(December 24, 1868 – January 11, 1941) was a
German chess player and mathematician, born at Berlinchen in Brandenburg
(now Barlinek in Poland).
In 1894 he became the second World Chess Champion by defeating Steinitz
with 10 wins, 4 draws and 5 losses. He maintained this title for 27
years, the longest unbroken tenure of any officially recognized World
Champion of chess. His great tournament wins include London (1899), St
Petersburg (1896 and 1914), New York (1924).
In 1921, Emanuel Lasker lost the title to Capablanca. He had already
offered to resign to him a year before, but Capablanca wanted to beat
Lasker in a match.
In 1933, the Jewish Emanuel Lasker and his wife Martha Kohn had to leave
Germany because of the Nazis. They went to England, and, after a
subsequent short stay in the USSR, they settled in New York.
Emanuel Lasker is noted for his "psychological" method of play in which
he considered the subjective qualities of his opponent in addition to
the objective requirements of his position on the board. Richard Reti
even speculated that Lasker would sometimes knowingly choose inferior
moves if he knew they would make his opponent uncomfortable, although
Lasker himself denied this. But, for example, in one famous game against
Capablanca (St. Petersburg 1914) which he needed to win at all costs,
Lasker chose an opening that is considered to be relatively harmless --
but only if the opponent is prepared to mix things up in his own turn.
Capablanca, inclined by the tournament situation to play it safe, failed
to take active measures and so justified Lasker's strategy. Lasker won
One of Lasker's most famous games is Lasker - Bauer, Amsterdam, 1889, in
which he sacrificed both bishops in a maneuver later repeated in a
number of games. Some opening variations are named after him, for
example Lasker's Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 O-O
6.Nf3 h6 7.Bh4 Ne4) to the Queen's Gambit. In 1895, he introduced a line
that effectively ended the popular Evans Gambit in tournament play (1.e4
e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 d6 7.0-0 Bb6 8.dxe5 dxe5
9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6). Lasker's line curbs White's aggressive
intentions, and according to Reuben Fine, the resulting simplified
position "is psychologically depressing for the gambit player."
Lasker was also a distinguished mathematician. He performed his doctoral
studies at Erlangen from 1900 to 1902 under David Hilbert. His doctoral
thesis, Über Reihen auf der Convergenzgrenze, was published in
Philosophical Transactions in 1901.
Lasker introduced the concept of a primary ideal, which extends the
notion of a power of a prime number to algebraic geometry. He is most
famous for his 1905 paper Zur Theorie der Moduln und Ideale, which
appeared in Mathematische Annalen. In this paper, he established what is
now known as the Lasker-Noether theorem for the special case of ideals
in polynomial rings.
He was also a philosopher, and a good friend of
in life he became an ardent humanitarian, and wrote passionately about
the need for inspiring and structured education for the stabilization
and security of mankind. He also took up bridge and became a master at
it, in addition to studying Go.
He invented Lasca, a draughts-like game, where instead of removing
captured pieces from the board, they are stacked underneath the
The poet Else Lasker-Schüler was his sister-in-law.
He was also related to the chess-player Edward Lasker.