Emanuel Lasker, (born December 24, 1868, Berlinchen, Prussia [now Barlinek, Poland]—died January 11, 1941, New York, New York, U.S.), German chess master, the world champion from 1894 to 1920, who is often regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
Lasker, the son of a Jewish cantor, first left Prussia in 1889 and only five years later won the world chess championship from Wilhelm Steinitz. He went on to a series of stunning wins in tournaments at St. Petersburg, Nürnberg, London, and Paris before concentrating on his education. In 1902 he received his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.
In 1904 Lasker resumed his chess career, publishing a magazine, Lasker’s Chess Magazine, for four years and winning against the top masters. Though the championship title was finally taken from him in 1921 by José Raúl Capablanca, he continued to play successfully through 1925, when he retired. He was forced out of retirement, however, after Nazi Germany confiscated his property in 1933. Fleeing first to England, then to the U.S.S.R., and finally to the U.S., he returned to tournament play, where he again competed at the highest levels, a rare achievement for his age.
His contemporaries used to say that Lasker used a “psychological” approach to the game, and even that he sometimes deliberately played inferior moves to confuse opponents. Recent analysis, however, indicates that he was ahead of his time and used a more flexible approach than his contemporaries, which mystified many of them. Lasker knew contemporary analyses of openings well but disagreed with many of them. He published chess magazines and five chess books, but later players and commentators found it difficult to draw lessons from his methods.
“When you see a good move, look for a better one.”