Hannak and Winter // Janowski and Lasker

I have a very limited library of chess books, one of which is <“Emanuel Lasker: The Life of a Chess Master”> by Dr. J. Hannak (Dover 1991 0486267067).

I assume it is familiar to the Lasker experts, as it seems to hold an unique position as biography of the master.

The origins of the Dover edition:

unabridged reproduction of 1959 English language edition first published by Andre Deutsch Ltd., London and Simon & Schuster, NY. (tr. Heinrich Fraenkel)

That in turn comes from the German language edition published by Siegfried Engelhardt Verlag, Berlin-Frohnau, in 1952 under the title of <“Emanuel Lasker, Biographie eines Schachweltmeisters”.>

Included in my edition is a reproduction of Lasker’s tournament record which was printed in the back of the dust jacket in the Simon & Schuster edition.

This lists the following Janowski matches:

1909 Janowski-Lasker (+2 -2 =0)
1909 Janowski-Lasker (+7 -1 =2)
1910 Janowski-Lasker (+8 -0 =3)

<Chapter 19 “Narrow Escape in the Schlechter Match”> begins with Lasker in Paris. It mentions a wealthy French ‘patron’ of chess, Pierre Nardus as a backer of Janowski who was willing to finance a four game mini-match which, if all went well, would be a preliminary to <“a proper match for the title”>.

The Dover edition of the book explicitly refers to the match as a <“title”> match, and later uses this phrase:

“Now the <‘big’> match was organized; […] The result: 7:1, and two draws.”

Then, in reference to the next encounter this phrase is used:

“A couple of years later Janowski was to get another chance against Lasker, and this time he was defeated even more convincingly by 8:0 and three draws.”

What is notable is the absence of this other “chance” being for the title.

Reading the above excerpts (or the actual beginning paragraphs of the chapter) would led one to think that the 1909 Janowski-Lasker match was for the title. Agreed?

Now, it is a little difficult to find out much online about who Dr. J. Hannak is, but I believe the book is a well-respected biography of Lasker. It certain gets good reviews on Amazon.

And Winter himself refers to it, mostly in connection with the preface Einstein wrote:


Winter makes this further comment about the book:

“Since many parts of Hannak’s book read like a novelette, it may reasonably be felt that something more substantial is required before Lasker is mocked.”

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/… (CN 3662)

When it suits Winter, however, he quotes from the book. Sometimes as in CN 5076:


asking what is the source of Lasker’s purported last words.

I would assume Hannak was quoting from Lasker’s wife Martha, for who else could be the source? And as Hannak quotes extensively from her private diary (e.g. about her first impressions upon meeting Emanuel) – it’s a safe assumption that Hannak has such access (note I admit to making an assumption here – but Winter should point out this too, even if not making such an assumption).

Other times, Winter quotes from Hannak as here, in CN 4451:


where Winter is trusting the information as being true, and asking for elaboration.

(There is yet another CN referring to a Lasker quote about the game “go”, which apparently is in the German edition but not the English).

* * * * *

The point though, is that after all these references, Winter never refers Jannak’s treatment of the 1909 Janowski-Lasker Match. This, despite noting so many other sources claiming a similar significance to the 1909 (i.e. for championship) in Winter’s treatment of the match:

P. Morán (Barcelona, 1974 and London, 1986), J.H. Gelo (Jefferson, 1988 and 1999)

C. Ştefaniu (Bucharest, 1989) and D. Odom (Johanneshov, 1993)

World Chess Championship Matches edited by I. Berdichevsky (Moscow, 2002).



Which I find curious – given that Hannak book may be the very source of some of the confusion about the significance of the 1909 ‘big’ match.

(Hannak’s book clearly predates the July ’85 BCM treatment Winter refers to as “proof of the negative”.)



I did another search and found this overall assessment by Winters of Hannak:


We have just been re-reading Emanuel Lasker, The Life of a Chess Master by J. Hannak (London, 1959), ‘translated’ into English by Heinrich Fraenkel, an unreliable work.

To justify our remark, we take as an example a single page (page 27):

a) misspelling ‘concurrant’.

b) ‘Samuel Hoffer, Chess Editor of The Field …’ Leopold would be correct. (Translator’s mistake.)

c) (At Amsterdam, 1889, Lasker … ) ‘lost the decisive game against the British master Burn.’ Not so. In fact, Lasker never lost to Burn.

d) ‘For the first time in his life Lasker crossed the German border and got the thrill and experience of being abroad in a foreign land.’ (So much more thrilling than being abroad at home …)

e) ‘Nor was he to fare any better when, early in 1890, he went to compete in a small Austrian tournament at Graz.’ ‘Late in 1890’ would be more exact since the event took place in September.

f) ‘True, he didn’t lose a game.’ Untrue, he did.

Not bad for one page.

Allow me to do an assessment of Winter’s assessment:

1) “We”? Who, my dear Mr. Winter’s is the “We” to which this refers? And how can “We” all read a book at once?

2) A misspelling may not be a reflection of an author’s ability, it may perhaps just reflect on their lack of a spellchecker. Or a lazy editor, or even perchance a typesetting mistake. And actually author is incorrect here, translator would be more apropos.

3) Leopold can also, perchance, be a surname, see http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Leopold. It is best to be exactingly correct whilst correcting, so, if Leopold is correct, wouldn’t Leopold Hoffer be more correct still?

4) To contest this point of fact is to risk getting burned, as the 1889 game Lasker-Burn in my database is indeed scored as a short 15 move draw. Perhaps this point is best skipped over. Or should “we” say conceded? Still, one wonders what sources Hannak was using?

5) Given the construction of German syntax, the thrill might indeed be placed at the end of the journey rather the beginning. In other words, one wonders if this was a translation mistake? Of course the real sin here is writing the prose as if the writer actually knew the emotions Lasker experienced, either coming or going. But such are the demands of writing a narrative, rather than a critique.

6) Similarly, one wonders if this isn’t a translation ambiguity.

7) Perhaps discretion is the better part of valor, and so I defer to Mr. Winter in matters of substance. But I do wonder of the research tools available in a Europe seven years removed from the end of WWII?

I had a little fun turning the tables, and hope the humor in the jest is apparent. Of course, there’s always a little measure of truth in every good joke.

Update to the Update:

Prompted by curiosity, I looked a little closer for a hint as to the sources Hannak may have used to write his book. Lacking a bibliography, or even an index (is this true of the German editon?), it is not obvious – but there is some mention of using games from the Whyld-Gilchrist collection. Perhaps the factual errors pointed out by Mr. Winter are contained therein? Here’s the World Cat ref:


In the end though, I find the errors in fact troubling, and much appreciated Mr. Winter publication pointing them out. My re-reading of Hannak will be with increased scrutiny, and, alas, diminished enjoyment.


[Update – Hannak information]

Premium Chessgames Member
zanzibar: Following up my own post – finding information about Dr. J. Hannak seems to be rather harder than one might expect given how often his biography of Lasker is cited.The most extensive information I found was on a webpage devoted to the spelling of Nimzowitsch’s name(!):


It contains the following biographical information on Hannak in a footnote (a footnote to a footnote!):

<[1] Hannak, Jacques,

b. Vienna, March 12, 1892,
d. Vienna, Nov. 14, 1973,

socialist author, journalist (“Arbeit und Wirtschaft”, after 1946 “Arbeiterzeitung”), in 1938/39 interned in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, 1939 emigrated to Belgium and France, 1941 to the USA where he was employed by the Office of War Information (radio broadcasting department). In 1946 return to Vienna.

(Encyclopaedia of Austria).

Dr. Hannak is above all known for his comprehensive biography Emanuel Lasker – Biographie eines Schachweltmeisters (Berlin 1952), which also contains interesting information of other players of the time, among other things an account of the tragic relationship between Lasker and Aljechin during the Nazi period, which led up to a series of articles in 1941 in “Deutsche Schachzeitung”, in which Aljechin described Lasker’s game as a typical example of “Jewish decadence”.>

I was also able to find a tournament book he did:

Semmering-Baden 1937. Sammlung sämtlicher Partien des Turniers mit einem einleitenden Aufsatz

Hannak - Semmering-Baden 1937http://www.chesscollectorshop.com/e… (beware- the following links may be stale – that’s life on the internet)


(Semmering-Baden 1937. Collection of all games of the tournament with an introductory essay)



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