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Lasker - Bird Match

Emanuel Lasker8.5/12(+7 -2 =3)[games]
Henry Edward Bird3.5/12(+2 -7 =3)[games] Chess Event Description
Lasker - Bird (1890)

This match was played in Liverpool, England from February 17-28. Lasker came to England for the first time, and in 1890 to 1892 he would spend a great deal of his time away from Berlin. He was attracted by the possibility of a decent income in chess. In this period, he played and vanquished the leading British masters and also gave exhibition displays both in Britain and America. He was sought out to give exhibitions at the German Exhibition which opened from May to October 1891 at Earls Court, London. (1)

The players

Emanuel Lasker had only recently acquired the title of master, and was in a hurry to ascend the ranks. In July 1889, he had tied for first place with Emil von Feyerfeil at Breslau, in the Minor (Hauptturnier) Tournament of the German Chess Association. He defeated von Feyerfeil in the tiebreak match and gained his title. He then played in Amsterdam (1889) (26th August - 1 September), where he took second prize behind Amos Burn. Having left the university, he was keenly pursuing opportunities to make his name. Consequently, he challenged two of the leading German players in short succession. In November 1889 he played Curt von Bardeleben, who had come equal 4th at 6th Deutscher Schachkongress in Breslau (1889). "A match was begun at the Berlin Club in November, between Herr Lasker (the second prize-man of the Amsterdam tourney) and Herr von Bardeleben, but had to be intermitted owing to the latter being unwell. The stake was to be 100 marks, and four won games to decide the issue. Three games only were played, each winning one and the other was drawn." (2)

Less than a month later, Lasker was playing another leading German master, Jacques Mieses, who came third in Breslau. The match commenced on 30th December, and Mieses was overwhelmed. "An interesting little match of five games up, for a stake of 450 marks, took place recently at Leipsic, between the two young German masters Lasker and Mieses; the former won by a score of 5 games to 0, and 3 were drawn." (3) See Lasker - Mieses (1889/90). Despite playing two masters in less than two months, Lasker then crossed the English Channel, to further advance his reputation. "Lasker had his walk round and this he performed in gallant style. He challenged all and sundry with a great flourish of trumpets." (4) "Herr Lasker has been in town (London), but now has 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." (5)

Henry Edward Bird, the veteran English master, was Lasker's first British opponent in match play. Bird had been playing consistently well: first in the Simpson's Divan Handicap Tournament in London (November 1888 - January 1889), 12th at the Sixth American Chess Congress (see Game Collection: New York 1889) (March-May), 1st at the Fifth British Chess Association Tournament in London (November 1889). And he would be equal 3rd at the Sixth British Chess Association Tournament (Master Section) in August-September 1890. "Mr Bird has been in the best of spirits since his victory at the BCA Congress, and I don't wonder at it. He has won a master's tournament at an age when a man's chess powers are supposed to be in decline." (6)

Lasker was 21 years old and Bird 59. Using Chessmetrics' data (January 1889), Lasker was already ranked 10th in the world and Bird 29th. See, and

Liverpool, England, 17-28 February 1890

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Lasker 1 = 1 = 1 1 1 1 = 0 0 1 8.5 Bird 0 = 0 = 0 0 0 0 = 1 1 0 3.5

Bird had White in the odd-numbered games.

Contemporary accounts

"Match Between Bird and Lasker. A match begins to-day at the Liverpool Chess Club between Mr. H. E. Bird, the veteran English master, and Herr Lasker of Berlin. Herr Lasker, though young, has achieved several successes, the most noteworthy of which is his recent defeat of Herr von Bardeleben, lately regarded the strongest player in Germany. He has also defeated Herr Meises in a set match, and he won second prize in the International Tournament at Amsterdam in August last." (7)

"A match of great interest to the lovers of chess has been organised by the Liverpool Chess Club, and commenced in the City Hall, Liverpool, yesterday. The contestants are Mr. H. E. Bird, of London, who now holds the position of English champion, and Herr Lasker of Berlin, who has greatly distinguished himself in the recent leading tournaments. The terms are to play one game per diem (day), and the winner of the first seven games to be declared the victor. Draws are not to count. Mr. Bird won the toss, and led off with the Dutch opening, Herr Lasker replying with pawn to KK 3d, a defence favoured by G. Reasbey and Blackburne. Mr. Bird failed in the first attack, and in the effort to transfer the scene of action lost two pawns. Herr Lasker then forced the game, and at the 50th move Mr. Bird resigned." (8)

"One of the most interesting matches that has taken place in England for several years is proceeding at present in Liverpool, at the rooms of the principal club of that city, between Herr Lasker, of Berlin, and Mr. H. E. Bird, of London. The conditions are: The winner of seven games first to be considered the winner of the match: drawn games not to count; a time limit by 20 moves per hour; one game per day only to be played except in the case of a draw, when a second may be commenced at the option of the players." (9)

"The first game was commenced last Monday. Mr. Bird, having the move, played his favourite Dutch Opening. Herr Lasker adopted the King's Fianchetto Defence, and through some weak play of his opponent assumed the attack. Mr. Bird resigned on the 50th move.

The second game, a "Sicilian Defence," was played on Tuesday, and ended in a draw.

On Wednesday two games were played. The first only lasted two hours, as Mr. Bird made an oversight on his 23rd move, by which he lost a piece, and he resigned shortly after. At the time of the blunder Mr. Bird had a decided advantage in position and probably a winning one. The second game was commenced at six p.m., and lasted till after ten. Herr Lasker at one time seemed to have a won game, but being too eager, he allowed Mr. Bird to institute a strong attack, by which the latter won a piece, but was forced to be content with a draw.

The fifth game was played on Thursday. Mr. Bird's 7th move was extremely weak, and enabled Herr Lasker to obtain a strong attack. A fine game resulted in the defeat of the "veteran" on the 30th move.

The sixth game was played yesterday. Bird, having the second move, adopted the Sicilian Defence in the end game. The veteran had much the best of the position, and ought to have won, but unfortunately he played weakly on the 33rd move. Herr Lasker then obtained an advantage, and won in the 57th move, after nearly four hours' play. Score: Lasker, 4; Bird, 0; draws, 2." (9)

The seventh game in the Lasker-Bird match was played last Saturday afternoon, at the rooms of the Liverpool Chess Club, Eberle Street, and resulted in a win for the German master.

The eighth game was played on Monday. Herr Lasker, having the move, played P-Q4, to which Mr. Bird replied with P-K3. The game eventually developed into a Double Fianchetto Defence. Mr. Bird lost time by playing P-QR3, and later played weakly by advancing his Q B P to its 5th square. Herr Lasker consequently obtained a well-developed game, and assumed a strong attack. Mr. Bird then played up well, and was able to exchange off pieces advantageously. He should then have been content to play for a draw, but be endeavoured instead to force the game on the queen's side, and suffered the usual penalty. Herr Lasker, by careful and well-directed play, effected an elegant mate on his 43rd move.

The ninth game was played on Tuesday. Mr. Bird opened as usual with P-KB4, but continued immediately with the Queen's Fianchetto, thereby preventing his opponent replying with P-KKt3, a defence which Herr Lasker has hitherto adopted with success. Mr. Bird soon obtained the better position and pushed his pawn well forward. By so doing he allowed Herr Lasker to win the exchange, but the "veteran's" game became so strong on account of his strong advanced pawns that Herr Lasker considered it advisable to sacrifice his bishop for two pawns. On his 37th move the young German master missed an opportunity of advancing his king's pawn to its 6th square with a winning attack. Later, Mr. Bird secured a strong attack with a threatened mate, and Herr Lasker was compelled to sacrifice his rook for his opponent's knight to be able to draw by perpetual check.

The tenth game was played on Wednesday. Herr Lasker opened with P-Q4, to which Mr. Bird replied with P-KB4, commonly known as the Stonewall Defence. Herr Lasker obtained a free and open game, and pursued the attack with vigour. By rather weak play in the middle game he allowed his opponent to somewhat strengthen his position, but Mr. Bird, on his 20th move, retired his queen to B2 instead of K sq, thereby allowing Herr Lasker to again resume the attack. On his 25th move, however, the young German master omitted to make a defensive move, and his opponent, taking immediate advantage of Herr Lasker's mistake, and playing with great judgment and accuracy, commenced an attack which eventually culminated in a mate on the 56th move. This, Mr. Bird's first victory in the match, was received with great enthusiasm.

The eleventh game was played on Thursday. Mr. Bird opened with P-QB4 (the English opening), but on the third move he deviated from the beaten track, and, instead of advancing his Q P to its fourth square, he continued with P-KB4, thus not only preventing his opponent from turning the game into a Queen's Gambit Declined, but also ensuring an open game. His opponent, thrown completely out of the books, played rather weakly, and the "veteran," skilfully availing himself of every opportunity, soon massed his forces on his king's side, and obtained a strong attack. Herr Lasker played the defence with great care and ability, and prevented his opponent gaining any material advantage except in position. On his 29th move he offered the exchange of queens, and Mr. Bird, also much averse to changing off these major pieces, thought it advisable in this case to do so. By forcing the exchange of a rook four moves later, Mr. Bird was enabled by a pretty move to obtain a strong and well-defended position, while that of his opponent contained several weak points. Herr Lasker played for a draw, but Mr. Bird, playing well and with remarkable judgment, offered a pawn for a strong attack. Herr Lasker, seeing the impossibility of maintaining his pawns long, in desperation sacrificed two pawns for one and endeavoured to queen another, Mr. Bird, however, was not to be caught napping, and prettily sacrificing his rook he was enabled to queen his pawn with a check one move in advance of his opponent. A few moves later Herr Lasker resigned.

The twelfth game was played yesterday. Herr Lasker opened with pawn to queen's fourth, to which Mr. Bird replied with pawn to king's bishop's fourth. Herr Lasker obtained a good position in the middle game, when Mr. Bird sacrificed a knight for three pawns, thereby gaining a remarkably strong attack. Herr Lasker played the defence with great skill and patience, and ultimately regained the lost pawns. The attack by this time had failed, and Mr. Bird, recognising his chance as utterly hopeless, resigned on the 40th move. Herr Lasker has therefore won the match by 7 games to 2, with 3 games drawn." (10)

"Next week Herr Lasker will visit Manchester to play a match against Mr. N. T. Miniati. Play will probably commence on Tuesday at the Manchester Chess Club." (10) For that match see Lasker - Miniati (1890).

Contemporary reaction

"The Chess Monthly for April gives the portrait of Herr Lasker. The notice of him ends thus: - "Herr Lasker's record of successes (creditable as it is) would not entitle him to figure in 'our portrait gallery' yet, but we favour him with a place amongst our eminent men - not for what he has achieved hitherto, but for what we expect him to do in future." In the same number, however, it is noted that he defeated Mr. Bird in a recent match by 7 to 2, three games being drawn, and that he beat Mr. Miniati by 3 to nothing and two draws. It is also noted that he was willing to play a match with Gunsberg, which, in view of a possible encounter with Steinitz in the autumn, the latter had thought it advisable to decline, so that this young player (he was born in December, 1868) has already attained a high position among chess players. We understand that a match has been arranged between him and Mr. Blackburne, which will be looked forward to with interest." (11).

In May 1892, Lasker eventually got his match with Blackburne, which he won by 8-2 (Lasker - Blackburne (1892)). In the interim he also challenged the leading German player Siegbert Tarrasch, for a 1,000 mark match which unfortunately fell through. (12).


(1) "Four national exhibitions in London and their organiser with portraits and illustrations." pp. 352-353, Charles Lowe, 1892. This was organised by the entrepreneur John Whitley who had recently developed the site at Earls Court as an international exhibition centre.
(2) British Chess Magazine, vol. 10, January 1890, p. 10.
(3) British Chess Magazine, vol. 10, February 1890, p. 45.
(4) British Chess Magazine, vol. 10, July 1890, p. 260.
(5) British Chess Magazine, vol. 10, April 1890, pp. 127-128.
(6) British Chess Magazine, vol. 10, January 1890, p. 6.
(7) Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, Monday 17th February 1890, p. 8.
(8) Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Tuesday 18th February 1890, p. 3.
(9) Manchester Times, Saturday 22th February 1890, p. 8.
(10) Manchester Times, Saturday 1st March 1890, p. 8.
(11) Belfast News-Letter, Thursday 22th May 1890, p. 3.
(12) British Chess Magazine, vol. 10, July 1890, p. 270.

Based on an original game collection by User: TheFocus. Additional material and introduction text added by User: Chessical.

 page 1 of 1; 12 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Bird vs Lasker 0-1491890Lasker - BirdA03 Bird's Opening
2. Lasker vs Bird ½-½591890Lasker - BirdA07 King's Indian Attack
3. Bird vs Lasker 0-1221890Lasker - BirdA03 Bird's Opening
4. Lasker vs Bird ½-½581890Lasker - BirdA07 King's Indian Attack
5. Bird vs Lasker 0-1291890Lasker - BirdA03 Bird's Opening
6. Lasker vs Bird 1-0571890Lasker - BirdB25 Sicilian, Closed
7. Bird vs Lasker 0-1411890Lasker - BirdC13 French
8. Lasker vs Bird 1-0431890Lasker - BirdA00 Uncommon Opening
9. Bird vs Lasker ½-½501890Lasker - BirdA03 Bird's Opening
10. Lasker vs Bird 0-1561890Lasker - BirdA81 Dutch
11. Bird vs Lasker 1-0691890Lasker - BirdA13 English
12. Lasker vs Bird 1-0381890Lasker - BirdA81 Dutch
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Jun-05-16  zanzibar: Some early mentions of Lasker from BCM:

<Germany.— A match was begun at the Berlin Club in November, between Herr Lasker (the second prize-man of the Amsterdam tourney) and Herr v. Bardeleben, but had to be intermitted owing to the latter being unwell. The stake was to be 100 marks, and four won games to decide the issue. Three games only were played, each winning one and the other was drawn. Mr. Max Judd, after leaving Paris, visited the Berlin Club, and played several games with its leading members.>

BCM v10 (Jan 1890) p10/18

<Mr. Lasker, the Berlin player who was so successful in the recent Amsterdam tourney, proposes to extend his experience of " men and things " by a visit to this country.>

Ibid p11/19

<Germany. —An interesting little match of five games up, for a stake of 450 marks, took place recently at Leipsic, between the two young German masters Lasker and Mieses; the former won by a score of 5 games to o, and 3 were drawn.>

BCM v10 (Feb 1890) p45/57

important match has been played at the Liverpool Club, between Messrs. Bird (London) and Lasker (Berlin), and ended in an easy victory for the latter, score : Lasker, 7 ; Bird, 2 ; drawn, 3. We hope to give some of the games of this contest in our next issue.>

BCM v10 (Mar 1890) p84/100

<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 latier 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.>

BCM (Apr 1890) p127/145

<At Manchester a short match has been played between Messrs. N. T. Miniati and E. Lasker. The final score was Lasker 3, Miniatio, drawn 2.—>

BCM (Apr 1890) p131/149

Jun-05-16  zanzibar: <Amongst the masters we have had challenges and—challenges. With " fury in his eye and imprecations on his tongue," my friend Mason has been going round eager to find a " foeman worthy of his steel." He says Gunsberg is the man, but Gunsberg only smiles, and gently intimates that for years he has been honestly winning reputation and Mason has said never a word, and that now he has his match with Steinitz on hand, he thinks it very inopportune for Mason to interfere. In this opinion a great many people share. Lasker had his walk round and this he performed in gallant style. He challenged all and sundry with a great flourish of trumpets. Then he challenged Blackburne and a match was arranged, and the Englishman's money (£30) was staked and Lasker's wasn't. Blackburne "growled" and then withdrew his stake and the match was off, Blackburne thereby saving his dignity and Lasker his— Marks. Then Lee quietly intimated that he could play—a little— and if Lasker was really "blue mould for want av' a baten'" he was willing to oblige. Lasker intimated his willingness to play, and a match for £20 a-side was arranged between them, Mr. Gunsberg being a witness. The next day came and went, as also did Herr Lasker, for the third day brought a note from him that a letter from home had recalled him to Germany on urgent private business. Three days after this a leading London chess column stated that disappointed at not being able to arrange a match with any strong English player, Herr Lasker had returned home ; and people when they read this announcement laughed, but whether at Herr Lasker, or the announcement, or the paper, or the chess column, or its editor, I really don't know. I laughed myself for the matter of that, for the whole thing did appear to me to be very funny. However, "good comes out of evil," and the upshot is that a little friendly match will take place between Blackburne and Lee for a moderate stake. It will be played in two or three weeks' time, the place of combat being most probably out of London. It will be a good match, let the winner be who he may.>

BCM v10 (July 1890) p259/283

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