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Ossip Bernstein vs Jose Raul Capablanca
"Phi Beta Capa" (game of the day Nov-28-14)
Moscow (1914)  ·  Queen's Gambit Declined: Orthodox Defense. Main Line (D63)  ·  0-1
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jun-12-11  BobCrisp: Been meaning to get <The Unknown Capablanca> for a long time. Second hand copies are available for a few quid. The 1994 second edition is 'revised' (does that mean new material?) but, alas, it's still in standard notation.

Jun-12-11  JoergWalter: Capablanca in "My Chess Career" on his game against Bernstein in San Sebastian 1911:(after move 28.) "A careful analysis and proper comparison will show that this combination taken as a whole is one of the longest and most difficult ever played over the board. These were the reasons that prompted the Committee to award me the Rothschild brilliancy price." About his game against Bernstein in St. Petersburg 1914 (after 30.h3): "... Personally I do not think that this combination is of so difficult and high a character as the one I evolved at San Sebastian against the same Dr. Bernstein..."
Jun-12-11  JoergWalter: on his game against Berstein in Moscow 1914 (after move 25.): "Because I had first played R-B4, Dr. Berstein was lured into the fatal trap..." Capablanca did not take particular pride in this game according to his annotations. seemingly it is for him of the same category as his famous game against Winter, Hastings 1919. won by a trap that could have been avoided.
Nov-04-11  1stboard: I find it amazing that neither player provided a flight square for his king in this game.
Dec-17-11  ZeejDonnelly: Every time I revisit this gem, at black's 29th move, I hear a bomb going off somewhere.
Jan-18-12  LIFE Master AJ:

My annotations of this game.

Aug-28-12  MATTYMONKEES: 29...Qb2!! and 15...c4! are awesome moves, but my favorite move in this game is 17...Bb4!. The way that stroke turns the tables is really something.
Aug-28-12  DanielBryant: I believe White's 27th move is the only move that received a double question mark in the Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games (excepting variations).
Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: Reading through John Emms’s annotations on this game in <The Mammoth Book of The World’s Greatest Chess Games, (New Expanded Edition [2010])>, by Graham Burgess, Dr. John Nunn, and John Emms, Constable & Robinson Ltd. ©1998, 2004, 2010, at pp. 73 et seq., I was struck with a curious positional similarity between:

(1) Capablanca’s <15. … c4!> in this game (which Emms says is “[p]erhaps the most significant move of the game”, ibid.., at p. 75); and

(2) Emanuel Lasker’s <12. f5!> in Lasker vs Capablanca, 1914 (played at the St. Petersburg tournament a mere 3-1/2 months later).

Oct-27-13  LIFE Master AJ: My web page on this game:

My brand-new video:

Nov-28-14  thegoodanarchist: The position after move 27 would make a good Wed. or Thurs. puzzle!
Nov-28-14  thegoodanarchist: White's move 27, that is....
Premium Chessgames Member
  al wazir: 27...Rdc8 wins a piece or the exchange. After 27...Nxc3 28. Qe1, white only loses a piece, so the two moves are roughly equal.
Nov-28-14  morfishine: You don't mess around and try to out-combine Capablanca. White could've made things easier for himself by simply playing 15.Qxb6 axb6 16.a3 (freeing up his Queen Knight)

click for larger view

White can now form a plan contesting the central files and attacking Black's pawn mass with <Rfd1>

Nonetheless, a timeless game


Nov-28-14  goodevans: This pun has been used before. I remember having to google it last time.

I also remember thinking it was pretty lame and unoriginal the first time so now doubly so!

Nov-28-14  welhelm1982: Beginers luck hahaha
Nov-28-14  1d410: hahahaha funny ending
Premium Chessgames Member
  eternaloptimist: I'm surprised that a high caliber player like Bernstein neglected protecting his back rank.
Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Well, he thought of 29..... Qb1+ 30. Qf1 Rd1? 31. Rc8+, and he's the one exploiting the back rank. I guess that ...Qb2 is one of those moves, either you see it or you don't. Nothing major, just the fate of the entire game rests on that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: A great classic, punctuated by that final move. One of the greatest in history!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <RookFile: Well, he thought of 29..... Qb1+ 30. Qf1 Rd1? 31. Rc8+, and he's the one exploiting the back rank. I guess that ...Qb2 is one of those moves, either you see it or you don't.>

You are right. Bernstein must have expected 29... Qb1+ after a series of tactical captures. Most chess players (including me) would. After all it is a check on the back rank, a move every chess player would think about. Then Capablanca, the machine that saw everything, floors him with a mouse slip Qb2.

We all have seen GMs miss these 'little' tactical shots in the internet live. But this young Capablanca literally saw everything, every tactic (and positional subtlety) in all positions, no matter how weird the move and how bizarre the position. It's one of the rarest things I have ever seen upon perusal of chess games, and a phenomenon I have seen approximated only in the 1969 to 1972 Fischer. As Euwe noted, the prime Capablanca's combinations are always correct.

Here are some Capa games that demonstrate this rare all seeing chess eye.

Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1927

20. Rb1 Qe5 21. g3 Qd5 22. b4 Bf8 23. Bb2 Qa2 (Who would believe that the a2 square as a point to attack in move 20?)

Capablanca vs Marshall, 1909

Who could have seen 26. Re3!! from move 23?

Capablanca vs Euwe, 1931

The move 19. Qb1!! from perhaps half a dozen moves back.

Marshall vs Capablanca, 1909

28... Be4! from three moves back must have been difficult to see. There was a better continuation as Capablanca notes, but moves such as these highlight Capa's ability to see weird tactical shots.

Tartakower vs Capablanca, 1924

9. Bb8 Nd5! is a kind of zwichenzug tactical shot that many chess players routinely miss, but that the prime Capablanca never did.

When the masters of his time tried to outcombine Capablanca, they had better be sure that their combinations were utterly correct, because the Cuban chess machine had already figured it out even before they embarked on the combination.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <Excellent! I will still be in time for the ballet! - (upon defeating Ossip Bernstein in the famous 29 move exhibition game played in Moscow in 1914, and before setting off to the Bolshoi Theatre by horse-drawn carriage) > - Capablanca.
Premium Chessgames Member
  1 2 3 4: probably the best game ever played between masters
Mar-24-15  sls: 22. Rxc4? Nc3!
Premium Chessgames Member
  chazsmiley: The final position in the game is the very first position in Lev Alburt's Chess Training pocket book, interestingly enough.
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