Wilhelm Steinitz was dethroned in 1894, in a series of games played across North America. There are some grumbles about the man who would beat him, Emmanuel Lasker, namely that he hadn’t played either of the other potential challengers before squaring up to Steinitz. However, this seems to be sour grapes as the other two players (including Tarrasch) had refused to play him.
Putting sour grapes aside Emmanuel Lasker was an amazing man, though he was only the second person to hold the championship – he is the only person to have held it for more than two decades, from 1894 – 1918. His talents didn’t start or end with chess or travel chess either, he was a world class bridge player and also a top research mathematician. He was also a dramatist and philosopher but with far less of a reputation for either than his other pursuits allowed.
After he won the title, he was vilified by other players for never having won an important tournament. This didn’t last long as he went on to win many top class tournaments in the following years and beat out the next two world championship title holders in St. Petersburg towards the end of his reign (in 1914).
He authored the book “Common Sense in Chess” and also founded a magazine “Lasker’s Chess Magazine) and then promptly involved himself in the game of Go for a period before dumping it to return to chess.
Despite his amazing career, he would end his chess playing career broke – because he spent all his winnings buying up German war bonds for the First World War. When the Germans lost, his holdings became worthless. Ironically as Lasker was of Jewish descent – he would find himself run out of Germany by the Nazis towards the end of his life.
His win against Steinitz to gain the world chess championship crown was an impressive ten wins, five losses and four draws in the cities of New York, Montreal and Philadelphia. He would finally lose his crown to another all time great in Cuba – where he was actually the challenger for the title as he’d resigned it when he couldn’t raise enough money for a prize pot. We’ll look at the man who beat him – the first non-European to hold the title later in this series.