At first glance they are a pair of odd fellows. One’s bailiwick was the universe, the other an 8 by 8 board of indeterminate size with funny-looking icons distilled from human history.
We are talking of two very good friends, Albert Einstein and Emanuel Lasker: two Jewish guys born a decade apart in Germany and later coming to rest less than 70 miles apart in Northeast United States.
My God! What could they have in common? Physics and chess, the universe and crowded smoke-filled cafes?
In fact both did like tobacco. Albert the academician favored pipes, Emanuel the pugnacious games player (bridge as well as chess) wielded his cigar, sometimes subtlely and sometimes not so subtlely, as if he had an extra chess piece in hand.
Perhaps the combination of the two was not so strange: a physicist and a chess player.
Bobby Fischer, considered by many the greatest chess player of all time, was the legal son of one physicist, the biological son of another and the half-brother of a third.
What united Einstein and Lasker was the love for and pursuit of science.
Speaking for Lasker, Einstein describes that pursuit with his usual clarity: “His [Lasker’s] real interest, involved penetrating into science, in the beauty of its logical constructs, that everyone could appreciate once they had experienced it firsthand.”
Einstein’s province was the infinity of the physical universe; Lasker’s, the infinite universe of existential man as expressed particularly in the seemingly mundane parameters of a board game.
Below is a win by Etienne Bacrot against Alexander Morozevich from the Biel Grand master tournament in Biel, Switzerland.