KEG: Going into this 16th round game, Lasker and Blackburne were both on a hot streak. Each had won his last three games running, and each had scored 4.5 out of his last 5. During this stretch, Lasker had defeated Janowski and Tchigorin and Blackburne had bested Pillsbury and Steinitz. Add to this the fact that Lasker had moved into sole possession of first place and that Blackburne had defeated Lasker in Round 4 (Lasker's only loss in this tournament) and there is no doubt that this was a heavyweight tussle. The game itself did not disappoint. Indeed, much of the criticism of Blackburne's play is misguided, and he in fact held his own and was very much in the game until his 26th move.
Blackburne has been faulted by the Tournament Book, by Marco in his analysis of the game, and by Reinfeld/Fine in their book on Lasker for his 16. Bh4. While the recommended 16. BxN was perhaps best, Blackburne's actual move was fine and maintained the pressure. If I were forced to criticize Blackburne's play at this stage of the game, I would focus on 17. Rad1 or 18. Bg3 rather than playing a4 on one or the other of these moves to stop Lasker's intended minority attack with 18...b5.
Lasker's 18th move is indeed a thing of beauty, and--as Reinfeld/Fine have noted--adumbrates hypermodern principles of fixing pawns and (as keypusher has noted) making effective use of a minority attack.
But Blackburne was no mere foil for Lasker's subtle positional play here, and constantly posed dangerous tactical problems for Lasker to solve. For example, Blackburne's 22. h4--roundly condemned by all of the commentators cited above--was not bad and was in fact better than the proposed 22. f4. The only even arguably better move for Blackburne would have been 22. Qf3.
These same commentators all suggest that Blackburne was in effect a piece down after 23. Bh2 and that he had buried his Bishop. They also laud Lasker's 25...e5 as completely paralyzing Blackburne's position. But Blackburne could have solved most of his problems with 26. Rcd1 instead of 26. c4? Indeed, 26. c4 was the losing move.
All credit to Lasker for his positional masterpiece. But let's also credit Blackburne for offering stubborn resistance until his unfortunate mistake on move 26.
Lasker has also been showered with praise for his excellent 27... e4. While this was a crushing advance, the alternative 27...Qc6 would have been just about as convincing, contrary to the analysis by Marco and Reinfeld/Fine. After 27...Qc6 28. NxN QxR 29. Qf1 would not (these revered commentators notwithstanding) have saved Blackburne after 29...Qxb2.
helios has asked what would have happened had Blackburne played 28. Rxe4. keypusher is certainly correct that Black could then have prevailed with 28...RxR 29. QxR Nf6, but 29...Qe7 would have been even more decisive.
Lasker's time-saving 29...Rb8 (I love this move!) seemingly wrapped up the victory, but Lasker's 30...Kh8 (praised to the hilt by Reinfeld/Fine) was in fact Lasker's only serious mistake in the game (that I can find). This gave Blackburne the chance for 31. Qc4, a possibility missed by all the commentators.
After 31. Rec1 Qg4, the game was effectively over. But the wily Blackburne had one more trick up his sleeve with 37. d5, creating a surprise pin of Lasker's Rook and causing Lasker to play 37...g6 allowing some scary looking Rook checks. But Lasker was definitely up to the task of extracating himself from the bind in which Blackburne sought to entangle him.
I agree with the commentators that Lasker's 38...Kh8 was clever, since it avoided Qxg6+ had Lasker moved his Rook, but in fact 38...Kg8 would have won just as easily (If 39. Rc1 f6!), the commentators once again notwithstanding.
Blackburne's resignation after Lasker's 42...Kf6 was fully warranted since he now faced an unavoidable mate in 5. This site gives an incorrect 40th move for Lasker, who played 40...Ng4 and not 40...Ne4. Thus, after 42...Kf6 Blackburne could only have delayed immediate checkmate by useless checks or by giving up his Queen with 43. Qg1 Nf2+
All in all, a game worthy of fine contestants who waged this fascinating battle.