Carl Schlechter

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Carl Schlechter
Born(1874-03-02)2 March 1874
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died27 December 1918(1918-12-27) (aged 44)
Budapest, Hungary

Carl Schlechter (2 March 1874 – 27 December 1918) was a leading Austro-Hungarian chess master and theoretician at the turn of the 20th century. He is best known for drawing a World Chess Championship match with Emanuel Lasker.

Early life[edit]

Schlechter was born into a Catholic family in Vienna. He is sometimes deemed to be Jewish,[1][2][3][4] although others dispute this.[5] He began playing chess at the age of 13. His first and only teacher was an Austria-Hungarian chess problemist, Dr. Samuel Gold.[6]

From 1893 onwards he played in over 50 international chess tournaments. He won or shared first at Munich 1900 (the 12th DSB Congress), Coburg 1904 (the 14th DSB Congress), Ostend 1906, Stockholm 1906, Vienna 1908, Prague 1908, Hamburg 1910 (the 17th DSB Congress), and thrice in the Trebitsch Memorial in Vienna (1911, 1912, 1913).

Schlechter played several matches. He drew with Georg Marco (+0 −0 =10) in 1893, drew with Marco and Adolf Zinkl both (+4 −4 =3) in 1894, drew with Dawid Janowski (+2 −2 =3) in 1896, drew with Simon Alapin (+1 −1 =4) in 1899, beat Janowski (+6 −1 =3) in 1902, drew with Richard Teichmann (+1 −1 =1) in 1904, and drew with Siegbert Tarrasch (+3 −3 =10) in 1911.

Lasker–Schlechter match[edit]

In 1910 Schlechter played a match against Emanuel Lasker for the World Chess Championship (in Vienna and Berlin). Schlechter was leading by one point going into the tenth and final game of the match. In the tenth game tragedy struck: after first achieving a won game, Schlechter blundered into a clearly drawn position, and then blundered again which led to his loss of the game. The match ended tied at 5–5 (+1 −1 =8) and Lasker retained his title. It is disputed as to whether Schlechter needed to score +2 to win the match and thus needed to win the tenth game. No contract for the match has ever been found and no evidence supporting this rumor has ever been produced. (For match details see World Chess Championship 1910.) Schlechter distinguished himself as the first player in 16 years to seriously challenge Lasker's world title.

Later life[edit]

Schlechter's final years were strugglesome as it was becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet as a chess professional. During World War I, he thrice won Trebitsch Memorial in Vienna. In the last year of his life, he took third in Vienna, lost a match to Akiba Rubinstein (+1 −2 =3), took second place in Berlin (Quadrangular, Milan Vidmar won), tied for third place in Kaschau, and took third place in Berlin (Quadrangular, Emanuel Lasker won). Schlechter died of pneumonia and starvation on 27 December 1918, and was buried in Budapest on 31 December 1918.[7]


The Carl Schlechter–Arthur KaufmannHugo Fähndrich trio propagated the Viennese chess school, founded by Max Weiss in the 19th century.

Schlechter prepared the eighth and final edition of the famous Handbuch des Schachspiels openings treatise. Published in eleven parts between 1912 and 1916, it totaled 1,040 pages and included contributions by Rudolf Spielmann, Siegbert Tarrasch, and Richard Teichmann. International Master William Hartston called it "a superb work, perhaps the last to encase successfully the whole of chess knowledge within a single volume."[8]

He was a typical example of a gentleman chess player of old, offering courteous draws to opponents who felt unwell. If his opponent arrived late for a game, Schlechter would inconspicuously subtract an equal amount of time from his own clock. He also mentored many of his rivals, including Oldřich Duras.

List of opening variations named after Schlechter[edit]

There are several "Schlechter Variations" in the chess openings:[9]

  • Schlechter Gambit of the Bird's Opening 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 Nc6
  • Schlechter Variation of the French Defence 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3
  • Schlechter Variation of the Slav Defence 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 g6 (or via a Grünfeld move-order, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 c6)
  • Schlechter Variation of the Danish Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2 d5

Notable games[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The central character of the 1998 novel Carl Haffner's Love of the Draw by Thomas Glavinic is closely based on Schlechter. The book presents a fictionalised account of his 1910 World Chess Championship match with Lasker.


  1. ^ The Great Jewish Chess Champions, Harold U. Ribalow & Meir Z. Ribalow
  2. ^ Joseph Jacobs & A. Porter, Chess
  3. ^ 10 Great Jewish Chess Masters Archived February 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Gustavo Daniel Perednik, Judaism and Chess Archived October 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Chess and Jews, Edward Winter, 2007
  6. ^ Goldman, Warren H. (1994). Carl Schlechter! : life and times of the Austrian chess wizard. Yorklyn, Del.: Caissa Editions. ISBN 0-939433-18-4. OCLC 31602393.
  7. ^ Verkhovsky, Leonid Solomonovich (1984). Karl Schlechter. Fizkultura i sport. pp. 57 (Russian edition).
  8. ^ Hartston, William (1985). The Kings of Chess. Harper & Row. pp. 87. ISBN 0-06-015358-X.
  9. ^ "Bill Wall's list of chess opening names". Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08.

External links[edit]