Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"He is a Chess Genius": Emanuel Lasker's 1893 Chicago Herald interview.

   During his visit to Chicago, in summer of 1893, Emanuel Lasker , gave an interview to The Chicago Herald, which was widely quoted in the chess press of the time. But I had never seen the whole article and interview. So I decided to make the effort to find the interview, it took multiple searches, but at last found the interview in microfilm files of the Chicago Public Library. The interview appeared in The Chicago Herald on Monday, June 26, 1893 on page 9. Here is the article/interview in full:

He is a Chess Genius,

Lasker, The Great Player Here

 Though Not Yet 25 Years Old He Has Defeated, All Contemporary Experts Save Steinitz, Whom He expects To Meet Soon - A Career of Conquest.

“Chess is not only the most fascinating and intellectual game which the wisdom of antiquity has bequeathed to man, but it is incomparably the most scientific. Separated from the most abstruse of sciences by the faintest line of demarkation,[sic] it is more difficult than integral calculus, according Jaenisch, the Russian mathematician. Richard A. Proctor, who devoted to chess as much study as he gave to astronomy, said, “No man has yet mastered chess, for the plummet of human intellect cannot fathom its depths”, and Sir William Jones declared that a chess genius is not born oftener than once a century."

“Since the advent of Paul Morphy, who shot athwart the chess sky with meteoric brilliancy , dazzling by his genius the players of his day and vanquishing such of the American and transatlantic champions as had the temerity to meet him, no player has arisen who was deemed worthy to be his successor or upon whom his chess mantle should fall."

“A new star, however, has recently appeared in the chess firmament, who is believed by many to be Paul Morphy's legitimate successor. His genius as effectually outshines the present chess lights as Morphy's overshadowed those of his day."

“This new chess genius is Emanuel Lasker, who is now in Chicago visiting the world's fair.

“Mr. Lasker's public record, although extending over only a brief period, is unequaled by that of any who ever lived not excepting the great Paul Morphy."

Mr. Lasker's Victorious Career


   “Emanuel Lasker was born the 24th of December, 1868, in Berlinchen, Germany. He learned the rudiments of chess when scarcely 12 years of age, and incontinently showed a rare aptitude for the game. Less than six months after playing his first game he was contending on even terms with the strongest amateurs of his native town. In 1889 his first public match took place. This was contested in Berlin with Baron Von Bardeleben, a scholarly profound player, fresh from his victories in London, and when the score was two to one in his favor his formidable antagonist resigned the match. This at once gave Lasker a conspicuous place in the chess world. His next opponent was the skillful Mieses, who enjoyed a high reputation in German chess circles. The youthful champion's achievement was remarkable, for he won five straight games, and his discomfited adversary threw up the sponge. He was a contestant in the Amsterdam chess congress of 1889 and was matched against an array of formidable players. Amos Burn, of London, gained the first prize and Lasker took the second. Mr. Lasker soon afterward visited London, and a match was arranged with the veteran Bird. At the conclusion of the contest the score stood, Lasker 7 games and Bird 2 games. His next encounter was with Mianati, the strong Manchester player. Lasker won the match without losing a game. From this time forward he was contestant in small tournaments, and his success was almost unbroken. He had come to be regarded as one of the most powerful chessists in London, but his youth caused some of the veteran English players to discredit his ability and underrate his skill. Lee, the very strong London expert, challenged Lasker. As soon, however, as the first partie was finished he abandoned the contest remarking: 'Lasker is too strong for me.'”

“Soon after this match the British chess tournament took place in London, the participants being Mason, Lee, Bird, and others, first rates. Mr. Lasker was induced to enter the lists, and secured the highest honor. Mason came out second.”

“Then occurred the famous quintangular match with Mason, Bird, Gunsburg, and Blackburne, This unique tourney excited much interest. Mr. Lasker demonstrated his superiority by again carrying off the first prize. Blackburne bore off second honors.”

“A general desire was expressed for a set match between Blackburne and Lasker, and the latter readily consented to measure lances with the redoubtable Briton, The sweeping victory achieved by Lasker, he won six games to nothing placed him on the highest pinnacle, and the press showered upon him compliments. The London players were anxious for him to challenge Steinitz for the chess championship of the world, but Mr. Lasker said he could afford to wait a while.”

“The Manhattan Chess club of New York gave Lasker a pressing invitation to fill a month's engagement in New York, and the invitation was gladly accepted by Mr. Lasker, who had a strong desire to visit the United States. He had heard much about the native genius of such players as Delmar, Hodges, and Lipschultz, and he was anxious to test their powers. It was arranged for him to play three games each with the eight strongest players of the Manhattan club. Such able players as Eugene Delmar, Dr. Isaacson, Major Hanhan and A. B. Hodges were pitted against him. He beat with ease one after another of his opponents, the only reverses he suffered being at the hands of the youthful Hodges and the erudite Isaacson, to each of whom he lost one game. The total score was: Lasker twenty-one games, lost two games and drawn one game. This was regarded as a wonderful achievement."

“After finishing his engagement with the Manhattan club Mr. Lasker went to Canada and visited the clubs in Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. He enjoyed an unbroken series of victories and was everywhere hailed as the world's greatest players. Altogether he played in Canada fifty-two games, only one of which he lost."

 Lasker and Riechelm at play
The Chicago Herald: 26 June 1893, p.9


“In Brooklyn his success was scarcely less remarkable. The only game he did not score, was a drawn battle with Phil Richardson, one of the strongest players in the United States. In Philadelphia he encountered the veteran Riechhelm, the brilliant Shipley, the scholarly Elson and half dozen other strong players. The only game he lost, was to Shipley. He played nineteen games simultaneously with the strongest team the quaker city could present and not one game did he lose."

“Mr. Lasker next visited the clubs of Havana, and defeated the Cuban experts with ease. With Signor Golmayo, Ponce, Vasquez and Ostolazza he played short matches, making clean scores. During his stay in Havana he lost not a game and drew only one. This was a far better score than either Steinitz, Tschigorin, or McKenzie had made against the Cubans."

“In New Orleans Mr. Lasker next met the best players of the city, that produced Paul Morphy. Mr. Lasker played for several weeks and won victory after victory. During his stay in the crescent city he was the recipient of many courtesies and was invited to deliver a series of lectures before [illegible word] Tulane university. He lectured on the thesis of 'Linear Differential Equations,' and was complimented, by the faculty of that institution, who requested him to prepare a work on the subject. Mr. Lasker has been busily engaged on this work ever since."

“His last and most important match was with Jackson Showalter, of Kentucky, who for two years had held the chess championship of the United States. This match was played at Kokomo, Ind., last April. The stakes were $1,000. At the end of two weeks the contest ended in favor of Lasker who defeated his antagonist by the decisive score of 6 to 2 and one drawn game. At the conclusion of that match Mr. Showalter expressed a desire to back Lasker against Steinitz in a match for $5,000 and the chess championship of the world. Letters came from New York and New Orleans congratulating the victor and offering to help raise the stakes in the event of a match with Steinitz. Mr. Lasker indicated a willingness to measure lances with the hitherto invincible champion, and negotiations were immediately begun. Charles A. Gilbert [Gilberg] of Brooklyn, was named by Lasker as his second, and Mr. Steinitz was communicated with. He replied that a challenge coming from so distinguished a player as Lasker was worthy of consideration, and he would accept it in, the spirit it was sent. The probability of an encounter between Steinitz and Lasker and the possibility that some of the games may be played in Chicago has aroused the local players and awakened great interest in the coming event. The Chicago players will make concerted effort to bring about the match, which will unquestionably be the greatest contest in the annals of chess."

A Talk With Lasker


A representative of The Herald visited Mr. Lasker at his apartments in the Mecca and he was found unraveling some abstruse Mathematical problems, such exercise being a light diversion for him. The
reporter was cordially received by the young chess champion. Mr. Lasker possesses a refined and intellectual face, with an unmistakable Jewish cast of countenance. His features are clear cut, his eyes dark and piercing , yet at times bright and merry in their twinkle. His thin, compressed lips evince of strength and firmness are almost hid by the drooping neatly trimmed dark mustache. The glasses which bridge, his firm Roman nose, impart to his visage a sedate and scholarly appearance. The dignity of his bearing. The easy grace of his [illegible word] and the measured reticence of his conversation indicate the artist temperament, and the conformation of the frontal cranium discovers to the phrenologist an abnormal development where the group of intellectual faculties have their abode. Mr. Lasker is not a voluble talker, but he expresses himself easily in good English. When the subject of chess is broached his eyes light up with interest and his conversation becomes animated.

'Is it true,' he was asked, 'you are willing to encounter the redoubtable Steinitz?'

' Yes not only willing, but anxious,' Mr. Lasker replied, with an enthusiastic ring in his voice.

'Is t likely that a match between you will be brought about?'”

'I think so; in fact. I feel confident that the negotiations now pending will result in a match between us. I am anxious the match shall be for $5,000 a side and the chess championship of the world, and I hear that Steinitz favors such an amount, which by the way, will be the largest stakes ever contented for by chess players.'”

'What progress has been made in the negotiations, and when and where will the match take place?'”

'That I cannot say just now. So far as the time is concerned I cannot get ready much before the close of the present year. I should like to play a part of the match in New York, a part in Chicago, and a part in New Orleans. My friends are rapidly making up the money, for they are confident of my success. My second has already been chosen, Charles A. Gilbert [Gilberg] of Brooklyn, a man whom' everybody respects. I believe the requisite stakes will soon be forthcoming.'”

'Is Steinitz willing to play?'”

'I am sure he is, for his faith in his own skill is not diminished, and he evidently believes he can add my chess scalp to his belt.'”

'Do you expect to defeat him?'”

'Certainly I do. Else why would I risk $5,000 and my chess reputation? I confess that I anticipate the toughest fight of my life; that I shall be forced to exert myself as I never have done, and that I shall have to play better and deeper chess than I have ever done in order to beat him. I entertain an excellent opinion of Steinitz's ability. I know that it will be no easy matter to wrest from him the world's championship, which he has so honorably and bravely held for more tan a quarter of a century; but I have enough confidence in myself to essay that difficult task. I am vain enough to believe that the match will be the greatest one ever played. All that I cans ay is that I shall do my best; but whether or not that best is good enough to defeat Steinitz, remains to be seen.'”

'Is it your purpose to play some of the games in Chicago?'”

'If the Chicago players desire us to contest one section of the match here, I doubt not we shall be able to do so, for this is neutral ground. I find that Steinitz has plenty of friends and backer here, who are confident he can defeat me. But I wish to say that I have never played my best chess for I have never been required to exert myself to defeat, such as I have encountered. I am willing to admit that Steinitz is decidedly superior to any one I have confronted, yet I shall face him with the firm conviction that I will defeat him. I may have some surprises in store for him and the chess world. I am regarded as strongest in defense and end games, yet in my match with Steinitz I may prove that my ability lies in attacks. I expect to open the eyes of chess players. I am imbued with an ambition to be acknowledged chess champion of the world, and if the match with Steinitz can be arranged that ambition will soon be gratified.'”


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