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Emanuel Lasker vs Joseph Henry Blackburne
London (1899), London ENG, rd 4, Jun-03
Spanish Game: Steinitz Defense (C62)  ·  0-1



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Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: François LeLionnais's book The Brilliancy Prize in chess gives 6 Lasker games that won a prize of some sort for one player or the other.

Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1896, a loss.

Steinitz vs Lasker, 1899, a win.

Lasker vs Blackburne, 1899, this game, a loss.

Schlechter vs Lasker, 1904, a loss.

Capablanca vs Lasker, 1924, a loss.

Lasker vs Capablanca, 1935, a win.

Jun-17-06  ughaibu: Offramp: Thanks. I also have the 1895 Pillsbury game in my collection, can that be confirmed one way or the other?
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: 1st Briliancy Prize at Hastings 1895 went, predictably, to Steinitz vs Von Bardeleben, 1895.

2nd prize went to Tarrasch vs Walbrodt, 1895.

Jun-17-06  ughaibu: Sorry, I meant the St Petersburg game.
Jun-17-06  ughaibu: Okay, thanks.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <ughaibu> I don't know about the brilliancy prize for Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1895 , but will try to find out. One thing you might try to fix is the date on that game. It took place on 4 January 1896. Not 1895. It was Round 10 and the fourth time they met. Pillsbury had already beaten Lasker twice with a draw in the third game.
Jun-17-06  ughaibu: Okay, thanks again.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <ughaibu> Hannak, in "Life of a Chess Master", does refer to the game as winning the brilliancy prize (page 107, Dover Edition 1991). He does not label the game score as such, but in a later chapter when discussing Cambridge Springs etc, he refers to "the game that won the brilliancy prize and turned the tables...".
Jun-17-06  ughaibu: Thanks, I'll leave the game in. I believe the 1935 Capablanca game is in Hannak, does he label the score for that?
Jun-17-06  Maynard5: There is a curious parallel between this game, played in 1899, and Lasker's only other loss to Blackburne, played at Hastings, 1895. There also, Lasker was playing White in a Ruy Lopez, and completely underestimated the force of Black's coming assault on the kingside. Both games are an interesting example of Black's counterattacking opportunities in this opening.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <ughaibu> No, the 1935 Capablanca game is not labeled or mentioned as a prize by Hannak.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: The prizes for Moscow 1935 were enumerated by Paul Albert on this page: Lilienthal vs Ragozin, 1935

Whatever happened to the kibitzer who asked Paul the question? :->

Jun-19-06  ughaibu: Calli: Thanks, still no reason to doubt the Pillsbury game in that case.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <ughaibu> For what it's worth, Soltis' book _Why Lasker Matters_ says that no brilliancy prizes were awarded in the St. Petersburg 1895-96 tournament.
May-08-08  aazqua: At move 16 black is close to resignation. It's amazing that one could so misplay an opening.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <aazqua: At move 16 black is close to resignation.>

Why do you think so?

Oct-03-08  ughaibu: Maynard5: Compare the position of this one at move 32 with the other at move 23.
Dec-20-10  kjr63: A great game by Blackburne. He plays the opening in pure Steinitz style, but then attacks much more dangerously than Steinitz would/could have done.
Feb-16-13  NGambit: Why is this not GOTD yet???
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Pawsome: From an inferior position, "some amazing flower of combination springs up, a dynamic charge of genius explodes and enlarges a slight unrecognized flaw into a chasm of ruin." So wrote H.J.R. Murray....>

'Chasm of ruin'.

Really a delicious comment: no-one writes like that any more.

Apr-13-13  IndigoViolet: <Chasm of ruin> In modern parlance, <world of hurt>.
Jan-07-14  yureesystem: Blackburne conducted his attack viciously in King's Indian style. 33.fxg4?? Qh4+ 34.Kg1 Bf2 mate
Sep-06-15  grasser: Lasker taught Platz and Platz taught me. My claim to fame. That and the $500 fine I got for offering free Chess Lessons. Town of Haworth, New Jersey USA v. Grasser 2011.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Bravo Blackburne, who was properly awarded the brilliancy prize for the tournament for this spectacular game.

Lasker, who appears to have been playing himself into form at this point in the London 1899 tournament (this was his only loss in the entire event) outplayed Blackburne through move 26. He got a good game after Blackburne's unfortunate 5...Nb8, gave up his edge with 6. Bd3 and 8. Ne2 (8. Qe2 is better), but then exploited Blackburne's hyper-aggressive 11...b5 and weak 16...g6 to build a likely winning position. But Lasker uncharacteristically erred with 21. Nd2 (21. Bd3 is better).

The game then went ballistic. Blackburne staked all on attack. His 21...h4 and 22...g5 were completely unsound according to Fritz (and the latter move was hardly "compulsory" as the Tournament Book mistakenly claims)but this sequence was the beginning of a thrilling king hunt by this grand old master, and we fans wouldn't have had this game go any other way no matter what the computers say.

Lasker correctly grabbed Blackburne's g pawn on move 23, but his 24. Bxh4 was a mistake and allowed Blackburne's attack to gain steam. Lasker still had the edge after Blackburne's 26..Ng4, but his 27. Nf1 was a recipe for trouble (27. Bb3 was best) after which Lasker was a dead duck. Blackburne didn't let up for a moment and gave Lasker no chance to recover. Every move was a picture.

Of course, Lasker could have offered better resistance than his 31. f3 (31. BxB would have been "better"), but on this day Blackburne was not to be denied.

We can be grateful for Lasker's 31. f3 for it allowed Blackburne to wheel off his gorgeous combination beginning with 31...Rh1 check. It is games like this that make chess not only a mental contest, but also an art form.

Unfortunately, the commentary on the game in the Tournament Book hardly matches the brilliance of Blackburne's play. The claim that Lasker could have done better with 28. f4 or 29. f4 is ridiculous. In either case, Blackburne would immediately have crushed Lasker with 28...Qb6 or 29...Qb6.

Also erroneous is the claim by Tartakower and Du Mont in their analysis of this game that Blackburne's 36...Qd2 was an essential link in his combination. While the move certainly was sufficient to snuff out Lasker's resistance, perhaps even better and prettier would have been 36...Nf2 !!

But no need to quibble about the final destruction of Lasker's position. The Rook sacrifice was magnificent. Bravo Blackburne!

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Correcting my prior post, it was Lasker who won the Gold Medal for the most brilliant game at London 1899 (his 27th round win over Steinitz). Blackburne won the 10 pound, 10 shilling prize for "special brilliancy in any game" for this 4th round win over Lasker.
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