Production of Lasker trainer cancelled

by ChessBase
4/7/2007 – On April 1st we reported that ChessBase was planning a new Fritz Trainer DVD, using 1924 film footage shot with Emanuel Lasker. It turns out that this was a cruel hoax by members of our staff who were following a pagan tradition known as "April Fool". At the same time some serious news regarding the FIDE ratings was misidentified by our readers as the intended prank. Retractions.

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We admit, our suspicions should have been aroused when we received, in addition to the screen shots we used in our original report, the following, which we did not publish:

"Not well publicised was the B Tournament, held in the Marshall Chess Club," read the caption to this picture. "It was attended by a number of masters and guests. Since two of the latter, who had experience with the new technology of moving pictures, participated in the production of the Lasker footage we have included game commentary by these unnamed guests on the Lasker DVD. Unfortunately their encounter over the board ended in a violent scene with the bigger player poking his smaller opponent in the eyes."

But our guard was down and the report was published. It turns out that there were no mysteriously discovered talking movie recordings by Emanuel Lasker, made in 1924. The only true part was the photo taken in the Lasky Studios in New York. Together with his brother Dr Berthold Lasker the second world champion had written a drama called "Days of Mankind". It contained deep philosophical symbolism, and the theme was "redemption for rationalists and rigid logic truth through the emotional powers of mysticism." Lasker tried very hard to get Hollywood interested in this project and visited the Lasky Studios on January 22nd, 1926, where the picture was taken.

<img data-cke-saved-src="" src="" style="float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px; width=" 200"="" height="98" border="1">Incidentally, during the Moscow Torunament of 1925, Emanuel Lasker received a telegram informing him that his drama ‘Days of Mankind’ had been accepted for publication for the Lessing theatre. The news proved so emotionally distracting that Lasker lost very badly to Carlos Torre on that day, as reported by newspapers at the time. All of this is not part of our prank but based on information that was provided by chess collector Lawrence Totaro of Las Vegas.

The Ratings List "joke"

The day we published our April Fool's prank we also carried an important news item: in view of wide-spread protests FIDE had decided to correct their April 2007 rating list and to include the Morelia/Linares event in the calculations. This, many readers believed, was the April Fool's joke. In fact a colleague had told us on the previous evening that he intended to use it as his prank: "FIDE admits error, vows to correct it immediately" was the hilarious article he was working on. On April 1st we received irate messages from him accusing us of poaching his joke. It took a while to convince him that the FIDE decision was for real.

In the following selection from the letters we received we are including only a few in which our readers falsely identified the FIDE ratings report as the April Fool's joke. Most were extremely angry with us for perpetrating such a cruel hoax and some used harsh language to express their displeasure. We have also omitted the large number of letters by readers who were eager to purchase the Lasker DVD. Many used embarrassingly enthusiastic language to express their opinion on this project.

Reader feedback

Jason, Buczyna, Charlottesville, United States
At first I believed the story about FIDE correcting themselves and adding Linares to the April rating list. Then, when searching for the "real" April Fools joke in the ChessBase news, I realized that this must be it. But this seems close enough to being potentially true that it was difficult to say. Perhaps the essence of the joke is FIDE actually correcting themselves and doing something right?

Saurav Talanece
Dear Chessbase, I love your news service and have enormous trust on your reporting. I hope your article stating that FIDE has agreed to correct the rating list is not an April Fool's joke, honestly, because there isn't any humor in it, but only a cruel and sadist approach to a very grim situation.

Royce Campbell, Tulsa, OK
You didn't have too many news items on 1/4, so it was pretty easy to spot. Saying the links were published prior to the release of the lists was a good touch, but the 20 player top 50 women's list was a dead giveaway. Look forward to next year!

Zvi Mendlowitz, Petach Tikva, Israel
The picture in Lasker's room, is that the grandmother of Alexandra Kosteniuk?

Bob Long, Davenport USA
Nice try guys. It was when looking at another site I realized today was April 1. I think this was a good one. A "star" for whoever thought of this.

Chaitanya Vaidya, Thane, India
It took me 10.97 seconds to recognize, acknowledge, despise and applaud this April Fool joke. Then I found inadequacies in this which I suggest you to improve next time to make it more authentic. One of Lasker's "video preview" clearly looks like a portrait. And what in heaven's name is the Alexandra Kosteniuk lookalike (duh, I know it's her) doing there in that blasphemous pose (considering the time the photo was taken). But I must commend you on the effort taken.

Sergio Boffa, Brussels, Belgium
Lasker on DVD! What a great news... By the way, I have just finished writing a biography of François Andre Danican Philidor. During my research I found the score of an unknown opera. Deutsche Grammophon seems interested to record this opera, if ChessBase is ready to supply Vassily Smyslov...

T.S. Randall, Angels Camp, USA

Chi Ho Yuen, Hong Kong, China
I strongly feel that the Fritz trainer about Emanuel Lasker is an April Fool's joke, since it is easy to see that some of the video caps are from photos of Lasker.

Derek Grimmell, Clinton, IA, USA
It just struck me, after checking several web sites to see if this wonderful DVD was available yet, that this might be your April Fools' story. I hope not. Yet if it is, it's the most convincing yet. If this was a joke, please consider having someone pretend to be Lasker and actually comment his games from New York. Perhaps Karpov would do it?

Yannick Roy, Montréal, Canada
Ah! You make us all dream! If only it could be true! In all honesty, after last year's meta-prank, I was waiting with some impatience to find out what you would come up with this year, so I have no merit in having known right away that this was an April's fool joke. I actually congratulate you, because I find this pretty clever, and relatively credible. However, if I may expresss some criticism, I think the insistance with which you make up a story around it, and reveal many details about how the films were made and found, was a bit too much, and might have given it away even to the most unsuspecting victim. The strange aspect of Lasker's face in the fake screen captures was also a bit suspicious; especially the ones where he doesn't look at the camera. It would have been very credible (and I myself might have believed it) if you could have managed to post a "Click here to view a sample in reduced quality" link that would have actually worked. Of course then the problem would have been to animate Lasker's photograph, an expensive task I'm sure. But there might have been a cheaper and simpler solution: I'm sure Frederic Friedel with a wig, a mustache and a few accessories, filmed with an old Super-8 film processed to look like vintage footage, would have made a credible Lasker. I'm guessing the German accent, anyway, would have been perfect.

Richard de Haas, Bussum, The Netherlands
Splendid April Fool's joke, the Lasker DVD. I wish it was real.

Luke Peristy, Canada
My complements to you! This was a much more subtle attempt at an April Fool's Day gag than other years! I had seen through your previous fake articles relatively easily (I'm not sure if I should count last year's "meta-prank"), but this time you had me completely. It took me tow days to realise that your new Fritz Trainer program was a gag. You dropped some subtle hints along the way in the article, but it was really quite believable. I look forward to seeing other reader response on this matter.

Jeff Peterson, Fairfield, CT
I am ashamed to admit that I was completely taken in by your April Fool's Day prank. I wanted to believe it even after I noticed the Kosteniuk pin-up in Lasker's "cellar". And that is the cruellest part of all: a treasure of inestimable value was dangled right before our noses, only to vanish when we reached out to touch it! In short, kudos on the cleverly conceived joke, but why did it have to make me so sad?

Bill, USA
When I first read the article about Fritz trainer: Emanuel Lasker, New York 1924 I said to myself this is so incredible. I have to have a copy, and then when I reexamined the photo of the cellar I noticed the good doctor also collected girly posters. I would just like to say you guys suck. P.S. I love the site and keep up the great work. LOL!

Jonathan O'Connor, Leixlip, Ireland
Please at least give us a sample of the DVD. It doesn't have to be long. 20 seconds would be fine. Then we know how good the sound quality is.

Timothy Chou, New York, New York

Dave, Oregon, USA
Your most deceptive April Fool yet. I look forward to them every year. I thought I could prove it was false, if 1924 was too early for movies with sound. But according to Wikipedia the first commercial screening of movies with fully synchronized sound took place in New York City in April 1923. Well done.

Terry McCracken, Shelburne, Canada
You need to post your jokes with more subtlety, and try not to embellish the story. It needs to be believable, and simple. You should have two stories, one true the other false, and see who bites.

Juan Saffe, Cordoba, Argentina
Amazing. Only now, 24 hours after I read it, I'm becoming suspicious. Is this another April Fool's day joke?

Paul Bervaldi, USA
I tried to order the new "Emanuel Lasker, 1924 New York" software, but I could not locate it on your website.

Stephen Humphreys, Kitchener, Canada
You surpassed yourselves with this one!

John Bartholomew, St. Paul, MN
Why no April Fools news piece this year? I always look forward to those...

John Bartholomew, St. Paul, MN
Oh wait... I see what you did. Lasker training DVD? Haha.

Chris Turnbow, Memphis, USA
Fascinating article. If it weren't for the date on it, I would immediately order my copy! It really isn't nice to tease us in this way!

Predrag Miletic, Belgrade
Really guys? Emanuel Lasker trainer videos? ;) Good one.

Patrick Sekere, Honolulu
Hey, this Lasker DVD is not for real. The analysis of the positions is silly. This led me to be convinced, given its release on April 1, that this was the April Fool's joke for the year. Also, the pinup picture in the house photo is much more recent than 1930's, when Dr. Lasker left Berlin for England. On top of that, the DVD is not even available to order. When are you guys going to own up to this being the April Fools day hoax?

Pippo Natale, Vila Franca do Campo
It suspiciously looks like an April Fools' trick... although it would be great if it weren't!

Previous ChessBase April 1st pranks

  • ChessBase: no more April Fool's jokes
    01.04.2006 – In the past years our web site has published a series of elaborate April Fool's stories. Not this year, and not any more. An international watchdog group which calls itself League for Truth and Veracity, is threatening news services as well as private pranksters all over the world with lawsuits for publishing false information. This unfortunate activity spells the end of an old tradition. Reactions.

  • Amber: Bareev beats Anand 2-0 in first round Kriegspiel
    01.04.2005 – After the Blindfold and Rapid tournaments in Monaco, on April 1st 2005 the Kriegspiel section started. The main point about this variant of chess is that players only get to see their own pieces, not those of their opponents. They also do not know what moves the other side has made, so they have to guess where the opponent's pieces are. Only the referee knows exactly the real position of both sets of pieces. GM Evgeny Bareev started with a stunning 2-0 victory over Vishy Anand. How the prank was perpetrated.

Alexei Shirov during a Kriegspiel game

  • Kimo – an 'intelligent' approach to chess
    01.04.2004 – On April 1st 2004 we announced that a new chess program named Kimo was due for release. It worked with chess knowledge derived from 20,000 master games, which had been extensively analysed by the program, which drew heuristic conclusions on the principles of chess: the value of the pieces in different positions, their strengths and weaknesses, attacking and defensive motifs, etc. Although it examined just two positions per second (as opposed to millions in a traditional brute force search) it was able to hold its own against the world's strongest programs. The story was modified in the article Kimo – the full truth.

  • The bionic chess interface
    01.04.2003 – On April 1st 2003 we reported that the Brutus FPGA hardware project that ChessBase was engaged in had been taken up by the US National Science Foundation and other US defence agencies who had been working on a project to interface the brain directly with computer equipment. The scientists working on the project decided that the hippocampus, a portion of the temporal lobe, was the ideal location for a "bionic interface". There was a vigorous reaction from our readers ('Please don't touch my hippothingy!').

    Laboratory rat with a chess bionic interface

  • New Fischer move: the retractor
    01.04.2002 – On April 1st 2002 we reported that the reclusive ex-world champion Bobby Fischer has introduced a number of important innovations into the game. After the Fischer Clock and Fischer Random Chess he is now proposing a further change, the "Fischer move". It was presented to FIDE and will come up for a vote at the Executive Council meeting in Dubai. Reactions.

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