1910 World Championship Match
1910 World Chess Championship
Emanuel Lasker (Germany) vs. Karl Schlecter (Germany)
Vienna, Austria/Hungary and Berlin, Germany
January 7 - February 10, 1910
Conditions: Best of 10 games. Lasker retains
title in the event of a 5-5 tie, or a 5½-4½ loss.
(NOTE: Opinion is divided on the historicity of the
2-point tie clause in this match)
Result: Emanuel Lasker retains the World Championship.
See the Games of the Match!
The Match was to the Best of 10 games. Schlecter had White in the
odd numbered games.
Despite the 80% draws, this was actually a hard-fought match,
with games averaging over 50 moves apiece, all with lots of fight
in them. Only the parity of the opponents prevented more
The tie clause in this match has been a source of endless
controversy. Going into the final game, Schlecter led by a point,
achieved a complicated but winning position, in which he could easily
have forced a draw, but made wildly uncharacteristic winning attempts,
finally losing his way in the complications, allowing Lasker to draw
the match. The description of the games printed below, taken from
The Yearbook of Chess attribute this to chivalry on Schlecter's
part. In fact, it's generally believed now that there was a match
clause requiring Schlecter to win by 2 points to become World Champion.
For example, Fred Wilson, in Classical Chess Matches: 1907-1913,
"Because of the difficulty in securing adequate financial backing, this
world championship match was limited to ten games only. Never was
there a more tense and evenly matched struggle. Never were there so
many exciting and hair-raising draws. As is well known, Schlecter
was leading by one game going into the tenth and final game when he
appeared to lose a golden opportunity to become world's champion by
drastically playing for a win (he did achieve a winning position but
was outplayed in the complications) when a draw would have sufficed.
The "drawing master," as Schlecter was nicknamed by his contemporaries,
appeared to feel (so the legend goes) that he could not allow his
rather accidental victory in the fifth game of the match to decide
the outcome of the world's championship. This is a myth. It is now
known that Lasker had driven an exceedingly hard bargain before he
agreed to play a match with Schlecter. In other words, Schlecter
had to win the match by two full games in order to become world
champion. Winning by one game would have allowed Lasker to retain
the title. So now it can be said that Schlecter was not being kind
or chivalrous in going all out for a win. Rather, he was doing
his damnedest to win because only a second victory could have secured
him the championship of the world."
There are still some who doubt whether this two-point clause
existed, and as far as I know, positive proof does not exist.
But the evidence of Schlecter's play in that final game, plus the
difficulty of imagining a cagey bird like Lasker risking his
title in such a short match without some extra protection
seems pretty telling. Not to mention the fact that negotiations
for a Lasker-Capablanca match
broke down the very next year over over that very same 2-point tie clause.
From The Yearbook of Chess, 1910, reprinted in Classical Chess Matches, 1907-1913, edited by Fred Wilson
Proposals for a Match of thirty games (subsequently reduced
to fifteen) having fallen through, negotiations were eventually
concluded for a series of ten games, five to be played in Vienna
and five in Berlin. When the plans for a longer match were on
foot there was a chance of some of the games taking place in
London. It is to be regretted that this could not have been
arranged, as it is many years since so distinguished an event has
taken place in the Metropolis, for since the London Tournament
of 18999 chess activity has been confined to the same round of
Club, County and National Competitions, and whilst other
countries have been engaged in promoting events of the greatest
importance England has lagged behind.
The match, as stated, was limited to ten games, consequently
drawn games after the first victory on either side were of far
greater value than is the case when the conditions are framed for a
given number of wins to be gained, as was the case in Lasker's
matches with Marshall, Tarrasch, etc. As it happened, the system
adopted on the present occasion could have given Schlecter an
overwhelming advantage, as he won the fifth game, the four
games preceding his victory and three following it all being drawn.
Hence with the last game to be played he was in the enviable
position of defeat being impossible, whilst his opponent had to
win that game to make the result a tie. in the other method of
scoring, of course, a player who is behind in the score always has
a chance of winning the match until the very last moment,
whereas in the present instance victory was impossible for Lasker
after the ninth game. Fortunately for the champion, Schlecter
was not content to adopt the policy of playing for a draw on the
last game, being determined to make every effort to increase his
lead, and being unwilling to take the legitimate advantage of
the conditions on which the match was arranged. had he been
content to do so it is more than probable that Dr. Lasker for the
first time in his career would have had to admit defeat in a set
match. As it was Lasker was able to win the final gme and
save the situation.
In spite of the large number of drawn games the play was exceptionally
interesting, and opinion inclines to the belief that the
quality of the games was in advance of other championship matches
in recent years. It is unnecessary to set out our customary table of
the progress of the match, as it has already been stated that all the
games were drawn except the fifth (won by Schlecter) and the
tenth (won by Lasker).
FIRST GAME - Ruy Lopez -
At the close of opening stages Schlecter had emerged with slightly the
better game, and this advantage was maintained for a long time.
Lasker, however, put up a very fine defence in the final stages, and
succeeded in drawing a hard fought game.
SECOND GAME - Ruy Lopez -
Like his opponent in the first game Lasker chose a Ruy Lopez, which
Schlecter defended in an unusual way, which is alluded to below and
which he resorted to in another game of the match. Lasker lost a pawn
in the opening, but this disadvantage did not deter him from drawing
THIRD GAME - Ruy Lopez -
Proceeding on the same lines as the first game, Shlecter deviating on
the 11th move, but this proved less favourable, and a drawn position
was arrived at on the 31st move.
FOURTH GAME - Ruy Lopez -
Lasker played the first eight moves of the second game, whereupon
Shlecter adopted the recognised move instead of embarking on the
unusual variation referred to. Lasker could have won the exchange,
but possibly this would have been no advantage in the position, as
Schlecter would have had a passed Pawn to the good in compensation.
Schlecter kept this Pawn, but instead of it being a Pawn plus, the
material remained equal, until Lasker later on won a Pawn. The
advantage now rested with Lasker, but Schlecter, playing in fine
style, was able to secure a draw.
FIFTH GAME - Ruy Lopez -
Here Schlecter chose a better continuation against the same defence,
as in the first and third games. Lasker courted the exchange of
pieces, relying on his superlative skill in the end-game. But
Schlecter met the champion on his own ground, and playing in masterly
style, scored the first victory in the match. This game closed the
Vienna series, the net result of which showed Shlecter in a highly
favourable light. Not only had he registered the only won game, but
he had troubled Lasker in the majority of the drawn games, and the
honours of the series were largely in his favour.
SIXTH GAME - Ruy Lopez -
The first game of the Berlin series, interest in the news from Vienna,
that Schlecter held the big advantage of 1 to 0 and 4 draws. Hence
the latter half of the match worthily upheld the interest of the
former. In this game Schlecter again utilised the recognised defence
to the variation hitherto played by Lasker. Exchanges in passing
from the opening to the close of the middle game left Lasker with a
Pawn ahead for the ending. Here again he was unable to utilise his
skill in the end-game to appreciable advantage, and Schlecter was
able to draw an instructive ending.
SEVENTH GAME - Sicilian Defense -
Schlecter got the best of the opening, and in the middle game
sacrificed a Bishop for two Pawns, subsequently obtaining a third.
The sacrifice was quite sound, but led to no more than a draw.
EIGHTH GAME - Ruy Lopez -
Here Schlecter resorted to the variation he played in the second game.
Dr. Lasker wrote afterwards that Schlecter by this variation has found
a valid defence to the Ruy Lopez. Another draw was eventually the
NINTH GAME - Sicilian Defense -
By this time, as may be imagined, the interest in the play had become
intense, as Lasker had very little time to save the match. In this
game Lasker for the first time had distinct chances of a win. The
opportunity occurred in the early middle game, but, ahving missed it,
Lasker was never able to press home his advantage, and another draw
left him in the unenviable position of having to save his match
record on the last game. In that one game he would have to make a
desperate effort to win, and even if he accomplished this it would
only draw the match.
TENTH GAME - Queen's Gambit Declined -
Schlecter's conduct of the game would appear quite inexplicable had he
not stated afterwards that his mind was set upon winning it. He was
unwilling to hold on to his advantage and play steadily for yet
another draw. It is extremely probably that had he proceeded with
the deliberate intention of drawing, he would have succeeded in
doing so. As the game actually went, Schlecter had a probable win
in a complicated position, and could certainly have drawn with care.
Lasker was compelled to play for a win, and forcing a win against a
player of Schlecter's strength is no easy matter even for a Lasker.
Schlecter's chivalrous desire for victory did not end with his playing
even a moderately steady game, and almost from the beginning he
indulged in a far more reckless style than can be recollected in
any other game he has played. Still, in spite of early disadvantage
the game was prolonged until the 71st move, when Lasker emerged