As part of JONJ's continued dedication to our long history and the Jewish community, we occasionally reprint profiles from our historical archives. Today we present Carl Schlechter, telegraphed by Izzy Nagelberg to the "Jewish Chess Review" on February 10, 1910.
VIENNA — An unthinkable event almost happened today! The world chess championship, held by a Jew since its inception in 1886 (first by Wilheim Steinitz of Austria-Hungary, later émigré to America, and then by Emanuel Lasker of Germany), almost changed hands. Lasker, who had previously defeated Steinitz, and then defended his title against Frank Marshall and Siegbert Tarrasch, had his toughest test yet: local Vienna product Carl Schlechter, just 35 years young to Lasker's 41.
In a scheduled best-of-ten match, the first four games were drawn, with the challenger winning the next contest after a rare blunder by Lasker. Four more draws followed, meaning that all Schlechter had to do was not lose, and the title of world champion would be his. Sadly for his rooting gallery, it was not to be. Clearly nervous, the challenger made a crucial mistake on the 35th move. The game continued until the 71st, with the champion's rook and pawn clearly dominating Schlechter's knight and pawn. The result evened the match at five games each, meaning Lasker got to keep his crown.
To those of our readers who read elsewhere that Schlechter is of the Jewish faith, we must make it clear that is not the case. After we approached the challenger to question his Jewishness, he explained that he was raised Catholic. Hopefully, this will clear up any confusion!
Unfortunately, Nagelberg's dispatch must have gotten lost in transition, and Schlechter's potential Jewishness is still debated to this day.