Emanuel Lasker


World – Inducted 2001

The second world champion from 1894-1921, Emanuel Lasker held the official chess crown longer than anyone else in history. Born in the Neumark territory of Germany—in modern-day Poland—he learned chess from his older brother Berthold, and by the early 1890s he was among the world’s top ten players. In 1894, defending World Champion William Steinetz accepted a challenge from Lasker, and the two competed for the title. Lasker defeated Steinetz definitively, not only in 1894 but also in an 1896-1897 rematch, and in future World Championships against Frank Marshall in 1907, Siegbert Tarrasch in 1908, and separate contests against Carl Schlecter and Dawid Janowski in 1910. It was not until 1921, following World War I, that Jose Raul Capablanca defeated Lasker and took the title. Following this loss, Lasker largely retired from competitive play. During the 1930s, however, he returned briefly hoping to earn money. At this point, he was in his 60s and living in the USSR, having been exiled from Nazi-occupied Germany. Yet he still managed impressive results, including a 3rd place finish at Moscow 1935, showing he could still handle even the young, “hypermodern” players.

Incorporating psychology into his play, Lasker is considered by modern analysts to have had a style ahead of his time, as many of his moves that his contemporaries considered mysterious are now commonplace. He was a prolific author—his writing includes Lasker’s Manual of Chess—but his subject matter was not limited to chess alone, authoring books on mathematics, philosophy, and other games like bridge. He immigrated to the United States in 1937, where he lived until his death. Despite playing before the use of statistical rankings, modern analysis regularly places Lasker in the top ten players of all time.