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Jose Raul Capablanca
Number of games in database: 1,144
Years covered: 1893 to 1941

Overall record: +375 -46 =263 (74.0%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 460 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (147) 
    C66 C78 C62 C88 C64
 Orthodox Defense (79) 
    D63 D51 D52 D50 D64
 Queen's Gambit Declined (66) 
    D30 D31 D37 D38 D06
 Queen's Pawn Game (49) 
    D02 D00 D05 D04 A46
 French Defense (47) 
    C12 C01 C11 C14 C10
 Four Knights (36) 
    C49 C48 C47
With the Black pieces:
 Orthodox Defense (54) 
    D67 D64 D53 D63 D51
 Ruy Lopez (52) 
    C66 C77 C68 C72 C73
 Queen's Pawn Game (39) 
    A46 D00 D02 D05 E10
 Nimzo Indian (19) 
    E24 E23 E37 E40 E34
 French Defense (19) 
    C01 C12 C15 C09 C17
 Queen's Indian (18) 
    E16 E12 E15 E18
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
   Capablanca vs M Fonaroff, 1918 1-0
   Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1927 0-1
   Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921 0-1
   Capablanca vs K Treybal, 1929 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)
   American National (1913)
   New York (1918)
   New York Masters (1915)
   Rice Memorial (1916)
   Hastings (1919)
   London (1922)
   Budapest (1929)
   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
   Capa.blanca by fredthebear
   Match Capablanca! by amadeus
   Capablanca plays the world... (II) by MissScarlett
   Jose Raul Capablanca's Best Games by KingG
   Immortal Games of Capablanca, F. Reinfeld by mjk
   Delicatessen by Gottschalk
   Veliki majstori saha 12 CAPABLANCA (Petrovic) by Chessdreamer
   capablanca best games by brager
   Capablanca´s Official Games (1901-1939) Part I by capablancakarpov
   World Champion - Capablanca (I.Linder/V.Linder) by Qindarka
   Capablanca plays the world... (III) by MissScarlett
   Capablanca's Best Chess Endings (Irving Chernev) by nightgaunts
   Capablanca's Best Chess Endings by refutor

   Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921
   Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921
   Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921
   Lasker vs Schlechter, 1910
   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, Leiden, Middelburg, The Hague, 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 46; games 1-25 of 1,145  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. R Iglesias vs Capablanca 0-1381893Odds game000 Chess variants
2. Capablanca vs E Delmonte  1-0181901Match-seriesB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
3. Leon Paredes vs Capablanca 0-1451901Match-seriesC44 King's Pawn Game
4. Capablanca vs E Corzo 1-0351901Match-seriesC67 Ruy Lopez
5. J Corzo vs Capablanca 1-0411901Havana casualB01 Scandinavian
6. Capablanca vs A Fiol  ½-½491901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
7. A Gavilan vs Capablanca 0-1391901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
8. A Ettlinger vs Capablanca 0-1531901Havana casualC45 Scotch Game
9. Capablanca vs M Marceau 1-0311901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
10. M M Sterling vs Capablanca ½-½501901HavanaC77 Ruy Lopez
11. Capablanca vs J A Blanco 1-0491901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
12. E Delmonte vs Capablanca 0-1321901Match-seriesD00 Queen's Pawn Game
13. Capablanca vs Leon Paredes 1-0291901Match-seriesC02 French, Advance
14. E Corzo vs Capablanca  1-0321901Match-seriesC11 French
15. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-1601901Havana casualC45 Scotch Game
16. A Fiol vs Capablanca 0-1361901Habana (Cuba)C55 Two Knights Defense
17. Capablanca vs A Gavilan 1-0771901Match-seriesC01 French, Exchange
18. Capablanca vs M M Sterling 1-0301901HavanaC01 French, Exchange
19. Capablanca vs E Corzo 1-0421901Havana casualC40 King's Knight Opening
20. Capablanca vs E Corzo 0-1301901Havana casualC40 King's Knight Opening
21. J A Blanco vs Capablanca 0-1771901Habana (Cuba)C55 Two Knights Defense
22. Capablanca vs C Echevarria 1-0491901Simul, 8bC44 King's Pawn Game
23. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-1291901Capablanca - CorzoC45 Scotch Game
24. J Corzo vs Capablanca 1-0271901Capablanca - CorzoC52 Evans Gambit
25. Capablanca vs J Corzo ½-½611901Capablanca - CorzoA80 Dutch
 page 1 of 46; games 1-25 of 1,145  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Capablanca wins | Capablanca loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: <Whitehat1963: Capablanca was obviously an exceptional player already by the time he destroyed Marshall in their 1909 match, but was he good enough then to have beaten Lasker in a championship match? Rubinstein?>

In 1914, I do not think so.

At this time, Capablanca had experienced only two international tournaments. This means that even if he was already 26 yeas old, he had the same experience level as say the 16 year old Fischer or Kasparov, or the 14 year old Carlsen or Karjakin. Even Giri today would have had more chess experience than the Capablanca of 1914.

In brief, in 1911, Capa was a mere club player when he first entered San Sebastian. In 1914, he was a club player well on his way to becoming an international player with exactly two international tournaments under his belt (San Sebastian and St. Petersburg), but still a relative newbie.

Thinking that the 1914 Capablanca would have the capability of wresting the Title from Lasker is similar to thinking that a 1992 Kramnik, who has played only one or two strong international tournaments, would be able to beat Kasparov in a World Championship Match.

Not to take anything away from Capa, I think his 1911 San Sebastian performance remains as the greatest performance by a young master ever in chess history, precisely because at that time his experience level was way below present-day teenage GMs. It was like the 14 o 15 year old Giri suddenly winning Tal Memorial at first try.

Dec-11-11  Whitehat1963: We'll never know, of course, but I think his chances were probably better than you give him credit for. Capablanca was always one to play the board rather than the man. He had great calculating ability from the beginning. The fact that he beat Lasker in a match with quick time-controls in 1906 (?) suggests he was likely strong enough early in his career. He may even have had an advantage in that he likely had very few of his games published anywhere in 1909, whereas many of Lasker's games were already well known. I'm not arguing that he could or couldn't have beaten Lasker in 1909 or 1914. I'm merely suggesting that he was likely already a strong enough player by 1909 to have given him quite a good match.
Dec-11-11  veigaman: <whitehat1963> <visayanbraindoctor>

When this game took part , capablanca was just 5 years old.

R Iglesias vs Capablanca, 1893

It is just amazing to see a kid with such chess understanding at this early age.

The way he played a defence with blacks no very usual when you are learning the game (" a kind of petroff), then the positional understanding and the way he prepared the tempos to activate the king in the endgame just showed that Capablanca was special.

Dec-12-11  Whitehat1963: <veigaman>, I'm familiar with the game, but yes, I agree with your assessment. On a side note, he was actually 4 years and 10 months old! The Mozart of the chess world.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Quote of the Day

< "The outcome of [Nimzowitch's] discourteous remark was a series of quick games for a side bet, which I won with ridiculous ease, and ended by his retracting the statement he had previously made. Many more of these games were played, until all the masters agreed that I had no equal at this kind of chess." >

Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Quote of the Day

< "The first two games were won quickly by [Corzo], but something in the third, which was a draw, showed me that he had his weaknesses and gave me the necessary courage and confidence. From there on he did not win a game... The victory made me, morally at least, the champion of Cuba. I was then twelve years old." >


Jan-10-12  chegado: The good old Capa! Many people like to brag these new champions (and they deserve respect too, I know), but if you take a closer look, they have all possible means in their hands to improve their play, such as huge collections of books, engines, video-classes, etc. But what did Capa have? Nothing but a romantic view of the game from his antecessors, glances of a solid opening theory, and pretty much talent. Oh, this last one he had more than any other.
Jan-10-12  solskytz: I also love this guy - his style, his comments, the fluidity of his play... if he didn't exist he had to be invented.

It's always fun to play a game that feels like capa.

Jan-13-12  Dr. Yes: My two cents. Boris Spassky has already said that Akiba Rubinstein was the strongest player from about 1909-11. This can infer that Capablanca may have been stronger at the time of the San Sebastian Tournament of 1911.

Lasker had already lost some interest in chess after the tragic death of Steinitz, (his mentor) in 1900. This allowed Rubinstein to dominate chess in the first decade of the twentieth century. A very rusty Lasker nearly lost the title to Schlecter in 1910, and only because Schlecter was a total gentleman who refused to win the title in a short match by one point. So Schlecter (the drawing master) played all out for a win in the last game, and of course, he lost the game and with a tied match, the WC title vanished as well.

WWI took the wind out of Rubinstein's sails and he was never able to dominate chess again. Lasker on the other hand, lost everything in WWI being a German patriot. Despite his loyalty, he was forced to flee his homeland with the rise of Nazi fascism.

He resigned the title to Capablanca in 1920, but agreed to a formal match in 1921 because he needed the money. Certainly Capablanca's style lent itself well to match play, and beating Lasker who was 53 years old in 1921 wasn't such a great feat.

Capablanca, himself said that he was at his best in his year's up to the age of thirty, (1918). So, by the time Capa faced Alekhine in 1927, he too, was past his prime. And so it goes; each champion reaches a peak, declines, and falls.

Capablanca had some weaknesses in his personality that sometimes hindered his ability to regain the WC title. It could be traced throughout his entire career. It was a reliance on his natural ability, which sometimes may have led to overconfidence.

This can be traced back to his youth when he defeated Juan Corzo, the Cuban Champion in a match (6.5 to 5.5). Capa was only thirteen years old at the time, (not twelve as he claims). But Corzo defeated Capa the following year in the Cuban championship, which sent Capa reeling down to fourth place.

Everyone knows of Capa's failure to take first at St. Petersburg 1914, despite leading all the way in the grueling tournament until the last round, when Lasker overtook him. Capa lost his equilibrium again when he lost a few rounds before the final to Lasker in a head to head contest. He then lost to Tarrasch in the penultimate round, because he hadn't quite recovered his equilibrium yet from the loss to Lasker. Capa's combo/trap was unsound, but he missed a chance to play for a draw if he had seen only two moves ahead.

This kind of tactical oversight was far too common in Capa's games as pointed out by Dr. John Nunn.

Despite the weaknesses that Capablanca possessed, I believe that if his marraige had been happier, or if he could have kept his government income, after divorcing his wife, (who was from the powerful Betancourt family), he might have regained his WC title in 1934 or 1935, instead of Euwe taking it from Alekhine.

Long post, thanks for your patience.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Capablanca's 8-year unbeaten streak from 1916-1924, totalling 63 games in all, is one of the most treasured pieces of chess trivia. What might not be as well known is an act of chivalry without which it could have been ten years and 93 games.

At the Rice Memorial masters' tournament (New York, 1916), there were two stages of play. A fourteen-player round robin qualifying four players for a final section to decide the top four prizes. A fifth prize would go to the top non-qualifier.

After the preliminary section was finished, the top five scores stood at:

Capablanca 12.0
Janowski 8.5
Kostic 8.5
Kupchik 8.5
Chajes 8.0

According to the original rules, Chajes would not qualify for the final. However, as reported in the <Brooklyn Daily Eagle> for Sunday, February 6, 1916:

<"Five players, instead of four, will compete in the final stage of the Rice Memorial chess masters tournament as the result of action taken at a meeting of the players and managers, with W. M. de Visser, the referee, in the chair, held at the rooms of the Manhattan Chess Club yesterday afternoon. Jose R. Capablanca, with 12 points; D. Janowski, B. Kostic and A. Kupchik, each with 8 1/2, had qualified for the finals, but Oscar Chajes, the fifth prize winner, was added to the list as a result of the action. Chajes, it appears, after having a draw offered to him in his last game with Schroeder in the thirteenth round, played on in an effort to win, under the impression that only by so doing he would be considered for the finals. In this he was mistaken, but the players yesterday all agreed to let him in with eight points and to play the extra rounds necessary to give him a chance for the higher prizes.">

And we all know who beat Capablanaca in the final! Had Chajes not been admitted, then the streak would have stretched back to 1914 and thirty games added to it (2 from St. Petersburg 1914, 14 from New York 1915, 14 from New York 1916).

That's gratitude for you.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: Historical chess table from New Orleans
Jan-30-12  Dr. Yes: I agree with Visayanbraindoctor that the Corzo vs. Capablanca game that he presented is an exceptionally nice game for both players, but in my opinion, it was Corzo (who must have been a very fine player) who took the risks, something it was never wise to do against Capablanca. By the way, I think I see a way that Corzo could have gotten a significant advantage. Do you or your computers see similar?
Jan-30-12  Dr. Yes: When you speak of long unbeaten winning streaks, Phony Benoni, are you aware that Tal surpassed Capablanca twice in the longest streaks of unbeaten games? Counting only years of being unbeaten is ridiculous, since I have a nine-year unbeaten streak simply because I didn't play very many games.
Jan-30-12  Dr. Yes: I need to make a retraction on the post to Visayanbraindoctor. The game in question, Corzo vs. Capablanca was very nice, but it isn't the one I had in mind. Another Corzo vs. Capablanca game shows fine positional play by both players until Corzo got tired of maneuvering and tried to mix it up, which of course wasn't a good idea, since he lacked enough of an advantage.
Jan-30-12  AnalyzeThis: Tal's record is indeed very impressive. As was Capa's shorter unbeaten streak.
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Capa's unbeaten streak is the most impressive in history. It included a world championship match in it. And <Phony Benoni> does have a point. I have already posted my belief that Lasker was at his high plateau in the 1914 to 1924 period in other pages; and this was the years when the veteran played the best and most creative chess in his life. I am also of the belief that a man at his age does not have any physiological barrier in playing the best chess of his life, unless he has motivational or medical problems. Many people even at that age bracket show no cerebral atrophy in their brain CT scans at all, and those that do are usually chronic alcoholic drinkers.

If Capablanca never existed, it would be easier for us in the 21st century to assess Lasker's performance in the 1914 to 1924 period as the best in his life.

The Capablanca of 1916 to 1922 IMO was the strongest chess player ever to have existed. But I could still be accused of being subjective. If so there are two other facts that would support this contention.

One, all computer studies always place Capablanca near the top or on the top. To put it in another way, if computers were conscious they would have no problem in proclaiming Capablanca during certain periods of his career as the strongest chess player in history. Every chess fan is subjectively biased toward his favorite players. However, computers are unbiased and objective and do not have prejudices that since a chess player is from a begone era, he cannot play as good a chess game as living ones; that chess must always 'progress' and so chess players today must be better than past ones. The reason why chess openings are progressing so fast nowadays is precisely because of them. Computers would beat the tar out of every chess player, past or present. I was not aware of computer studies when I became a fan of Capablanca's game, but if it happened that I later saw computer studies that showed other players to have played better than him, then I would believe the computer's evals knowing their objectivity, though still remaining a fan of Capablanca's.

Two, Capablanca was the only player that elicited a very curious phenomenon. EVERYONE who saw him play walked away with the strong feeling that they had witnessed the strongest play that they would ever see. This included all world champions from Lasker to Botvinnik. Alekhine though bitter at Capablanca had no trouble in praising him as the best chess player he had ever seen. Botvinnik's opinion is particularly interesting because he had played all the world champions from Lasker to Fischer; and personally trained Karpov, Kasparov, and Kramnik. Yet his remarks strongly indicate that he believed none of these great masters and champions reached Capa's near machine-like perfection. Close to his death in the mid 1990s, he was saying that he was training Kasparov to play the objectively best moves the way Capa did, and was opining that Kasparov had fallen off this ideal.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <<all> computer studies always place Capablanca near the top or on the top.>

I wonder if the method recently used by Macieja and two mathematicians to show there is no rating inflation would do it too (that was a computer analysis too).

Jan-30-12  Dr. Yes: I strongly disagree with your assessment that computer analysis of anything is unbiased. It is based on subjective conclusions and programming algorhythms of people who may not have much knowledge about chess or the human brain. Like any other assessment tool, it can be intentionally biased by those doing the assessing who are trying to create an intended result.

Using Botvinnik as your authority, is using a man who lost more World Championship matches than he won, yet he claimed to be champion for some 13 years. I was criticized for using Adolf Anderssen as a measuring stick of Morphy's strength in the 19th century. The critic said that Anderssen had a terrible match play record. According to what I researched, Anderssen never got blown out except by Morphy (at age 40), and he had a winning record against the best of his time, until he got old.

Both Fischer and I, believe that Morphy was the strongest of all time, based not only on his winning percentage, but on his incredible learning curve.

Premium Chessgames Member
  alexmagnus: <<<all> computer studies always place Capablanca near the top or on the top.> I wonder if the method recently used by Macieja and two mathematicians to show there is no rating inflation would do it too (that was a computer analysis too).>

Actually that study included two events in which it rated Capablanca's "TPR": New York 1927 (2936) and Avro 1938 (2681).

Feb-02-12  Dr. Yes: No Rating inflation? I read once that IM Sofia Polgar (not sisters Judit or Zsu-zsa) had a TPR of over 2900, same as Capablanca! Stats are weird.

IoftheHungarianTiger might be right about Capa though. His natural talent might have been the best ever. He and Morphy were the only two World Champions who had incredible natural genius for chess. The others had to combine less natural ability with hard work. Alekhine said that he studied chess eight hours a day. The wins of Morphy and Capablanca look computer like.

I wish it were possible to see a match between the two! Capa might win the first few games, but Morphy's incredible learning curve would catch-up, and the match might hinge on how long the match was slated to be played.

It would be sort of like the Karpov-Kasparov match(es). Karpov would have won the first two matches with Kasparov if he had the Champions option as allowed in the early 20th century of choosing to play, first to win three games; of if they had played the old Soviet 24 game match limit.

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Today, at <Edward Winter>'s Chess Notes, the following "lost" game was presented. It will be published in the upcoming <In Memoriam> the 2-volume collection by David DeLucia. I believe the price is $1,000, with the money going to charity.

Capablanca – Tartakower
Queen’s Indian Defense
Paris, circa 1938
Off-hand Game

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.Nc3 Bb7 4.f3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 e6 8.Be3 Nd7 9.Bc4 Bd6 10.Ne2 O-O 11.O-O c5 12.e5 cxd4 13.cxd4 Be7 14.f4 g6 15.Ng3 Kh8 16.Qd3 Rg8 17.Rfd1 Rc8 18.Rac1 Nb8 19.d5 Bxd5 20.Bxd5 Qxd5 21.Qxd5 exd5 22.Rxc8 Rxc8 23.Rxd5 Rd8 24.Rxd8+ Bxd8 25.Kf2 Nc6 26.Kf3 f5 27.Ne2 Kg7 28.g4 fxg4+ 29.Kxg4 Kf7 30.Kf3 Ke6 31.Ke4 b5 32.Nc3 a6 33.Bc5 Be7 34.Bb6 Kd7 35.Nd5 a5 36.Nc3 b4 37.Na4 Bd8 38.Bxd8 Kxd8 39.Kd5 Na7 40.Kc5 Kd7 41.Kb6 Nc8+ 42.Kxa5 Ke6 43.Nb6 Ne7 44.Kxb4 g5 45.fxg5 Kxe5 46.Kc5 Nf5 47.a4 Nd4 48.Nd7+ Ke4 49.Nf6+ Ke5 50.Nxh7 1-0.

Feb-03-12  JoergWalter: <TheFocus> Is that the game which Capablanca gave as a gift to his sick wife Olga in Paris?
Feb-03-12  JoergWalter: <Dr.Yes: He and Morphy were the only two World Champions who had incredible natural genius for chess. The others had to combine less natural ability with hard work. Alekhine said that he studied chess eight hours a day. The wins of Morphy and Capablanca look computer like>

Is "computer like win" another word for "natural chess ability/talent"?? Is "computer like multiplication of numbers" a sign of "natural mathematical talent"?

Feb-03-12  RookFile: Actually, I think Euwe was all natural talent.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <JoergWalter> Yes. Please see <Chess Notes>:

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