"He who hated draws", part 5

For the next game, let's quote Edward Lasker.

"This game's result had a large impact on destinies of three outstanding chess players. The undeserved loss had become a drama of his life for Janowski. Capablanca, after winning the game, won the whole [San Sebastian] tournament, became the main World Championship candidate and raised his country's prestige so much that the Cuban government enlisted him for a diplomatic service, and this allowed him to make a good living. Finally, Rubinstein, who was considered Lasker's natural successor at the chess throne, who defeated Capablanca in classical style and finished half a point behind (without losing a single game!), despite all subsequent successes, never got a chance for a World Championship match.


Janowski took part in the famous 1914 St.-Petersburg tournament. He didn't perform too well (shared 9th place with the English 72 years old veteran Joseph Blackburne, defeating him and Tarrasch and losing to Capablanca, Lasker, Marshall, Bernstein and Rubinstein), though he found success in another tournament (see "Janowski the Gambler". Nevertheless, he played some remarkable games that he failed to win.
"Janowski's game against Rubinstein was full of curious incidents, reminding us to an extent the Janowski - Capablanca game from the San Sebastian tournament. The French champion got an excellent position in the opening, had a good game, made Rubinstein's position hopeless with a pawn sacrifice and forced him to give away an exchange with a mate threat. But, like in the aforementioned game, luck abandoned him, and he made several weak moves in the endgame. First, he lost a couple of pawns, but still could easily force a draw. But he played for a win, got into a trap and lost heavily." (Shakhmatniy Vestnik)
In New York, Janowski got to play the 10 years old Sammy Reshevsky in a tournament. Obviously underestimating him, Janowski achieved an overwhelming advantage... and then lost.
Edward Lasker recalls, "Sammy was beside himself. In the taxi, he would embrace his father and cry, "I defeated a great master! I defeated a great master!" And the poor Janowski, in anguish and despair, remained at the board and again and again showed the audience the combination that should have crushed Sammy at move 38..."
Janowski's last elite tournament was New York 1924. He was 56 years old at the time, finished last with 11 losses and only 3 wins, but still played some good chess. For instance, Capablanca had to force a perpetual check against Janowski after he played a theoretical novelty in the Queen's gambit that's now named after him.
Again quoting Edward Lasker: "Janowski was already past the age when one can concentrate for four hours without feeling tired. His playing was still very bright and colourful, he won a great game against Bogoljubov and had won positions against Em. Lasker, Maroczy and Yates but lost the games due to mistakes caused by fatigue. He lost drawn games against Alekhine and Bogoljubov for the same reasons, and so scored four points less than he should have."
That's Janowski's penultimate game against Emmanuel Lasker, the one where he "lost a won position". Lasker was 55, just half a year younger than Janowski, but his stamina and general fitness proved to be much better.
"The most original game of the whole tournament!" - Alexander Alekhine. The endgame was really hilarious.
This ends the feature on Janowski's missed wins. In the next installments, there'll be his wins against World Champions and candidates (from Steinitz to Bogoljubov), and his brilliancy prize-earning games (there were quite a few).


  • 5 lat temu


    Janowski's peak was in the early 1900's, for some time he even was the top player in the world, according to chessmetrics. He even challenged Lasker for a World Championship match in 1899, accepting all his conditions bar one: Lasker wanted to play until 8 wins, and Janowski wanted to play until 10 wins. Lasker ultimately refused to concede.

    And after Janowski's debacle at the Paris (+9-7, shared 10-11th) and Munich (+6-6=3, shared 7-10th) tournaments in 1900, nobody wanted to take the risk and fund a possible Lasker - Janowski match (even after his brilliant Monte Carlo 1901 victory). Perhaps that was the source of his bitterness, which, added to arrogance, created the infamous "obnoxious Janowski" persona.

  • 5 lat temu


    For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels; and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows he took the blows - and did it JANOWSKI's way!Smile

    ooops, i got carried away. LOL!

  • 5 lat temu


    He probably had some regrets but he did what he had to do without exemptions. There were times when he bit off more than he could chew, yet had his wins and share of losing...

  • 5 lat temu


    He made his mark, indeed. Many brilliant games, even the losing ones... and I can't think of many more chess player (Steinitz perhaps?) who developed a theoretical novelty bearing their name in their late fifties.

  • 5 lat temu


    he lived a life that's full and had his legacy in this world. i still would consider him a great man who made a mark in the annals of chess.

  • 5 lat temu


    Men who walk the tightrope of danger, whether that danger in in the form of risk-taking, gambling, aggressiveness have a very great appeal (to me).  But, at the same time, I try to avoid such men because I feel they will eventually self-destruct. Janowski, it seems, ended up impoverished and alientated from friends, two situations most people hope to avoid as they age.  He could have avoided them himself, but his risky nature almost precluded such a finale and that, to me, is the tragedy of it all.

  • 5 lat temu


    Janowski's "endgame" was... sad, if not truly tragic. He suffered from asthma for many years and finally succumbed to it in Jere, where he came to play in a tournament.

    With his love for obnoxious remarks, he didn't exactly have many friends in his later years. Though, as Ossip Bernstein recalled, after he told Leo Nardus of Janowski's declining health, Nardus immediately sent a large sum of money to help with treatment.

  • 5 lat temu


    I find Janowski a very interesting chessplayer after reading this blog and batgirl's depiction of his character and personality..."a man with superlative talent and many dangerous flaws which makes for a sparkling middle game, but a potentially tragic endgame, in life as well as in chess..."

    very true, in life as well as in chess.

  • 5 lat temu


    Well, poker is more of a sport than roulette, that's for sure.

    Janowski was a compulsive gambler. Frank Marshall remembered how Janowski lost his entire first prize in Monte Carlo 1901 tournament: first, knowing he would surely go to the casino, he immediately sent all the prize money (5,000 francs) to his friends in Paris with a letter telling not to send any money back no matter what. Then, when he lost in the casino, he sent a telegram to Paris, demanding to send him 1,000 francs. Then, in increasingly threatening tone, he demanded another 1,000 francs to be sent back, then another... until losing them all.

  • 5 lat temu


    Thanks for the breathtaking reponse.

    Many chess masters today seem to supplement their income, and, I imagine, their thrills, with poker. Maybe Janowski, and Tartakower, were simply ahead of their time.  I wonder if gambling chess players produce more exciting games.

  • 5 lat temu


    Janowski himself admitted that he hated endgames, and "the really good games should be won in the middlegame". Though he did win some excellent technical endgames, as against Alapin in Barmen 1905.

    Some people even thought that the match conditions were a major factor in Janowski's defeat against Lasker. The games were adjourned for the next day rather than evening of the same day, and Lasker, who had a much stronger endgame technique, had plenty of time to analyze the adjourned positions and find the right continuation.

    And Janowski indeed was a very, very arrogant man. Here are some episodes:

    Here's Rudolf Spielmann's account of the Janowski - Schlechter 1902 match:

    "The match between Janowski and Schlechter in 1902 was funny. Janowski was a genius player and was at his peak, but his character was completely opposite of Schlechter's. He was a choleric, very irritable, hot-tempered, wilful. Woe is the one who dared to defeat him - he would be subjected to a long, insulting diatribe. The match showed Schlechter's obvious superiority. The Carlsbad city council Titz, a well-known chess patron, told that each time Schlechter won, he had to literally run away from his opponent, and so Janowski directed his anger into empty space.

    Janowski's anger was quite systematic. It began with him calling the opponent "the lowest sort of player worthy only of playing in cafes", "soiler", "dominoes player". Then there was sincere amazement: "How this fop could ever be allowed to play chess?!" And finally, his famous catchphrase: "I can play with you only with Knight odds!" - I also got that offer after our game in Carlsbad 1907. First, Janowski offered only pawn-and-move odds. But in 1898, at the Vienna tournament, the phlegmatic Englishman Amos Burn accepted his offer, they played a number of off-hand games with an one-guilder bet, and, of course, Janowski lost them all (actually, this "match" was won by Burn with a score of 5-3 - note by S. Voronkov and D. Plisetsky). And he... came to the conclusion that the pawn-and-move odds is too small to actually equalize the strength and make him really interested in playing!

    Despite all these faults, Janowski wasn't an unpleasant man. He was handsome, elegant, man of the world, and his reckless bravery charmed everyone."

    A quote from Janowski's annotation of his game against Napier:

    "...A brilliant demonstration of the superiority of two bishops!

    The debates about the relative value of those two pieces never cease: some people prefer Bishops (for instance, Dr. Tarrasch), others prefer Knights (Chigorin). Some theoreticians say that this depends on the specific position, but this doesn't answer the question: if everything depends on the position, what's the subject of the debates then? I think that in a roughly equal position, two Bishops are much stronger than two Knights."

    And Mikhail Chigorin's acerbic reply:

    "Janowski can express any amount of "his opinions", but he certainly doesn't do a good thing when he attributes some absurd "preference" to other people, even in so simple affairs. If Napier played 36. Re2! with subsequent Rde1 or, at least, 39. Rb8, Janowski wouldn't have had any reason to discuss the "superiority of two Bishops" etc., and making up stories about others."

    A letter to Frank Marshall after losing the 1905 match +5-8 to him:

    "Mr. Marshall!

    I think that the match's result doesn't accurately reflect our skills. On the contrary, considering that I've missed either a win or a draw in every game, I'm absolutely sure that I should have easily won.

    So I challenge you for a return match on the following conditions: play until 10 wins, draws don't count. I give you a 4 points odd - my first 4 victories don't count. The bet shouldn't be higher than 5,000 francs.

    Waiting for the answer and sending my cordial greetings,

    D. Janowski."

    Siegbert Tarrasch's reaction to Janowski's letter.

    "Let us not forget that the challenge was issued on the Easter, and so it can be considered a funny Easter joke. And Marshall, if he does have a sense of humour, should accept the challenge and get 5,000 francs - you can't exactly find such a sum on the street."

    Mikhail Chigorin's reaction to Janowski's letter.

    "Janowski lost to Marshall but immediately challenged him to a new match, with a 4 game odds. And he will win."

    Frank Marshall's reply to Janowski's letter.

    "My dear Janowski!

    I accept your challenge from the March 7th if you can ensure that the match will be played on the same conditions as the previous one.

    Sincerely yours,

    F. J. Marshall"

    Janowski to Edward Lasker after losing three games in the World Championship match:

    "Your namesake plays so stupid chess that I cannot even look at the board while he thinks. I'm afraid that I have no chance in this match."

    Deutsches Wochenschach, aftermath of the 1910 Lasker - Janowski match:

    "The defeated players rarely acknowledge the winners' superiority. Janowski wasn't an exception: he already declared his intentions to challenge Lasker again. He is sure (and not even hiding it) that he's still stronger than Lasker, that he played better than him in all the games (but when he gets a won position, he loses interest in further play), that Lasker cannot play chess at all. Janowski expressed his disgust at Lasker's playing. It's unclear why then he wants to challenge Lasker again."

    Janowski, after an off-hand game with his friend and sponsor Leo Nardus. Nardus promptly terminated their relationship after that.

    "I've seen many dupes in my life, but I've never met such ones as you!"

    To Edward Lasker, after the first 12 moves of the game against Reshevsky:

    "What crap did you tell me? This boy knows as much about chess as about walking on a tightrope! Look at his position! He'll soon have nothing to move! Completely paralyzed!"

    Janowski complaining to Edward Lasker during the New York 1924 tournament:

    "My opponent plays so boringly that I can't force myself to consider the position carefully!"

    A quote, possibly from 1920's:

    "There are only three true chess masters: Lasker, Capablanca... and the third one? I'm too humble to say his name."

    After losing to Tartakower in Reti opening with black pieces:

    "This should be called "Sheep opening". If only I had my former strength, I'd tear you to pieces."

  • 5 lat temu


    It never astonishes me how tenuous a "won game" can be and how easily it can be lost with just a slight miscalculation or through lazy play due to overconfidence. I remember reading something by (I think it was...) the English player, William Hartson, to the effect that early in his career with a 2 pawn advantage in the endgame, he could usually win and with a one pawn advantage, he could manage a draw - which spurred him into a deep study of endgames.  So often winning a won game is reliant on technique. But Janowski, along with his over-abundance of confidence, seemed to have another possible flaw, as the aftermath of the Reshevsky game points to, excessive pride.  Janowski appears to have been a man with superlative talent and many dangerous flaws which makes for a sparkling middle game, but a potentially tragic endgame, in life as well as in chess.

    The Edward Lasker-Janowski endgame was very unique.  Thanks.

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