Francis Lee - Emanuel Lasker
Super-Master (DRR) Tourney
London, ENG; 1899.


This is a game that I saw a long time ago, I don't remember where I saw it or who showed it to me. (This game might have been in a Hannak's book of Lasker's games, or it may have been in a book by Reinfeld about great chess games of the Masters.) 

I have been working on many games of  Lasker's  ... ... ... since about 1995 ... and therein lies several stories. 
(Covered elsewhere.)

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This is mostly a text-based page, with only one diagram. Therefore, you will probably need a chess board. 


NM F. Lee (2475)  - GM Em. Lasker (2815);
Double-Round-Robin Tournament
  London, England; (Great Britain) / 1899.  

[A.J.G.]

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One of Lasker's VERY best games!!

This game is from the Super-Master tournament of London, 1899.
(Virtually ALL the best players were there. Each player played the 
other players TWO games, one with White and one with Black.)

Lasker dominated one of the strongest fields ever assembled.

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Lee was one of the stronger players of his day. 
(Possibly in the world's 'Top 20-25 players? {The ratings - here - are approximations.})

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(The game starts as a Ruy Lopez.)  

1.e4 e5;  2.Nf3 Nc6;  3.Bb5 a6;  4.Ba4 Nf6;  5.d3,  {Diagram?}  
A very slow system that was MUCH in use in the games of that day.
(See any database.). 

Basically this was a 'book' line of that time, but can be found (only occasionally) 
in GM games today. 

Another odd fact is Lasker can be found on EITHER side of this position, i.e., he 
played it from White and with the Black pieces as well. 
(See any database, the book of Lasker's games by Ken Whyld, or the book:  
 "500 Master Games Of Chess," by Savielly Tartakower and J. Du Mont.)

     [  The  main line  today is:  5.0-0 Be76.Re1 b57.Bb3 d6;  
        8.c3 0-09.h3, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        White will follow up with d2-d4, with a solid advantage. 
        (This has probably been played ...  in an almost countless number 
          of master-level games!!  ---> See any on-line database.) 

        Consult  MCO-14, or any good book on the  Ruy Lopez. ]  

 

Both sides continue to develop normally. White's development is OK, but he does
not find the best squares for his pieces, and his move order leaves something to be 
desired as well. Meanwhile Lasker's play is nearly perfect ... 
and VERY MODERN in its ideas!! 
5...d6;  6.c3 b5!;  7.Bc2!? g6!;  {Diagram?}  
Very creative play by Lasker ...  at a time when a fianchetto still caused people to guffaw 
and masters to raise their eyebrows. 

8.a4!? Bb7!;  9.Nbd2 Bg7;  10.Nf1!?,  {Diagram?}  
Maybe White should have simply castled instead of these prolonged and 
probably excessive maneuvers.

(This is a normal maneuver in the Ruy Lopez. Lee wants to do it now, so he 
 won't have to move his Rook out of the way - which is what he would have 
 to do if he castled first.) 

      [  >/=  10.0-0, "="  ]   

 

Now Lasker takes advantage of his opponent's slow play by immediately 
striking at the center. 
10...d5!;  11.Qe2 0-0;  12.Ng3!? Qd6!;  13.0-0 Rfe8, "="  {Diagram?}  
Black has pretty much already equalized.

***

Now Black begins a series of moves and maneuvers designed to dominate 
White on the Q-side. 

14.h3 Na5!;  15.Bd2!? c5!;  16.Rfd1!?,  {Diagram?} 
White plays as if he can take his time. This might be OK against
normal humans, but against a player of Lasker's caliber ...  

     [ Maybe  16.c4!? ]  

 

16...Qc7!;  17.Qe1!?,  {Diagram?}  
White has a battery against the a5 Knight, (and threats of a 'sneaky' discovery); 
but Lasker finds the correct antidote. 

     [  Better is:  >/=  17.Qf1!?,  "="  {Diagram?}  
        according to Reinfeld.  ]  

 

17...c4!;  18.d4!?,  {Diagram?}  
White explodes the center, and even has a plan to deny Black the use of the 
primary defender of his dark squares.

But it does not turn out well for him, and to be honest, almost any (other) move 
would have been better than what White plays here. 

 

     [  >/=  18.axb5 axb519.Bg5!?,  "~"  ]   

Black now wins a nearly meaningless Pawn, and White has a fair amount 
of compensation. 

18...Nxe4!;  19.Nxe4 dxe4!?;  {Diagram?}  
Good enough for a solid advantage. 

     [  Maybe  >/=  19...exd4!?; ('!')  {Diagram?} 
        was a slight improvement? (This is NOT 100% certain.)  ]  

 

20.Nxe5 Bxe5!;  {Diagram?}  
Black loses his dark-squared Bishop, but has all the bases covered. 
(Black is also a pawn up, but his position is somewhat disorganized.)

     [ 20...f6!? ]  

 

21.dxe5 Qxe5;  22.Be3,  {Diagram?}  
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to visualize the following plan for
White: Qd2, followed by Bd4 and Qh6; and Black faces a mate threat on g7. 
(But Lasker keeps Lee busy enough so that he never has an opportunity 
 to execute this idea.)

     [ Maybe  22.axb5!? ]  

 

Black continues by fixing the Queenside Pawns and slowly increases his edge.  
22...Nc6;  23.b3!? Na5!;  24.b4 Nc6;  25.Rd7!? Re7; "=/+"  {Diagram?}  
Black already has a small advantage.

26.Rdd1!? Rd8;  27.Rxd8+ Nxd8;  28.axb5 axb5;  29.Qd2 Ne6!;  {Diagram?}  
Black begins to transfer his pieces to the King-side, but this is seemingly 
inconsistent with his strategy on the Queen-side.

   Lasker's maneuvers are highly instructive. The World Champion is creating a     
   positional masterpiece.     

***********

White seems frustrated now and lashes out on the K-side, but he only creates 
more opportunities for the great Lasker.  
30.h4!?,  (Maybe - '?!')  {Diagram?}  
Perhaps thinking to soften Black up on the King-side?  

     [ >/=  30.Ra7 ]   

 

Black continues to increase his edge, and also seizes the d-file. 
30...Bc6;  31.Ra6 Rd7;  32.Qe1 Bb7;  33.Ra5 f5!;  {Diagram?}  
Having dominated the play on the Queen-side, Lasker now turns 
his attention to the other side of the board.

*****

(One newspaper column now wrote that White's next move was forced.) 
 34.g3?!,  (Maybe - '?')  {Diagram?}  
This only serves to further weaken White's King-side.  

     [  Better was:  >/=  34.Bc1,  {Diagram?}  (play this and pray?) 
        but this type of passive defense probably did not appeal to Lee. ]  

 

Black now focuses on the newly created weaknesses to force a  'tear'  ... 
in the pawn cover in front of the White King. 

34...f4!;  35.gxf4 Nxf4;  36.Bd4!?,  {Diagram?}  
Is White still thinking he can attack from this position? 

      [  White probably had to play:  36.Bxf4 Qxf437.Qe3,  {Diagram?}  
          but this would be like admitting defeat.  ]  

 

36...Qf5;  37.Qe3!?,  {See the diagram just below.}   
Understandably, Lee wishes to activate his Queen.  

(But Bd1 was probably forced.)

     [  >/=  37.Bd1[]  ]   

 

 

   Black to play and make his 37th move. What would YOU play here?  (flee-lask1.bmp, 528 KB)

(The position in the game ... just after White plays 37.Qe3.) 

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The position is Black to play, what is the winning move for Lasker here?
  37...Rxd4!!;    (Maybe - '!!!')   {Diagram?}  
One of the most brilliant moves in all of Lasker's career. Black has calculated 
over 10 moves ahead from this position! 

     [  Tarrasch  pointed out a 'quicker' win that began with:  37...Qg4+!{Diag?} 
         but it is not as nearly forcing or brilliant or as artistic as the 
         continuation found by Lasker. 

         NOTE:  May 17th, 2015: I just checked it with the very strong chess engine,  
         Deep Fritz 14. There is {now} no doubt that 37...Qg4+!! wins as well ... 
         and is probably as good - or even better - than the continuation of the  
         actual game. (Have fun working it out on your own!) ]  

 

38.cxd4 Qg4+;  39.Kf1 Qg2+;  40.Ke1 Qg1+;  41.Kd2 c3+!;  {Diagram?}  
This had to have been foreseen by Lasker when he played his sacrifice on d4.  

     [  The move:  41...Ng2!?{Diagram?}  
         will probably transpose to the winning method found by  Tarrasch]   

 

42.Qxc3[],  {Diagram?}  
Not much choice here for White.  

     [ </=  42.Kxc3??, Nd5+("-/+")  {Diagram?} 
        White has allowed his King and Queen to fall for a Knight fork.  ]   

 

42...Qxf2+;  43.Kd1 e3;  {Diagram?}  
With just a few threats!

44.Bb3+,  {Diagram?} 
Practically the only move for White, who may have been counting 
on this move to save his skin.

     [  44.Ra7? Qf1+!;  ("-/+")  ]  

 

Now Black MIGHT be able to win by blocking the check on the d5-square. But Lasker 
has something supremely better in mind!  (Notice the hiding place he finds.) 
44...Kg7!;  45.d5+ Kh6!;  46.Qe1!? Bc8!!;   ("- / +")   {Diagram?}  
A brilliant quiet move ... there is NO defense, so  White RESIGNS!

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A truly rare and fantastic contest. 

A SUPER-brilliancy! And Lasker's very high-class positional play - which led directly to 
the finish - is also to be noted and praised.
(It seems Lasker was determined to win on the Q-side, but then he very suddenly 
 switched fronts. He also capped off an incredible positional game with a very 
 great and memorable combination.) 

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  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.  Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2003.  

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

I have seen this game in many books and magazines. For instance, I have many 
collections of Lasker's games, including the ones by Barden, Hannak, Reinfeld, etc. 

Also - several (many) of my {former} Internet students did research and sent me 
material as concerns this game. (And the London tournament of 1899.) 

But the following sources were my chief sources of information for annotating this game:

# 1.)  "The {complete} Collected Games of Emanuel Lasker,"  by  Ken Whyld.
            Copyright () 1998, by the author. ISBN:  # 1-901034-02-X
             Published by  'The Chess Player.' 

# 2.)   "Lasker's Greatest Chess Games, 1889 -  1914."  (Dover reprint.) 
            By  Fred Reinfeld and Dr./GM Reuben Fine.  
            Copyright 1935, 1963 by the authors.  Published by Dover/G.P.C. Canada.

# 3.)   "EMANUEL LASKER, The Life of a Chess Master,"  by  Dr. J. Hannak
             Copyright () by the author, 1952, & 1959. (1991?) 
             Published by Dover Books of NY. (Reprint.)  ISBN: # 0-486-26706-7
             {My old/last copy of this book fell apart after years of use/overuse. 
              So in May of 2003, I ordered a new copy on the Internet.} 

# 4.)   The great book: "500 Master Games Of Chess."  (Dover reprint.) 
           By  GM  (and Dr.)  Savielly Tartakower  and  James Du Mont
           Copyright 1952, by the authors. (Repeated in 1975.) 
           Published by G.P.C. Ltd; Toronto, Ontario. (Canada) 

 

 

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This page was first posted: Friday; January 31st, 2003.  This page was last updated on 05/17/15


 Copyright  (c)  A.J. Goldsby I 

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