The Forgotten Lady Champion who defeated Emanuel Lasker

Here on the Bristol Chess Times we have previously written about the often over looked Mary Rudge who could be considered the unofficial first womens’ world champion. Not many of her games survive but one of note is her adjourned victory against Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display in 1898.  Even in a simultaneous display, defeating the reigning men’s world champion in the 19th century was no mean feat. Lets take a look.

Before continuing if you are wondering “Who is Mary Rudge?” then I strongly recommend you read John Richard’s excellent thesis on her life and times as a pioneering female chess player in the 19th century.

Very little is known about this particular simul other than it was held in the Imperial Hotel but whether that is Bristol, London or elsewhere is unknown.  It is understood that Lasker was running out of time in general and a number of games went to adjournment. He graciously conceding defeat due to best play resulting in a win for black (modern computer analysis of the final adjourned position indeed shows a sizeable advantage to black of -3.23).

The combatants, Emanuel Lasker and Mary Rudge

With little more historical context available, lets look at how one of the finest female players of the 19th century handled the second world chess champion.

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The final position shows whites sacrificial play has come to nothing and as soon as blacks king gets safe, then the world champion is lost

So a calm defensive approach from Mary seals her a famous win against the second world chess champion.  At no point in the game does she really probe the world champions defences but she comes away with the full point through solid defence and tempting her romantic era opponent into some profoundly unsound sacrifices.  Indeed, one of the common observations of modern GM’s is their super defensive powers compared to their predecessors.  Its interesting to note how disruptive a good defender would have been in the 19th century when swash buckling sacrifices were the expectation of the day.

Our previous article on Mary Rudge was very warmly received so I am pleased to finally get an annotated game of hers on The Bristol Chess Times. I hope you enjoyed this historic game, especially if you are interested in the history and development of the womens’ game.


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

4 thoughts on “The Forgotten Lady Champion who defeated Emanuel Lasker”

  1. A very interesting and informative article. Claiming Lasker as being from the “Romantic era” though is stretch. Perhaps his attitude to simultaneous displays was a throwback to those days of “glorious sacrifice”, but the second world champion was claimed by no less than Nimzowitsch (in “My System” as a “Hypermodern”.

  2. Lasker was a very adaptable player for example in 1924 he played the Alekhine Defence and invented a set up against Reti when he was mowing don all and sundry with Nf3.A brilliant calculator . If this game is genuine and accurately recorded It looks here that he underestimated a female player and it is a surprisingly poor effort from Lasker while Rudge did little wrong after her passive opening.

  3. That game in 1924 was 26 years after this game. I wonder if his adaptability came over time. I don’t know about “underestimating a female player” but certainly the e6 push looks like it could be a fast blunder induced under simul conditions.

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