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Emil von Feyerfeil vs Emanuel Lasker
Hauptturnier play-off (1889), Breslau GER, Jul-27
Queen Pawn Game: Steinitz Countergambit (D00)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-21-10  markbstephenson: Instead of 19.Re-d1?, 19.b4 would have saved Herr von Feyerfeil some grief.
Feb-10-11  Jira850: why 31. ... instead of dxe3 didn't Lasker play Qxe4?
Feb-10-11  sneaky pete: He didn't like 31... Qxe4 32.Bf3 .. I guess.
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.

Jun-16-11  TheFocus: <sneaky pete> I will check the diagram in the tournament book and let you know tomorrow.
Jun-16-11  sneaky pete: Both Long and Hannak are wrong. The position before 53.Rh2 .. is

click for larger view

Dec-22-14  TheFocus: Lasker's first triumph was winning the Hauptturnier A at the Breslau Congress.

Lasker scored +7=2-0 in the Preliminaries and +4=0-2 in the Winners' group, but winning the play-off game with Feyerfeil.

This is the play-off game; July 27, 1889.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi,

About 35 years ago I wrote a short story that was published in CHESS based on the game Sneaky Pete mentioned.

I had invented a time machine that would allow me to go back in time for about 5 seconds. I appeared at the tournament, I grabbed a white pawn as a memento and shot off back to my own time.

Along with the story I sent the Editor B.H.Wood an old fashioned wooden pawn I found in a junk shop claiming this was the pawn I nicked in the 1889.

Sneaky Pete is right. If Lasker had not been gifted this play-off then there is every chance chess would have remained an interesting hobby to Lasker and nothing more.

Oct-20-15  Shams: <Sally Simpson> Was the first line "It was a dark and stormy knight"?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Shams,

No, I think it was, 'I bought this Time Machine from a Pawn Shop.'

Jul-09-18  sneaky pete: The last (or lost) paragraph of my 2011 quote from Robert B. Long about the Von Feyerfeil vs Lipke game has a typo that needs to be corrected. Drawing a lost game is always commendable, but "He drew his lost game ..." should be "He drew his last game ...".

My attention was drawn again to this incident after reading elsewhere about Fischer "cheating" in 1970 on his way to the world championship. He wasn't the only one. I don't blame Fischer and Lasker even less.

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