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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Strange Match and An Exciting Game

     The 1910 match between Lasker and Schlechter was unusual. Was it for the world championship or not? If it was for the championship, did Schlechter need to win the match by two points to claim the title? Why did Schlechter, who had an unusually solid style, play for such great complications in trying to win? Did he miss the draw at one point? Beside all this, there were, no doubt, a lot of psychological factors involved as well as physical fatigue, especially in the last game. Several of the annotations I looked at were based on generalities and engine analysis disproved some of them, but that's not the point. The thing is, these two guys produced a game that was a seesaw battle with enormous complications and it was a truly titanic effort on the part of BOTH players.     
      This was (possibly) the first ever drawn world championship match, the shortest and also one of the historically most controversial because of the debates just mentioned. The match is generally regarded as having been for the World Championship, but some sources have doubted this in view of its strange outcome. According to J.R. Buckley in the American Chess Bulletin the match wasn't for the World Championship and the result suggested that a match for the World Championship between the two should take place. Al Horowitz, Nicolas Giffard and Fred Wilson all agreed that a two-point margin was required while researcher Graeme Cree wrote that there are still doubts. Some argue that it's unlikely that Lasker would have risked his title in a short match without the protection of the two-point clause. They also point to the fact that negotiations for a Lasker–Capablanca match broke down the next year over the same two point clause. 
     Another historian wrote that Schlechter went to Berlin in November 1908 and challenged Lasker to a title match and they issued a joint statement stating that the match would last 30 games and the winner would need a two point score. Schlechter biographer Warren Goldman wrote that the conditions for the 10-game match were never published, but noted that Deutsches Wochenschach stated that the victor would be the one who won the most games and if necessary the referee would decide the title. Some point out that two days before the tenth game Lasker wrote that with the match nearing its end, it appeared likely that he would be the loser and that "a good man will have won the World Championship."
     On the other hand, a report shortly after the end of the match speculated that Schlechter threw the last game because a narrow victory would not have been in the financial interests of either player, as they would have had to play another match if Schlechter won narrowly and they already had not been able to get adequate financial backing for the 1910 match.  That Schlechter would throw the match sounds preposterous though. In the end, who knows? 
     In any case, even though only two games (games 5 and 10) were decisive, the match was a scrappy fight with some hair raising draws and the games themselves averaged over 50 moves. It's the last game that is the most famous because going into it, Schlechter led by a point and achieved a complicated but won position where he could have forced a draw, but instead made uncharacteristic winning attempts and lost. 
     The match began on January 7, 1910 in the Vienna Chess Club with Georg Marco the director. The games usually began at 5 pm and lasted until 8 pm. After a break of an hour and a half play was resumed until 11 pm and then adjourned if necessary. The time control was 15 moves per hour. Game 10 lasted 3 days and more than 11 hours. 
     Although a draw would have given him the match victory Schlechter played actively and got a promising position and decided to play for the win, but drifted into a worse position and Lasker finally converted his advantage. Analyzing this game with Stockfish revealed just how crazy the complications got. An exciting game! 

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