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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Aron Nimzowitsch
New York (1927), New York, NY USA, rd 19, Mar-20
Queen's Indian Defense: Capablanca Variation (E16)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <RookFile>
<apparently, standards were different back then.> I find it hard to imagine how it could have ever been good sportsmanship for one player, during a game in progress, to make disparaging remarks about the opponent's play, threaten to win, and dictate his opponent's moves to force a draw.
Sep-24-05  RookFile: It sounds weird to me too. But,
Nimzo wasn't really doing that great
in the tournament, maybe he was happy Capa gave him a draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <beatgiant> "to make disparaging remarks about the opponent's play,"

You took my joke seriously? If not, what remarks?

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Calli>
From the first page of kibitzing: <Capablanca complained to the tournament director that unless Nimzowitsch played better, he (Capablanca) would be forced to win the game!> This behavior is patronizing, to say the least.

If he wanted to force a draw, why not do it the polite way with 21. Rd6 Kg7 22. Nd5 Nxd5 <23. Rxd5> (offer draw), since that position is at least not obviously lost for Black.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: I was looking for a quote. How can we call them "disparaging" and "threats" without knowing exactly what was said. Many false things have been written about this incident including one story in which poor Mimzo was left in tears at the end of game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Calli>
Good point. You wrote above <The TD later comfirmed the story in print>, so maybe it's better to look at what that primary source says. Do you have a citation for it?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: Searching the vast Calli archives.....

Aha! Chess Review (August 1949, page 225) Tournament Director Norbert Lederer commented:

"In fairness to Capa, it should be noted that he had already secured first prize since he had a three and a half point lead with only three games to play; these were against Alekhine, Nimzowitsch and Vidmar. Capa announced that, in order not to appear favoring one of the three, who were all in the running for second or third prize, he would play for a draw against each of them, and he so informed me as tournament director. Needless to say, I did not relish this attitude, but there was little I could do about it. During his game with Capablanca, Nimzowitsch indulged in some fancy play and found himself with a practically lost position. Capa then not only asked me to warn his opponent, but actually had to dictate the next four or five moves which Nimzowitsch played with great reluctance as he suspected a double-cross. However, he did follow instructions and a draw was reached four moves later."

No disparaging remarks reported by Lederer.

I don't condone Capablanca's behavior. Its not proper etiquette to suggest moves to an opponent. Still, the incident more weird than anything else. After all, he was giving away a half point. Capablanca somehow became so determined to draw the last three games, he flipped everything on its head. In this alternate reality, a win was bad and draw was better then a win.

Sep-24-05  RookFile: I think it shows that pride goes
before the fall. Capa found that
out a short time later against Alekhine.
Sep-25-05  paladin at large: <RookFile> Yes - and when you consider the adulation that was heaped on Capablanca after the New York 1927 tournament (one chronicler wrote, I believe: "The World Champion's name for the next ten years is Capablanca" - it is easy to grasp how he became overconfident.
Sep-25-05  Averageguy: Doesn't Capa have winning chances in this position?
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Averageguy: Doesn't Capa have winning chances in this position?> Yes. See earlier kibitzing on <Sep-17-05> to <Sep-19-05>.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Calli>< Capablanca somehow became so determined to draw the last three games, he flipped everything on its head.> He claimed the reason was not to favor any competitor in the race for second place. One can argue that by drawing a game he should have won against Nimzo, he favored Nimzo over Alekhine.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <beat> One could argue a lot of things because Capablanca's idea isn't a good one, but he certainly believed in it! Its just one of those things without real explanation. He had already agreed to the Alekhine match so he would not have cared if AA finished 2nd.
Sep-26-05  Averageguy: <beatgiant> Thanks, I'm often too lazy to read up on earlier kibitzing.
Oct-09-05  ConfusedPatzer: What is up with Capablanca always refering to him self as "we" in his articles? It's freaky... I always imagine an evil little creature on Capa's shoulder wispering in his ear...
Oct-09-05  paladin at large: Capablanca disliked to write, in general, and much of his writing comes across as stiff and formal, even when he conveys points well. He also disliked giving speeches. However, he was frequently natural and charming in person, and sometimes took the trouble to correspond with ordinary people and organizations that might have a link to promoting chess. This was a particular boon, I am sure, to his widespread popularity in the UK, USA as well, of course, to the Spanish-speaking countries.

The affectation of the royal "we" may stem from a combination of his sense of obligation to chess as WC and the fact that everything that he had ever done in chess had been written down - no false modesty here. There may be other factors - perhaps a sensitivity to the point that he was a university (Columbia) dropout. Capablanca greatly respected learning and scholarly achievement, read widely, and spoke five languages. He has, on occasion, referred to one or perhaps more of his opponents, in his annotations, as Dr. so-and-so, even when the opponent did not possess, as far as is known, the academic Dr. title. Another point is that Capa probably felt further inflated by his diplomatic status, and/or obligated to adopt a very dignified tone to support it.

Dec-27-08  NakoSonorense: Interesting stuff Capa dictating the last 5 moves to Nimzo. I would never have imagined something like that happening.
Dec-28-08  Karpova: Jose Raul Capablanca: <The same remarks about our game with Vidmar in the previous round apply to our game with Nimzowitsch, except that here we had a chance to win, of which we did not avail ourselves.>

That's the remarks about the Vidmar game he is referring to:

Jose Raul Capablanca: <Our game with Vidmar needs only a few remarks. The peculiar position in which we found ourselves with regard to the other three leading competitors made us decide to exert ourselves to play for draws unless our opponents threatened to win, since any defeat at our hands would put any one of them out of the running for a prize, without any benefit to ourselves. Our opponent being satisfied to draw, the game could only have one result.>

From "The New York Times", 1927.03.27, page 1 of the Sports Section

Source: Page 172 of Winter, Edward: "Capablanca: a compendium of games, notes, articles, correspondence, illustrations and other rare archival materials on the Cuban chess genius Jose Raul Capablanca, 1888-1942.", Jefferson, North Carolina, 1989

Aug-07-09  WhiteRook48: why did Capa want to draw his last three?
Aug-29-09  euripides: In the final position, perhaps Black can exchange the rooks. Whichever way White takes, Black can construct a pawn duo on one side of the passed pawn and it looks difficult for White to penetrate without allowing Black to get a pawn through. E.g. 24.Rxd5 Rxd5 25.exd5 f5 26.g4 Ke7 27.gxf5 gxf5 28.Kf2 h6:

click for larger view

Now White cannot make progress without playing his king to the 6th rank (even Kb5 can be forestalled with a6) when Black can queen a pawn.

25.cxd5 would allow the same idea with even less chance for White to outflank.

If this is right the pawn ending might be preferable in practice to the cramped rook ending.

Aug-29-09  euripides: ... if as <gypsy> and<beatgiant> suggest after <24.Rxd5> Black avoids the rook exchange with Re8, White might try pawn breaks with f4 or a4-a5 and his superior rook seems to generate some chances.
Jan-08-10  Eduardo Leon: <ughaibu>: Capablanca acted smug whenever he could. He is among the all-time greatest players, but he was very conceited, as if the whole world revolved around him.

Contrast Capablanca's attitude with that of Carlsen (not a classical chess champion yet, but I am 80-90% confident he will be sometime in the next 5-10 years). He is incredibly talented and, of course, he is aware of that. However, he understands that he is not entitled to act as if others were inferior.

Capablanca's other big defect was his na´vetÚ. But that is another topic.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <euripides>
Do you have any sample line where White tries pawn breaks and generates some chances after 24. Rxd5 Re8? I'd be interested in seeing how that's possible.

As for the pawn ending, I'd expect something like 24. Rxd5 Rxd5 <25. cxd5> b5 26. a4 a6 27. f4 f6 28. g4. That does look probably drawn, but Black might have to sweat a bit for it.

In any case, if you are right, it just further confirms that <24. cxd5> is the best chance, as <gypsy> and I analyzed above.

Jun-25-12  kasparvez: Ah, the Age of Chivalry!
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Regarding the sad affair involving this game, I agree with the old comment by <RookFile>, pride goes before the fall.
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