This was the event that made the 23 year old Lasker’s reputation, and within two years he was playing Wilhelm Steinitz for the world championship (Lasker - Steinitz World Championship (1894)).
Lasker's opponent Blackburne was the premier English player. He was significantly older at 50, and a very experienced professional player. According to Chessmetrics, however, Lasker had already surpassed him. Their retrospective ratings puts Lasker first on the January 1892 rating list, with Blackburne at ninth. (1) Lasker had since 1890 been seeking to play Blackburne in a match. He had acquired the title of Master in the Minor (Hauptturnier) tournament of the German Chess Association at Breslau in July 1889, and had come second at Amsterdam (1889). He then played against Curt von Bardeleben, who had come =4th at Breslau (1889) (the match ended tied after only three games due to his opponent’s illness), and Jacques Mieses, who was 3rd at Breslau. With negotiations to face the premier German player Siegbert Tarrasch coming to nothing,
Lasker moved to England to keep up the momentum. There he defeated the veteran English master Henry Edward Bird. This accentuated his hunger to build his reputation in England. The most obvious next candidates to play was either Blackburne or Isidor Gunsberg. Gunsberg had just drawn a match with Mikhail Chigorin (Chigorin - Gunsberg (1890)), but, on his return to England, Gunsberg had suffered a great personal loss and was temporarily unavailable: "Herr Lasker has been in town, but has now gone to Paris for a little change. He is wishful to play either Blackburne or Gunsberg, or both, and a match with the latter master has, I believe, been partly arranged. He will play in the B. C. A. Congress at Manchester. Mr. Gunsberg has had a severe domestic affliction since his return from the Havana, as he has lost a child. He tells me that he has no doubt that his match with Steinitz will take place in the autumn." (2) The only other potential candidate, Amos Burn, was preparing to leave England to work in Chicago. (3)
"Lasker, meanwhile, having defeated Bird in a match in February 1890, was said to have challenged Blackburne next. 'Pending Joseph Henry Blackburne decision, Herr Lasker will engage in a shorter match with Mr N. T. Miniati, the well-known Manchester amateur.'" (4) In April 1890, Lasker wrote to Mieses that Blackburne had set terms of a match for 1,000 Marks (about £30 or £3,750/$4,800 in 2017 values). It would be decided by the one who was first to win seven games, and have a time limit of 15 moves an hour. (5) This fell through for reasons that have never been clearly explained. The terms were not unusual or excessive; Blackburne’s 1887 match against Johannes Zukertort (Blackburne - Zukertort (1887)) had been for a purse of £25 (6) and Blackburne - Lee (1890) had been for a stake of £50. (7) Blackburne had been the 1886 British Chess Federation champion and would remain a top ten player for most of the 1890's. He had won the London tournament in 1886, and in 1887 he beat Zukertort and a declining George Alcock MacDonnell. He came second at Frankfurt (1887), which was to be the strongest tournament held between 1885 and 1895. (8)
Lasker instead played a match with the leading amateur player Nicholas Theodore Miniati (Lasker - Miniati (1890)). Miniati was a significant figure in English chess. He was the chess editor of the The Manchester Times, and was planning to launch a new magazine Chess Review in 1892. He would be useful in publicising Lasker's case for a match with Blackburne. In August 1891, Lasker defeated Francis Joseph Lee by 1.5 to 1, Lee resigning the match through ill health. Meanwhile, Blackburne's next matches involved Blackburne - Lee (1890) (Bradford and London, July - August) and two matches in Cuba against Andres Clemente Vazquez and Celso Golmayo Zupide (Blackburne - Golmayo (1891)).
Back in England, the pressure was building for Blackburne to face Lasker. Lasker's reputation was growing, and he made no secret of his desire. Blackburne was less keen. He claimed that he would "take no notice of the matter" as details of a proposed match had been aired in the press before being communicated to him. Miniati was unimpressed: "This is hardly the way in which Englishmen expect their champions to sustain the reputation of English chess, and we consider that a much more feasible excuse must be forthcoming before Mr Blackburne can, with justice to himself, refuse to meet a foeman worthy of his steel." (9) With Lasker winning both the 7th British Chess Association Congress (London, March 1892) (effectively becoming British Champion) and the British Chess Club Invitational (London, March-April 1892), Blackburne’s position was growing uncomfortable. His friend, the veteran master George Alcock MacDonnell noted in April 1892 that he seemed somewhat in awe of the younger man: "Blackburne does not need from me any certificate of merit, or any hints as to the best mode of amending his faults. But I cannot help thinking that if Blackburne, in playing against Lasker had exercised the same ability as he showed against his other opponents, had recognised in the player before him not Lasker, the loudly-proclaimed invincible, but simply a German youth of good promise and brilliant attainments, he would have adopted a different style, and produced more satisfactory results for himself. He ought to have played "close," or at all events "safe" openings, and left the result to be determined by the end play." (10) Blackburne had lost both games he played against Lasker at the BCC Invitational: Lasker vs Blackburne, 1892 and Blackburne vs Lasker, 1892.
Furthermore, in 1892 the rich and influential patron Sir George Newnes (11) came forward to shoulder the cost of the match. He had made his fortune in magazine publishing and could guarantee popular coverage. "During the present year he has won the first prize of the British National Tournament with the loss of one game only, following up this severe struggle with a victory in a tourney arranged by Mr G. Newnes, M. P., who desired to see the result of a match between Bird, Mason, Blackburne, Gunsberg, and Lasker. The latter emerged from the contest without the loss of a single game, having beaten Blackburne twice. Personally Lasker is slight and spare, of very dark complexion, and features of a markedly Oriental cast. He is modest and polite, and sufficiently popular. Like the greatest of all German chess players - the late Adolph Andersen (Adolf Anderssen), of Breslau - he is by profession a teacher of mathematics. He is usually regarded as belonging to the modern school of chess, which consists in playing "safe," keeping the draw in hand, and relying for victory on the accumulation of infinitesimal advantages. But to say that Lasker is an eclectic would be nearer the truth. He can be as brilliant as Morphy (Paul Morphy) when brilliancy will pay; when care is needed he is as cautious as Steinitz. He is as scientific as Tarrasch, as subtle as Zuckertort, as solid as Mason (James Mason), as ingenious as Blackburne, as original as Bird, as tenacious as Max Weiss, as accurate as William Norwood Potter, as dashing as Tschigorin. Since the days of Paul Morphy no young player has achieved such a gigantic reputation. The world-wide renown of Blackburne and the youth of his opponent have contributed to render the match the most important and interesting that has taken place in Europe since the famous Steinitz - Blackburne (1876) match". (12)
Indeed, the match was framed in nationalistic terms, and in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, the Rev. G. A. MacDonnell stated that: "I also trust that all Englishmen whilst treating both players fairly and impartially will give their material, and still better their moral, support, to the English champion. Let him remember that whilst H. Lasker will fight (and rightly too) for his own glory, Blackburne will fight for the honour and glory of his country. The German has everything to win, the Englishman everything to lose." (13)
"Blackburne v Lasker. - The conditions of the forthcoming match between Blackburne and Lasker were signed yesterday. The main points are: — 50£ a-side; six games up, draws not counting; time limit, 18 moves per hour; play to commence on Monday, May 23, at the British Chess Club, and to proceed daily, Wednesdays and Sundays excepted, from two o'clock till half-past six, and from eight till half-past eleven p.m., in case of unfinished games. The stakeholder is Mr. W. H. Cubison, the treasurer of the British Chess Association; and the umpires, Mr. George Newnes, M.P., president of the British Chess Club, and Mr. Thomas Hewitt, vice president." (14)
The match was played in the British Chess Club, 37 King Street, Covent Garden, London, from May 27th - June 14th, 1892. (15) On Blackburne's request, it started four days later than originally planned.
Game 1 - 27th May, 1892
Game 2 - 28th May, 1892
Game 3 - 30th May, 1892
Game 4 - 31st May, 1892
Game 5 - 2nd June, 1892
Game 6 - 3rd June, 1892
Game 7 - 7th June, 1892
Blackburne took a rest day on the 9th June.
Game 8 - 10th June, 1892
Game 9 - 13th June, 1892
Game 10 - 14th June, 1892 (16)
Lasker had White in the even-numbered games.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
Lasker 1 = = 1 1 = 1 1 = 1 8
Blackburne 0 = = 0 0 = 0 0 = 0 2
"THE BLACKBURNE-LASKER MATCH. This important match, which was begun on the 27th May, was not concluded till the 14th June, although only ten games in all were contested. For this delay, the Whitsuntide holidays were mainly responsible, as practically a week was thereby lost. From the first, the contest went against the English player, who showed little of that dash and vigour which is generally so characteristic of his style. At times he woke up a little and fought hard for the draw; but these spurts soon died away, and lie relapsed into the spiritless style which marked his conduct of the majority of the games. Physical reason, no doubt, had much to do with this, for lassitude and ill-health were written upon his face. On the other hand, his opponent never in his life played better chess, taking the games as a whole. It is true there were one or two slips which nearly brought about disaster, but these were "few and far between" and with these few exceptions his games were faultless examples of the modern school. Cool, calm, impassive, he developed his game in the opening, rarely giving his formidable opponent a chance, watching ever, on the contrary, for his opponent to give him a hold. When he got that hold, Blackburne was never able to shake it off except in the second game; whilst on the two or three occasions when Blackburne got a grip it only resulted in Lasker putting forth additional strength and shaking himself loose. Practically for Lasker to win a pawn was for him to win the game; to gain possession of a well-supported centre was to sweep the board, whilst Blackburne on the other hand occasionally got what looked like winning advantages, only to fritter them away. Gradually the young German master piled win upon win in unbroken sequence save for an occasional draw, until at the end of the tenth game, played on the 14th June, the score was Lasker 6, Blackburne 0, draws 4, and the match was over, and the title of champion of England had once again passed to a foreign holder. This cannot be a matter of congratulation to those who desire to see native talent to the front. With the names, however, of François André Philidor, Steinitz, Zukertort, and other foreign masters so indissolubly connected with English chess in the past, we cannot grumble if the name of Lasker is so intimately connected with it in the present." (17)
There was disappointment with Blackburne's performance in the English press. Some blamed his match strategy: "The match between Blackburne and Lasker has so far been very disappointing. It is generally felt that Blackburne has not done himself justice, and, furthermore, that he has, by persistently adopting a close form of opening at which Lasker particularly excels, been simply playing into the hands of his opponent. Every player, however, knows his own game best, and no one is likely to suggest that Blackburne has not exercised his best judgment in regard to the tactics that he has adopted. But while giving him full credit for having conducted an arduous contest in which he has little to gain and much to lose, with due astuteness there is still something to be said from the point of view of his admirers all over the country, who would like to see the English champion maintain his high reputation in the present contest. And however highly Blackburne may estimate his own powers of manoeuvring for position after the manner of the German school, English amateurs will always hold to the opinion that it is in dashing attacks and combinations with the pieces in the open game that he chiefly excels. They would like to see him play a Scotch Gambit or Giuoco Piano, a King's Gambit or a Vienna game, openings over which he has before now shown himself to possess a complete mastery. In any case there is no doubt that Blackburne has been playing with great patience and determination, notwithstanding his want of success. Much credit is due to Lasker for the excellent form that he has displayed. The games, however, have for the most part been dull from the point of view of spectators, who find it monotonous to watch the patient struggles for position into which all the games seem to resolve themselves. There is always the expectation that exciting complications may arise, but this is never realised. Hazardous combinations are avoided, and only once has there been anything in the nature of a brilliant attack, when Blackburne discovered a highly ingenious method of winning the exchange in the second game, bat afterwards missed the road to victory, and allowed his adversary to make a draw." (18)
"Blackburne v. Lasker. — The score at the time of writing looks as if the talented young German would win easily. It is generally admitted that Mr. Blackburne is not playing nearly up to his standard, and there is a marked absence of Blackburnian moves. It may be observed, however, that the beautiful accuracy of Herr Lasker's play affords little opportunity for the display of the brilliant combinations which have made Mr. Blackburne’s name famous. We gather from the Pittsburgh Dispatch that Herr Lasker has challenged all the leading players of America to set matches of five games up, draws not counting — time limit 15 to 20 moves an hour." (19)
The match generated considerable interest in the press, and detailed and descriptive despatches were printed which could be enjoyed by readers with little knowledge of chess.
Game 1. "The struggle for £100 and the British championship (sic) commenced yesterday, at the British Chess Club, London, after three days' postponement on account of the indisposition of the English champion. Blackburne was first on the ground, looking fit and well, and shortly afterwards his youthful but formidable opponent strolled into the playroom, irreproachably dressed in blue, and wearing the gold spectacles and tall silk hat which have recently become so famous in London chess resorts. Play commenced punctually at two o'clock, Blackburne winning the toss. For the first move the champion opened with a Ruy Lopez, fashioned on the model of the first game in the Steinitz-Blackburne match of 1876. Lasker defended in the most approved style, keeping his forces well in hand, contenting himself with security, and warily biding his time for aggression. Early in the game, Lasker forced an opening on the Queen's file, which he occupied with his rook attacking Blackburne's queen and driving her out of play. Blackburne elected for a grand attack on the entrenched King, and, disdaining to castle, advanced his king's knight pawn in a daring and somewhat risky way. Lasker met the attack with coolness and accuracy, and although Blackburne advanced his rook's pawn and occupied the pass leading to the adverse king in great force, was unable to obtain the smallest advantage, and after having weakened his position by too impetuous attack, he was finally compelled to look about for a draw. At this juncture Blackburne was pressed for time. It was the 26th move, and the time limit is 18 moves per hour. Having thus to move hurriedly in a difficult position he, by an oversight, allowed Lasker to win a bishop for a pawn, and thereby practically to terminate the game. Blackburne did not resign, but settled down to a determined struggle in the evening. That mishap occurred at six o'clock, after four hours' play, most of which seemed to be in Blackburne's favour. At the adjournment it was thought that the game would not be resumed, but, contrary to expectation, the two players again confronted each other after the interval, and recommenced play apparently as fresh as ever. Blackburne, who is undoubtedly the finest player, tried hard to complicate matters, in the hope of utilising his slight superiority in pawns, but the extra piece of his opponent nullified his efforts, and presently Lasker advanced a pawn with such threatening effect that Blackburn had no choice but to resign. There was a large and distinguished company of lookers on, comprising most of the chess celebrities of London. Lasker has now played three games against Blackburne (the two former in the Newnes tourney), and has won them all. Play will be resumed to-day, at two o'clock, when Lasker will have first move." (20)
Game 4. "Lasker has beaten Blackburne again. (The) game was stoutly and lasted 10 (?) hours, during which period the British champion put forth his utmost endeavour, but all in vain. Lasker opened with the Queen’s pawn, and after some strategic movement for a commanding position, the German player, as usual obtained a small advantage, but not enough to inconvenience his opponent. Blackburne injudiciously exchanged a piece, and opened a formidable range for the enemy’s heavy artillery. Lasker manoeuvred with great power, and at the 15th move initiated a direct attack, which Blackburne gallantly repulsed, following up the retreating forces, and carrying the war into the enemy’s country. At the twentieth move Lasker recovered his ground, and renewed the assault with irresistible force. Blackburne occupied the centre of the field with his cavalry, and endeavoured to break in on his antagonist's flank, but Lasker, while terribly aggressive, was yet extremely careful, and strongly guarding every point pushed home the attack, while holding intact his line of communication. Fearful of a doubled pawn Blackburne made several disadvantageous moves, which resulted in the complete loss of a pawn and the exchange. The Englishman recovered the exchange, but the pawn was beyond hope of salvage, and as misfortunes never come singly a second and finally a third pawn was added to the list of slain. Blackburne fought gallantly on against fearful odds, laying one ingenious trap after another, but Lasker absolutely declined to be caught, and this was not all, for he turned the traps to Blackburne’s more rapid downfall. Blackburne digged pits and fell into the midst of them himself. The game was lost and won at about the 25th move, but Blackburne only abandoned hope at the 51st, when Lasker threatened to queen a pawn. Blackburne could then have won a clear piece, but it availed him nothing, so with a good-humoured smile and a dubious look at the enterprising young player, he said, "If you do that, I really must give up," and lowered his colours at once. Score: - Lasker 2, Blackburne 0. There is no play today." (21)
Game 5. "Blackburne and Lasker played their fifth game at the British Chess Club yesterday. The former, persisting in his former tactics of playing close openings, adopted the Queen's Gambit, and after the usual developing moves, obtained a very satisfactory position with his pieces well in play, and concentrated a powerful attack on the adverse Q B P. Lasker cleverly succeeded in preserving the imperilled pawn, but only to open the way for Blackburne to make an even more dangerous attack on his Q P. This, in fact, seemed certain to fail, when at the crucial moment, Lasker, who all along had judged the position with remarkable accuracy, suddenly commenced a counter attack, and by fine play succeeded in completely turning the tables on his adversary. He doubled a pawn, and Blackburne had considerable difficulty in warding off his embarrassing assault. The latter had a passed Pawn in the centre of the board, and on the safe advance of this were concentrated all his hopes of carrying the game to a successful issue. Lasker now devoted all his attention towards the capture of this important pawn, which, being isolated, was peculiarly (l)iable to assault. The German player succeeded in his efforts, for after a time the advanced Pawn became so weak that it could have been captured at any moment. Lasker, however, delayed taking it, awaiting an opportunity of doing so under the most favourable circumstances, until it seemed likely that Blackburne would be able to save it after all. But at last it was forced to advance into a less secure position, and Lasker planted a Bishop in front of the Rook by which it was protected. Blackburne was thus obliged to choose between giving up the exchange and losing his cherished Pawn. He elected to give the exchange, and the Pawn being captured at the moment of adjournment, Blackburne perceived that his disorganised position offered no chance of saving the game, and therefore decided to persevere no further." (22)
Game 6. "The young Gorman master opened the sixth game in the match with his favourite - 1. P to Q4. Blackburne replied with the same move, and the opening soon resolved into a Zukertort game. Lasker somewhat deviated from the usual course, as he early played his Queen's Knight to Queen's second, with the intention of forcing an attack through the King's file. Blackburne succeeded in preventing this manoeuvre, but had to allow Lasker to plant a Knight at King's fifth. After some moves, however, the Englishman, by an ingenious train of play, exchanged one of his own Knights for it, and isolated Lasker's King's Pawn. At the end of three hours' play Blackburne remained with a Queen, Bishop, and Knight against Lasker's Queen and two Bishops, the pawns being equal. Blackburne now directed his efforts to exchange his remaining Bishop for that of his opponent, so as to be left with a single Knight against Lasker's Bishop. The young German expert cleverly halted (?) these endeavours, and when the Queens were exchanged the position pointed to a draw. At the thirty-fourth move both players repeated their moves, and Lasker proposed a draw, but Blackburne declined. The players adjourned the game at half-past six, at which time 41 moves had been recorded. Upon resuming hostilities it was soon evident to experts that nothing but a draw could be expected, and this proved to be the case, though not until 66 moves had been recorded. The score is — Lasker, 3; Blackburne, 0; drawn, 3. To-day is a holiday, as well as Monday, and play will be resumed on Tuesday at two o'clock." (23)
Game 7. "In the seventh game of the above match, played yesterday at the British Chess Club, Blackburne had the first move. He opened with: 1. P to K4, and 2. Kt to QB3, his opponent replying with: 1. P to K4, and 2. Kt to KB3, a series of moves constituting what is known as the Vienna opening. The English Champion, however, by playing for his third move - P to Q4 - resolved the partie into a Centre Gambit. Blackburne posted his Queen at King's third, afterwards deploying his Queens Bishop at Queen's second square, preparatory to Castling on the Queen's side. At the seventh move Blackburne castled on the Queen's side, Lasker following suit on the King's side. At this juncture the British champion appeared to have the preferable development; his own King was secure from attack for a considerable time, whilst Lasker, having played his pawn to King's Knights third square, seemed to have created a vulnerable point. Realising the possibilities of attack which his position afforded to a vigorous opponent, the German champion judiciously forced an exchange of Queens at the fifteenth move. This manoeuvre completely broke the force of the attack, and in a few more moves the positions were equal, and a draw probable. About the thirtieth move, and after three and a half hours' play, Blackburne began to lose ground. Moving his King into the middle of the play, he was soon in a perilous position, and playing his Rook without due consideration, he was obliged to sacrifice it for a Knight and pawn. At half-past six o'clock, when the adjournment took place, the forces were — Bishop and two Knights, with five pawns, for Blackburne, against Rook, two Bishops, and four pawns for Lasker. The German champion, moreover, had his rook strongly posted where it could command the pawns of the Englishman, and, barring accidents, the game was over. Upon resuming play, Lasker by a few powerful strokes soon brought the game to a conclusion in his favour. One of the special features in his play is the rapid and certain way in which he pursues a winning advantage. At the fiftieth move the position became hopeless for the Englishman, and with good grace he resigned. Score: Lasker, 4; Blackburne, 0; drawn, 3. The next game will be played to-morrow at two o'clock at the British Chess Club." (24)
Game 8. "Lasker secured another victory in his contest with Blackburne at the British Chess Club on Friday. The Englishman played the French Defence, an opening with which he is particularly familiar, and although the early moves gave no material advantage to either side, Blackburne's position was somewhat cramped, in consequence of his neglect to develop his Queen’s Bishop. After both had Castled on the King's side, Blackburne made a somewhat premature advance of his King's Knight Pawn. This being pushed on to the fifth square made a block, and Blackburne, who had now some difficulty in developing his pieces, in order to facilitate that object, forced the exchange of Queens. Lasker, however, took possession of the Queen's file and planted a Rook at Q6. Some interesting play took place after the 22nd move ... Blackburne gave up his Pawns in order to get a counter attack and played to win the exchange, but when at last he had the opportunity to win a Rook for a Knight he found that he could not take advantage of it without allowing his opponent to Queen. In the end game Lasker was three Pawns ahead, and although the Bishops were of opposite colour he bad no difficulty in bringing the game to a successful issue. This makes Lasker's fifth victory, and he now only requires one more to win the match; the other three games were drawn, eight having been played in all." (25)
Game 10. "The tenth game in the Blackburne-Lasker match was played yesterday at the British Chess Club. Lasker had the move, opened with P to Q4, and the usual close game ensued. Both sides advanced their pawns, and, after castling, Blackburne made an attempt, or, rather, prepared an attack on the King's side; but he had to abandon this plan, as he soon perceived that his forces would be required on the Queen's side. A good deal of manoeuvring, marches and counter-marches, took place. The eight pawns on both sides formed a sort of trench, behind which the forces were arrayed. Lasker played his Knight to K5, a commanding post in close games, and three times he had to withdraw it; but he always gained a move, and on his nineteenth move he was ready, and did break through on the Queen's side by exchanging two Pawns and two minor pieces. (Move 31) was the position at the turning point of the game ... Blackburne's last move (move 40) was enclosed in an envelope at the adjournment. At eight o'clock play was resumed. Blackburne being a pawn minus. The hardest part of the game commenced now. In spite of the pawn ahead, a clear win could not be easily demonstrated, and Blackburne stood to his guns manfully. Lasker broke through on the King's side, and Blackburne brought his King back to K Kt2, in order to prevent the entry of the adverse Rook on that side. Lasker then tried repeatedly the QR and the QB file, but Blackburne opposed his Rook, and Lasker, unwilling to exchange Rooks, fenced about to gain time, as the third hour on both sides was nearly consumed. Having completed the third hour without transgressing the time limit, both sides again set to, to reflect a considerable time over each move. Blackburne tried very hard to force a draw, but it was of no avail against the mechanical precision of Lasker." (26)
"Lasker has gained a hard-earned and well-deserved victory. He ranks now among the chess magnates, and stands second to none. Steinitz beat Blackburne seven games to none; but Blackburne had, at least, three times won frames, hut failed to secure victories; whilst with Lasker he had only one chance of winning a game, through Lasker’s oversight, and a slight chance in yesterday's game. Comparing the two matches, Lasker s play is decidedly of a higher order. He plays the opening, middle, and end game with equal skill and far-seeing judgment. A triangular match between Blackburne, Lasker, and Gunsberg, to take place in Dublin, is spoken of." (26)
Reactions to the result
It seems that Blackburne was not well before and during the match. He had asked that the commencement of the match be postponed for several days. (27) Even taking this into consideration, the magnitude of Lasker’s victory elicited admiration. George Alcock MacDonnell, a personal friend of Blackburne, felt it necessary to attempt to defend his friend's reputation. He stressed that Blackburne had been unwell before and during the match, and this one result should not diminish his standing as a chess master of the first rank.
"In last week's Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News appears the following remarks by "Mars" (Rev. G. A. Macdonald) on the recent Blackburne – Lasker match: - "I met Mr. Blackburne a few evenings before the commencement of his match with Herr Lasker. He looked very poorly, and was very low in spirits. He said his health was bad, and that he was quite unfit to play a match. I advised him not to play and he rejoined, 'I must play Lasker. No man shall ever say I was afraid, and shirked the fight.' He then told me that nothing was definitely arranged, as the stakes were not yet deposited. But they hoped to begin the fight early in the following week. Meantime Lasker was at the seaside laying in a store of health. Then I asked, 'Why don't you go to the country and recruit your strength?' He answered he could not, and explained to me his position, which, I may say, rendered his absence from London at that time impracticable. I then advised him not to play until a fortnight at least had elapsed from the time the stakes were deposited, and to spend that fortnight at the seaside. 'No', said he, 'I must play next week, no matter what my condition is.' We then parted, and the following week he opened the campaign at the British Chess Club." (28)
"On all, or nearly all, occasions Blackburne's match play is below his normal strength, but in the recent contest it was lamentably below it. Flashes of brilliancy there were, and even profound combinations, but on the whole his play was very uneven, and in the end-game - a sphere in which hitherto his genius has never failed to display his superb mastery - most disappointing, being timid, wavering, laboured, and unsuccessful; in short, bristling with points the very reverse of those that usually characterise his style. Herr Lasker, on the other hand, came to the fight in first-rate condition, and in his conduct of the several games proved himself a first-class match-player. He possesses all, or nearly all, the qualities that go to make a sound, brilliant, and admirable master. But his defeating Blackburne so decisively does not demonstrate his superiority to Blackburne, or entitle him to a higher place among the magnates of the game. Circumstances - as the copy-book poet phrases it - alter cases. Lasker is twenty-three, and in perfect health and condition. Blackburne is nearly fifty, bad in health, and weak in condition - fagged, scarred, and sored by thirty years' fighting. To fairly compare the two men, and adjust their relative positions, we must consider them, estimate them, as each was when at his best; the Lasker of the other day, and the Blackburne of say 1881, when he beat the leading masters at Berlin and won the championship of the world. No master has ever retained his chess strength unimpaired for a longer period than that of thirty years. Anderssen, giant as he was physically, lost much of his power some time before he had completed that term; and Steinitz bad not quite completed it when he resolved no more to play "hard" chess. Why should we expect a weak-bodied player to do that which the Herculeses of the game are not able to accomplish? No, let us be thankful that Blackburne is still as fine and as picture-producing a player as ever the world has seen; as able to amuse and instruct now as in his palmiest days; as ready to fight, as brave in battle, as willing to die 'with harness on his back.' Let us remember, in this the dark hour of his temporary eclipse, that for thirty years he has never shirked a fight, never shown the white feather, or returned home from a battlefield defeated ingloriously. Let us remember also, in estimating Mr. Blackburne's position in the chess world, that no man has enriched the showrooms of chess with more beautiful gems, or travelled farther or longer to gather them in. In, I may say, all quarters of the globe - throughout the isles of Britain, on the continent of Europe, in America, in Australia - wherever fresh glory was to be won and the honour of Old England upheld, there has J. H. Blackburne never failed to make his appearance; never failed to fight like a hero, and enlarge the laurel-wreath with which his brow was first crowned in 1862." (28)
This special pleading was not favourably received by all analysts. "Commenting upon the fact that of the twelve games he has played with Blackburne Lasker has won eight and drawn four, the chess editor of the Sheffield Independent writes: - "Only one inference is possible; Lasker is immeasurably the superior player. To talk about Blackburne’s health is childish, unsportsmanlike and an injustice to Lasker. We were present during the whole contest, from the day the match ought to have begun until a day or two after its conclusion. We had every opportunity of forming a correct judgment, and we believe that Lasker would have beaten Blackburne no matter what Blackburne’s health might have been. Twelve games without a single win is a stubborn fact that cannot be got over. Blackburne is not so young as he was, but as a match player he was never equal to Lasker. Examination of the games will prove Lasker's superior depth. Perhaps he sees as deeply as any player, not excepting Steinitz. We will back him against Steinitz. Here the cognoscenti do not agree with us. Nevertheless, we will stick to our opinion. Lasker is to be congratulated on his splendid victory. We wanted Blackburne to win, but it could not be, and our opinion of his powers is so high that it necessarily follows that our opinion of a boy who can beat him 8 games in 12 and draw the other four is very exalted indeed." (29) The editor there was the Anglo-German master Georg Schories.
Contemporary press opinions on Lasker's victory
The Belfast News-Letter conveniently summarised the reaction of the British press to Lasker’s emphatic victory. "Last week we briefly referred to the magnificent victory which the youthful master secured over his veteran opponent. We are sure our readers will be interested in what the chess world is saying about the match, which for steady, sound chess, for the interest universally manifested during its progress, and for the surprising result, has never had a parallel. On previous occasions similar victories and defeats have certainly been recorded, but a Blackburne was never before beaten by a Lasker.
Evening News and Post - Six to nothing and four draws was the final score of the match. Such a performance speaks for itself, and needs no praise. In the whole of the 10 games Mr. Lasker was out-played on two occasions only, by attacks arising from the opening. In the remainder of the games Lasker outplayed his opponent by downright hard chess. We shall not attempt to explain Mr. Blackburne's score, no kind of explanation can alter facts in chess. If, however, the chess editor of this column may say a few words to those whom it may concern, without being accused of serving the interests of Mr. Gunsberg, he would say that Blackburne ought to have been saved from his friends. (Most of our readers are aware that the chess editor of the Evening News and Post is Mr. Gunsberg himself. - Chess Ed., B.N.-L.))
The Morning Post - The young German competitor has not only by his extraordinary score in this match, but also by the excellence of his play, undoubtedly placed himself on a level with the foremost players of modern times. Steinitz and Zukertort, although they both gained overwhelming victories against Blackburne, accomplished no more than Lasker, who out of twelve games, including two in the recent tournament with the English champion, has won eight and drawn four. The marvellous record can only be attributed to play of the highest order. In only two of these games - namely, the second and ninth of the match has Blackburne had a chance of success; but even on the occasions when he has been at a disadvantage, Lasker, by rare persistency, has managed to pull the game out of the fire and make a draw. The most remarkable characteristic of Lasker's play is his wonderful accuracy. He never misses an opportunity, and seldom, indeed, gives his opponent a chance.
The Standard - Lasker has gained a hard-earned and well-deserved victory. He ranks now among the chess magnates, and stands second to none. Steinitz beat Blackburne seven games to none; but Blackburne had, at least, three times won games, but failed to secure victories; whilst with Lasker he had only one chance of winning a game, through Lasker's oversight, and a slight chance in the final game. Comparing the two matches, Lasker's play is decidedly of a higher order. He plays the opening, middle, and end game with equal skill and far-seeing judgment.
The Daily News - Once more the foremost place in the ranks of strong chess players in England has been won by a foreigner. Herr Emanuel Lasker, of Berlin, is only twenty-three years of age, and he has barely been with us for a twelve-month, yet in that brief space of time he has won the two principal tournaments, and he has now eclipsed these efforts by defeating Mr. J. H. Blackburne by the magnificent score of six wins, four draws, and no losses. Great curiosity is felt whether Herr Lasker will bring back to England the championship of Europe, held since the remarkable victories of Dr. Tarrasch at Breslau and Manchester once more by a German player, after an interval of twenty-five years. As it is very likely that the international tournament, which will take place next month at Dresden, will bring Lasker and Dr Tarrasch in competition, this interesting question may soon be decided.
Dublin Evening Herald (Mr. Porterfield Rynd) - Zukertort had as easy a victory more than ten years ago; and within a month or so Blackburne took first prize at Berlin, with Zukertort immeasurably behind. In any event Blackburne's forte is not set-match-play. It is blindfold and simultaneous play. After that comes tournament play; and last of all set-match-play. Moreover, Blackburne was ill all through. He did not court the match. When it was made he had to postpone the commencement of play for a few days to try and come right; and in the middle of the play he was forced to take another rest. As it was, however, he showed some good play at times, and undoubtedly would have succeeded in winning several of the games that were drawn or lost, and in drawing several others, had he not lacked sustaining power. His opponent has amply vindicated his claim to be one of the best match-players of the present day. Blackburne defeated, there does not appear to be a British master capable of coping with Lasker successfully, unless Gunsberg can be induced to get into match-form.
Glasgow Weekly Herald - Blackburne has not been playing the same high-class chess as in other days, and there have been occasions when he has allowed victory to slip. All the same, we wish to say nothing that detracts from the honour which justly falls to the winner. He is now in the foremost ranks of chess, and his career will be regarded with interest by all chess players.
Leeds Mercury - Such a score was scarcely calculated upon by the chess world, and Lasker must be deemed one of the best players of the time. His success of late has been quite phenomenal, and must be compared to Paul Morphy's, considering he is but a youth of twenty-three years. No doubt some most interesting encounters will take place between this young master and those of more experience in the immediate future.
Rossendale Free Press - We are greatly disappointed with having to report the non-success of our native chess player, Blackburne, in his match with Lasker. We can only shrug our shoulders quietly, and put up with the defeat of our champion as well as possible." (30)
After the match
Lasker’s reputation was made. His ability to play coolly and with extreme precision and to deny Blackburne chances to display his tactical ability were universally noted. "The victory of Lasker over Blackburne is a remarkable one, and making every allowance for the obvious fact that Blackburne was out of form, Mr. Lasker's victory has been so decisive that be must be now recognised as a dangerous candidate for the World's Championship. That Mr. Blackburne failed to score a single game out of ten games played, is the strongest testimony that Mr. Emanuel Lasker is possessed of a genius for chess, perhaps only hitherto equalled by Morphy. Whether in the opening, the middle, or the end game, Mr. Lasker plays with unerring accuracy. It is to be hoped that the International Tournament, to be held next month at Dresden, will bring about an encounter between Dr. Tarrasch and Mr. Lasker, and whichever comes best out of the tournament will have a strong claim to test his strength with the present champion of the world, a title which Steinitz must surrender or fight for." (31)
There was also talk of a "North of Ireland Chess Congress", the centre-piece of which would be a match between Blackburne, Gunsberg and Lasker. (30) Once again Newnes was prepared to provide the finance, but nothing came of it. Instead, Lasker was challenged by Bird, and their second match took place in Newcastle upon Tyne (August 29th - September 2nd) (Lasker - Bird (1892)). Once again, Lasker proved his superiority to the veteran master by a score of 5-0. In 1893, Lasker went to the United States to challenge the American masters (see Lasker - Showalter (1893)) and, in 1894, the world champion himself (Lasker - Steinitz World Championship (1894)). There was a realisation in England that other countries, especially Germany, appeared to be overtaking them. "The Dublin Herald says - "Blackburne defeated, there does not appear to be a British master capable of coping with Lasker successfully;" and the Daily News, in an article on "Chess in England," laments the fact that for the last forty years foreigners have more or less asserted their superiority in chess matters." (32)
The champion, Steinitz, took a measured view: "Herr Lasker has won his match of six games up against Mr. Blackburne gloriously, without allowing his opponent to mark a point outside of four draws, which did not count. Blackburne's reputation rests more on his tournament records, and he has been unsuccessful in the majority of important matches in which he has fought, but it is undoubtedly a marvellous performance for the young German master to beat him with such a score. This great success, following so closely on his carrying off the first prize in two tournaments, in which he only lost one solitary game, ranks Herr Lasker among the foremost candidates for chief honours on the chequered field. - New York Tribune (Steinitz)." (33)
Blackburne was far from finished. He produced strong performances at London (1892), at the 9th DSB Kongress, Leipzig (1894), and at Berlin (1897). Yet, the future belonged to a new cohort of continental players, such as Lasker, Tarrasch, and Carl Schlechter.
(2) British Chess Magazine, April 1890, p. 127.
(3) Nottinghamshire Guardian, 25th June 1892, p. 7.
(4) Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography, by Timothy David Harding, chapter 12, p. 294.
(5) Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography, Harding, chapter 12, p. 295.
(6) British Chess Magazine, volume 7, June 1887, p. 263.
(7) Sheffield Independent, 15th July 1890, p. 7.
(8) Chessmetrics, Frankfurt 1887, http://www.chessmetrics.com/cm/CM2/....
(9) Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography, Harding, chapter 12, p. 294 gives both Blackburne’s quote and Miniati’s statement.
(10) Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 23rd April 1892, p. 11.
(11) Wikipedia article: George Newnes.
(12) Aberdeen Press and Journal, 24th May 1892, p. 7.
(13) Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 21st May 1892, p. 12.
(14) London Evening Standard, 12th May 1892, p. 6.
(15) British Chess Magazine, July 1892, p. 293.
(16) Dates from the British Chess Magazine of July 1892.
(17) British Chess Magazine, July 1892, pp. 292-293.
(18) Morning Post, 6th June 1892, p. 2.
(19) Nottinghamshire Guardian, 18th June 1892, p. 7.
(20) Sheffield Independent, 28th May 1892, p. 7.
(21) Gloucestershire Echo, 1st June 1892.
(22) Morning Post, 3rd June 1892, p. 3.
(23) London Evening Standard, 4th June 1892.
(24) London Evening Standard, 8th June 1892, p. 6.
(25) Morning Post, 13 June 1892, p. 3.
(26) London Evening Standard, 15th June 1892, p. 6.
(27) Morning Post, 24th May 1892, p. 3.
(28) Liverpool Mercury, 9th July 1892, p. 7. The quote "with harness on his back" is from Lord Macaulay's poem Ponte Sublicio, "brave Horatius .. with his harness on his back .. plunged headlong in the tide."
(29) Belfast News-Letter, 30th June 1892, p. 3.
(30) Belfast News-Letter, 23rd June 1892, p. 3.
(31) Nottinghamshire Guardian, 25th June 1892, p. 7.
(32) Belfast News-Letter, 4th August 1892, p. 6.
(33) Belfast News-Letter, 21st July 1892, p. 2.
For a comparative analysis of the two players see http://www.edochess.ca/matches/m972....
Based on an original collection by User: TheFocus. Additional material sourced by User: Chessical.