1910 World Chess Championship
Emanuel Lasker (Germany) vs. Karl Schlechter (Germany)
Vienna, Austria/Hungary and Berlin, Germany
January 7 - February 10, 1910

Conditions:  Best of 10 games.  Lasker retains
title in the event of a 5-5 tie, or a 5-4 loss.  
(NOTE:  Opinion is divided on the historicity of the 
2-point tie clause in this match)

Austria-Hungary/Germany 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
Lasker 0 1 5
Schlechter 1 0 5
Result:  Emanuel Lasker retains the World Championship.

See the Games of the Match!

  • The Match was to the Best of 10 games. Schlechter had White in the odd numbered games.

  • Despite the 80% draws, this was actually a hard-fought match, with games averaging over 50 moves apiece, all with lots of fight in them. Only the parity of the opponents prevented more decisive games.

  • The tie clause in this match has been a source of endless controversy. Going into the final game, Schlechter led by a point, achieved a complicated but winning position, in which he could easily have forced a draw, but made wildly uncharacteristic winning attempts, finally losing his way in the complications, allowing Lasker to draw the match. The description of the games printed below, taken from The Yearbook of Chess attribute this to chivalry on Schlechter's part. In fact, it's generally believed now that there was a match clause requiring Schlechter to win by 2 points to become World Champion. For example, Fred Wilson, in Classical Chess Matches: 1907-1913, writes:
    "Because of the difficulty in securing adequate financial backing, this world championship match was limited to ten games only. Never was there a more tense and evenly matched struggle. Never were there so many exciting and hair-raising draws. As is well known, Schlechter was leading by one game going into the tenth and final game when he appeared to lose a golden opportunity to become world's champion by drastically playing for a win (he did achieve a winning position but was outplayed in the complications) when a draw would have sufficed. The "drawing master," as Schlechter was nicknamed by his contemporaries, appeared to feel (so the legend goes) that he could not allow his rather accidental victory in the fifth game of the match to decide the outcome of the world's championship. This is a myth. It is now known that Lasker had driven an exceedingly hard bargain before he agreed to play a match with Schlechter. In other words, Schlechter had to win the match by two full games in order to become world champion. Winning by one game would have allowed Lasker to retain the title. So now it can be said that Schlechter was not being kind or chivalrous in going all out for a win. Rather, he was doing his damnedest to win because only a second victory could have secured him the championship of the world."

    There are still some who doubt whether this two-point clause existed, and as far as I know, positive proof does not exist. But the evidence of Schlechter's play in that final game, plus the difficulty of imagining a cagey bird like Lasker risking his title in such a short match without some extra protection seems pretty telling. Not to mention the fact that negotiations for a Lasker-Capablanca match broke down the very next year over over that very same 2-point tie clause.

    From The Yearbook of Chess, 1910, reprinted in Classical Chess Matches, 1907-1913, edited by Fred Wilson

    Proposals for a Match of thirty games (subsequently reduced to fifteen) having fallen through, negotiations were eventually concluded for a series of ten games, five to be played in Vienna and five in Berlin. When the plans for a longer match were on foot there was a chance of some of the games taking place in London. It is to be regretted that this could not have been arranged, as it is many years since so distinguished an event has taken place in the Metropolis, for since the London Tournament of 18999 chess activity has been confined to the same round of Club, County and National Competitions, and whilst other countries have been engaged in promoting events of the greatest importance England has lagged behind.

    The match, as stated, was limited to ten games, consequently drawn games after the first victory on either side were of far greater value than is the case when the conditions are framed for a given number of wins to be gained, as was the case in Lasker's matches with Marshall, Tarrasch, etc. As it happened, the system adopted on the present occasion could have given Schlechter an overwhelming advantage, as he won the fifth game, the four games preceding his victory and three following it all being drawn. Hence with the last game to be played he was in the enviable position of defeat being impossible, whilst his opponent had to win that game to make the result a tie. in the other method of scoring, of course, a player who is behind in the score always has a chance of winning the match until the very last moment, whereas in the present instance victory was impossible for Lasker after the ninth game. Fortunately for the champion, Schlechter was not content to adopt the policy of playing for a draw on the last game, being determined to make every effort to increase his lead, and being unwilling to take the legitimate advantage of the conditions on which the match was arranged. had he been content to do so it is more than probable that Dr. Lasker for the first time in his career would have had to admit defeat in a set match. As it was Lasker was able to win the final gme and save the situation.

    In spite of the large number of drawn games the play was exceptionally interesting, and opinion inclines to the belief that the quality of the games was in advance of other championship matches in recent years. It is unnecessary to set out our customary table of the progress of the match, as it has already been stated that all the games were drawn except the fifth (won by Schlechter) and the tenth (won by Lasker).

    FIRST GAME - Ruy Lopez - At the close of opening stages Schlechter had emerged with slightly the better game, and this advantage was maintained for a long time. Lasker, however, put up a very fine defence in the final stages, and succeeded in drawing a hard fought game.

    SECOND GAME - Ruy Lopez - Like his opponent in the first game Lasker chose a Ruy Lopez, which Schlechter defended in an unusual way, which is alluded to below and which he resorted to in another game of the match. Lasker lost a pawn in the opening, but this disadvantage did not deter him from drawing the game.

    THIRD GAME - Ruy Lopez - Proceeding on the same lines as the first game, Shlecter deviating on the 11th move, but this proved less favourable, and a drawn position was arrived at on the 31st move.

    FOURTH GAME - Ruy Lopez - Lasker played the first eight moves of the second game, whereupon Shlecter adopted the recognised move instead of embarking on the unusual variation referred to. Lasker could have won the exchange, but possibly this would have been no advantage in the position, as Schlechter would have had a passed Pawn to the good in compensation. Schlechter kept this Pawn, but instead of it being a Pawn plus, the material remained equal, until Lasker later on won a Pawn. The advantage now rested with Lasker, but Schlechter, playing in fine style, was able to secure a draw.

    FIFTH GAME - Ruy Lopez - Here Schlechter chose a better continuation against the same defence, as in the first and third games. Lasker courted the exchange of pieces, relying on his superlative skill in the end-game. But Schlechter met the champion on his own ground, and playing in masterly style, scored the first victory in the match. This game closed the Vienna series, the net result of which showed Shlecter in a highly favourable light. Not only had he registered the only won game, but he had troubled Lasker in the majority of the drawn games, and the honours of the series were largely in his favour.

    SIXTH GAME - Ruy Lopez - The first game of the Berlin series, interest in the news from Vienna, that Schlechter held the big advantage of 1 to 0 and 4 draws. Hence the latter half of the match worthily upheld the interest of the former. In this game Schlechter again utilised the recognised defence to the variation hitherto played by Lasker. Exchanges in passing from the opening to the close of the middle game left Lasker with a Pawn ahead for the ending. Here again he was unable to utilise his skill in the end-game to appreciable advantage, and Schlechter was able to draw an instructive ending.

    SEVENTH GAME - Sicilian Defense - Schlechter got the best of the opening, and in the middle game sacrificed a Bishop for two Pawns, subsequently obtaining a third. The sacrifice was quite sound, but led to no more than a draw.

    EIGHTH GAME - Ruy Lopez - Here Schlechter resorted to the variation he played in the second game. Dr. Lasker wrote afterwards that Schlechter by this variation has found a valid defence to the Ruy Lopez. Another draw was eventually the result.

    NINTH GAME - Sicilian Defense - By this time, as may be imagined, the interest in the play had become intense, as Lasker had very little time to save the match. In this game Lasker for the first time had distinct chances of a win. The opportunity occurred in the early middle game, but, ahving missed it, Lasker was never able to press home his advantage, and another draw left him in the unenviable position of having to save his match record on the last game. In that one game he would have to make a desperate effort to win, and even if he accomplished this it would only draw the match.

    TENTH GAME - Queen's Gambit Declined - Schlechter's conduct of the game would appear quite inexplicable had he not stated afterwards that his mind was set upon winning it. He was unwilling to hold on to his advantage and play steadily for yet another draw. It is extremely probably that had he proceeded with the deliberate intention of drawing, he would have succeeded in doing so. As the game actually went, Schlechter had a probable win in a complicated position, and could certainly have drawn with care. Lasker was compelled to play for a win, and forcing a win against a player of Schlechter's strength is no easy matter even for a Lasker. Schlechter's chivalrous desire for victory did not end with his playing even a moderately steady game, and almost from the beginning he indulged in a far more reckless style than can be recollected in any other game he has played. Still, in spite of early disadvantage the game was prolonged until the 71st move, when Lasker emerged victorious.

  • Match Breakdown
     #    White - Black        Locale  Date        ECO  Result
     1    Schlechter - Lasker  Vienna  01-07-1910  C66  -
     2    Lasker - Schlechter  Vienna  01-13-1910  C80  -
     3    Schlechter - Lasker  Vienna  01-15-1910  C66  -
     4    Lasker - Schlechter  Vienna  01-18-1910  C80  -
     5    Schlechter - Lasker  Vienna  01-21-1910  C66  1-0 
     6    Lasker - Schlechter  Berlin  01-29-1910  C80  -
     7    Schlechter - Lasker  Berlin  01-30-1910  B34  -
     8    Lasker - Schlechter  Berlin  02-02-1910  C80  -
     9    Schlechter - Lasker  Berlin  02-05-1910  B33  -
    10    Lasker - Schlechter  Berlin  02-08-1910  D94  1-0 

    Return to the Chesschamps Main Page
    Return to the World Championship Main Page