|Jun-16-11|| ||sneaky pete: By winning this play-off game between the joint winners of the 1889 Hauptturnier Lasker earned the master title, which induced him to continue wasting his life playing chess. Else he might have used his vast talents for better purposes: bring about eternal world peace, find a medicine against cancer and aids or build a better mouse trap. Tarrasch, meanwhile, would have become the new world champion, and school children all over the world would have to recite "Zwei Springer am Rande, doppelte Schande".|
That a play-off game was necessary at all is a small miracle. I quote from Robert B. Long in "Lasker & His Contemporaries", issue number 1, 1978:
"An amateur from Vienna named von Feierfeil was leading in the finals and Lasker was clinging to some hope of still making it. On July 25th, 1889, Lasker was mated by von Feierfeil on the 42nd move. With two rounds to go, von Feierfeil was leading by 1,5 points.
What happened next was a very bizarre episode in the history of chess. Lasker had nothing to do with it, though he was definitely affected by what transpired.
In a game between von Feierfeil (White) and Paul Lipke, a German player who won fame in the 1898 Vienna tournament, the following position came about after Black's 52nd move.
click for larger view
White played an incredible move, by no means unique in the history of chess impossibilities, 53.Rh2. Here is what the tournament book says: (...) The explanation is fairly obvious. The game had been adjourned after White's 40th move ... and in the afternoon the position was reconstructed from memory. The solitary little pawn on h2 was forgotten.
The end result was von Feierfeil's losing to a checkmate in 121 moves. He drew his lost game and because Lasker won his last two games, there would be a playoff. (...) Lasker became a master by winning this game."
Hannak in a postscript to his Lasker biography tells the same story, but gives a different diagram for the Lipke game, without white's pawn a5 and with a with a white bishop on a2 instead of the knight. I don't know which is right.