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Jose Raul Capablanca
Number of games in database: 821
Years covered: 1893 to 1940
Overall record: +377 -47 =265 (73.9%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games
      Based on games in the database; may be incomplete.
      132 exhibition games, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (69) 
    C66 C88 C83 C62 C63
 Orthodox Defense (58) 
    D63 D51 D52 D64 D61
 Queen's Gambit Declined (45) 
    D30 D37 D31 D38
 Queen's Pawn Game (32) 
    D02 D00 D05 D04 A50
 French Defense (28) 
    C12 C01 C11 C14 C00
 Nimzo Indian (22) 
    E34 E38 E22 E33 E35
With the Black pieces:
 Orthodox Defense (52) 
    D67 D53 D64 D63 D51
 Ruy Lopez (45) 
    C66 C77 C73 C88 C72
 Queen's Pawn Game (37) 
    A46 D02 D00 D05 E10
 Nimzo Indian (18) 
    E24 E34 E23 E40 E37
 Queen's Indian (17) 
    E16 E12 E15 E18
 Slav (17) 
    D19 D17 D12 D15 D10
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924 1-0
   Capablanca vs Marshall, 1918 1-0
   O Bernstein vs Capablanca, 1914 0-1
   Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1927 0-1
   Capablanca vs K Treybal, 1929 1-0
   Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921 0-1
   Capablanca vs M Fonaroff, 1918 1-0
   Capablanca vs J Corzo, 1901 1-0
   Capablanca vs NN, 1918 1-0
   Janowski vs Capablanca, 1916 0-1

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Lasker - Capablanca World Championship Match (1921)
   Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship Match (1927)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Capablanca - Marshall (1909)
   New York (1918)
   New York Masters (1915)
   American National (1913)
   London (1922)
   Hastings (1919)
   Rice Memorial (1916)
   New York (1927)
   Moscow (1936)
   Havana (1913)
   St Petersburg (1914)
   New York Masters (1911)
   New York (1924)
   Karlsbad (1929)
   Moscow (1925)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Capablanca! by chocobonbon
   Match Capablanca! by amadeus
   Jose Raul Capablanca's Best Games by KingG
   Delicatessen by Gottschalk
   "The Immortal Games of Capablanca" by Reinfeld by mjk
   capablanca best games by brager
   Capablanca´s Official Games (1901-1939) Part I by capablancakarpov
   Capablanca's Best Chess Endings by refutor
   Capablanca's Best Chess Endings (Irving Chernev) by nightgaunts
   Chess World Champion Nr. 3: Capablanca by Olanovich
   Capablanca vs the World Champions Decisive Games by visayanbraindoctor
   Guess-the-Move Chess: 1920-1939 (Part 2) by Anatoly21
   Ruylopez's favorite games by Ruylopez
   On the shoulders of giants by ughaibu

   Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921
   Lasker vs Schlechter, 1910
   Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921
   Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921
   Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1913

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(born Nov-19-1888, died Mar-08-1942, 53 years old) Cuba

[what is this?]
José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera was the third World Champion, reigning from 1921 until 1927. Renowned for the simplicity of his play, his legendary endgame prowess, accuracy, and the speed of his play, he earned the nickname of the "Human Chess Machine".


Capablanca, the second son of a Spanish Army officer, was born in Havana. He learned to play at an early age by watching his father and defeated Cuban Champion Juan Corzo in an informal match in 1901 by 6.5-5.5 (+4 −3 =5), turning 13 years of age during the match. Despite this and despite taking 4th place in the first Cuban Championship in 1902, he did not focus on chess until 1908 when he left Columbia University where he had enrolled to study chemical engineering and play baseball. He did, however, join the Manhattan Chess Club in 1905, soon establishing his dominance in rapid chess. He won a rapid chess tournament in 1906 ahead of the World Champion Emanuel Lasker, and played many informal games against him. Within a year or two of dropping out of university and after playing simultaneous exhibitions in dozens of US cities, winning over 95% of his games, Capablanca had established himself as one of the top players in the world, especially after the Capablanca - Marshall (1909) New York match exhibition win 15-8 (+8 -1 =14).


Capablanca won the 1910 New York State Championship by defeating co-leader Charles Jaffe in a tiebreaker match. In 1911, he placed second in the National Tournament in New York, with 9½ out of 12, half a point behind Marshall, and half a point ahead of Jaffe and Oscar Chajes. There followed Capablanca’s ground breaking win at San Sebastian (1911) with 9.5/14 (+6 -1 =7), ahead of Akiba Rubinstein and Milan Vidmar on 9, Marshall on 8.5, and other luminaries such as Carl Schlechter , Siegbert Tarrasch and Ossip Bernstein. Before the tournament, Aron Nimzowitsch protested the unknown Capablanca’s involvement in the event, but the latter demonstrated his credentials by defeating Nimzowitsch in in their game. Winning at San Sebastian was only the second time a player had won a major tournament at his first attempt since Harry Nelson Pillsbury ’s triumph at Hastings in 1895, and it provided a powerful boost to his credibility to challenge for the world title. He did so, but the match did not take place for another 10 years.

In early 1913, Capablanca won a tournament in New York with 11/13 (+10 -1 =2), half a point ahead of Marshall. Capablanca then finished second with 10/14 (+8 -2 =4), a half point behind Marshall in Havana, losing one of their individual games, rumour having it that he asked the mayor to clear the room so that no-one would see him resign. Returning to New York, Capablanca won all thirteen games at the New York tournament of 1913, played at the Rice Chess Club. 1914 saw the <"tournament of champions"> played at St. Petersburg. Capablanca, with 13/18 (+10 -2 =6), came second behind Lasker and well ahead of Alexander Alekhine on 10, Tarrasch on 8.5 and Marshall on 8.

After the outbreak of World War I, Capablanca stayed in New York and won tournaments held there in 1915 (13/14 (+12 -0 =2)), 1916 (14/17 (+12 -1 =4)) and 1918 (10.5/12 (+9 =3)). During the New York 1918 tournament, Marshall played his prepared Marshall Attack of the Ruy Lopez* against Capablanca, but Capablanca worked his way through the complications and won. Soon after the war, Capablanca crossed the Atlantic to decisively win the Hastings Victory tournament 1919 with 10.5/11, a point ahead of Borislav Kostic.

Capablanca did not play another tournament until 1922, the year after he won the title from Lasker. During his reign, he won London 1922 with 13/15 (no losses), 1.5 points ahead of Alekhine; placed second behind Lasker at New York 1924 (suffering his first loss in eight years – to Richard Reti – since his 1916 lost to Oscar Chajes); placed 3rd at Moscow in 1925 behind Efim Bogoljubov and Lasker respectively with +9 =9 -2; won at Lake Hopatcong (New York) 1926 with 6/8 (+4 =4), a point ahead of Abraham Kupchik; and won at New York in 1927 with 14/20 (+10 -1 =9), 2.5 points clear of Alekhine, his last tournament before his title match with Alekhine. During the latter tournament, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rudolf Spielmann, Milan Vidmar, Nimzowitsch and Marshall played a quadruple round robin, wherein Capablanca finished undefeated, winning the mini-matches with each of his rivals, 2½ points ahead of second-placed Alekhine, and won the "best game" prize for a win over Spielmann. This result, plus the fact that Alekhine had never defeated him in a game, made him a strong favourite to retain his title in the upcoming match against Alekhine. However, Alekhine's superior preparation prevailed against Capablanca's native talent.

After losing the title, Capablanca settled in Paris and engaged in a flurry of tournament competition aimed at improving his chances for a rematch with Alekhine. However the latter dodged him, refusing to finalise negotiations for a rematch, boycotting events that included Capablanca, and insisting that Capablanca not be invited to tournaments in which he participated. In 1928, Capablanca won at Budapest with 7/9 (+5 =4), a point ahead of Marshall, and at Berlin with 8.5/12 (+5 =7), 1.5 points ahead of Nimzowitsch; he also came second at Bad Kissingen with 7/11 (+4 -1 =6), after Bogoljubov. In 1929, Capablanca won at Ramsgate with 5.5/7 (+4 =3) ahead of Vera Menchik and Rubinstein, at Budapest with 10.5/13 (+8 =5), and at Barcelona with 13.5/14, two points clear of Savielly Tartakower; he also came equal second with Spielmann and behind Nimzowitsch at Carlsbad with 14.5/21 (+10 -2 =9). He won at the 1929-30 Hastings tournament and came second at Hastings in 1930-31, behind Max Euwe, his only loss being to Mir Sultan Khan. Several months later he won New York for the last time, this time with a score of 10/11 (+9 =2) ahead of Isaac Kashdan.

Perhaps discouraged by his inability to secure a rematch with Alekhine, there followed a hiatus for over three years before he reentered the fray with a fourth placing at Hastings in 1934-35 with 5.5/9 (+4 -2 =3), behind Sir George Alan Thomas, Euwe and Salomon Flohr but ahead of Mikhail Botvinnik and Andre Lilienthal. In 1935, he secured 4th place in Moscow with 12/19 (+7 -2 =10), a point behind Botvinnik and Flohr, and a half point behind the evergreen Lasker. Also in 1935, he came second at Margate with 7/9 (+6 -1 =2), half a point behind Samuel Reshevsky. 1936 was a very successful year, coming 2nd at Margate with 7/9 (+5 =4), a half point behind Flohr, but then he moved up a gear to take Moscow with 13/18 (+8 =10), a point ahead of Botvinnik who in turn was 2.5 points ahead of Flohr, and then came =1st with Botvinnik at the famous Nottingham tournament, with 10/14 (+7 -1 =6) ahead of Euwe, Reuben Fine and Reshevsky on 9.5, and Flohr and Lasker on 8.5. These latter two results were the only tournaments in which he finished ahead of Lasker, which enhanced his chances of challenging for the title, but a challenge to World Champion Euwe was out of the question until after the Euwe - Alekhine World Championship Rematch (1937) , which was won by Alekhine. In 1937, Capablanca came =3rd with Reshevsky at Semmering with 7.5/14 (+2 -1 =11) behind Paul Keres and Fine and in 1938 he won the Paris tournament with 8/10 (+6 =4) ahead of Nicolas Rossolimo. The worst result of his career occurred at the AVRO tournament which was played in several cities in the Netherlands in 1938, placing 7th out of 8 players with 6/14 (+2 -4 =8), the only time he ever had a negative score in a tournament. His health in this tournament was fragile as he had suffered severe hypertension, which affected his concentration towards the end of his games; he may have also suffered a slight stroke halfway through the tournament. Traveling between the numerous cities in which the tournament was played was also hard on the ageing master. In 1939 he played his last tournament at Margate, placing =2nd with Flohr on 6.5/9 (+4 =5) a point behind Keres. Shortly afterwards, he finished his playing career – albeit unknowingly - in a blaze of glory by winning gold with +7 =9 on board one for Cuba at the 8th Olympiad in Buenos Aires.


In addition to the informal match against Corzo in 1901 and the exhibition match against Marshall in 1909 (see above), Capablanca played a three game match against Charles Jaffe in New York in 1912, winning two and drawing one, and won the first game of a match against Chajes before the latter withdrew from the match. In 1914, he defeated Ossip Bernstein 1.5-0.5, Tartakower by 1.5-0.5 and Andre Aurbach by 2-0. On his way to the 1914 tournament in St Petersburg, he played two-game matches against Richard Teichmann and Jacques Mieses in Berlin, winning all his games. Once he reached Saint Petersburg, he played similar matches against Alexander Alekhine, Eugene Aleksandrovich Znosko-Borovsky and Fyodor Ivanovich Dus Chotimirsky, losing one game to Znosko-Borovsky and winning the rest. In 1919, Capablanca accepted a challenge to a match from Borislav Kostić who had come second at New York in 1918 without dropping a game. The match was to go to the first player to win eight games, but Kostić resigned the match, played in Havana, after losing five straight games. In late 1931, just before his temporary retirement from top level chess, Capablanca also won a match (+2 −0 =8) against Euwe.

World Championship

Capablanca’s win at San Sebastian in 1911 provided the results and the impetus for Capablanca to negotiate with Lasker for a title match, but some of Lasker’s conditions were unacceptable to Capablanca, especially one requiring the challenger to win by two points to take the title, while the advent of World War I delayed the match. In 1920, Lasker and Capablanca agreed to play the title match in 1921, but a few months later, former was ready to surrender the title without a contest, saying, "You have earned the title not by the formality of a challenge, but by your brilliant mastery." A significant stake ($25,000, $13,000 guaranteed to Lasker) was raised that induced Lasker to play in Havana where Capablanca won the Lasker - Capablanca World Championship Match (1921) - without losing a game - after Lasker resigned from the match when trailing by 4 games, the first time a World Champion had lost his title without winning a game until the victory by Vladimir Kramnik in the Kasparov - Kramnik World Championship Match (2000). From 1921 to 1923, Alekhine, Rubinstein and Nimzowitsch all challenged Capablanca, but only Alekhine could raise the money stipulated in the so-called “London Rules”, which these players had signed in 1921. A group of Argentinean businessmen, backed by a guarantee from the president of Argentina, promised the funds for a World Championship match between Capablanca and Alekhine, and once the deadline for Nimzowitsch to lodge a deposit for a title match had passed, the title match was agreed to, beginning in September 1927. Capablanca lost the Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship Match (1927) at Buenos Aires in 1927 by +3 -6 =25 in the longest title match ever, until it was surpassed by the legendary Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (1984). The match lasted over ten weeks, taking place behind closed doors, thus precluding spectators and photographers. All but two of the 34 games opened with the Queen's Gambit Declined. Before Capablanca and Alekhine left Buenos Aires after the match, they agreed in principle to stage a rematch, with Alekhine essentially sticking with the conditions initially imposed by Capablanca. Despite on-again off-again negotiations over the next 13 years, the rematch never materialised, with Alekhine playing two title matches each against Bogolyubov and Euwe in the subsequent decade. While Capablanca and Alekhine were both representing their countries at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939, an attempt was made by Augusto de Muro, the President of the Argentine Chess Federation, to arrange a World Championship match between the two. Alekhine declined, saying he was obliged to be available to defend his adopted homeland, France, as World War II had just broken out. A couple of days prior to this, Capablanca had declined to play when his Cuban team played France, headed by Alekhine, in the Olympiad.

Simultaneous exhibitions

Capablanca’s legendary speed of play lent itself to the rigours of simultaneous play, and he achieved great success in his exhibitions. From December 1908 through February 1909, Capablanca toured the USA and in 10 exhibitions he won 168 games in a row before losing a game in Minneapolis; his final tally for that tour was 734 games, winning 96.7% (+703 =19 -12). In March and April 1911, Capablanca toured Europe for the first time, giving exhibitions in France and Germany scoring +234=33-19. Once completed, he proceeded to San Sebastian and his historic victory before again touring Europe via its cities of Rotterdam, Liden, Middleburg, Hauge, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin, Breslau, Allenstein, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Paris, London and Birmingham at the end of which his tally was +532=66-54. After he received his job as a roving ambassador-at-large from the Cuban Foreign Office, Capablanca played a series of simuls in London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Riga, Moscow, Kiev, and Vienna on his way to St Petersburg in 1914, tallying +769=91-86. In 1922, Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition in Cleveland against 103 opponents, the largest in history up to that time, winning 102 and drawing one – setting a record for the best winning percentage ever – 99.5% - in a large simultaneous exhibition. In 1925 Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition in Leningrad and won every game but one, a loss against 12 year old Mikhail Botvinnik, whom he predicted would one day be champion. Capablanca still holds the record for the most games ever completed in simultaneous exhibitions, playing and completing 13545 games between 1901-1940.**

Legacy, testimonials and life

Soon after gaining the title, Capablanca married Gloria Simoni Betancourt in Havana. They had a son, José Raúl Jr., in 1923 and a daughter, Gloria, in 1925. His father died in 1923 and mother in 1926. In 1937 he divorced Gloria and in 1938 married Olga Chagodayev, a Russian princess.

Capablanca's famous “invincible” streak extended from February 10, 1916, when he lost to Oscar Chajes in the New York 1916 tournament, to March 21, 1924, when he lost to Richard Réti in the New York International tournament. During this time he played 63 games, winning 40 and drawing 23, including his successful title match against Lasker. Between 1914 and his World Championship match against Alekhine, Capablanca had only lost four games of the 158 match and tournament games he had played. In match, team match, and tournament play from 1909 to 1939 he scored +318=249-34. Only Spielmann held his own (+2 −2 =8) against Capablanca, apart from Keres who had a narrow plus score against him (+1 −0 =5) due to his win at the AVRO 1938 tournament, during which the ailing Capablanca turned 50, while Keres was 22.

Capablanca played himself in Chess Fever, a short film shot by V. Pudovkin at the 1925 Moscow tournament. The film can be seen at

On 7 March 1942, Capablanca collapsed at the Manhattan Chess Club and he was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he died the next morning from "a cerebral haemorrhage provoked by hypertension". Emanuel Lasker had died in the same hospital the year before. Capablanca's body was given a public funeral in Havana's Colón Cemetery a week later, with President Batista taking personal charge of the funeral arrangements.

Capablanca proposed a new chess variant, played on a 10x10 board or a 10x8 board. He introduced two new pieces. The chancellor had the combined moves of a rook and knight (the piece could move like a rook or a knight). The other piece was the archbishop that had the combined moves of a bishop and knight.

Capablanca‘s style also heavily influenced the styles of later World Champions Botvinnik, Robert James Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. Botvinnik observed that Alekhine had received much schooling from Capablanca in positional play, before their fight for the world title made them bitter enemies. While not a theoretician as such, he wrote several books including A Primer of Chess, Chess Fundamentals and My Chess Career.

Alekhine: <…Capablanca was snatched from the chess world much too soon. With his death, we have lost a very great chess genius whose like we shall never see again.>

Lasker: <I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius: Capablanca.>


Capablanca occasionally played consultation on the team consisting of Reti / Capablanca.


Bill Wall's Chess Master Profiles -; Edward Winter's article A Question of Credibiity:; Chess Corner's article on Capablanca: and <kingcrusher>'s online article at A list of books about Capablanca can be found at

* Ruy Lopez, Marshall (C89) **

Wikipedia article: José Raúl Capablanca

 page 1 of 33; games 1-25 of 821  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. R Iglesias vs Capablanca 0-138 1893 Odds game000 Chess variants
2. A Ettlinger vs Capablanca 0-153 1901 Havana casualC45 Scotch Game
3. J Corzo vs Capablanca ½-½41 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC42 Petrov Defense
4. Capablanca vs J Corzo 1-060 1901 Capablanca - CorzoD02 Queen's Pawn Game
5. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-146 1901 Capablanca - CorzoA80 Dutch
6. J Corzo vs Capablanca 0-126 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC25 Vienna
7. J Corzo vs Capablanca 1-041 1901 Havana casualB01 Scandinavian
8. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-129 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC47 Four Knights
9. Capablanca vs M Sterling  1-030 1901 HavanaC01 French, Exchange
10. J Corzo vs Capablanca ½-½40 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC67 Ruy Lopez
11. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-160 1901 Havana casualC45 Scotch Game
12. Capablanca vs E Corzo 0-130 1901 Havana casualC40 King's Knight Opening
13. J A Blanco vs Capablanca 0-177 1901 Habana (Cuba)C55 Two Knights Defense
14. J Corzo vs Capablanca ½-½20 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC25 Vienna
15. Capablanca vs J Corzo ½-½61 1901 Capablanca - CorzoA80 Dutch
16. M Sterling vs Capablanca  ½-½50 1901 HavanaC77 Ruy Lopez
17. A Fiol vs Capablanca 0-136 1901 Habana (Cuba)C55 Two Knights Defense
18. Capablanca vs E Corzo 1-042 1901 Havana casualC40 King's Knight Opening
19. Capablanca vs J Corzo 1-059 1901 Capablanca - CorzoA83 Dutch, Staunton Gambit
20. Capablanca vs J Corzo ½-½49 1901 Capablanca - CorzoD00 Queen's Pawn Game
21. J Corzo vs Capablanca 1-027 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC52 Evans Gambit
22. J Corzo vs Capablanca 0-168 1901 Capablanca - CorzoC49 Four Knights
23. Capablanca vs J Corzo ½-½28 1901 Capablanca - CorzoA83 Dutch, Staunton Gambit
24. Capablanca vs E Corzo 1-033 1902 HavanaC60 Ruy Lopez
25. R Blanco Estera vs Capablanca 0-131 1902 Habana (Cuba)C55 Two Knights Defense
 page 1 of 33; games 1-25 of 821  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Capablanca wins | Capablanca loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 237 OF 237 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <tamar: 8 years sounds impossible without a losing position, but 1916-1920 did not feature great competition.

Lasker, I think, was correct in saying that Capablanca chose the safest way to play against weaker competition.

Whereas Morphy, and nowadays Carlsen, seem driven by competitive fervor to set themselves a challenge against weak players, and suffer occasional defeats, Capablanca was if anything, more disciplined against weaker players, not allowing them the hint of an advantage.>

What you seem to be implying is that Capablanca could only have achieved his run because of a relatively weak opposition. There could be a misunderstanding here. A top master can go on an unbeaten streak against a relatively weak opposition, but most top GMs, past and present, would usually get at least one losing position in an international competition. If the opposition is weak, such a top master would still win the competition perhaps unbeaten. How? Because his weaker opponents committed more losing errors.

Case in point, I just saw World Champion Carlsen beat a relatively weaker GM Solak. In this game, Carlsen got himself into losing positions by making losing errors not once but at least two or three times. Yet he still won because Solak made more losing errors, and committed the last one. In case of Naidich, it seems Carlsen committed just one losing error, but since Naidich (a stronger master than Solak) played accurately, Carlsen lost.

In brief playing relatively weak opposition does not make one immune to making losing errors. One could still achieve a magnificent unbeaten result though (if that weak opposition happens to make more losing errors).

What boggles my mind is that Capablanca never made a single losing error in 8 years. That's an entirely different level of achievement from just being unbeaten in 8 years.

Your next implication is that Capablanca could only achieve what he did because he played safely. I would have to differ here because upon perusal of his games, it's clear to me that the young Capablanca played very difficult, sharp, and double edged positions, some so tactically complicated that it's difficulty to grasp what's objectively happening. His game with Marshall in 1918 is often cited as a defensive masterpiece, which requires more tactical acumen than an attacking masterpiece, but there were others. From 1927 onwards, it seems to me that Capablanca changed his style, safer, more prone to simplifications, and this is the Capablanca that is the common stereotype in most chess fans' minds. But IMO the young Capablanca was different stylistically.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <visayanbraindoctor> Reading it again, Lasker does not say playing safer moves is a fault, but that it could become one if it is a pre-disposition, or as Kasparov says in OMGP, a dislike of calculating dangerous variations.

from Karpova's post-E Lasker- <If this strategy has its origin in him correctly assessing his opponents and hence knows how to win effortlessly and hazard-free; or if it is based on an inner need, to attack only, after all force has been methodically brought to the fore; or finally if he values the safety excessively, are questions one cannot answer yet. He himself would probably the least suited to decide them.>

Capablanca did meet weaker opposition from 1916-1920, so that part of the streak is less impressive than the Lasker match and London 1922, where there is no question he was the strongest player in the world.

Aug-12-14  1971: 100 years from now all of today's top players will be regarded as weak opposition..
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <1971: 100 years from now all of today's top players will be regarded as weak opposition.>

Not unless a fundamental leap in our brain's abilities occurs. <Bridgeburner> did a detailed computer analysis of all the games of the Kasparov vs Kramnik 2000 WC match and the Lasker vs Schlecter 1910 WC match. According the the computer, the games of the two matches were played at a similar level of accuracy. To put it in another way, if a computer were to be the judge, it would judge these players as playing as well (or as bad from its super accurate computer standard point of view) as each other.

My views on this are in my profile.

Aug-12-14  1971: <visayanbraindoctor> I'm with you, my comment was directed at those who say that past masters faced weak competition. They played the best the world had to offer in their generation.
Aug-12-14  RookFile: I doubt if folks will be playing chess 100 years from now. Maybe 960 instead.
Aug-12-14  SugarDom: They will be playing gladiator chess, (piece promotion and bare kings race to the 8th rule), drawless.
Aug-13-14  Lambda: It should be pointed out that in terms of the number of games in a top-level unbeaten run, which seems more relevant to its level of impressiveness than the amount of time those games were played over, (non-chess-players will never lose a game in their lives!) both the longest and second longest unbeaten runs were put together by Tal.
Aug-13-14  Zonszein: Good point!
If I don't play, I cannot loose
Tal had more merit than Capablanca.
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: A hundred years from now chess with the same rules will be played. Human (all) evolution goes very slowly, in the order of thousands of years. Though it is true that there is and will be an improvement in skill due to computers and that it changes the way the we play the game, it is doubtful humans will in such a short period improve so much that they will find chess trivial.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Lambda> You may have missed this above:

<There could be a misunderstanding here. A top master can go on an unbeaten streak against a relatively weak opposition, but most top GMs, past and present, would usually get at least one losing position in an international competition. If the opposition is weak, such a top master would still win the competition perhaps unbeaten. How? Because his weaker opponents committed more losing errors.

Case in point, I just saw World Champion Carlsen beat a relatively weaker GM Solak. In this game, Carlsen got himself into losing positions by making losing errors not once but at least two or three times. Yet he still won because Solak made more losing errors, and committed the last one. In case of Naidich, it seems Carlsen committed just one losing error, but since Naidich (a stronger master than Solak) played accurately, Carlsen lost.

In brief playing relatively weak opposition does not make one immune to making losing errors. One could still achieve a magnificent unbeaten result though (if that weak opposition happens to make more losing errors).

What boggles my mind is that Capablanca never made a single losing error in 8 years. That's an entirely different level of achievement from just being unbeaten in 8 years>

I am referring to avoiding losing errors, not avoiding defeats.

Regarding Tal's unbeaten run, I haven't seen all his games, but in my understanding, he did get himself into losing positions. I am not sure though. Perhaps other kibitzers can shed light on this.

<maxi> Here are my views on the fundamental differences between chess before and chess today (from the kasparov page).

Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Fundamental differences between chess in the past and chess today:

The above is a very interesting critique by GM Wolff. He praises much of Kasparov's analysis. It seems to me that he is also saying Kasparov was shoehorning many of the moves and games of past masters in order to fit with his concept of chess evolution in time, when in fact these moves and games can be fully explained by these masters just playing a good (or bad) game of chess according to basic chess principles, as applicable as they are today as in their time.


<Wolff: What’s the big deal about “not going beyond the third rank?” It’s a funny feature of the game, to be sure, but I don’t think people in the 19th century had much trouble understanding the importance of open diagonals and files leading to the king!>


<Now first of all, let’s acknowledge the obvious: Capablanca may have just blundered a pawn with 8...g6. After all, he himself said that the idea was “brought out on the spur of the moment, with the intention of putting White on his own resources.” By his own admission, it doesn’t look like he put any thought into this at home before the game. Even so, it is still impressive that he squeezed everything he could out of the position.>

Is it possible that a lot of kibitzers and chess fans have been influenced by GKK's OMGP and its shoehorning tendency to fit historical games into an unsubstantiated concept of chess evolution and development? I see a lot of posts that imply that the old masters won't be able to comprehend 'modern' chess principles. As if basic chess principles have suddenly changed spots. Which they have not. The importance of center, open files and diagonals, weak squares and pawns, piece activity, tempo, initiative and attack, and all types of combinations were as familiar to them as to us. And blunders occurred then as now. The results of most of the pre-WW2 games can be fully explained by the above, without the extraneous factor of trying to shoehorn them into some kind of chess evolutionary tree.

An important point by Wolff:

<the really interesting theme Kasparov could have focused on is opening preparation. Think of the difference between this move and, say, Kasparov’s 10th game against Anand in the 1995 World Championship Match. Several interesting contrasts between these two cases are:

1. Alekhine’s sacrifice came at a much earlier point in the game (showing the still relative immaturity of openings played at even the World Championship level)

2. Alekhine’s move was entirely his own idea (whereas Kasparov built upon an idea of Tal’s and followed a game played between two lower-level players several years earlier)

3. Alekhine analyzed the move by himself, without seconds (and certainly without a computer)

4. Alekhine’s move was unsound, whereas to date we believe Kasparov’s innovation was correct. Each of these points highlight important ways that opening preparation has evolved in the intervening 58 years since these two games were played. An analysis of the evolution of opening analysis at the highest levels would have been fascinating.>

The above IMO is what really marks the difference between pre-WW2 chess and today's chess. Yet everything is also fundamentally the same, aside from these details. And probably for as long as chess rules stay the same.

Opening novelties now usually occur about 5 moves later. Novelties are also usually sounder (because of analysis by seconds and computers). However, after that everyone has to play the middlegame and endgame in the same fundamental way masters did a hundred years ago, relying on one's inherent talents, skills, motivation, and tenacity, following the same fundamental chess rules and time limited by a chess clock. Improving one's skills, motivation, and tenacity are what fundamentally improves our chess games, not an intensive search for opening novelties.

In addition, it seems to me that much of modern opening research in sharp openings has also become a search for unexpected tactical shots and opening traps, that would give the innovator either an objective or a psychological edge after the novelty is sprung. This is what we also usually see in over the board theoretical opening discussions.

Alternatively one can also prepare openings by entirely sidestepping sharp variations; just going into a safe and quiet nearly equal middlegame, and then trying to outplay one's opponent from there.

Premium Chessgames Member
  nimh: The greatness of unbeaten streaks depends also on the level of opposition. A ten-game undefeated streak vs super GM-s is naturally more hard to attain than going 30 games unbeaten against 2400-rated players.

Here's a list some more known lossless streaks:

<name> <period> <number of games>

Steinitz 1873-1882 25
Lasker 1892-1893 30
Lasker 1904-1908 27
Alekhine 1914-1922 79
Capablanca 1916-1924 63
Alekhine 1929-1931 54
Fischer 1967-1970 53
Tal 1972-1973 86
Tal 1973-1974 95
Karpov 1975 29
Kramnik 1999-2000 82
Wang Yue 2008 85
Carlsen 2009-2010 36

I could not find anything about Kasparov's streak.

Someome with more free time and dedication might want to calculate the average rating of opponents. Would be an interesting comparison.

Aug-13-14  Petrosianic: Petrosian went unbeaten for 1962, which was 60+ games, including a Candidates Tournament. Not sure what the exact total was if you stretch back into 1961. He also went undefeated for 1954, though I think there were fewer games that year.
Aug-13-14  RookFile: Greatness is in the eyes of the beholder. Let's say Fischer wins 9 games and losses 1. Under this measurement, he didn't do as well as the guy who wins 2 games and draws 8.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Avoiding losing errors = mango

Avoiding game losses = banana

Although both are related to each other (for instance if one does not make losing errors then one also avoids game losses), I just tried to explain that I was referring to mangoes, not bananas. I am not so much into long unbeaten runs, because they happen all the time. It's entirely possible a local national master or expert may have an unbeaten run topping a hundred games. Yet it would not mean much if he kept on making multiple losing errors, every 5 games. Likewise, if hypothetically Tal had an unbeaten streak of a hundred games, but made losing errors in every 10, IMO Carlsen having an unbeaten run of 36 games, in which he did not commit a single losing error is more impressive.

I write the above as a clarification in case some kibitzers assume I was talking about unbeaten runs in my post above. I was not. (On the other hand I believe that lambda, nimh, and Petrosianic are indeed talking about unbeaten runs.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: If Capa showed up today I am pretty sure that the opposition he met would be a lot stiffer, but not for a moment do I doubt that he would either reach WCh or become one of the top contenders.

I read what <visayanbraindoctor> and Wolff write, and agree with most of it. The most important difference between the classical players and our contemporaries is the huge amount of chess lore available to the latter, especially on the openings, but also techniques and optimum plans for given positions, etc. Fischer introduced massive learning and now ALL the young players take massive knowledge for granted. But the ability itself to play good chess when facing a new position has to remain basically the same.

There are other "Capablanca"'s in other fields. Einstein was a monster in physics, as were Beethoven and Mozart in music. One remembers tremendous natural talents in math like Gauss, Euler and Riemann.

Aug-15-14  Chessman1504: Regarding the math connection, I'd also like to mention Ramanujan who had little formal math education but made breakthroughs in number theory and modular forms.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <maxi>

Note GM Wolff's observation:

<2. Alekhine’s move was entirely his own idea (whereas Kasparov built upon an idea of Tal’s and followed a game played between two lower-level players several years earlier)

3. Alekhine analyzed the move by himself, without seconds (and certainly without a computer)>

I strongly suspect that AAA worked much harder than any active GM today. He did research by the chessboard, pen and paper method, not by punching keys on a computer table. He admittedly worked at least 8 hours a day on chess. And he had an eidetic memory for chess positions. I can't believe I can see kibitzers imply this chess workaholic would not do well in today's era. With the help of seconds and computers he would have to work less. With his eidetic chess memory, AAA could probably cram in more opening variations in his brain in a month than an ordinary GM can in a year.

<If Capa showed up today I am pretty sure that the opposition he met would be a lot stiffer, but not for a moment do I doubt that he would either reach WCh or become one of the top contenders.>

Peculiarly enough, I believe that computers would help a Capablanca more than an Alekhine. Capa was a lazy fellow, and I doubt if he ever kept written notes. With computers, Capablanca would not need to do the chessboard, pen, and paper method that AAA did. He could directly access all new updates on chess opening theory through his laptop. Perhaps at 8 to 9am every morning, giving him time to play tennis 10am to 12 noon, take a siesta in the afternoon, and take off with the girls in the evening.

I believe that computers actually work in favor of the youngest and the oldest of chess players. For the youngest, say age 12 to 14, they could catch up with their elders in opening theory by accessing chess data bases in their computers. They would not have to resort to the difficult and time consuming pen and paper method of AAA. For the eldest, we must note that the pen and paper method requires so much time and effort that it is a job made for the young, not the elderly. The computer would enable the eldest to avoid such an energy and time consuming method in updating themselves on the newest opening trends.

The computer by making learning openings easier for everyone acts like a great equalizer, for both young and old.

Aug-15-14  Everett: <Capablanca did meet weaker opposition from 1916-1920, so that part of the streak is less impressive than the Lasker match and London 1922, where there is no question he was the strongest player in the world.>

So, apparently playing safe and solid chess against weaker competition did in fact serve him quite well in dominating in the following four years, eh?

Aug-15-14  Everett: Regarding Fischer's streak, the most impressive match of the three was his eventual defeat of Petrosian. After the adversity of the first five games, he punished every single mistake flawlessly and immediately. Games 7 and 8 in particular were just power plays of the highest order.

His other two opponents were never true contenders, both having proved this by being drubbed in previous candidate matches and tournaments. But Petrosian was another animal.

Aug-15-14  Everett: <Petrosianic: Petrosian went unbeaten for 1962, which was 60+ games, including a Candidates Tournament. Not sure what the exact total was if you stretch back into 1961. He also went undefeated for 1954, though I think there were fewer games that year.>

In fact, the year or two leading up to winning the WC is usually remarkable. Years ago I ran numbers for Petrosian, Karpov and Spassky each two years out from becoming WC, and the numbers were ridiculous. Capablanca, Fischer, Botvinnik, and Kasparov all follow suit, I imagine. And Carlsen has done the same, clearly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Have been unable to ascertain whether Petrosian played in 1961 after Bled, where he lost in the last but one round to Fischer. His loss to Stein came early that year.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Everett: In fact, the year or two leading up to winning the WC is usually remarkable.>

Also true for Lasker. He played a series of matches against the world's finest players, probably the alternative in an era where there was a lack of chess tournaments. (Capablanca also did the same in 1913 to 1914.)

Lasker convincingly beat (or massacred as the scores show) Mieses, Bird (2x), Englisch, Blackburne, Showalter, among others. No doubt he did it to prove to the chess world that he was a deserving Challenger, at a time when there was no Candidates cycle.

With Lasker though, his dominance did not end upon his seizure of the World Title. It continued until 1925, when he temporarily retired. (Capablanca was a chess anomaly, and I have no doubt that if he were not around, Lasker would have extended his reign up to at least 1925.) This is what precisely makes him the greatest chess player ever IMO. Lasker may not have been as talented as Capa, but it is not only pure talent that makes one great. Fighting spirit, tenacity, a strong will, longevity are equally important.

Capablanca the machine's magical reign was over by 1924. There are reports, which I believe to be true, that in New York 1924, he fell sick, and sought consultation from doctors after his loss to Reti. I believe that this was the time when his familial hypertension began to bother him, to become symptomatic- headaches and a general feeling of discomfort. From this point on, errors began to creep into his games, something rarely seen before. Capa I think recognized this, and he began to change his style, and became more prone to simplifications. Nevertheless, I believe he would have beaten AAA in a hypothetical re-match, and any other player in the world in a WC match until he began suffering from outright strokes in 1938.

Alekhine did not have a dominating run before the 1927 match. However AAA did dominate afterward, until 1934. I think his drinking did him in; there was a sharp drop in his chess strength in 1935. The Alekhine of 1934 was still monstrously strong. Peculiarly enough Alekhine gained a second wind, and in 1941 suddenly began playing very well again. Maybe he cut down on his drinking. Then he had a bout with scarlet fever and near death, and his strength fell off permanently.

Botvinnik was similar to Lasker. They both had dominating runs before taking the Title. Afterward, they kept playing well until age began to take its toll. I think the main difference is that Lasker was an inherently stronger chess player than Botvinnik. In spite of all state support, I do not think Botvinnik could have beaten Capablanca in a match until about 1938, although I think he would have beaten a weakened AAA if it was he instead of Euwe that played him in 1935. In 1935, Botvinnik was about 24 years old, just about the age bracket of Lasker, Tal, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, and Carlsen when they won the Title. A world caliber class chessmaster beginning to enter his peak period. However, I don't fancy Botvinnik's chances against a reinvigorated Alekhine in 1941 and 1942. But he surely would have won a 1946 match against AAA.

Regarding Anand, in spite of all his talent he is not a Lasker or a Botvinnik. Somehow he lacks their indomitable will. Unless he gets a second wind (like AAA did in 1941), I don't think he stands much of a chance against Carlsen, who on the other hand may have the indomitable will necessary for a long reign

Aug-18-14  Chessman1504: Yes, this is all true. I, however, admire Anand's approach in the Candidates tournament, how he decided to just play chess. Look where it got him, playing Carlsen again! I think he calmed down and played very clearly and straightforward, like Capablanca. Another thing about his play is that it was virtually error free. I think Carlsen will still win, but I think Anand will make it closer.
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