Emanuel Lasker was born in Berlinchen (now Barlinck, Poland as of 1945), the Prussian province of Brandenberg, on December 24, 1868. He was the second son of Adolf Lasker, a Jewish cantor in a synagogue. His mother was Rosalie Israelssohn. They also had one daughter, who later died in a Nazi gas chamber.
In 1879, at the age of 11, Emanuel was sent to Berlin to attend school. There, he was taught how to play chess by his older brother, Berthold, who was a medical student and later became a medical doctor.
In 1884 Emanuel Lasker became a serious chess player. He was soon a frequent visitor at the Cafe Kaiserhof, a chess meeting-place. He was spending so much time studying and playing chess, that is parents told Berthold to find another school for Emanuel. Berthold did find a new school for Emanuel. However, the head of the new school was president of the local chess club and Lasker's math teacher was the local chess champion. This encouraged Emanuel even more to play chess.
In the late 1880s, Lasker attended the university of Berlin and Gottingen to study mathematics and philosophy.
In 1888 he was the best chess player at the Cafe Kaiserhof.
In 1889, hee won his first tournament at the Kaiserhof in Berlin in June. A month later, in 1889, he would be playing in the Hauptturnier in Breslau.
In July, 1889, he gained the German master title (schachmeister) in the Hauptturnier A section at Breslau. Tarrasch won the International Masters' section. This was part of the 6th Congress of the German Chess Federation. Lasker won this tournament by accident. Another competitor, von Feyeril, had lost his final game to Lipke after 121 moves. If von Feyeril would have drawn or won, he would have won the event and the master title. It was later discovered that one of his pawns was knocked off the board just before sealing the adjourned move. They had sealed a position (rook + knight + pawn against 2 bishops + knight + 2 pawns) with a missing pawn that would have given von Feyeril a drawing or winning game. Lasker, who told his brother that he would give up serious chess if he did not win, won the event and the master title.
After winning his master title, he was invited to Amsterdam, where he took 2nd, behind Amos Burn.
In 1890 Emanuel defeated Curt von Bardeleben and Jacques Mieses in match play. Later that year, Emanuel and his brother Berthold tied for 1st place at a tournament in Berlin.
Lasker travelled to England in 1891 to run a chess pavillion at a German exhibition. During that time, he beat some of the best chess players in that country (such as Bird, Blackburne, Mason, Mieses, and Gunsberg).
In March 1892 Lasker finished 1st at the 7th British Chess Association Tournament, held in London.
From August 1892 to July 1893 Lasker published his first chess magazine, 19 issues of The London Chess Fortnightly chess magazine.
He moved to New York in 1893 in hopes of playing Wilhelm Steinitz for the the world chess championship.
In September 1893, he won all his games (13-0) at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York. He then defeated American champion Jackson Showalter with 6 wins, 1 draw, and 2 losses.
In late 1893, Lasker lectured on differential equations at Tulane University in New Orleans.
On March 15, 1894 Lasker began his world chess championship match with Wilhelm Steinitz in New York. On May 26, 1894, he defeated Steinitz (14 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses) for the world championship. The match was held in New York, Philadelphia, and Montreal. He became the second world chess champion and held the title from 1894 to 1921 (27 years). Lasker was 25 and Steinitz was 58. Lasker received $2,000 for his efforts. Lasker then returned to Germany in late 1894. There, he contracted typhoid fever and almost died. (Henry Buckle died of typhoid fever in 1862 and Samuel Boden died of typhoid fever in 1882).
In 1895 he came in 3rd place (behind Pillsbury and Chigorin) at Hastings, despite recovering from typhoid fever. Lasker stayed in England and gave a series of lectures on chess.
He won four major tournaments after winning thw world chess championship. He won St. Petersburg 1895-96, Nuremberg 1896, London 1899, and Paris 1900.
In 1896 he wrote Common Sense in Chess, based on a series of 12 chess lectures that he gave in London. The German edition was published in 1896 and the English edition was published in 1897.
He defeated Steinitz in a return match held in Moscow in 1896-97 with 10 wins, 5 draws, and 2 losses.
In 1897 Lasker enrolled at Heidelberg University and transferred to Erlangen University in 1900.
In 1899 he won a tournament in London with 20 wins, 1 loss, and 7 draws. He won with 4.5 points more than the 2nd place finisher.
In 1901 Lasker was a mathematics lecturer at Victoria University in Manchester, England.
In 1901 Lasker presented his doctoral thesis Uber Reihen auf der Convergengrenze to Erlangen University, which was published in Philosophical Transactions.
In 1902 he gained his doctorate degree in mathematics from Erlangen University. His dissertation was on the convergence of ideal numbers. His advisor was the famous mathematician David Hilbert. After obtaining his PhD, he moved to New York, where he stayed until 1907.
From 1901 to 1914, Lasker played in only three chess tournaments. He demanded high appearance fees that tournament organizers could not afford. Lasker was also using his time to study mathematics and philosophy.
In 1904, Lasker played at Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania where he took 2nd place (tied with David Janowski), behind Frank Marshall. World champion Lasker came from Berlin to play in the event. He had not played in a chess tournament in four years. His last tournament was in Paris in 1900, which he won with 14 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. After Cambridge Springs, Lasker would not play in a chess tournament for another 5 years (St Petersburg 1909), which he tied for 1st place with Akiba Rubinstein.
In November 1904, Lasker started Lasker's Chess Magazine. It ran until 1907 in 8 volumes.
In 1905 Lasker introduced the notion of a primary ideal (ring theory), and proved the primary decomposition theorem for an ideal of a polynomial ring in terms of primary ideals. This proof was published in volume 60 of Mathematische Annalen in 1905. This is now known as the Lasker-Noether theorem. Emmy Noether was a distinguished lady mathematician from Gottingen who refined Lasker's work on polynomial rings in 1919. She built an abstract theory which developed ring theory into a major mathematical topic. A communitive ring R is now called a Lasker ring if every ideal of R can be represented as an intersection of a finite number of primary ideals. A theorem in the theory of vector spaces is known as the Lasker theorem. His work provided the foundation of modern algebraic geometry.
In 1906 Lasker became secretary of the Rice Gambit Association. In June, 1906, Lasker won the 19th New York State Chess Championship.
In 1907 he beat Frank Marshall in a world championship match and won with 8 wins and 7 draws. The match was played in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Memphis, Chicago, and Baltimore. After the match, Lasker returned to Germany.
In 1907 Lasker wrote Kampfin German and re-wrote Struggle in English, which was published in New York. This is a book on philosophy.
In August, 1908, Lasker defeated Siegbert Tarrasch with 8 wins, 5 draws, and 3 losses. The match was held in Dusseldorf and Munich. Lasker was convinced that Tarrasch had hypnotic powers and wanted to play the match from a different room. Lasker received 4,000 marks for his winnings.
In 1909 he tied for 1st place with Akiba Rubinstein at St. Petersburg (Chigorin Memorial). He then published a book on the tournament. That same year, he played David Janowski in two exibitions matches. Lasker won one and drew one. The match was sponsored by the Dutch painter Leo Nardus, who paid Lasker 7,000 francs to play. Nardus continued to support Janowski, until one day, Nardus suggested an alternate move or analysis in one of Janowski's post-mortem games. Janowski called Nardus an idiot in front of the crowd. Nardus never gave Janowski any financial support after that.
In 1910 he played Carl Schlechter in a match of 10 games. It was supposed to be a match of 30 games, but lack of funds kept it shorter. Lasker won 1 game, drew 8 games, and lost one game to tie the match. Schlechter needed only a draw in the last round to win the match. During that last game, he was winning, but eventually lost the game in 71 moves and the match. The match was held in Vienna and Berlin. Lasker received 1,000 marks for each game played. After the match, the public decided to call this match a world chess championship match. There is little evidence that Lasker considered this a world championship match where he would lose his title if he lost this short match.
A few months later, in November 1910, he defeated Janowski with 8 wins and 3 draws in a match in Berlin. He had defended his world championship title 6 times in 4 years.
In 1911, at the age of 42, he married Martha Bamberger Cohn and became a husband, father, and grandfather at the same time. His wife was a year older than Lasker, widowed (Emil Cohn owned a piano factory), rich, and already a grandmother. They lived in Berlin.
In 1914 Lasker took 1st place at St. Petersburg. Nicholas II, Czar of Russia, conferred the title of Grandmaster of Chess to Lasker, Alekhine, Capablanca, Tarrasch, and Marshall. These were the original five grandmasters. Lasker was paid 4,000 roubles as an appearance fee. This was the first time a chess player received an appearance fee.
Just before World War I, Lasker was supposed to play Rubinstein for the World Championship. Capablanca planned to play the winner. World War I interrupted these matches.
During World War I, Lasker (along with Rubinstein) invested all of his money in German war bonds. At the end of the war, he had lost all his money and savings. During that period, he wrote a book declaring that Germany had to win the war if civilization were to be saved.
After the War, Lasker tried to breed pigeons for the Berlin Pigeon Fair, He had studied many books about the breeding of pigeons and thought he could win medals at the Berlin Poulty show. However, all the pigeons Lasker bought were male.
In 1920 Lasker wrote to Capablanca in Spanish and resigned his title to Capablanca without playing a game. However, he needed the money and agreed to play Capablanca in 1921 for the world championship for $11,000.
In 1921, Lasker was defeated by Capablanca in the world chess championship. Lasker did not win a game, had 10 draws, and 4 losses. Lasker then claimed ill health and quit playing after 14 games of the 24 games scheduled, and he resigned the title. The match was held in Havana. He had played in 8 world championship matches for 27 years, 337 days. Lasker then retired from chess until 1923.
From 1895 to 1924 he won or tied for first place in eight of the 10 major chess championships he played in. The other two, he took 2nd place and 3rd place.
In 1924, Lasker, age 55, came out of retirement to win the New York International, ahead of world champion Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine. Lasker now took up bridge and Go.
In 1926 he wrote Lehrbuch des Schachspiels. He re-wrote it in English in 1927 as Lasker's Manual of Chess.
In October,1928, Emanuel Lasker's brother, Berthold died.
In the early 1930s Lasker became an international bridge player, representing Germany in international events. He became a Life Master in bridge and was the team leader of the German team at the Bridge Olympics.
Lasker was a good friend of Dr. Albert Einstein, but did not believe that the speed of light was constant.
In 1933 he was driven out of Germany beause he was a Jew. He was the grandson of a rabbi. All of his property in Berlin was confiscated as well as a farm he owned. In 1933 he moved to England.
In 1934, after 9 years of retirement, he took 5th at Zurich. He had also taken up golf.
In 1935 Lasker moved to the USSR. He had been invited to a Moscow tournament by Krylenko and took 6th place. He was then invited to become a member of the Moscow Academy of Science, which he accepted, and took permanent residence in Moscow. He became involved in mathematical studies and was offered a professorship at a university. At the end of 1935 he went to Holland to cover the world championship match between Alekhine and Euwe for Russian newpapers.
In August 1936, Lasker played in the Nottingham International, which he took 7th place.
In 1937 Lasker moved to Manhattan, New York. His patron in the USSR, Krylenko, was condemned as a traitor and later executed in a purge. Lasker feared for his life and left the USSR, despite doctors telling him that his wife was too sick to travel. He was able to immigrate to the United States by telling the authorities that his step daughter, who was living in New York, wanted to be re-united with her mother. Lasker's wife became seriously ill and died later that year. Lasker made a living through chess and bridge lectures and demonstrations.
In 1939 Lasker was suffering from ill health.
In 1940, Lasker wrote his last book, The Community of the Future.
Lasker died of a kidney infection in New York on January 11, 1941. He was 72. He had been a charity patient at Mount Sinai hospital. About the same time, his sister died in a Nazi gas chamber.
Lasker's winning percentage is the highest of any world chess champion: 66%. He won 52 games, drew 44, and lost 16 in world championship play. His calculated ELO rating is 2720.
Dr. Albert Einstein contributed a forward about Lasker in the book Emanuel Lasker: The Life of a Chess Master by J. Hannak, published in 1952.
In 1968 East Germany issued a stamp with Lasker's portrait in honor of the 100th anniversary of Lasker's birth.