I have heard that Emanuel Lasker, during the great historical tournament in 1904 (in Cambridge Springs), had to face some specific which was imposed on him. I am wondering what could be meant by that? Was there any kind of handicap with which he had to deal with?

Most of the sources I could find on the internet do not mention any kind of special specific for Lasker.

3 Answers 3


From 1902 to 1907 Emanuel Lasker was living in the USA and concentrating more on algebra than on chess. His paper Zur Theorie der Moduln und Ideale was published in March 1905 in Mathematische Annalen and will lead to the famous Noether-Lasker theorem.

It seems he also worked on some papers in the field of philosophy, but I know less about it.

Chess was not his main preoccupation during those years, and his participation in Cambridge Springs tournament in 1904 was a short chess parenthesis in his mathematical works.

There is no indication that Lasker was playing with any handicap in that tournament, beside lack of practice and training, and this seems very unplausible to me.

A few years later, Lasker will go back to "wasting his wonderful mind" on chess, according to a famous Einstein's quote that may be less apocryphical than most Einstein's quotes.


The only specific about Lasker and Cambridge Springs 1904 I found is the fact that he practically didn't play serious chess for about 4 years (last tournament Paris 1900 which he won with unbelievable 14,5 pints out of 16 and in 1901 and 1903 four games in sum against Janovski and Chigorin....). This missing practice was probably the reason why he lost two games in the early phase of the Cambridge Springs tournament (see also https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/tidbits-on-cambridge-springs-1904/ ).


I flipped through part 1 of Kasparov's Great Predecessors book (which covers the lives and games of Steinitz to Alekhine) but couldn't find anything on a handicap Lasker faced in Cambridge. All I could find was that he lost to Pillsbury, who was declining but managed to make a short comeback.

Maybe Lasker had something going on in his personal life or issues with travel internationally. Back then, if another player managed to evenly challenge the world champion in chess (Lasker at the time), a match for the title tended to follow. Lasker could have been experiencing pressure and a need to do well in order to cement his place as the best player in the world.

Still, this is all merely speculation. If he did experience a handicap then it's odd I couldn't find it in Kasparov's book, since his series is one of the foremost authorities on chess history.


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