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Capablanca - Marshall Match

Jose Raul Capablanca15/23(+8 -1 =14)[games]
Frank Marshall8/23(+1 -8 =14)[games] Chess Event Description
Capablanca - Marshall (1909)

Capablanca = 1 = = 1 1 0 1 = = 1 1 1 = = = = = = = = = 1 15 Marshall = 0 = = 0 0 1 0 = = 0 0 0 = = = = = = = = = 0 8

Games 1-5 were played in New York (until Tuesday, April 27th); game 6 in Morristown, NJ; game 7 in Scranton, PA; game 8 in Wilkes-Barre, PA; and games 9-23 in New York resumed on Saturday, May 8. The match started on Monday, April 19th and finished by late June.

"No difficulty was experienced in arranging the match. Marshall was disposed to play in this case where he naturally discounted his victory. How far he was wrong the result proved. I beat him eight to one with fourteen draws thrown in between. I can safely say that no player ever performed such a feat, as it was my first encounter against a master, and such a master, one of the first ten in the whole world. The most surprising feature of all was the fact that I played without ever having opened a book to study the openings; in fact, had Marshall played such things as Danish Gambits, Vienna Openings, or the like, the result might have been different. I certainly should have experienced more difficulty in obtaining such a result. I had only looked an analysis of the Ruy Lopez by Lasker, on the 3...f5 defense, but the analysis was wrong, as it did not give the strongest continuation for Black. This, and whatever I knew from experience or hearsay, was all of my stock of knowledge for the match. My victory put me at once in the foremost rank among the great masters of the game. The play during the match showed that I was weak in the openings and just strong enough in the simple play for position. My great strength lay in the endgame, and I also excelled in combinations of the middlegame. I had a fine judgment as to whether a given position was won or lost, and was able to defend a difficult position as few players could, as I repeatedly demonstrated during the course of the match, in repulsing Marshall's onslaughts. I may add that my style was not as yet either definite or complete, though it had a wide range, that is, I could attack almost as well as I could defend, and could make combinations in the middlegame nearly as well as play the endings where I felt more at home and was decidedly strongest" - Capablanca in My Chess Career.

At the time this match was sanctioned by the New York State Chess Association as being for the U.S. Championship. Since the death of U.S. Champion Harry Nelson Pillsbury in 1906, many had assumed that Marshall, due to his great tournament successes, should be the player to inherit his crown. This match was intended as a title defense for Marshall, but after losing this match, Marshall declared that Capablanca, a citizen of Cuba, could not be U.S. Champion, as he was not a U.S. citizen. Cuba was at this time an American possession.

Due to Marshall's protests, the chess community turned to lawyer Walter Penn Shipley to settle the dispute. Shipley ruled that neither Marshall nor Capablanca was the U.S. Champion, and that upon Pillsbury's death, the title had reverted to the last living person to hold it, the retired Jackson Whipps Showalter.

"If there is any chess champion of the United States, Jackson W. Showalter, of Kentucky, is the holder of the title. Since he won it, he has never declined a challenge, and until he does so, neither Marshall, nor Capablanca, nor any other player has a valid claim to the title. It is self-evident that no one who is neither a native or naturalized citizen of the United States can be considered." - Chess Weekly, 1909. Shipley further concluded that Capablanca could not become U.S. Champion without becoming a U.S. Citizen. At this time, the New York State Chess Association withdrew their support for Capablanca's claim, effectively stripping him of the title.

Prior to leaving for Havana on a six week trip, Capablanca was reported as intending to apply for U.S. citizenship once he became eligible. After his return to the US, Capablanca made a public statement with a somewhat modified position, (quoted here from the American Chess Bulletin:

"Since my return to this country, a few days ago, I have been asked several times concerning my attitude with respect to the United States championship and my citizenship. In reply I wish to make known my attitude in this respect. I am the undisputed champion of Cuba, and last spring I beat Marshall by the score of 8 to 1. Mr. Marshall has the greatest reputation and the best score in tournaments of any living chess player in the U.S.A., and is therefore considered everywhere as the strongest representative of the United States.

By my victory over Marshall, I have taken his position as the strongest representative on this side of the Atlantic. Therefore, I consider myself the 'champion of America,' and stand ready to defend my title within a year against any American of the U.S.A. or anywhere else, for a side bet of at least $1000, United States currency. Under these circumstances the question whether I am a citizen of the U.S.A. or not has nothing to do with the matter under consideration."

The American Chess Bulletin's interpretation of this statement was that Capablanca was claiming to be the strongest player in the Western Hemisphere, not the U.S. champion.

Marshall challenged and beat Showalter for the U.S. title, in a match held later in 1909: Marshall - Showalter US Championship (1909).

Marshall showed no animosity against Capablanca over this affair, and even endorsed his entry into the San Sebastian (1911) tournament, though Capablanca did not meet the qualifications for entry.

Based on an original collection by User: TheFocus.

 page 1 of 1; 23 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½301909Capablanca - MarshallD33 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
2. Capablanca vs Marshall 1-0321909Capablanca - MarshallC63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense
3. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½361909Capablanca - MarshallD50 Queen's Gambit Declined
4. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½191909Capablanca - MarshallC66 Ruy Lopez
5. Marshall vs Capablanca 0-1521909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
6. Capablanca vs Marshall 1-0391909Capablanca - MarshallC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
7. Marshall vs Capablanca 1-0251909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
8. Capablanca vs Marshall 1-0311909Capablanca - MarshallC62 Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz Defense
9. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½671909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
10. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½491909Capablanca - MarshallC63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense
11. Marshall vs Capablanca 0-1431909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
12. Capablanca vs Marshall 1-0551909Capablanca - MarshallC63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense
13. Marshall vs Capablanca 0-1491909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
14. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½311909Capablanca - MarshallC74 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
15. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½311909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
16. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½561909Capablanca - MarshallC49 Four Knights
17. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½451909Capablanca - MarshallC49 Four Knights
18. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½241909Capablanca - MarshallC49 Four Knights
19. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½151909Capablanca - MarshallD00 Queen's Pawn Game
20. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½251909Capablanca - MarshallC42 Petrov Defense
21. Marshall vs Capablanca ½-½391909Capablanca - MarshallD53 Queen's Gambit Declined
22. Capablanca vs Marshall ½-½261909Capablanca - MarshallC42 Petrov Defense
23. Marshall vs Capablanca 0-1491909Capablanca - MarshallD33 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch
 page 1 of 1; 23 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-16-13  Caissanist: It has always seemed to me that Marshall and Capablanca had a quid pro quo arrangment of some kind after Capablanca won this match. Perhaps Capablanca agreed not to pursue the US championship title, and in return Marshall committed to helping Capablanca get an invitation to a top European tournament. Marshall's lobbying campaign to get Capablanca invited to the 1911 San Sebastian tournament was rather unusual, and I have to think he had motives other than simple altruism.
Feb-16-13  TheFocus: Well, Capa was not interested in the U.S. title, but the world title.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: Capablanca's response, quoted above from the <American Chess Bulletin> is spot on. Instead of arguing over whether he was or not U.S. champion, he set himself higher as the champion of the Americas (or the Western Hemisphere). Clever resolution to a dispute that would otherwise be a petty one for the future world champion.
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: It makes sense. Marshall knew that if it came to another match against Capa he would almost certainly lose, but this way he could obtain and keep his US championship. Capa wanted to go ahead with his plans towards the ultimate goal of the WChampionship. San Sebastian was a logical and necessary step for him. But what neither one of them dreamed was that Capa would actually win San Sebastian...
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Capablanca comes out of this very well. He was initially led to believe that the match was "for the U.S. Championship". It would not seem to matter that he was a Cuban because "Cuba was at this time an American possession".

When a row starts he states, very diplomatically, that he is instead "Champion of the Americas" in the continental sense, and that seems to calm everyone down.

Within two years he would begin his long search for a match with Dr Lasker!

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: This match was played at 8 venues, as far as I can make out.

The Brooklyn Chess Club hosted only games 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20 and every one of them was drawn.

Game 19 was drawn in 15 moves!

Apr-25-17  sudoplatov: Actually, Cuba was independent since 1902. During the Spanish-American War, the US declared that Cuba would become independent after the war (it took about 4 years; probably to sign all the forms).

I assume that Marshall and Capablanca were friends until death; probably as there were few others in the Western Hemisphere who could talk chess to them.

Jun-16-17  zanzibar: The match moved around perhaps even more than the intro indicates.

The first three games, beginning at 2pm, began in the large banquet room of the Ansonia, 2nd floor Broadway & 73rd.

Then the first two of a series of five at Manhattan Chess Club, etc.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <NYT>, Thursday, January 7th 1909, p.7:

<Frank J. Marshall, who is on board the steamship Batavia, due to-day, has been matched to play a series of three games against Jose R. Capablanca, the young Cuban expert, at the Rice Chess Club on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.>

<NYT>, January 10th 1909, Part IV p.3:

<In consequence of the indisposition of Frank J. Marshall, who returned from Europe on Friday, the series of three games between him and Jose R. Capablanca for a purse provided by Felix E. Kahn of the Manhattan Chess Club was not begun yesterday as scheduled. Capablanca was on hand and will be ready at 2 o'clock this afternoon, in case Marshall is in condition to proceed.>

I'm tempted to think that Marshall, who was always up for a fight, threw a sickie. Not that I'm suggesting he was scared; he was returning to America after a 20-month absence (so he could be forgiven for not having first-hand knowledge of Capa's strength), with his wife and child in tow, and the ship docked five days late due to hazardous weather. Perhaps Marshall deserves the benefit of the doubt - the <BDE> of January 15th reporting on his first public engagement, a simul in which he lost eight of thirty-two games, mentioned his 'suffering from a cold' and that he 'looked none too well physically'.

The <New York Tribune> of January 21st, p.5, details the agreement for a match between Marshall and Jaffe to start January 31st: <The backers of Marshall also announced yesterday that they had the sum of $600 ready to put on Marshall for a set match against any player in the United States, Jose R. Capablanca preferred. The latter, however, will not return from his tour until March.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: The Sun (New York), July 4th 1909, p.7:

<There has been a great deal of criticism among chess players everywhere over the way in which the recently concluded Marshall-Capablanca match was managed, and especially among those whose financial aid made the contest possible.

The match was one of "eight games up, draws not to count," that is, the player first to win eight games would be the victor. The first three games were played in public for gate receipts, the remaining to be contested at clubs subscribing so much per game, the management to receive 10 per cent. of the profits.

The fact that Capablanca was able to win seven of the first thirteen games played, drawing five and losing but one, and should then be unable to score the final win necessary to terminate the match - drawing nine games in succession, gave rise to the widespread suspicion that these final games were "fixed," or at least that Capablanca was deliberately prolonging the match and refusing to win the final game for the purpose of making more money. Nothing could be more untrue. Nothing could place this young Cuban genius in a falser light, or do more to hurt his standing among chess players or his reputation generally. Such an offence if true would be sufficient to bar him from international tournaments, and a well known amateur expressed the opinion of many when he said that Capablanca's apparent inability to win the final game was doing less injury to his reputation as a player than to his reputation as a man.

The fact is that it was Marshall and not Capablanca who was playing for the draw. As Marshall himself openly and publicly asserted, toward the end of the match he had no chance of winning out against such a handicap, and consequently the best that he could do would be to draw as many games as possible, thereby prolonging the match, and owing to the terms of agreement making more out of it. And in this, for a time at least, he was successful; for it is no easy thing to give the odds of a draw to a master of the Marshall calibre, or in other words to win a game of chess from an opponent who is trying simply to draw the game and not win it.

Had the match been played for a side bet or "backing" or for a fixed purse subscribed to by clubs or individuals, or both, there would have been a settled amount for the winner and for the loser and neither side would have had anything to gain by playing for the draw or unnecessarily prolonging the match; both sides would have played for a win from start to finish and the subscribers would have received full value for their money.

It was not until all available funds were exhausted - the referee, Felix E. Khan, having ordered the players to continue even though without compensation - that Marshall lost the final game and with it the match.>

Mar-09-18  BorisBadenov: I would like to say "thank you" to the posting members commenting on this match that occurred over 100 years ago. I just discovered the controversy surrounding it since the books I have do not explain WHERE this match was held. Now I see it was held in several cities over several months. No wonder! One book I have, Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess, says that Frank Marshall was given to strong drink, which affected his ability to be consistently at his best playing games. It seems to me this page of our history goes a long way to highlight the nationalism and prejudice that was strong in the USA 100 years ago, and it's not too hard to believe that Americans in the USA would not care to recognize any "foreigner" from Cuba, no less, as the US Champion of ANYTHING, let alone this obscure game of chess! IMHO. In any event, what strikes me about Capablanca is that he cherished close friendships among chess masters and amateurs alike worldwide, and was a great model of how to be a gentleman in tournaments. He didn't lose too often but when he did, he lost gracefully! His unfortunate, premature and tragic death by heart attack in the NY Manhattan Chess Club during the War, 1942, deprived the world of more artful games for which he was renown, as well as any more books he could have written. This match of 1909 sheds light on his character and helps us to know that he was far-sighted enough to set his sights higher than the US Championship, especially when the organization of US chess was still in its infancy.
Mar-09-18  Petrosianic: <It seems to me this page of our history goes a long way to highlight the nationalism and prejudice that was strong in the USA 100 years ago, and it's not too hard to believe that Americans in the USA would not care to recognize any "foreigner" from Cuba, no less, as the US Champion of ANYTHING, let alone this obscure game of chess!>

You're letting your own prejudices color the discussion. There's nothing odd or unreasonable about having to belong to a country to hold its national championship. You've never seen a Canadian hold the Cuban Championship, have you?

Mar-09-18  Petrosianic: The whole story behind this match is more or less as follows:

1) Max Judd, who had held the US Championship briefly in the early 1890's tried to organize a tournament for the US Championship, hoping to win it himself, but in fact Marshall won it.

2) But there was a big hue and outcry against Judd's tournament because the reigning US Champion, Pillsbury, although ill, was still alive. Everyone regarded it is a pirate tournament.

3) When Pillsbury died, Marshall seemed to regard himself as US Champion, maybe because of this tournament, maybe just because he was obviously the best US Player, maybe both.

4) Marshall played a match against Capablanca for the US Championship, expecting to win it, but instead getting toasted.

5) After losing, Marshall challenged the validity of the match, arguing Capa was ineligible to be US Champion as he was not a US Citizen. Capa argued that he was planning to become one.

6) The whole matter was submitted to the much respected Walter Penn Shipley for arbitration. Both sides agreed to let Shipley decide who was US Champion. Shipley ruled that as a non-citizen, Capablanca couldn't hold the title. But Marshall wasn't the champion either. According to Shipley, when Pillsbury died, the title reverted to the last person to hold it: Jackson Showalter.

7) Marshall quickly nipped off to Kentucky and challenged Showalter to a match, which he won. Capa gave up his plans to become a US Citizen.

Mar-09-18  zanzibar: Seems like a pretty good recap by <Petrosianic>
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: More like a nightcap. His posts always have a somnolent effect.

East European Jews took over the New York chess scene to such an extent by the 1920s that Capa was probably seen by the Yankees as 'one of us'.

May-18-18  machuelo: First, Cuba was not a United States possession in 1909 as mentioned by Off ramp. Second it is no true (Cassianist) that Marshall lobbied for Capablanca to be invited to San Sebastian 1911. It is clear in the book "José Raúl Capablanca, A Chess Biography", McFarland 2015, that the person who invited Capablanca was his compatriot Manuel Márquez Sterling, at the time lessor of the Gran Casino of San Sebastian and the person which the idea of the tournament. Before 1911 and under the pseudonym of M. Marquet, the Cuban was the creator of the tournaments in Ostend, Belgium, and at the same time lessor of the casinos of that city.
Aug-19-18  mifralu: Marshall challenged Capablanca to decide the title "Pan-American Champion" in February 1916.

<My match in 1909 with Capablanca was, as your chess writer knows, simply a series of exhibition games under the auspices of a chess publication played eight months before I won the United States chess championship from Showalter... >

Feb-23-22  Caissanist: Of course Marshall did publicly advocate for Capablanca's invitation to San Sebastian. I don't know, and I doubt anyone knows, whether this played into the decison of Marquez and/or the other organizers to invite Capa.

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