Alekhine and Lasker
Alekhine, seated left; Lasker, center, observing

Alekhine and Lasker
by Bill Wall

Emanuel Lasker and Alexander Alekhine met eight times in their career.  Seven of the games were from tournament games.  Their first game was considered an exhibition game.

 In 1908, Alexander Alekhine, age 15, traveled to Dusseldorf and Munich to observe world champion Emanuel Lasker defend his title against Siegbert Tarrasch.

Lasker and Alekhine first met in an exhibition game in Moscow on March 28, 1914.    The game was drawn in 16 moves as it led to perpetual check  Alekhine had White and played a Scotch Game.  Lasker proposed the draw and Alekhine accepted.  In 1914 Lasker was 45 (born in 1868) and world champion (1894-1921).  Alekhine was 21 (born in 1892) and was world champion from 1927 to 1935 and from 1937 to 1946.

AlekhineLasker, Moscow 1914

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.O-O d5 9.exd5 cxd5 10.Bg5 Be6 11.Qf3 Be7 12.Rfe1 h6 13.Bxh6 gxh6 14.Rxe6 fxe6 15.Qg3 Kh8 16.Qg6  ½-1/2



Lasker played Alekhine before he played Capablanca.


The two then met in the great St. Petersberg International tournament in April-May, 1914.  Their first encounter in the preliminary section of the tournament on April 30, 1914, was a draw in 25 moves.  Lasker had White and Alekhine played a Center Counter Defense.


LaskerAlekhine, St. Petersburg 1914

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Nxd5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.c4 Nb6 6.Nc3 e5 7.c5 exd4 8.Ne4 N6d7 9.Qxd4 Qe7 10.Bb5 Nc6 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.O-O Bxf3 13.gxf3 O-O-O 14.Qa4 Ne5 15.Kg2 Qe6 16.Qxa7 Qf5 17.Qa8 Kd7 18.Rd1 Ke6 19.Qxd8 Qxf3 20.Kg1 Be7 21.Qd4 Qg4 22.Kh1 Qf3 23.Kg1 Qg4 24.Kh1 Qf3 25.Kg1  1/2-1/2



Capablanca won the preliminary section with a score of 8 out of 10.  Lasker and Tarrasch had a score of 6.5 out of 10.  Alekhine and Marshall had a score of 6 out of 10.  These five players would play in the Finals.



Their next game was played in the finals or Winner’s Group on May 10, 1914.  Lasker had White and won in 35 moves.  Alekhine, as Black, played 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5, the Albin Countergambit, and lost. 


A week later, on May 17, 1914, Lasker won again with the Black pieces in a Ruy Lopez, Exchange variation that lasted 89 moves.  Lasker had two rooks and a pawn against Alekhine’s rook, knight, and pawn.  Lasker won the tournament, followed by CapablancaAlekhine took 3rd place, Tarrasch took 4th place, and Marshall took 5th place.


In July 1914, Alekhine played in the main tournament in Mannheim, the 19th German Chess Federation Congress.  Lasker was a guest of honor at the event and was there to make plans for an International Chess Federation.  Lasker left the event before World War I broke out on August 1, 1914.


The two did not play each other for another 10 years.   World War I interrupted most major chess tournaments and Lasker played little until 1923.


Then in March-April, 1924, they both played in the New York 1924 International tournament.  On March 18, 1924, Lasker (age 55) won again with the Black pieces in 36 moves in a Queen’s Gambit Declined.  Alekhine was 31 years old.


Their next game in the same tournament occurred on April 10, 1924, and the game was drawn in 30 moves.  Lasker had the White pieces and played a Queen’s Pawn opening.  The event was won by Lasker (16 out of 20), followed by Capablanca (14.5) and Alekhine (12).  Alekhine would become world champion three years later.


Up to 1925, Lasker was the stronger player.  Alekhine was in his prime from 1926 to 1936.


In 1925, the tournament organizers in Moscow invited Lasker, but not Alekhine.


The two waited another 10 years before they played again.  Lasker was now 65 and Alekhine was 41.  On July 25, 1934, Alekhine had the White pieces and finally won in brilliant style in Zurich, Switzerland (37th Swiss Championship).  The game lasted 26 moves with a queen sacrifice offer.  Alekhine was current world champion (1927-1935 and 1937-1946).  The opening was a Queen’s Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, Alekhine Variation.


AlekhineLasker, Zurich (Rd 12), 1934

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 O-O 7.Rc1 c6 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Nd5 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.Ne4 N5f6 12.Ng3 e5 13.O-O exd4 14.Nf5 Qd8 15.N3xd4 Ne5 16.Bb3 Bxf5 17.Nxf5 Qb6 18.Qd6 Ned7 19.Rfd1 Rad8 20.Qg3 g6 21.Qg5 Kh8 22.Nd6 Kg7 23.e4 Ng8 24.Rd2 f6 25.Nf5+! Kh8 26.Qxg6! [26…hxg6 27.Rh3+ or 26…h6 27.Qg7 mate]  Black resigns  0-1



In 1935, Lasker went to Holland to cover the world chess championship match between Alekhine and Euwe for the Russian newspapers.



The organizers of the 1935 and 1936 Moscow tournaments invited Lasker, but not Alekhine.


Their final encounter occurred on August 13, 1936 in Nottingham, England.  Lasker had White and the game was drawn in 18 moves.  Alekhine played the Nimzo-Indian Defense.  At the time, both players were former world chess champions.  The event was won by Capablanca and Botvinnik, who tied.  Alekhine was 6th and Lasker tied for 7th.


LaskerAlekhine, Nottingham 1936

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.a3 Bxc3 7.Qxc3 a5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.e3 O-O 11.Be2 e5 12.dxe5 dxe5 13.O-O Bg4 14.h3 Bh5 15.Rfd1 Rfe8 16.Rd5 Bg6 17.Rad1 Bf5 18.R5d2  1/2-1/2


Alekhine said this of Lasker, “Lasker was my teacher, and without him I could not have become whom I became.  The idea of chess art is unthinkable without Emanuel Lasker.”