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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Boris Verlinsky
Moscow (1925)  ·  Queen Pawn Game: Stonewall Attack (D00)  ·  0-1
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Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <paladin at large: <keypusher> I never claimed that Capa's WC win over Lasker proved he was the better player. My point was that none of these various measures which get thrown out from time to time prove anything by themselves (e.g. Lasker finishing ahead of Capa in 4 tournaments, etc.).>

I agree with you too! I used to worry about whether Capablanca was better than Lasker or vice versa but eventually I decided I should forget about it and concentrate on <learning much from both of their styles> as Jimmy Buffett mght say.

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <FSR: <keypusher> It is 36.5 years, to be exact. First world #1: June 1890. Last world #1: December 1926!>

Incredible! Lasker has proved that even in his 50s, a chessplayer should be able to do well. The other World Champion that comes to mind is Botvinnik. So why does nearly every one else begin to significantly grow weaker in their 40s?

IMO, it's because both did not have significant medical problems in their middle age; and because both would take long breaks from chess, but not totally retire. The 'sabatticals' probably enabled them to avoid psychological burn-outs and fire up their fighting spirit and creativity. (There could be other explanations.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <visayanbraindoctor: <FSR: <keypusher> It is 36.5 years, to be exact. First world #1: June 1890. Last world #1: December 1926!>

Incredible! Lasker has proved that even in his 50s, a chessplayer should be able to do well.>

Well, you're the doctor. :-) I am reluctant to lay down rules of general applicability from such an outlier. But I think your suggestions for why Lasker and Botvinnik did well in (relative) old age make a lot of sense.

<Visayanbraindoctor> You may find this of interest:

<Length of time between first and last appearance at #1 at Chessmetrics:


22 yrs 1 month September 1982-October 2004


10 yrs. 5 months August 1974-January 1985 (but almost continuously #2 until 1997)


10 years four months Feb. 1964-July 1974


7 mos. January 1966-July 1966


3 years 8 mos. May 1961-January 1964


7 yrs 10 months October 1958-July 1966


6 years 8 mos. January 1952-September 1958


21 years 8 mos. September 1936-May 1958


1 year 10 mos. January 1936-November 1937


20 years 6 mos. January 1924-July 1944


23 years 2 mos. May 1914-July 1937


36 years 5 mos. June 1890-December 1926


23 years 8 mos. September 1866-May 1890



17 years 0 mos. July 1943-July 1960


5 years 11 mos. May 1908-April 1914


3 mos. September 1965-December 1965


2 years 5 mos. October 1904-March 1907


0 years 0 months


0 years 0 months


1 year 3 mos. Jan. 1903-April 1904>

A few comments: Spassky and Petrosian among the champs and Korchnoi among the non-champs suffer from playing in the same era as Fischer and Karpov. Karpov, in turn, suffers from playing in the same era as Kasparov!

As I already noted, Lasker's 36-year span puts him far in front of everyone in this category. But I find Kasparov's 22-year span almost as impressive, because unlike Lasker he played constantly and retained his #1 rank almost without interruption.

For the really great champs a 20-year span seems standard: Steinitz, Capa, Alekhine, Botvinnik and Kasparov are all around that figure. Again, Lasker is the great outlier. On the short side, Karpov is "punished" by Kasparov and Fischer is "punished" by, well, himself. If Fischer had kept playing, though, it's conceivable that Karpov would have been the #2 player in chess for 25 years! (Of course, lots of things are conceivable -- maybe he would have eventually gotten the better of Fischer and then be even harder for Kasparov to dethrone than he actually was).

Among the non-champs Keres' 17-year span is as much of an outlier than Lasker's 36 years among the champs. Now there are various caveats you can make about this, the main one being that the great champ of his era (Botvinnik) took long breaks from competition, unlike, say Kasparov or Alekhine. But still, Keres' span is certainly something to think about when listing the greatest non-champions.

I was as surprised as I expect anyone would be to find that Dr. Tarrasch never topped the list. The further back you go the less reliable chessmetrics rankings are, because there are fewer and fewer events. In this regard Hastings 1895 is epochal, because after that it seemed that there was usually at least one great international tournament a year. Before Hastings international tournaments seem to have been considerably less frequent. So there may have been some point between 1885 and 1895 when Tarrasch was #1. Certainly his fame was greater than Lasker's until 1894 at least. But maybe he really never was #1. In 1893 he drew a match with Chigorin, who had narrowly lost a couple of matches to Steinitz.

Jun-09-09  ughaibu: One of the interesting things is that all the players' months are numerals, except Fischer. Why's that then?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <ughaibu: One of the interesting things is that all the players' months are numerals, except Fischer. Why's that then?>

No doubt my subconscious was trying to extend Fischer's tenure by three characters.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Note that Tarrasch was #2 in 111 different months between 1890 and 1906, but could never surpass Lasker - In terms of longevity, Lasker's most amazing performance has to be Moscow 1935: undefeated at age 66, half a point behind co-winners Botvinnik and Flohr, half a point ahead of Capablanca, whom he beat nicely. Fine wrote that the papers rightly called Lasker's performance "a biological miracle."
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: I am reminded of this quote by Edward Lasker (Chess Secrets, p. 168):

"After this game Mieses good-naturedly offered me a bet that he would gain a higher place in the tournament than I. Like every other chess master whose age approaches the half century mark, he did not realize that twenty-five years is an almost impossible handicap to give another master who is anywhere near the same class. I accepted the bet and won it . . . ."

Emanuel Lasker gave Capablanca odds of 20 years, and finished ahead of him in tournaments in 1914, 1924, 1925, and 1935. Only in 1936, at age 67, did he falter. Lasker also did well against Alekhine (+3-1 in decisive games, as I recall). Against Euwe he was +3=0-0.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: Capa's weak opening play is almost as horrible and inexplicable as White's in Chigorin vs Janowski, 1895
Jan-22-10  JG27Pyth: Good lord the kibitzing on this game is absurd. No one seems to want to give credit to Verlinsky for playing magnificently here!
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <JG27Pyth: Good lord the kibitzing on this game is absurd. No one seems to want to give credit to Verlinsky for playing magnificently here!>

With 14...Bb5 Verlinsky could have trapped Capablanca's queen. If you have the White pieces and your queen is doomed after 14 moves, you have played horribly, no matter what your opponent has done.

I am amazed Capablanca was able to drag the game out so long, frankly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Among the non-champs Keres' 17-year span is as much of an outlier than Lasker's 36 years among the champs.>

I have corrected myself elsewhere, but Keres was never #1 on the chessmetrics list -- the 17 year gap was his first and last appearance as #2. Pretty stupid mistake on my part.

Jun-23-10  WhiteRook48: 14...Bb5 how does that trap the queen? all it seems to do is lose a piece
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Catfriend> Don't know if this fits in your collection -- Verlinsky missed 14...Bb5, trapping his great opponent's queen, then sacrificed his own!
Jun-25-10  WhiteRook48: oh i see it now.
Mar-06-12  Lambda: <In terms of longevity, Lasker's most amazing performance has to be Moscow 1935>

That wouldn't be the obvious choice if judging by Chessmetrics; it's a 2707 performance at the age of 66, while Korchnoi at Sarajevo 1998 has a 2761 performance at the age of 67. (Although of course he has many more "tries" at it.) The great age-outlying performance for Lasker would be New York 1924 with 2828 at the age of 55. I don't think there are any other 2800+ performances by anyone over 50.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Did Capa really give a simultaneous display the same day he played Verlinsky? I seem to recall reading somewhere that the day of the display he had been driven in a car for many hours. Does anybody know?
Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: Capablanca must have had a pretty bad day :-) Verlinsky, on the other hand, played a fine game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: <They more or less kissed and made up at Saint Petersburg 1914, but then that idiot Gavrilo Princip went and did something that postponed the match another 7 years.>

Apparently "the idiot" was not concerned with the prospect of Lasker-Capa match. Just how selfish can one be?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <maxi> In "The Unknown Capablanca", by David Hooper and Dale Brandreth, they tell of the simultaneous exhibition you are asking about.

<On a free day during the Moscow 1925 tournament Capablanca travelled all the way to Leningrad to give a display against thirty first-category players; after a gruelling five and a half hours of play he scored +18 -4 =8, and then he travelled back.>

The date of the exhibition was Nov. 20, 1925, and one of Capablanca's losses, was to fourteen year old M.Botvinnik.

The next day in the Moscow tournament, Capablanca lost to Verlinski.

According to one site I checked, the distance between Leningrad (Now St. Petersburg), and Moscow is 370 some miles by air, and 390 some miles by road or rail.

Hooper and Brandreth did not indicate Capablanca's mode of travel, but my guess it would have been by rail.

Even today, many trains take 7 or 8 hours to make this trip. Perhaps Capablanca took an over-night train, at least on his way to Leningrad, but even that was probably not too restful of a ride.

The long trip, gruelling display, and then disasterous loss to Verlinski, should have been a reminder to Capablanca, that even he was subject to the need for rest and preparation.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Dear <Pawn and Two>, thank you for the quotation. I don't have that book, but will try to get it. I don't know where I heard about the long journey. So he traveled for about 16 hours and played tough opponents for 5 1/2 hours. Some preparation for a tournament! But he could never figured it out, you know, he could never quite believe he was human. The realization, coming sometime near the end, must have been terrible and overwhelming. If it ever happened...
Mar-07-12  King Death: < Jonathan Sarfati: Capa's weak opening play is almost as horrible and inexplicable as White's in Chigorin vs Janowski, 1895>

This was the thought that went through my mind when playing this game out. Capa had a rare rough day.

Mar-07-12  Penguincw: Black just demolished white's queenside.
Apr-01-13  The Rocket: Capablanca- Greatest player of all time? Not quite...
Jul-25-13  Wyatt Gwyon: Capa was probably hungover in this game.
Jul-25-13  RookFile: Long tournament with a lot of tough guys. He was probably just tired. A guy like Rubinstein put up a minus score in this event - just one illustration of the strength of the field.
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