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  WCC Overview
 José Raúl Capablanca
Lasker vs Capablanca 1921

Jose Raul Capablanca was regarded as a chess prodigy,[1] yet his father wanted him to maintain the "even tenor of the average boy's way in his youth."[2] Capablanca moved to the USA in 1904 to complete his education. However, he left Columbia University in 1910 without a degree and pursued a career in chess.[3] His first international success was his clear win (+8 -1 =14) over the former world championship challenger in Capablanca-Marshall (1909). After that, he was considered a worthy contender for the title of world champion,[1] and reigning champion Emanuel Lasker commented "Capablanca has shown himself to be a great player."[4]

Capablanca's admirers had suggested a title challenge as early as 1908.[5] Even prior to his first European tournament, León Paredes had suggested to Lasker that he play a match with Capablanca,[6] but Lasker declined.[7] Capablanca himself remained cautious.[5] The hype surrounding Capablanca made Lasker admit that the subject got "on his nerves."[8] Capablanca made his international tournament debut at San Sebastian (1911). He unexpectedly won 1st prize, a result even he hadn't anticipated.[9] About seven months after this success, he challenged Lasker to a title match.[10]

Lasker published the proposed conditions,[11] but Capablanca replied in a private letter that they were unacceptable.[12] After Lasker had published a commentary on the conditions in the press,[13] Capablanca issued a statement to him asking "But why should he not play me on the same terms that he has granted to all other aspirants for his title?"[14] Lasker replied to Capablanca's first letter, complaining that the Cuban wanted to impose his own rules on him and called for Walter Penn Shipley to act as arbiter.[15] Both Amos Burn[16] and the British Chess Magazine[17] sided with Capablanca, since the proposed conditions were obviously in favor of Lasker. The world champion accused Capablanca of having "aimed a deliberate blow against my professional honor,"[18] and when Shipley did not side with him, Lasker broke off the negotiations.[19] Most people considered Lasker's treatment of Capablanca to be unjust.[20] The Cuban would later assess Lasker's chances in a title match in 1911 to "have been excellent."[21]

Akiba Rubinstein challenged Lasker for the title in August 1912 and after negotiations, the match was scheduled for the fall of 1914.[22] The outbreak of World War I led to the cancellation of the match. Capablanca suggested a world championship tournament[23] and hoped for a match in 1915.[24] During St. Petersburg (1914), won by Lasker ahead of his former challenger, Capablanca drew up a new set of rules for the world championship.[25]

After the war, Capablanca considered himself, Lasker and Rubinstein to be the strongest players.[25] Capablanca began negotiations with Lasker in January 1920,[26] and published My Chess Career to convince the public of his right to a challenge.[27] Yet Rubinstein still had a contract and felt left out. He proposed an official body to administer the world championship, and suggested a triangular tournament as a compromise to determine the champion. But Rubinstein had lost his basis of financial support in post-war Europe,[28] and Capablanca was left as Lasker's chief rival. Capablanca declared that, should he win the title, he would accept a challenge from Rubinstein.[25]

On January 23, 1920 Lasker and Capablanca agreed to a title match to begin no earlier than 1921.[26] In June, Lasker suddenly resigned, declaring Capablanca the new world champion.[29] The Cuban didn't want to become champion that way,[30] so he managed to convince Lasker to play a match. Lasker agreed, although he insisted on being regarded as the challenger.[31] The match was held in Havana from March 15 to April 27, 1921.[32] The winner would be the first to 8 points, draws not counting. If neither player reached that goal, the one with more points after 24 games would win. There would be five play days a week, with one session of play lasting 4 hours. The time limit was 15 moves per hour, and the referee was Alberto Ponce. Lasker would receive $11,000 and Capablanca $9,000 of the $20,000 purse. An additional $5,000 was donated after five games had been completed, with $3,000 going to the winner and $2,000 to the loser.[33] After his win in game 14, with the score now +4 -0 =10 in the Cuban's favor, Lasker gave up and Capablanca was declared the new world champion.[32]

How Capablanca Became World Champion, Edward Winter (2004)
Lasker on the 1921 World Championship Match, Edward Winter
Capablanca's Reply to Lasker, Edward Winter.

click on a game number to replay game 1234567891011121314

FINAL SCORE:  Capablanca 9;  Lasker 5
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Lasker-Capablanca 1921]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #10     Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921     0-1
    · Game #11     Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921     1-0
    · Game #5     Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921     1-0


  1. Wiener Schachzeitung August 1909, pp.236-239. In ANNO / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
  2. J R Capablanca, Munsey's Magazine October 1916, pp.94-96. In Edward G Winter, "Capablanca: a compendium of games, notes, articles, correspondence, illustrations and other rare materials on the Cuban chess genius José Raúl Capablanca, 1888-1942 (McFarland 1989), p.2
  3. Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.10-12
  4. Emanuel Lasker, The Evening Post. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.17
  5. Edward Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.55
  6. L Paredes (President of the Havana Chess Club) Crónica de Ajedrez May 1911, p.12. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.33
  7. Emanuel Lasker, New York Evening Post 15 March 1911. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.33
  8. American Chess Bulletin April 1910, p.88. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.32
  9. Olga Capablanca, Chessworld May-June 1964, pp.20-37. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.32
  10. Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.56
  11. Emanuel Lasker, The Evening Post 22 November 1911. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.56-57
  12. Winter, Capablanca (McFarland, 1989), pp.57-59
  13. Emanuel Lasker, The Evening Post. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.59-61
  14. American Chess Bulletin February 1912, p.31. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.61-62
  15. Emanuel Lasker, The Evening Post 20 January 1912. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.62
  16. A Burn, Liverpool Courier 19 January 1912, p.3. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.63
  17. British Chess Magazine, February 1912, pp.51-52. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.63
  18. Emanuel Lasker in a letter to Shipley, 20 February 1912. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.64
  19. Emanuel Lasker, The Evening Post 15 May 1912. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.64-65
  20. Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.66
  21. J R Capablanca, The Windsor Magazine December 1922, pp.86-89. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.4-8
  22. John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev, The Life & Games of Akiva Rubinstein - Volume 1: Uncrowned King, 2nd edition (Russell Enterprises 2006), pp.290-295
  23. American Chess Bulletin July 1912, p.147. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.65-66
  24. Glasgow Weekly Herald, 10 October 1914. In Edward Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.83
  25. The Observer, 24 August 1919, p.9. In Winter, Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.97-98
  26. American Chess Bulletin March 1920, pp.45-46. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.108-109
  27. Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.105
  28. Donaldson and Minev, pp.370
  29. American Chess Bulletin July-August 1920, p.126. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.109
  30. British Chess Magazine October 1922, pp.376-380. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), pp.112-115
  31. American Chess Bulletin September-October 1920, p.141. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.110
  32. Edward Winter, How Capablanca Became World Champion 2004
  33. The World's Championship Chess Match Played at Havana between Jose Raul Capablanca and Dr. Emanuel Lasker 1921 (New York 1921), p.39. In Winter, Capablanca (McFarland 1989), p.111

 page 1 of 1; 14 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Capablanca vs Lasker ½-½501921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
2. Lasker vs Capablanca ½-½411921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
3. Capablanca vs Lasker ½-½631921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchC66 Ruy Lopez
4. Lasker vs Capablanca ½-½301921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD61 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack
5. Capablanca vs Lasker 1-0461921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
6. Lasker vs Capablanca ½-½431921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchC66 Ruy Lopez
7. Capablanca vs Lasker ½-½231921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
8. Lasker vs Capablanca ½-½301921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD12 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
9. Capablanca vs Lasker ½-½211921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD33 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
10. Lasker vs Capablanca 0-1681921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD61 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack
11. Capablanca vs Lasker 1-0481921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
12. Lasker vs Capablanca ½-½311921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchC66 Ruy Lopez
13. Capablanca vs Lasker ½-½231921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchD63 Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense
14. Lasker vs Capablanca 0-1561921Lasker - Capablanca World Championship MatchC66 Ruy Lopez
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 5 OF 5 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Dec-14-13  RedShield: <World Champion Lasker was a very clever man! He avoided The great Rubinstein>
Mar-02-14  Karpova: Dr. Lasker (Berlin, September 14, 1911) reported that Capablanca, after having returned from Buenos Aires, brings the news that the Chess Club there would like to arrange a World Championship match between him and Capablanca in the next year. But Lasker assesses the chances as being low, as there were too many difficulties for such an event. Especially a match in a Spanish-speaking country would mean that the audience would cheer for Capablanca, so the advantage of choosing the playing venue would be on the challenger's, not the title holder's side. This would certainly be strong favouritism for a just 23-year old, young man, of whom the World knows the good sides, but finally does not know him good enough yet.

The original:

<Inzwischen ist Capablanca von Buenos Aires zurückgekehrt und bringt von dort die Nachricht, daß der Klub im nächsten Jahre ein Match um die Weltmeisterschaft arrangieren möchte zwischen dem jungen Kubaner und mir. Vermutlich wird nichts daraus werden, denn der Schwierigkeiten, die sich einem solchen Unternehmen entgegenstellen, sind zu viele. Findet der Kampf in einem Spanisch sprechenden Teile der Erde statt, so würden nationale Sympathien aufs kräftigste für Capablanca sein. Der die Weltmeisterschaft Begehrende hätte also in diesem Falle den Vorteil der Wahl der Umgebung des Kampfes, nicht der den Titel Haltende. Das wäre zweifellos eine starke Begünstigung für einen erst dreiundzwanzigjährigen jungen Mann, den die Welt zwar schon von guten Seiten, aber schließlich doch noch nicht genau genug kennt.>

Source: 'Pester Lloyd', 1911.09.17, page 10

Mar-02-14  devere: <YvccChamp: World Champion Lasker was a very clever man! However, He avoided The great Rubinstein>

The Lasker vs Rubinstein match was scheduled for October 1914, and was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War 1. Lasker was a citizen of Germany, and Rubinstein of Russia, and the two nations were at war. It is really not fair to blame Lasker for this. After the war Rubinstein could no longer raise the money to challenge either Lasker or Capablanca.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Quote from <Championship Chess>, p 45 by Philip W Sergeant:

<After winning at Breslau (18th DSB Kongress (1912)) Rubinstein went to Berlin in the hope of arranging a match with Lasker, and negotiations only proceeded slowly on account of the necessity of finding sufficient financial backing. Rubinstein was unfortunately not a man with the commanding personality that compels others to support with their money his efforts to secure his due. Nevertheless, it was at last agreed that a match of 20 games should be contested early in 1914, which it was left for various clubs for Germany, Poland, and Russia proper to finance.>

Mar-05-14  Karpova: This world championship match has a new intro.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <YvccChamp>,<devere> <After the war Rubinstein could no longer raise the money to challenge either Lasker or Capablanca.>

Which was the exact same reason Capablanca was not able to challenge Alekhine. So I find it hard to agree that Capablanca was more open to challenges from worthy opponents than Alekhine was.

Mar-05-14  RedShield: <Which was the exact same reason Capablanca was not able to challenge Alekhine>

Which war?

Mar-05-14  john barleycorn: <RedShield: <Which was the exact same reason Capablanca was not able to challenge Alekhine>

Which war?>

the other one.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <RedShield>
OK, it was not the <exact> same reason - in fact Capablanca had it easier than Rubinstein did.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: "<BEGIN 10 MARCH>". The telegram from Lasker that showed that the match was finally on!
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: The first WC match for eleven years. Not Lasker's fault. Superpowers were at work.
Mar-10-15  Petrosianic: Well, not entirely his fault at least. The bustup of the 1912 Capa-Lasker negotiations were largely his fault. And of course in 1920, he'd tried to simply hand the title over to Capa without a match. So he wasn't exactly raring to go.
Mar-25-15  RBeneke: Was game 5 (Capablanca - Lasker World Championship Match - 1921) not suppose to be a draw because of threefold repetition of a position? 34... h5 [position 1] 35. Qd8 Kg7 36. Qg5 Kf8 [position 2] 37. Qd8 Kg7 38. Qg5 Kf8 [position 3]
Premium Chessgames Member


Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921

<Gypsy> explained the "3 fold draw" mystery on the game page:

<Gypsy: < ounos: Wow. Lasker should have claimed the draw immediately after 38. ...Kf8 ! Amazing he didn't. > Back then repetition draws were based on 3-fold duplication of moves, not of positions. Capablanca repeated only twice.

(Move is a <pair> of consecutive positions.)>

Mar-25-15  Olavi: The history of the 3-fold rule is quite unclear.

Premium Chessgames Member

<Olavi> Fascinating- thanks for posting the Edward Winter link on the topic.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <In his match against Lasker, Capablanca often got up and danced between moves, said Alberto Fernandez, 75, a Cuban native now living in Miami, who in 1966 was host to Fischer during the American chess great's three-day visit to the town of Cienfuegos, Cuba.>

No wonder Lasker abandoned the match!

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: There were 9 games to go in this match when Lasker resigned.

What are people's opinions on how Lasker would have done in those 9 games, if the match had continued?

I am a huge Lasker fan but I think that he was off-form in this match. All I can envision is a rather catastrophic end: 3 more losses in the 9 games!

I think that if Lasker became sulky, then he might have lost 4 games quickly and ended the match before its allotted 24 game maximum.

(The rules were: first to win 8 games, or at the end of 24 games the man winning on points.)

I don't think Lasker was happy in Havana at all. He was in a bad place, mentally and emotionally. He was in a dark place after World War 1. He needed positive reinforcement and we, as a society, let him and ourselves down.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: air conditioning had yet to be invented. Could have changed everything.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <HeMateMe: air conditioning had yet to be invented. Could have changed everything.>

Air-conditioning had not reached Denver by 1971.

Apr-29-16  Howard: Surely you jest about Denver and 1971 ! Air conditioning was no doubt quite abundant at the time---including the playing hall where the famous match between Larsen and whats-his-name.
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: They probably had A/C in the playing hall. Bent was probably staying in a fleabag or hostel with no a/c.
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: Keeping Lasker out of the win column is a very impressive feat.
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: <Howard: Surely you jest about Denver and 1971 !>

I think he means that it was sent by mail, but the US Postal Service had not delivered it yet.

Sep-05-17  Arconax: When you wrote A/C I thought you meant electricity, but that made even less sense.
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