Riddle solved: Lasker was winning

by Karsten Müller
8/31/2020 – One of the most mysterious passages of chess history was the 1910 World Championship match. Both the controversy of whether the world title was at stake in the ten-game confrontation and which were the conditions of said match are still unresolved. The riddle that Karsten Müller presented to our readers, however, had to do with game 5. The conclusion: Lasker was winning! | Pictured: Emanuel Lasker | Photo: Cleveland Public Library

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“No chess event requires greater caution by historians than the Lasker v Schlechter match”, wrote Edward Winter in his excellent Chess Notes. Had the players agreed beforehand that the match would decide who gets the World Championship title? What were the exact conditions? Why did Schlechter play for a win in the last game despite being ahead on the scoreboard? Plenty of mysteries surround the confrontation that took place from January 7 to February 10, 1910 in Vienna and Berlin.

Nevertheless, the riddle that we presented our readers has to do with game 5. The players reached an endgame which finished with Lasker’s king unable to find a way to escape. But how many mistakes did Lasker make in the meantime?

The answer? Lasker was even winning at some point in the endgame! 

Once again, Zoran Petronijevic sent in the best solution:

Zoran PetronijevicThis old game was analyzed by a lot of great players (let’s mention some: Lasker, Schlechter, Tarrasch, Capablanca, Romanovsky, Huebner, Dvoretsky, Mueller, Kasparov...). However, there are still dark holes in it. This game was analyzed for the last time by Garry Kasparov (in his “Great Predecessors” Part I, second edition, Moscow 2020), and I think that he missed some main points at times. This means that the game is exceptionally complex, but at the same time it is a nice one! (“Only hard things can be nice at the same time” - Spinoza).

The main points are:

  1. The initial position is even. The first move 44.Qb4 is a serious mistake which leads to losing position. After the better 44.Qc3 (found by Dvoretsky), the position is even.
  2. Although 46...c5 leads to sharp play, it isn’t a mistake at all (as Dvoretsky concluded). Black is winning still.
  3. Move 47....c4 is a mistake, although Black is still winning. Easier was 47...Kd7.
  4. A very important moment is Black’s 51...Qd5, which was never mentioned before. In my opinion, Black’'s winning chances in the rook endgame are great.
  5. Move 52...d5 is a mistake which spoils a win, which would have come after 52...Qe5 with Qd5 next. It’s interesting that none of renowned analysts mentioned this winning idea.
  6. After 53.Ra8 the position is even.
  7. Move 54...Qc5 is a decisive mistake after which Black is lost.

In any case, besides some improvements in sidelines, the main question is: is Black winning after 52..Qe5 and Qd5? My analyses show that yes, he is. Let’s see what further discoveries are made by other analysts.


Master Class Vol.5: Emanuel Lasker

The name Emanuel Lasker will always be linked with his incredible 27 years reign on the throne of world chess. In 1894, at the age of 25, he had already won the world title from Wilhelm Steinitz and his record number of years on the throne did not end till 1921 when Lasker had to accept the superiority of Jose Raul Capablanca. But not only had the only German world champion so far seen off all challengers for many years, he had also won the greatest tournaments of his age, sometimes with an enormous lead. The fascinating question is, how did he manage that?

In our replay board above there are a large number of functions you can use to really understand the game and the analysis. Recently we published a comprehensive tutorial plus video instructions which tells you about all the powerful features and buttons that make the ChessBase's replay one of the best replay experiences around.

One big advantage is that you can start an engine (fan icon) that will help you to analyse. You can get multiple lines of analysis by clicking the + button to the right of the engine analysis window. The "!" key, incidentally, shows you the threat in any position, which is incredibly useful in the case of unclear moves.

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Karsten Müller, born 1970, has a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest endgame experts. He has, together with Frank Lamprecht, written a book on the subject: “Fundamental Chess Endgames” in addition to other contributions such as his column on the website ChessCafe as well as in ChessBase Magazine. Müller's ChessBase-DVDs about endgames in Fritztrainer-Format are bestsellers. The PhD in mathematics lives in Hamburg, where he has also been hunting down points for the HSK in the Bundesliga for many years.


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