14 December 2013

Lasker's Common Sense

Emanuel Lasker presented a series of lectures in London in 1895 concerned with the fundamentals of chess. Later, he published an outline of his remarks under the title Common Sense in Chess.* His stated intention was to illustrate "general principles" or "rules" through a small number of carefully selected games.

He begins by asserting that chess is a fight, but not one appealing to base instincts of blood lust. Rather, chess is "a fight in which the scientific, the artistic, the purely intellectual element holds undivided sway" (9). The chess player is as a military commander preparing for war, but one who knows exactly the strength and position of the enemy. The task in the beginning is to "mobilize our troops, make them ready for action, try to seize the important lines and points which are as yet wholly unoccupied" (10).

Lasker's lines and points should serve beginning chess players as useful orientation towards the board itself. The files and ranks, diagonals, and important squares of the board are the first object of battle before action against the opponent's king will be possible. Lasker offers two variations on Legall's checkmate as illustrations of the failure to properly mobilize.

*There have been several editions offered by different publishers. My paperback copy (Dover 1965) is essentially a facsimile of the 1917 David McKay edition, which had been corrected by David A. Mitchell. Google Books offers a digitized copy of the 1917 edition. Internet Archive, however, has possibly an earlier edition published by J.S. Ogilivie. It is undated, but a librarian penciled in 1910? Then, e+Books offer an algebraic edition for their iOS reader, based on a 1915 edition published by Will H. Lyons. In the book description, it mentions that Common Sense was first published just over one year after the lectures in 1896/1897. The early date is corroborated by an excerpt in American Chess Magazine 2 (1898) that presents the four rules that close the first lecture (6). The source presented in ACM is Kentish Mercury. Edward Winter (Chess Notes 4982) presents the dates of the lectures as 4 March - 28 May 1895 and gives the first publisher as Bellairs & Co., London 1896. Chess Notes 5788 offers an image of the title page of the first edition.

No comments:

Post a Comment