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  WCC Overview
Lasker vs Steinitz 1894
New York / Philadelphia / Montreal

In 1894, defending champion Wilhelm Steinitz was challenged by a fresh 25 year old talent from Prussia by the name of Emanuel Lasker.

 Steinitz and Lasker, 1894
 Lasker and Steinitz in Montreal, 1894
After the necessary negotations, the following conditions were agreed upon: The winner of the match was to be the first to win 10 games, draws not counting. The time control was 15 moves per hour. The stakes were $2,000 per side. The match was to be played in New York, Philadelphia and Montreal, in that order.[1]

The match began in New York on March 15, 1894, and was fairly even with two victories to each player in the first six games. However, Lasker then won five consecutive games in Philadelphia. IM Jack Peters attributed this success to Lasker's ability to convert queenless middlegames into advantageous endings:

Lasker had noticed signs of uncertainty in Steinitz' handling of "simplified" middlegames, without Queens. Recognizing the champion's superiority in managing a full army of pieces, Lasker deliberately sought early Queen exchanges. This strategy certainly worked in Philadelphia.[2]
Steinitz was tenacious and managed to respond with back-to-back victories in the 13th game and the 14th game in Montreal, but the score was still heavily in Lasker's favor, 7 to 4.

On the 19th game, Lasker achieved his 10th win, thereby becoming the 2nd World Chess Champion. It was no great surprise that Steinitz, then 58 years old, was unable to defend against the rising tide of players who had spent years studying his ideas. As Siegbert Tarrasch said,

In my opinion the match with Steinitz does not have the great importance that they themselves attribute to it. For Steinitz has grown old, and the old Steinitz is no longer the Steinitz of old.
Although Lasker was widely respected, few people at the time suspected the impact that he would have on chess during the decades to come, for he was no ordinary challenger--this victory marked the beginning of a reign which was to last 27 years.

click on a game number to replay game 12345678910111213141516171819

FINAL SCORE:  Lasker 10;  Steinitz 5 (4 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Steinitz-Lasker 1894]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #7     Lasker vs Steinitz, 1894     1-0
    · Game #13     Lasker vs Steinitz, 1894     0-1
    · Game #2     Steinitz vs Lasker, 1894     1-0


  1. New York Recorder, March 11, 1894
    2 Chess Life, December 1994 (p40)

 page 1 of 1; 19 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0601894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
2. Steinitz vs Lasker 1-0421894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
3. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0521894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
4. Steinitz vs Lasker 1-0601894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC53 Giuoco Piano
5. Lasker vs Steinitz ½-½501894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
6. Steinitz vs Lasker ½-½711894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC53 Giuoco Piano
7. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0461894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
8. Steinitz vs Lasker 0-1761894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC10 French
9. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0491894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
10. Steinitz vs Lasker 0-1341894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD35 Queen's Gambit Declined
11. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0381894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
12. Steinitz vs Lasker ½-½501894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD60 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
13. Lasker vs Steinitz 0-1551894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC68 Ruy Lopez, Exchange
14. Steinitz vs Lasker 1-0461894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD46 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
15. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0441894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
16. Steinitz vs Lasker 0-1541894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD60 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
17. Lasker vs Steinitz 0-1511894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipC50 Giuoco Piano
18. Steinitz vs Lasker ½-½611894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD67 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Bd3 line
19. Lasker vs Steinitz 1-0521894Lasker - Steinitz World ChampionshipD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
 page 1 of 1; 19 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Cunningham's "Summary of the Match," Part I of II:

<The play throughout the match was characterised by solidity and strength, rather than by dash and brilliancy, and notwithstanding that some accredited critics would bias public opinion in favor of the latter style, the fact remains that between two players like Lasker and Steinitz but few opportunities for brilliancy can ever be expected to occur. Accuracy and tenacity are the leading features of the games of such players; therefore solidity, rather than brilliancy, must result. We may regret the lack of brilliancy, but the fact remains that modern chess contests will be governed by modern solidity, notwithstanding the popular cry for brilliancy.

The absolute gain to the theory of the game from the contest has not been great. Lasker has certainly proved that 3....P-Q3, in the Ruy Lopez, is unreliable, but this defense was discredited before the match commenced. To a great extend Steinitz's theories -- as apart from Steinitz's fads -- have been abundantly justified in the process of the various games, and he may be said to have forged some of the keenest weapons that defeated him.

The chief merit of Lasker's play has been its general accuracy, especially in the end-game, and Steinitz himself has pronounced Lasker to be <"the finest living end-game player."> It is also clear that these games, with one or two exceptions, cannot be taken as examples of what Lasker can do when circumstances demand his full powers. What his powers are in moments of dire peril is shown in the fourth and seventh games, in which after getting into serious difficulties he boldly faced the consequences. In the fourth game his struggles were sufficient to show that he is a formidable opponent even when he has the worse game. In the seventh game, he was rapidly drifting into deep waters, when, by the unexpected advance of the KtP, he threw Steinitz on the defensive, and playing really wonderful chess, won the game. His play too in games eleven and sixteen was also praiseworthy. In the former, the advance of the King's Pawn on the 23rd move, demonstrated that danger lurked beneath the apparent safety of his opponent's position. In the sixteenth game, Lasker's play from the 16th move was a succession of maneuvers, showing really wonderful ingenuity and strength. Broadly then, in some games where Lasker had an early advantage owing to some failure on Steinitz's part, he played discreetly and within his powers, contenting himself with nursing the game to victory; and the logical conclusion is, that had Steinitz improved upon the weak form he displayed in some of the games, Lasker still had reserve force to draw upon. >

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II of II

<In Steinitz's play, the most noticeable feature was his wonderful resource in trying to avert defeat in apparently hopeless positions. His play in the third game is a splendid example of his tenacity and powers of resistance; for there he was at bay, but dropping defensive operations he boldly essayed an attack at the expense of material, and handles his forces with such vigour that few players could have resisted; indeed nothing could have saved Lasker except his great coolness and foresight. Steinitz in the thirteenth game is perhaps seen at his best; his advance of the P on the 18th move was worthy of his fame even at its zenith, and had he played throughout the match as he did in the third and thirteenth games, there would not have been such a great disparity in the final score.

In an excellent summary of the match, a correspondent of the New Orleans <Times Democrat> says: -- <"Some of the critics, especially Tschigorin and Hoffer, have expressed an opinion that Lasker's victory was mainly due to weak play on Steinitz's part, and not to Lasker's superior tactics. They further think that the games lack brilliancy, especially so when comparing them with the games of the old masters. Whether this be true or not, attention ought to be drawn to the fact that since more than thirty years, the more brilliant player hardly ever came out victorious in any important match. There is really not a single exception to this rule. Thinking people will therefore come to the conclusion that it is more difficult to keep the balance of position, and let small advantages tell, than to finish a game in a brilliant fashion. Brilliancy after all is only a form, while the real value of a move is expressed in its effects. To say that Steinitz lost by weak play is quite superfluous. Such an assertion proves itself by the actual result. The losing player must, of necessity, have committed a mistake or error of judgment somewhere. The degree of weakness in Steinitz's play has, however, probably been overvalued. It is true that Steinitz made some remarkably weak moves in some positions, but only when he was hard pressed already, and when his opponent was slowly getting the best of it. A notable exception to this is the seventh game, which Steinitz lost, although he held at some stage of the game a material advantage. Of course, it is easy to judge after the game is finished, but those who have witnessed the fight itself, will hardly forget the surprise which was provoked by some of the moves of this particular game, and how unforseen a victory was scored by Lasker, when almost all present believed in his inevitable defeat. The eighth and sixteenth games may be taken as similar examples, both of which were won by Lasker, in spite of the superiority in position, which at some stages of the game Steinitz undoubtedly held. However, the other victories were carried off by Lasker on the merits, as may be seen of the analysis published on these games.> With this opinion most cool-headed people will agree.">

Jun-30-09  talisman: steinitz falls asleep and lasker asks, " the referee too?".
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: This was fighting chess! Only 4 draws in 19 games. Bravo, gentlemen!
Premium Chessgames Member

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Part Six:

Mar-20-12  AVRO38: The table in the picture is from the Manhattan Chess Club, therefore, unless Montreal used the same exact tables, the picture was taken in New York.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Kramnik is right. But it is worth remembering that Steinitz was 58 at the time. There has to be a stamina factor there.
Apr-07-12  AVRO38: Lasker was doing fine with 1.e4, but immediately switches to 1.d4 after Steinitz does. Was this one of his psychological ploys?
Jul-11-13  Conrad93: Everyone mentions Steinitz age, but they have no issue with the fact that Lasker was 55 in his World Championship match against Capablanca in 1927.
Jul-11-13  AsosLight: <Conrad93> but only due to his age a truly superb virtuoso like Lasker could lose to Capablanca.
Jul-13-13  mistreaver: <Everyone mentions Steinitz age, but they have no issue with the fact that Lasker was 55 in his World Championship match against Capablanca in 1927.> It was played in 1921 i think.
<but only due to his age a truly superb virtuoso like Lasker could lose to Capablanca.> I don't think it was the age (don't forget Lasker's subsequent tournament brilliances, New York 1924 among others),but rather the fact that he was playing Cuban in Havana, and i think they had played it in summer.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <mistreaver: <Everyone mentions Steinitz age, but they have no issue with the fact that Lasker was 55 in his World Championship match against Capablanca in 1927.> It was played in 1921 i think....>

Correct, at which time Lasker's age was 52.

<<but only due to his age a truly superb virtuoso like Lasker could lose to Capablanca.> I don't think it was the age (don't forget Lasker's subsequent tournament brilliances, New York 1924 among others),but rather the fact that he was playing Cuban in Havana, and i think they had played it in summer.>

The match was played in March and April, (Lasker-Capablanca World Championship Match (1921)), though in a tropical climate, it is warm even then.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: <...Steinitz has grown old, and the old Steinitz is no longer the Steinitz of old.>

That's a nice turn of phrase by Tarrasch.

Jul-20-13  Conrad93: My mistake, but his age was not 52.
Apr-18-14  Lossmaster: The caption of the photo currently at the top of this page says it was taken in Montreal, but as far as I can tell from the position, it looks like game #2 at New York (Steinitz vs Lasker, 1894) right after move 5. c3. This is consistent with AVRO38's comment above (Mar-20-12) about the table being from the Manhattan Chess Club.

To view a great photo actually taken in Montreal, on a different table, in the middle of game #15, see my kibitz in Lasker vs Steinitz, 1894.

Apr-18-14  jnpope: <Lossmaster> is correct (and nice find of a contemporary source for that photograph).

Photographs from all three playing locations exist:

Apr-19-14  Lossmaster: The game position on the Philadelphia picture looks like the very end of game #10 (Steinitz vs Lasker, 1894). Steinitz is just about to stand up: "All right, you got me."

About the contemporary source of the Montreal picture, Le Monde illustré, a weekly publication, you can browse it right here:

Look up for the May 26th 1894 issue, which happened to be published exactly on the day of the 19th and final game, though the game pictured on the cover is #15, played on May 15th.

The image quality is not as good as on my previous link, but on page 46 you can read the short article related to the cover picture. It must have been written between games #16 and #17, because Lasker is said to be leading the match 9 wins to 4. Steinitz is said to be "world champion since twenty-seven years". (I'm aware that the starting date of his reign is a hotly debated issue...)

While you're at it, look at the bottom of the next page (p. 47): there's a mate-in-two problem waiting for you.

Nov-16-14  Ke2: <Lasker had noticed signs of uncertainty in Steinitz' handling of "simplified" middlegames, without Queens. Recognizing the champion's superiority in managing a full army of pieces, Lasker deliberately sought early Queen exchanges. This strategy certainly worked in Philadelphia.>

Sound familiar?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: Information on match conditions for the 1894 and 1896 matches. It seems to me as unlikely that the 1896 supplementary prize fund was 2,000 roubles for the winner but only 100 roubles for the loser (it is probably a misprint for 1,000 roubles as in the 1894 match where the winner received £200 and the loser £100).

The current bullion value of a 1896 Russian Imperial Silver Rouble is $9.45/£6.03 so 2,000 roubles is approx. $18,900/£12,060

<THE CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP.> [Reuter's telegram.]

The chess match which is shortly to be played at Moscow between Mr. Steinitz and M. Lasker is really a return match. At the end of 1893 M. Lasker sent a challenge to Mr. Steinitz disputing his title to the championship of the world. The challenge was accepted, and the match played in March, 1894.

The conditions were very severe, each player contributing a sum of $2,000, the victor to be the first winner of 10 games, drawn games not counting. Victory fell to M. Lasker, who gained 10 games, while Mr. Steinitz had only won nine (sic. should read five - ed.). As Mr. Steinitz, however, had never been beaten in any match with the leading players of the world, such as MM. Dubois, Blackburne, Anderssen, Zuckertort, Mackenzie, Gunsberg, and Tchigorin, he wished to have his revenge, and sent a challenge for the following month of May. M. Lasker for various reasons would only consent to play in the autumn, notwithstanding the protests of his antagonist, and owing chiefly to the St. Petersburg Chess Tournament last winter the return match has been deferred until the present time, when it will be played at Moscow.

Each candidate will stake 500 roubles, and the Moscovite Committee of Moscow has added a prize of 2,000 roubles for the winner, and 100 roubles for the loser. M. Lasker proposes November 1 as the date for the match, but agrees to the 13th in the event of Mr. Steinitz wishing to take part in the International Chess Tournament which opens at Budapest on October 4. (Budapest (1896))

<Source: "Morning Post", Tuesday 29th September 1896, p.6>.

May-18-15  thomastonk: <Chessical: in the 1894 match where the winner received £200 and the loser £100> Would you please give a source?

Background: I have different information. John Hilbert wrote in the Lasker biography that they played for less than half of the original planned $5000 on the-winner-takes-all basis, referring to DeLucia's "Library", p 174. Bird wrote about stakes of £400 a side in his book on that match, p 11.

Moreover, I have some newspaper reports from New York, published at the beginning of the match, which confirm Hilbert's the-winner-takes-all. They give $2500 and $2000, but the difference is possibly based on counting or not counting the $250, which each side had to submit in advance.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: <Thomasstonk> I found the sums in a press report in a contemporaneous Dundee newspaper report:

Lasker - Steinitz World Championship Rematch (1896) (kibitz #25)

May-19-15  thomastonk: Thanks, <Chessiacal>! I understood your sentence in such a way that the £200/£100 were the prizes for the match of 1894.

The 100 seem to be indeed a misprint: Landsberger quotes in his Steinitz biography, p 336, from "Shakmatny Zhurnal", and there are 2000 and 1000 rubles, as well as the personal wagers of 500 rubles.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Huebner wrote a book about the match in 2008:

The match actually takes up only half the book. There are descriptions and some annotations from Lasker's pre-Steinitz matches (in particular Mieses and Blackburne) and about 50 pages on Schlechter-Lasker, including extensive annotations of the 5th, 7th, and 10th games. The rematch with Steinitz and Lasker's other WC matches are mentioned only in passing.

I love the book, despite my lack of German. Huebner's admiration for Lasker goes down very well for me. He pulls together and engages with contemporary commentary on the match, which I always enjoy.

Like every German book I've ever seen, it looks great. Definitely a bit of an extravagance, but I'm thrilled with it.

Feb-21-17  jnpope: I have just updated the Chess Archaeology match page for this event:

It now includes the match conditions as printed in the New York Sun, added Pillsbury's annotations where available, and more detailed post-match bickering by Steinitz (who reclaimed the title by forfeit... at least in his own mind).

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <jnpope> -- thanks, there was an very brief reference to the rematch dispute in the Hastings 1895 tournament book, it is nice to know more.
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