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Dinner speech

Paul Werner Wagner, founder and chairman of the Emanuel Lasker Society, gives a witty dinner speech introducing the world-famous chess master and the various facets of his unique personality.

The brilliant chess master EMANUEL LASKER first saw the light of day on 24 December 1868 in Berlinchen (Barlinek). His brother Berthold, six years older than him, who was married to the poet Else Lasker-Schüler, taught the eleven-year-old Emanuel how to play chess. As Berthold was financing his medical studies in Berlin with chess and skat, he took his little brother, who was living with him at the time, to the venues. Emanuel turned out to be a natural.

Emanuel Lasker studied philosophy and mathematics in Berlin. But chess became more and more important to him. After 1892 he rose meteorically to international prominence, winning tournaments and matches in London and New York, and challenging the world champion, Steinitz, in 1894. In a sensational 10:5 victory with two draws, Emanuel cast the Titan – who had been considered unbeatable – from his throne forever.

For 27 years, Emanuel Lasker held the title of world champion, longer than anyone before or after him. Lasker’s creed was battle. His play came across as powerful, his style showed virtuosity. He made cunning use of psychology, confronting his opponents with awkward moves. This often brought him to the edge of the abyss, but this was where he developed his greatest strength.

The American grandmaster and psychoanalyst, Reuben Fine, described Lasker as follows: “The most striking characteristic of his mastery was his intuitive understanding of the human element. He regarded the chess pieces as actors, subject to certain laws and moved about by two directors. For him, chess was a dramatic conflict, a struggle between two human beings who had agreed on certain rules. What really counted was the final end product (game), to which both opponents contributed. This is the reason why Lasker never lost his head.”

In public Lasker worked hard to popularize and promote chess, and to gain recognition for chess players as the creators of artistic works. He was active as a publisher and chess journalist, competed tirelessly in simultaneous matches, and gave lectures.

All his life he sought recognition outside of chess. Lasker wrote mathematical treatises, philosophical texts, essays, even a drama and books about games. He also made an outstanding contribution to game theory.

When a survey was conducted in the United States shortly before the First World War, asking about the most famous Germans, Lasker took second place after Kaiser Wilhelm II.

In 1932 Lasker, a German Jew, left his country with his wife, and lived in Moscow from 1935 – 37 and then in the United States.

In his last book, “The Community of the Future” (1940), he develops ideas about the future of humanity. Lasker believed that the main steps towards achieving a peaceful world were the elimination of unemployment, and enlightened education.

Emanuel Lasker died in New York on 11 January 1941.