KEG: Going into this game (played in the 9th of 17 rounds at Paris 1900, five players were locked in a virtual tie for first: Lasker, Mieses, Janowski, and Marshall (with 6 points in 7 games) and Pillsbury (with 5.5 points in 6 games, having completed one game fewer). Just behind them were Maroczy and Marco with five points in seven games. In short, this was a close contest. But beginning with this round, Lasker ran off eight consecutive wins (defeating Pillsbury, Janowski and Showalter among others), and not even yielding a draw until the final round by which time he had clinched first place. Lasker's first victory in this eight-game Fischeresque run was his smashing victory against Mason in this game.
The game was a slaughter. Mason was in trouble by move 9 and was lost by move 12. Lasker combined positional knowledge with tactical genius in overwhelming Mason in this game.
In studying this wonderful game, we are all privileged to have the excellent commentary provided by keypusher on this site more than nine years ago. Since keypusher has done most of the heavy lifting and analysis necessary for understanding and enjoying Lasker's genius in this game, I refer the reader to keypusher's post and will try here to emphasize points he has not covered and those few places in which I disagree with him.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
A reasonable and aggressive alternative to the more usual and often drawish 3. Nxe5.
Both this and 3...exd4 are reasonable options.
4. Bd3 d5
5. Nxe5 Be7
5...Nd7 is most usually played and is probably best. But the text, along with 5...Bd6, are good alternatives. Hort played the text against Spassky in a game in their 1977 match.
Spassky played 6. Nd2 against Hort. Both Lasker's and Spassky's moves seem reasonable. The choice between them is one of style.
6...Nd7 may be somewhat better, but the text has been played and is certainly viable.
The theme of attacking the center with c4 is frequently employed by White against the Petroff.
Rosenthal in the Tournament Book lauds this move ("well played"), but both the text and 7...c6 as well as 7...Be6 are fine.
Preferring prompt development to closing the center with 8. c5. Both moves are fine.
9. Bxc4 Nbd7
This is Mason's first weak move in the game, and the punishment he receives from Lasker is swift and "brutal" (to quote keypusher). After this move, Lasker already has--again quoting keypusher--"a large advantage."
If 9...c5, White is much better after 10. Qb3 (better than keypusher's proposed 10. dxc5, after which Black--though perhaps already lost after 9...c5--should try 10...Nbd7 rather than trading Queens as in keypusher's line).
Best for Black here was 9...Nc6 after which he would have a playable albeit somewhat inferior game.
"Ganging up on f7." (keypusher).
If 10...Nb6 11. Bxf7
11. dxN Ng4
As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, if 11...Ne8 12. Rd1 Bd7 13. e6 wins (13. Bxf7+ is perhaps even more decisive in this line).
Just about Lasker's only second-best move in this game. As Rosenthal notes in the Tournament Book, 12. Rd1 was better.
I do not care for keypusher's 12. e6 since Black simply responds 12..fxe6 and has an entirely playable game after 13. Bxe6+ [13. h3 is probably best) Kh8 [obviously not 13...BxB 14. QxB+ winning the Knight].
Best. Rosenthal's claim that Mason should have played 12...g5 is simply wrong, since Black then gets overwhelmed with 13. Rad1 Qe8 14. Bg3 c6 15. Ne4.
13. h3 Nh6?
A serious positional mistake after which Mason gets blown away by Lasker. Mason had to play 13...b5 here and would still have been in the game after 14. Be2 Qd4.
14. BxN gxB
Harassing Black's Queen. As keypusher has so aptly put it, from here on ";Mason barely gets a free breath."
As keypusher has pointed out, 15...Qb6 16. Qc2 is no better for Black.
The position was now as follows:
To quote keypusher yet again, it is "not surprising that White wins from here, but it's still impressive how he does it."
Lasker's winning technique from this position is indeed impressive and instructive. I will cover how Lasker converted his advantage here to a quick and crushing victory in my next post on this game.