A Chess Story

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | 04.10.2012
  • | 17061 Aufrufe
  • | 30 Kommentare

There is a funny thing about chess: to succeed, you only need to be good at it. Up to a point, Fate can turn its back on you, but you can override it by simply playing really well. The upshot is that in the chess world, there are some great players who did not have fate on their sides. 

I have often thought about the story of Carl Schlecter, who played a match for the world championship with Emanuel Lasker in 1910. Leading by one point before the final game, he lost the game – despite having a promising position and avoiding many draws. It's never been clear what the conditions for the match were - did he need +2 to win the match, and thus was in a must-win situation in the last game? Or did he only need a draw? If he had drawn the game (thus finishing the match with +1), he might have been seen having a “moral” claim to the world championship, even if the match conditions left the official title in Lasker’s hands. Here was the key position:

Instead Lasker won, tied the match and kept the title of World Champion. Eight years later, during World War One, Carl Schlecter died of starvation. Would that have happened if he hadn't played 35...Rxf4 in that fateful game?

Another story is that of the American Harry Nelson Pillsbury. An incredible talent, Pillsbury shot to fame during the Hastings 1895 tournament. Before the tournament he was a complete unknown, but he won the greatest tournament that had ever been held, and instantly became a world championship contender. In those days it was not easy to make a living as a chess professional – even for the top players. In order to do so, he played blindfold exhibitions on multiple boards throughout the world. Sometimes he also played checkers and whist. During these exhibitions he thrilled everybody with his personality and wit. He seemed like somebody who could conquer the world.

But his career didn’t last too long. In the next great tournament, St. Petersburg 1896, which was created to find out once and for all who the best player was (among Lasker, Steinitz, Pillsbury, and Chigorin), he lost a critical game to the World Champion Emanuel Lasker. Pillsbury missed some chances and Lasker won a magical brilliancy.

Pillsbury had started the tournament very well, and it had seemed that he would repeat the triumph at Hastings. But this game marked the dividing line – after it, he only scored 1.5 points from the last eight. Although he remained a great player, he never reached the level he had in 1895. His health began to deteriorate, and he died only nine years later, of syphilis. While the disease certainly caused his death, nervous conditions surely hastened the progression of a disease that is not necessarily deadly so soon. 

And yet Pillsbury never forgot that fateful game. He found an improvement and waited years to use it. In the last year of his life, he once again faced Emanuel Lasker – and again Lasker used the same variation. Pillsbury won a beautiful game.


  • vor 3 Jahre


    This is a pair of really great games! Thanks for posting them!

    Kasparov also analyzed the first game  @ http://en.chessbase.com/home/TabId/211/PostId/4001549

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Thanks for the article, in this way Chess is a microcosm of Life. One meets the Pillsburys and the Laskers of this world.

    Lasker was a great player and I think an even greater competitor. Such people might be lucky but they create their own luck, one way or another. Others create their own misfortune. I like to think that in the end he gained a lot of satisfaction from that fine win in 1904.

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Gud article. Thanks. 

  • vor 4 Jahre


    I'm whant learn some about how play chess

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Nice article! Thanks for posting! :)

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Aw chess can pose serious problems! 

  • vor 4 Jahre



    Maybe I've missed something...but in the Lasker vs Schlecter game, why not 35. ... Nxd4 ( covered by Black Bishop )threatening Rook @ f3 which is pinned by Black's Queen?

    I think that White would just play Rxd4 and if Bxd4 then Qxd4+ looks very good for White as he is still a pawn up, the Q is now defending f4, and Black's King is exposed to attack.

  • vor 4 Jahre


  • vor 4 Jahre


    Yeah Redman that's Pillsbury's photo.

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Nice article!

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Good read.

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Thanks Bryan, your articles are always pleasant to read.

  • vor 4 Jahre


    expository1! that is what the article is... nice one

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Somehow this looks like a chess conspiracy where it is made that Lasker wins two very good players because of fate... Interesting interesting 

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Isn't that a photo of Pillsbury? Pretty sure it's not Schlechter.

  • vor 4 Jahre


    play like a grand master is posssible for example trying to play like boby fisher  this is one game played by fisher vs stephan A Popel i Oklahoma in 1956   

    and this is my position vs Icc coputer Finished by drawing the game

  • vor 4 Jahre


    Maybe I've missed something...but in the Lasker vs Schlecter game, why not 35. ... Nxd4 ( covered by Black Bishop )threatening Rook @ f3 which is pinned by Black's Queen?

  • vor 4 Jahre



  • vor 4 Jahre


    He destroyed Lasker in that last game, wow!

  • vor 4 Jahre


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Schlechter  ... going over his games as a kid, mostly as losses to other players in their annotated games collections, I came to the conclusion that he was the whipping boy of his generation. 

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