Lasker vs Tarrasch 1908|
Düsseldorf / Munich
Siegbert Tarrasch was born in Breslau, Prussia (now Wrocław, Poland) in 1862. In the late 1880s, he established himself as one of the strongest players in the world with several tournament successes. After Tarrasch's first place in Manchester (1890), the Havana Chess Club proposed a match against world champion Wilhelm Steinitz. A practicing physician, Tarrasch declined as he couldn't devote that much time to chess. Besides his successful chess career, he is also famous for propagating and deepening chess, which earned him the nickname "praeceptor germaniae" (lat. teacher of Germany). In 1906, world champion Emanuel Lasker singled out Tarrasch and Geza Maroczy as worthy contenders for the world championship, and said "Dr. Tarrasch's strength or weakness, if one likes - is his pronounced amour propre [fr. self-love]. Without it he would have been a very mediocre chess player; gifted to an abnormal degree, he has become a giant."
Instead of participating in Dresden (1892), won by Tarrasch, Lasker challenged the tournament winner to a match via Leopold Hoffer.  Tarrasch declined the offer, since Lasker had avoided a tournament battle with him by not participating in Dresden. Tarrasch was willing to play Lasker, once the latter had won first prize in an international tournament. Two years later, Lasker took the title from Steinitz in the Lasker - Steinitz World Championship (1894) match. After his successful comeback at Monte Carlo (1903), Tarrasch challenged Lasker for a world championship match, to take place in autumn 1904. The conditions were published at the end of 1903. An ice-skating accident in January 1904 disabled Tarrasch. He visited Lasker in Berlin in March 1904, suggesting they postpone the match until the next year. But Lasker declined, declaring the contract null and void if the match couldn't take place at the agreed date. Tarrasch would have to issue a new challenge.
Tarrasch's victory in the Marshall - Tarrasch (1905) match induced Rudolf Gebhardt, chairman of the German Chess Federation, to contact the Manhattan Chess Club on November 24, 1905 to negotiate a match for the title. The Club didn't respond, so after five months Gebhardt contacted Lasker directly on April 20, 1906. Lasker agreed to play Tarrasch in principle, but wanted to play in America only, as he believed that a match could be financed nowhere else. Tarrasch said he could only play in Germany, due to his profession. In 1906, Lasker also negotiated for a world championship match with Maróczy, but ultimately without success. When Lasker defended his title in the Lasker - Marshall World Championship Match (1907) by the score (+8 -0 =7), comparisons were made to Tarrasch's previous victory (+8 -1 =8) against the same opponent in 1905, as if the title match had only been a substitute for a match between the two German chessmasters. Later that year, Tarrasch triumphed in Ostend (Championship) (1907), so a match between them again became a pressing matter. A good opportunity for negotiations arose in February 1908, when Lasker visited Europe again for the first time in four years.
The lengthy negotiations were successfully finalized on August 1, 1908. Lasker had originally demanded an honorarium of 15,000 Marks. The chairmen of the German (Gebhardt) and Bavarian (Schenzel) Chess Federations persuaded the world champion to accept a lower honorarium of 7,500 Marks. Tarrasch even agreed to forego an honorarium in order to help bring about the match. The winner would be the first to win eight games, with draws not counting. The victor would receive 4,000 Marks, and the loser 2,500 Marks.  The time control was 1 hour for 15 moves. Otto Rosenfeld was the arbiter. Tarrasch's second was Heinrich Renner. Lasker's second in Düsseldorf was Appun, while in Munich Schropp and Kollmann alternated as seconds.
The match began on August 17 in the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, where the first 4 games were played. The contract
stipulated that the match be relocated to Munich as soon as one competitor had scored three points. Both
players were in a separate room, together with their seconds. The numerous spectators followed the match in a large
hall. Lasker drew the white pieces by lot, and won Game 1. According to
Lasker, Tarrasch could have won Game 2, had he abstained from pawn grabbing
and continued his attack. With Lasker leading 2-0, Tarrasch took two rest days to recover from the
losses, and then scored his first win in Game 3. Lasker won Game 4 on August 31, after refuting Tarrasch's combination by 27...♖xf4.
With the score now 3-1 in Lasker's favor, the match now moved to the Rathaus in Munich on September 1. About 1,200
spectators witnessed Lasker's win in Game 5. Game 6 ended drawn, although Tarrasch missed a win on move 42. After his win in
Game 7, Lasker was in the lead by the score of +5 -1 =1. The match became more
even now, with draws in Games 8 and 9. Tarrasch won Game 10,
called by Garry Kasparov "probably his best game of the match."
Lasker struck back by winning Game 11. 1,100 spectators in the afternoon and
1,300 in the evening attended Game 12. Tarrasch won, and Lasker's lead was now
cut to +6 -3 =3. Lasker took four rest days, and then won Game 13. In Game 14,
Tarrasch tried to convert a better position for three days and 119 moves, but the game was finally drawn. Lasker was
held to a draw in Game 15. On September 30, Tarrasch blundered a piece in time
trouble and immediately resigned. Lasker won the match +8 -3 =5. Several commentators considered Tarrasch
to have played below his ability, and that the result did not truly represent his true strength. Most, however, agreed
that Lasker's victory was well deserved, and that he had demonstrated his superiority over Tarrasch.
FINAL SCORE: Lasker 8; Tarrasch 3 (5 draws)
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Lasker-Tarrasch 1908]
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