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David Janowski vs Jose Raul Capablanca
New York (1924), New York, NY USA, rd 1, Mar-16
Queen's Gambit Declined: Orthodox Defense. Janowski Variation (D67)  ·  1/2-1/2


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  meloncio: First round in New York mythical tournament. I read that Janowski started to analyze the game, but Capa just went away, seemingly angry after draw a game with a weaker player.

Capablanca was a gentleman, and it's hard to believe this story. Moreover I also read he was sick (flu) during the first rounds. I think this would be the true reason of his behaviour.

Mar-26-04  Benjamin Lau: It's an explanation, but hardly an excuse. It's just plain lack of manners, much like during the ugly scenario between Kasparov and Radjabov a year ago, except that Kasparov always receives much more heat for his actions, probably owing to the fact that he is still alive, and unlike in the case of Capablanca, no one has decided to enshrine him with the myth of gentlemanliness. Never confuse the explanation of poor behavior with its justification. There is no more proof that Capablanca was a gentleman than any other person in his era.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: This is a fictious story. Steve Lopez wrote a kind of electronic novel about the tournament. See The "drama" was added by Lopez. Unfortunately, it is apparently becoming a source of bad rumors.
Mar-27-04  Benjamin Lau: Calli, I read your link but did not see how it proves that this is a fictitious story (and by "this," what exactly were you referring to? Capablanca's flu? Capablanca's anger at having drawn Janowski?) I've never heard melonico's story before, but if it is true, it is my opinion that Capablanca's behavior was inexcusable. It can be explained, but not justified.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: Go to round 1. Download the zip. Then look at the first HTML doc for the fictional narrative.
Premium Chessgames Member
  meloncio: About bad behaviours, I remember the match Petrosian-Hübner in 1971. It was celebrated in my hometown, Sevilla, when I was hardly a teenager. The newspapers said that, for our surprise, the communist Petrosian was a fair gentleman (remember we were still under Franco's dictatorship), and the German man from the "free world" was a bad-mannered and capricious guy.

<Calli> True or fiction, it's a wonderful site. Thanks.

Mar-27-04  waddayaplay: The story about Marshall being visited by the ghost of Steinitz (if you've heard about it) is probably also just a fiction tale from Lopez's novel.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: I think more pages used to be online. A few years ago I stumbled upon it and thought, wow, someone was at NY 1924 and we have a first person account. Pretty soon, though it was obvious that all these vignettes were just make-up stories the author was trying to weave into the tournament. The annotations are not insightful and then you have the problem of using real players names with fictitous accounts. Not fair to the actual players. I guess it is an interesting experiment, but not a success, IMHO.
Mar-28-04  Lawrence: <Calli>, some time ago when I saw what Steve Lopez had done I thought "Oh oh, that's dangerous, somebody's going to take these stories literally." Lots of fun for Steve to invent this stuff but he should put a disclaimer on every story pointing out that it's just the product of his fertile imagination.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <Benjamin Lau> <...and unlike in the case of Capablanca, no one has decided to enshrine him with the myth of gentlemanliness.>

Interesting. I read references to Capablanca's gentlemanliness before, and never occurred to me to wonder about their origin. Such a statement requires a definition of genlemanliness. For a chess player, I would define it as being gracious and keeping a courteous, respectful and dignified manner even in defeat. There are plenty of cases of GMs who appear to be "gentlemen" (by my definition)... until they lose.

Is there any record of Capablanca meeting my definition?

Kasparov certainly doesn't (for starters, his violation of the touch-move rule against Judith Polgar in Linares 1994 says it all. See discussion: Judit Polgar vs Kasparov, 1994). I don't know every detail of Fischer's life, but he might meet my definition. While he was a pain in the ass to deal with away from the board, he seems to have conducted himself in a gentlemanly way while at the board. See for example Unzicker vs Fischer, 1960, where he reportedly touched a pawn while Unzicker was away from the board and realized then it was a losing move. Yet, he sucked it up and moved it and lost. But, again, I don't know Fischer in much detail and I am open to refutation.

Nov-27-08  hrvyklly: <Fusilli> I'd forgotten about that Fischer story, thanks for reminding me. But one should aim to be a gentleman on and off the board, obviously enough, which discounts both Fischer and Kasparov. I think that Spassky could be considered a true gentleman. But like you, it would be nice to hear some 'proof' about the great Capa.
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Hi <hrvyklly>, long time, no see. Why do you assume Fischer was not gentlemanly at the board? I have never heard otherwise. His frequent petitions were not at the board, and his ramblings are from a later time.
Nov-27-08  ughaibu: "Bobby wiped pieces of the board, and bolted without first signing his resignation"

L Sanchez vs Pachman, 1959

Nov-27-08  ughaibu: In fact Fischer's @#$%*&!# at the board is well known, whistling Colonel Bogie when winning, wiping imaginary specks of dust from the opponent's side of the board during the opponent's thinking time. That's off the top of my head, and I'm not any manner of Fischer expert.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <maxi> I believe <hrvyklly> was not criticizing Fischer's behavior at the board, but off it (he was following up on my comment were I ventured that Fischer might qualify as a gentleman at the board). <ughaibu>'s post do dispute claims of Fischer's gentlemanliness at the board, though.

Speaking of this, I just read that Ivanchuk threw a fit after his last round game at the Olympiad: See Olympiad (2008). And to rescue the subsequent awkward situation came Spassky, nominated by <hrvyklly> as a true chess gentleman.

This said, I do hope someone will provide some evidence supporting the ubiquitous claim that Capablanca was a true gentleman at the board (suggested definition of this provided in my earlier post). I would like to believe it's true, but I wouldn't mind some evidence!

Nov-27-08  ughaibu: Fusilli: If you're sufficiently interested and can be bothered, there was an extended dispute about Fischer's gentlemanliness on his page from early September 2005.
Nov-27-08  ughaibu: Maybe it was November(?)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: Thanks <ughaibu>. I'll look that up.
Nov-27-08  ughaibu: "Fools jump in", it wasn't an episode reflecting great credit on any of the protagonists, including me.
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: I am not an expert on Fischer's bio, but the Sanchez episode was in 1959. Given that Fischer was born on March 9, 1943, he must have been about 15 at the time. So he was just being your average teenager.

Regarding Capa's gentlemanliness (if I may say so, I have studied Capa extensively), the best argument for him being a gentleman is this. He was very much in the public eye: in the players', the press', and even the ladies' eye. We have hundreds of reports about his games, displays, speeches (all short), etc., etc., and overwhelmingly they are all positive, glowing I would say. Believe me, we would know if he were not a gentleman.

May-16-16  Albion 1959: Capa gifted a draw here, since he must have known that Janowski would have to settle for a draw by accepting the knight sacrifice rather than play on a pawn down. did Capa have to play Nxf4 anyway?
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Albion 1959....did Capa have to play Nxf4 anyway?>

In my opinion, forcing the draw was the strongest practical decision; if Black lets his opponent settle, he can drift into a passive position with little hope of counterplay, a not atypical outcome in lines of the Classical QGD and the reason it fell from favour by the late 1920s.

May-26-16  edubueno: It is difficult to improve the black play, since it was the first round and most probably Janowsky was well prepared and phisically in conditions.
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