Lasker – Marshall World Championship Match 1907

Frank Marshall

After his successful title defence in match against Steinitz in 1896, chess world would have to wait for long 11 years for another World Championship match.

First of all,  in 1896, Lasker opted to take a break from chess in order to devote himself to his former love – mathematics. However, after obtaining his Phd title, in 1899 he returned to chess with a triumph with a victory in the London 1899 tournament.

Precisely during those years, a new generation of players has started to emerge. Franco Russian master David Janowsky, Hungarian Geza Maroczy, the Austrian Carl Schlechter and the American master Frank James Marshall, together with the ‘old lion’ Siegbert Tarrasch, were all considered as potential challengers for the crown.  Indeed, in the period between 1900-1910 all of them would either play a match against Lasker, or at least issue a formal challenge and enter negotiations about the match.

David Janowsky was the first of them to challenge Lasker to a match. Immediately after the London 1899 tournament, he sent a letter proposing a match with an impressive prize for the winner – 2000 $. However, although Lasker initially accepted the challenge, further negotations were not successfull. Janowsky would get his shot only 10 years later, when Janowsky – Lasker World Championship Match would be played. (Source: Chesspedia – Lasker – Marshall 1907 match)

Next was dr. Tarrasch’s turn. His convincing beating of Frank James Marshall in a match in 1905 induced the German Chess Federation to start the negotiations about the potential Tarrasch – Lasker match. Once again Lasker principally accepted the challenge. And once again, further negotiations came to a dead end due to the choice of the match venue. Lasker insisted match should take place in the United States, while Tarrasch claimed he is unable to play outside Germany due to his job. The match between these two giants took place only in 1908. With hindsight, such a turn of events was to Lasker’s benefit; in 1908 Tarrasch’s strength was already on a decline.(Source: Chessgames: Lasker – Tarrasch, 1908 match)

Something similar happened when Geza Maroczy challenged Lasker in 1906. However, after Lasker responded positively in a letter,  Maroczy never replied. Later, it was claimed that he refused to play due to ‘political’ circumstances. It is speculated that Maroczy didn’t want to play in America and claimed that: „…they could play in America next year, when peace will reign there…“ (Source: Chesspedia – Lasker – Marshall 1907 match).

Frank James Marshall, an American master, exploited the situation. The winner of the Cambridge Springs 1904 tournament (ahead of Lasker) wrote a letter on September 11, 1906 in which he challenged Lasker to a match. Lasker, accepted the proposal and this time negotiations proceeded without any problems whatsoever. The players signed a contract on October 28 , 1906. The number of the decisive games required for match victory was reduced from ten to eight. Finally, on January 26, 1907, the world saw the first match for the World Championship match in more than ten years. (Source: Chesspedia – Lasker – Marshall 1907 match).

Almost everyone predicted an easy victory for Lasker. After all, two years earlier, Marshall was destroyed in a match by Tarrasch (+8-1=8 in Tarrasch’s favour). And indeed, the match proved to be a smooth sail for Lasker, who didn’t lose a single game. After 15 games, Lasker won the match with a convincing +8-0=7 victory. However, it was clear to everyone that Marshall was not the strongest player of the possible challengers. For the moment, dr. Tarrasch remained the challenger number one and Lasker would prove who is who only next year when these two giants finally faced in a head to head match.

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