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Monday, June 17, 2019

Lasker Defeats Tarrasch With Psychology

     In game 2 of their 1908 World Championship match the wily Lasker used a psychological ploy that will be discussed in the game notes to defeat the dogmatic Tarrasch.
     1908… it was an interesting year. If you lived in New York City the Sullivan Ordinance was passed making it illegal for people who controlled public places to allow women to smoke in them. It was vetoed by Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. Also, it was in New York City that the first around-the-world car race began.
     If you lived in Ohio the big news was the Collinwood (Cleveland) school fire which erupted on March 4, 1908, killing 172 students, two teachers and one rescuer in one of the deadliest school fires in United States history. 
     The old school was a fire trap. Its masonry exterior acted as a chimney, sucking flame upward as the wooden interior burned and open stairways enhanced the chimney effect. The school only had two exits and fire blocked the front door. Children rushed to the rear door, but, in a vestibule narrowed by partitions, they stumbled and climbed on top of one another forming a pile that completely blocked the exit. 
     Mothers Day was celebrated for the first time in May. In a particularly ugly incident, Springfield, Illinois experienced a race riot. In September at Fort Myer, Virginia, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge made history by becoming the first person to die in an airplane crash and the pilot, Orville Wright, was severely injured. Ten days later Henry Ford produced his first Model T. In November, Republican William Howard Taft defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan for President of the US. 
     In chess, March 1908 saw the US team defeat the British team in a cable match 6.5-3.5. The US players didn’t lose a game, but the match was won on boards 7, 8 and 9 which produced the only decisive results. Anglo-American cable matches
     At Prague, Oldrich Duras and Carl Schlechter tied for first, edging out Dr. Milan Vidmar by a half point. And in Vienna the same two players tied with Geza Maroczy for first. It was at Vienna that Richard Reti made his international debut...he finished in last (20th) place with no wins, 16 losses and three draws!
     The big news was Lasker was playing his second match for the World Champiohship; this time his opponent was Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch. Their match might have taken place earlier than 1908 but for technical difficulties, not the least of which was their personal animosity towards each other. 
     Many felt Tarrasch was every bit Lasker’s equal even if he was six years older. Tarrasch’s tournament record was superior to Lasker’s. When the match was played Tarrasch had won seven big tournaments: Breslau 1889, Manchester 1890, Dresden 1892, Leipzig 1894, Vienna 1898, Monte Carlo 1903 and Ostend 1907. 
     The match result must have been a bitter disappointment for Tarrasch and his supporters. Tarrasch sometimes put quality above results when he opted for scientific accuracy rather than brilliancy. 
     Like almost all players of his era he was influenced by Steinitz and he attempted to improve on Steinitz’ ideas, especially the importance of rapidly developing pieces. Tarrasch was a model of logic, but he had a weakness when the game left the well beaten paths he was familiar with. A weakness opponents like Lasker, Alekhine and Nimzovich were quick to take advantage of. 
     Tarrasch was a brilliant writer and his teachings on the middlegame are well known. Less well known are his insights on Rook and Pawn endings. In fact, much of the improvement in the level of play in his day was a direct result of his teaching. 
     Tarrasch also contributed greatly to opening theory, but that was also one of his weaknesses. He was often too stubborn to change his mind once he had made a decision on the value of a variation even if practice proved it inferior. He especially failed to grasp the ideas behind the new opening theory being put forth by Nimzovich, Tartakower and Reti. 
     Personality-wise, he had a reputation for a tendency to be easily angered and was known for his strong likes and dislikes, among the latter, Lasker. Even so, he always expressed appreciation for Lasker’s play, it not the man. Later on life he mellowed a bit and was in great demand as a tournament director. 
     The match was split between Dusseldorf and Munich and the first to win eight games was the victor. In the early part of the match it seemed like Tarrasch might actually have a chance, but he seemed demoralized after the fifth game when his carefully prepared defense to the Ruy Lopez failed to bring success. Tarrasch put up stiff resistance in the remaining games, but Lasker always prevailed. All in all, the games were of a very high quality and a good example of “classic” chess. Lasker won +8 -3 =5. .

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