You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

May 26: Emanuel Lasker, Chess Champion

Lawrence Bush
May 26, 2010

Emanuel+LaskerChess master Emanuel Lasker, age 25, became world chess champion on this date in 1894 and retained the title for 27 years. He was the son of a cantor in Prussia, studied mathematics in Berlin, and learned the game of chess from his brother Berthold, a top player in the 1890s. Lasker’s championship match against the famous and much older Wilhelm Steinitz was played for three weeks in New York, Philadelphia, and Montreal, and ended in a 10-5 record (with four draws). In the course of his career, Lasker greatly raised the pay scale and tournament prizes for chess grandmasters. He published several chess magazines and books, authored several significant mathematical articles, and wrote philosophical books as well as articles on card games and board games. With the rise of the Nazis in Germany in 1933, Lasker and his wife Martha Bamberger left Germany and became Soviet citizens. Stalin’s Great Purge began shortly after, however, and the Laskers moved to the Netherlands and the U.S. His last book, The Community of the Future, was a political work that reckoned with anti-Semitism and other social issues. Only Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov have matched Lasker’s long-term dominance of chess.
“Lasker could make a mistake and smile, knowing that perfection is not granted to mortals.” —Reuben Fine

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.