One of the merits and joys I associate with chess and just history in general is the combination seen just how often history repeats or reapppears in some fashion that defines itself as an expansion to understanding modern theory as met in the international world of chess. Such thoughts that closed my mind to the necessitities during my youth when I should have been confining such time to scholastic studies, having a part-time job that likewise competed with my energies where I had not really paid much attention to the time clock of life as it applied to 24-hour days. I had not of course applied myself entirely to the important things in life. Yet, I found so much scholastic endeavor as boring and I was often dreaming beyond the stars (I suppose) of wishing I could be outside enjoying the beautifies of nature and friendships of peers. In essence, I really wanted to devote my life to service having a keen interest in the Bible and its historical record and teachings. To each his own; my path was not one to become wealthy in money but in very practical ways to be of service. I found this in chess. When I got involved in chess which fascinated me and captured my interest, I found many flaws in truth telling, some of which I have reported here in earlier writings. But enough said. Lets get on with tonight’s topic.
An interesting subject is the first game of the 1910 match between Carl Schlechter and Dr. Emmanuel Lasker featuring a Ruy Lopez opening system. I have always found this to be one of the great games that emerged because of the technical and brilliant strokes and counterstrokes that both players exhibited. It also points out our theme for this column. Herr Schlechter has white and Dr. Lasker defends, selecting a variation often noted as a second class type defence when more energetic setups would deem to be more exciting. Yet, as this game comes to demonstrate, chess captures the spirit of the contestants where great joy can be experienced both during play and for years thereafter.
Much has been written about world champion Dr. Emmanuel Lasker but little has attracted for eyes to view such exhibited beauty of his opponent. Indeed, while Lasker lived financially well, Schlechter died (as did many others) in poverty due to World War I that swept across Europe. In the early part of his career, Schlechter was often called the ‘drawing master’ but from 1906 or so on, he achieved many lst prizes as well as Brilliancy prizes.
Let us therefore examine in this Part One (the game is simply too long) the opening and middlegame.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 This can be now a Berlin Defence which became popular in modern theory by such players as Art Bisgueir to be embraced by modern stars and climaxed in the Kramnik vs. Kasparov world championship match where this opening played a major role in Kramnik’s defeat over Kasparov to win the title. Often seen in Lasker’s games are varying degrees of strategies often reflected as being his ability to play to the weakness or exhibited overzealousness in meeting supposedly weak lines compared to known theories of the day. Lasker was uncanny in handling positions often thought to be inferior, yet which seemed to bring out the best of his talent. This move has another point too, because it almost dictates that castles is the best choice for White.
4. O-O d6 Cunningly Lasker switches now to the Steinitz Defence set up which he appears to enjoy employing as a defensive weapon.
5. d4 Bd7 6. Re1 The interesting and perhaps sharper 6. Nc3 Be7 7. Re1 sets up the famous Tarrasch trap 7…O-O? leaving White a winning game. But this well known smasheroo is not going to trap Lasker! So why play for it? It is worth noting here that Schlechter appears happy to vie for 6…Be7 7. c3 and 8. Nbd2 > 9.Nf1. Certainly I find it hard to believe any real edge exists for White here but likely the wisdom of White is to assure himself a good position toward the middlegame.
6. …exd4! Lasker understood such positions; he envisions what follows as leading to a reasonably good game entering the middle phase. Schlechter also considered this the best for Black.
7. Nxd4 Be7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Bxc6 Janowsky experimented and favored perhaps 9. Nde2 largely because he liked his 2-Bishops remaining on the board for the time being.
9. … bxc6 10. Bg5 Schlechter uses Lasker’s pet idea here against himself, perhaps curious as to how he will handle the defensive chores.
10. … Re8 11. Qf3!? He finds a different solution to the Queen’s destination that often finds her on d3 here.
11. …h6 12. Bh4 Nh7 13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Rad1 At the St. Petersburg Tournament of 1909, Lasker with the White forces played his Rooks to e1 and f1 set up with a Kingside action mounting. White places his Rooks on the central files and is now prepared to engage forces in the middlegame struggle.
End of Part One. Stay tuned!! –Continued herein for your convenience of following the game.
14. …Nf8 The Knight is especiallly useful in that Lasker views Nf8 superior, say, to what Janowsky tried in the 1909 at St. Petersburg, entering the Knight to g5. The difference is that the Knight is limited in choice whereas retreating temporarily to f8 gives eye to either e6 or g6. Such freedom of mobility in choice is exhibited here when compared to other piece movements–a point sometimes overlooked and not fully appreciated.
15. h3 Schlechter in post reviewing suggested 15. Qg3 aiming for the pawn advance f2-f4. The text has the advantage of giving White some control over the g4-square but Lasker sees a potential weakness as he demonstrates herewith.
15. …Ng6 16. Qg3 Qg5 Forcing the exchange of Queens since 17. Qd3 Nf4, or; 17.Qf3 Nh4 tending to leave Black with the better pawn structure for the endgame. Lasker shows his ‘chess is a struggle, a fight’ by the thought of a mate on g2 that forces the Queen exchange and the weakness now appears against the choice of h3 by White earlier since the square f5 is secured in Lasker’s plan.
17. Qxg5 hxg5 18. f3 f6 19. Kf2 Kf7 20. Nde2 a5 21. b3 Reb8 22. Nc1 Schlechter now shows his prowess in positional finesse as his Knight maneuver was not aimed at the K-side but rather to do combat on the Q-side in a defensive role.
22… Be6 23. Nd3 c5 24. Nb2 Ne5 25. Nd5 Anyone looking at square count? This seems verry dangerous and it is to the credit of both players who weed through the maze of this crazy cornfield.
25. …Rb7 26. Re3 Nc6 27. Rc3 Could this be likened to a Nimzowitch comment that sometimes there can be a mystery seen in a Rook move which is seen only at the end of a thought through plan? I think this is such a position!
Lasker estimates he has been brought to a standstill for the moment on the Q-side so now turns his attention to the other sector wing. I now give the remaining moves that with great skill, Lasker finds a way to draw.
27. … g6 28. a4 f5 29. Ne3 Re8 30. Nec4 Ra7 31. Re1 Bxc4 32.Kf6 33. Ne3 Ne5 34. exf5 g6xf5 Black through pawn exchanges has loosened his defensive chores but now White begans a neat maneuver to create strong winning chances.
35. g3! Rh8 36. f4 gxf4 37. Nd5+ Kf7 38. Nxf4 Rb7 Black cannot ‘shilly-shally’ and must counter with effect aiming to hit the Q-side with …Rb4 and …c4. Is it going to be sufficient?
39. Kg2 c4 40. bxc4 Rb4 41. c5 Rxa4 42. cxd6 cxd6 43. Rc7+ Kf6 44. Nd5+ Kg5! 45. h4+ Kh6 46. Ne7 Rf8 47. Rd1 Rf7! This is a magnificent play to hold the position.
48. Rxd6+ Kh7 49. Re6 Ng6!! 50. Rxg6 Rxe7 51. Rgc6 Rxc7 52. Rxc7+ Kg6 53. Rc6+ Kg7 But not 53. …Kh5? 54. Rf6 winning the f-pawn. If the f-pawn falls, White has attained a winning position.
54. Kf3 ! Necessary to keep the King from getting cut off by Rh6.
54. …Re4 55. Rf5 Assuring the win of the pawn but possibly 55. f5 looks like a good alternative.
55. ..,.Kf6 56. Rxh4 Rc4 57. Rh6+ Ke5 58. Rh5+ Kf6 60. Rh5+ Kf6 61. Rh2 Ke5 62. Rb2 Rf6+ 63. Kg2 Kf6 64. Kh3 Schlechter sets one final trap. After 64…f4 65. Rb3 Rxf4 66. Rf3 wins for White!!
64. …Rf6 65. Rb8 Rxf4 66. Rb6+ Kg7 67. h5 Rf4 68. h6+ Kh7 69. Rf6 Ra4 Draw agreement.
A long battle where for the amateur, especially those who find sharp mating attacks and gambit style 18-19 Century chess play to be their ‘cup of tea’ and attraction for chess as a game may find, in this struggle, to be every bit the type of chess which lured Lasker to view chess. He said it was, above all else, a struggle. While one can say that Carl Schlechter was known as ‘the drawing master’, this game which ended in a draw was full of fireworks of the finest quality. Perhaps with this battle on the 64-squares, I can add to my list of critical views on how often the writers and critics of both current and past times turn out the pages of chess history and depict it in so many flawed ways.