video lectures covering the individual aspects of the champion’s play and what discoveries are made if any. Former German champion, GM Niclas Huschenbeth delves into the openings of Emanuel Lasker and already questions the reputation some authors have labeled him with in that he did not take his openings seriously, playing lines considered risky even then. He notes that Lasker might not have been a deep theoretician, but he carefully distinguished the openings for serious matches and more relaxed affairs. He also notes a curious propensity to push an early g4 (or g5 for Black) in a number of games.

Niclas Hueschenbeth analyzes Lasker's opening choices and spots an interesting curiosity

Mihail Marin once again covers the strategy portion of the champion’s play, and immediately states that he sees nothing in the games that support the theory that Lasker made decisions based on his opponent’s preferences or fears. Even games that are used to illustrate this ‘truism’ are found wanting and may have less conspiratorial reasons behind some of the unusual moves: what was seen as incomprehensible then, was in fact a vision of the game that was decades ahead of his time in some cases. The Romanian grandmaster not only takes the time to delve into this in his presentation, but highlights these moments with modern examples to corroborate his analysis.

Mihail Marin demonstrates how some of Lasker's seemingly incomprehensible decisions
were in fact simply ahead of his time

Emanuel Lasker was a formidable tactician, who not only used his tactics for brilliant displays of fireworks, but also to work his deep plans and defensive resources when needed. Oliver Reeh brings 20 examples from famous games, easy and hard, all in entertaining videos for the reader to solve. Not only are there video comments if a move is wrong, explaining why it is wrong, and giving a hint to help guide the viewer, but in some cases significant and attractive-looking alternatives are also analysed.

Oliver Reeh brings 20 fun tactics to test against in interactive videos, and there are over
100 others in the classic quiz format

Finally, concluding the videos are twelve presentations by GM Karsten Mueller who not only highlights a few of Lasker’s most famous endgames (including a historical loss to Schlechter), but also demonstrates Lasker’s greatest strengths when it came to converting a win or salvaging a draw.

Karsten Mueller shares some of Lasker's most famous endgames, quoting from important resources

On the table of contents, it says Bonus Material, and gives five links to biographical material written by Albin Potzsch covering different periods of the champion’s lifetime. As in the previous edition, here too the biography goes considerably further than what might be expected, with a concise but detailed overview of his life. However, it is precisely here that a long string of pearls can be found. Embedded within each period is a series of links to tournament reports, all containing not only photographs if possible, but a crosstable and a full account of what happened at the even to make it noteworthy.

After the list of biographical material there is a link to Lasker: All Games. As one might expect, this leads to… a new text with links to all the articles found in the DVD. For example, one of them is by GM Rainer Knaak, who contributed an essay on Lasker’s playing style, and what he feels are his greatest strengths. He does not merely formulate his opinion but is careful to quote those by others such as Robert Hubner or Mark Dvoretsky, and where he agrees or disagrees. There are also articles by GM Ragozenco, FM Johannes Fischer, and GM Stohl, all analyzing an important tournament by Lasker and what stands out in his play over that of his peers.

A large selection of fascinating texts, articles and essays can also be found

Naturally, the greatest ‘biography’ of Emanuel Lasker lies in his games, where speculation makes way for hard moves that are recorded for past, present, and future generations. Thus completing this compendium on the second World Champion are over 1200 games of which no fewer than 200 are commented with extensive comments by Capablanca, Alekhine, Steinitz, and even Kasparov. For the student wishing to know more about one of the greatest yet most enigmatic champions, this DVD is not to be missed.


Master Class Vol. 5 - Emanuel Lasker

• Video running time: 6 hours (English)
• Interactive tactics test with video feedback 
• All Lasker games, tables, background knowledge, short biography 
• Detailed investigations of Lasker’s playing style (by Knaak, Rogozenco, Stohl, etc.) 
• “Lasker Powerbooks”: the world champion’s opening repertoire as a variation tree

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$27.62 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet.

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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