Buckley on Lasker

Buckley on Lasker

From Birmingham Weekly Mercury, August 15, 1896 [Robert John Buckley].

The Chess Champion

Lasker has come out first, an easy first, in the Nuremberg Tourney [Nuremberg 1896: 1. Lasker 13½/18, 2. Maroczy 12½, 3.-4. Tarrasch & Pillsbury 12. 19 players. Ed.], which, in the opinion of many experts, ranks as the strongest Tourney played up to date. Nobody is much surprised, but only four years and a half ago the case was different. At that early period the “Mercury” declared for Lasker, and nailed its colours to the mast. It is easy to prophesy after the event, and Chess Editors innumerable now swear by Lasker. But at one time we were alone, in our belief in his powers; and not only alone, but derided for our faith. In our column of April 9, 1892, we wrote as follows:-

The Berliner is cool, and seems to possess the clear-eyed perceptivity which surveys the board from China to Peru, taking in the situation at a glance. His mastery of the secrets of the chess-board is wonderful. We spent an hour or two with him at the Divan, and his solution of end-games, his manipulation of the pieces, and his command of the board were such as to surprise us very much.

The British masters know not what to do with Lasker, who at all points of the game is armed as with triple steel. They have tried close games, open games, waiting games, ancient style, modern style, irregular openings, hackneyed openings, in vain. They have tried to out-manoeuvre him with Daedalian complications, to beat him in the opening, the middle game, and the end. And whatever style of chess he is actually playing you are apt to think his strongest point.

He is as ingenious as Bird, as subtle as Gunsberg, as original as Steinitz, as brilliant as Tschigorin, as solid and tenacious as Mason, as scientific as half-a-dozen masters rolled into one. In future he must be classed with Steinitz, Blackburne, Tschigorin, Gunsberg, and Weiss.

The only question as to Lasker’s powers relates to physique. He is of slight and delicate appearance, and he may not last. Chess matches and tourneys are a severe test of vitality. Let him keep in good going order, let him remain sound in wind and limb, and we will back him to win the championship of the world.

At this time Lasker had done nothing in particular to justify what was called the “undue extravagance of estimation” in which we held him. But we had seen him, and weighed him in the balances, and the above extract represented our opinion.

The “Dublin Evening Herald”, in its chess column, edited by a well-known barrister, chess champion of Ireland [J. A. Porterfield Rynd, Ed.], was among those journals which good-humouredly bantered us, and in a sparkling article asked for evidence. What had Lasker done? Where were his immortal games? To these queries we had no answer. Lasker had not yet done much, his immortal games were yet to come, and herein, we think, lies the merit of our prediction.

When Lasker won the five-master Tourney [London 1892: 1. Lasker 6½/8, 2. Blackburne 6, 3. Mason 4, 4. Gunsberg 2½, 5. Bird 1. Ed.], and was about to play a match with Blackburne, we wrote (May 21, 1892):-

Lasker is no mere wood-shifter. He is indeed an opponent not to be lightly tackled. His science is complete and up to date, he is wary where caution is needed, bold when boldness pays, tenacious to a heart-breaking degree, possesses undoubted genius, is cool, courageous, ambitious, determined, has individuality of style, combines all that is best of the old and new schools with the endurance and rapid recuperation of four and twenty years.

He may have a weak spot. Blackburne may know where it is. We hope he will find it. But we have inspected Lasker, watched him for days together, weighed him in the balances, and failed to find him in the balances, and failed to find him wanting anywhere.

From this it will be seen that we stuck to our opinion, and that we were justified by events. Lasker beat Blackburne easily, the British champion failing to win a single game throughout the match. Then came the match with Steinitz. That we backed Lasker to win is a matter of public notoriety. Steinitz noticed our prediction, and pleasantly mentioned it to us during the Hastings Tourney [1895. Ed.], in which contest Lasker, in our judgment, fell short of first place only by reason of the ill-health resulting from a recent and malignant attack of typhoid fever. Lasker is Champion of the World, and that, as we have shown, was predicted in the “Mercury” more than four years ago.

Now comes the question, who is to wrest the glory from him – Tarrasch, Pillsbury, Steinitz? We do not think that Tarrasch would have any chance in a match with Lasker. For Tarrasch could only draw a match with Tschigorin, who is a baby to Steinitz, who, up to the present, has not been able to hold his own with Lasker.

Pillsbury is the only living player who would make a great fight with the Champion, and American players should make it worth the while of these two to fight a series of three matches each, seven up, draw nil. The coming match between Lasker and Steinitz we regard as a foregone conclusion. Lasker will win, because Steinitz is 60 years old. We add this to our previous predictions, and will abide by the result. [Lasker defeated Steinitz 12½-4½. Ed.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *