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Alexander Alekhine vs Jose Raul Capablanca
New York (1924), New York, NY USA, rd 12, Apr-02
Slav Defense: General (D10)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jul-07-05  FHBradley: I should add

Rubinstein vs Capablanca, 1911

to Aljechin's list of 'Capablanca's errors in endgame'

Jul-07-05  PARACONT1: <FH Bradley> Now you are a fair fellow! There's real research and unprejudiced, impartial work you've done!
Jul-08-05  FHBradley: Capablanca vs Alekhine, 1924;

deserves a special mention, since Aljechin says (again, in his book on the 1927-tournament in New York) that this game meant the real turning-point in Aljechin's appraisal of Capablanca's chess style ("diese Partie wurde u.a. zum Wendepunkt meines Begreifens der Schachindividualität Capablancas").

Jul-08-05  euripides: I think Fischer also said Capablanca was overrated as an endgame player and that his real skill lay in generating excellent positions by sharp play in the opening.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Pal Benko said that Capablanca was a sloppy endgame player, and much overrated in that regard.
Jul-02-07  CapablancaFan: <FSR><Capablanca was a sloppy endgame player> I could respond to this statement in depth, but if I do, it might validate it for you, so I'll just let people come to their own conclusions about you, LOL.
Jul-02-07  micartouse: <FSR> didn't say Capa was a sloppy endgame player - a few world class grandmasters did. Don't shoot the messenger!
Jul-02-07  CapablancaFan: <micartouse> The point is, he didn't denounce Benko's statement, merely quoting him as if it were fact. If this is not his intention, he needs to make his posts more transparent.
Jul-02-07  THE pawn: With the possible exception of Rubinstein, Capablanca's endgame was far superior to anyone back then, so to say that his technique was mediocre is beyond ridiculous. I feel there was a bit of jealousy coming from Alekhine and friends.
Jul-02-07  micartouse: I'd be interested in reading GM Benko's exact comments. If he called Capa's endgame play sloppy because of a few minor errors, that's just nuts. But our opinion means far less than his. :)

I think Fischer has a point. Capa seems to arrive at the ending with anything from the easier side of equality to an outright win. Therefore, he may simply be a superstrong middlegame player who tries to steer toward simplicity.

As for Alekhine, he's proven himself to lack objectivity on the issue of his rival.

Jul-02-07  Nasruddin Hodja: I would also like to add to FHBradley's comments the simple statement that the number of players who have ever approached perfection in the endgame can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Rubinstein, Fischer, Smyslov, Karpov, and Petrosian in their peak years are about as close as one gets, and it's telling that none of the five were able to make this peak last for more than a handful of years.

Anyone who doubts this should look at the Tragicomedies in Dvoretsky's _Endgame Manual_ which shows the world's best players continually making one goof after another in the endgame. (I'm working on a collection of these games, btw).

It should be noted that Alekhine was living in a glass house wrt to criticizing other players' endgame abilities. At his peak, from 1929 to 1933, he had no superiors in the endgame, imo, but he made quite a few famous endgame errors before this period and in the post-1933 period when alcohol and social isolation began to take their toll on his chess talent.

All of which goes to show that the endgame is probably the most difficult part of chess because it requires a combination of both sharp, unconventional intuition as well as a highly developed ability to calculate variations, especially when considering the consequences of exchanging pieces.

Capablanca may have had the first, but lacked the second, which is why Alekhine, Benko, and Fischer have criticized his endgame abilities in retrospect. Much as I hate to echo Kasparov in MGP, Capablanca made endgames look easy not because he was a transcendent endgame player but because he had a knack of provoking his opponents into weakening their own position in the middle game, and such weaknesses usually proved indefensible even against slightly inaccurate endgame technique.

Which brings to mind an important part of chess mastery: if you are a good positional player in the middle game, you won't need to keep finding unobvious "only" moves in the endgame in order to grind out a win or save the draw. And that's an important thing to keep in mind.

Jul-02-07  CapablancaFan: Hmhmhmhmhm, LOL! This is so entertaining. Why are so many people afraid to admit that Capa was an endgame specialist? Why are they afraid to give him credit? I may have a partial answer to this.

Capablanca's style of play is simply not attractive to alot of people. As someone mentioned before, he was the master of simplification. What do I mean by this? Quite simply, many of Capa's game he would rapidly exchange to reach a favorable endgame. The endgame, his home on the chessboard. Does one realize it is so easily overlooked at times the skill and talent it takes to reach an endgame where you have a slight advantage?

On the Capablanca bio page his skill is noted "particularly in the endgame". Irving Chernev dedicated an entire book to Capa's endgames. Bobby Fischer said " Capablanca one of the greatest endgame players ever".

It's ok not to like Capablanca's style, but to say he was a good endgame player? Sorry, the facts just dosen't support that.

Jul-02-07  THE pawn: And I find it funny that some people say Capablanca is better in the middlegame, forcing opponents to make concessions so his endgame can be easier. To do that, you need enormous endgame knowledge, not just «being good» in the middlegame.
Jul-02-07  CapablancaFan: <CORRECTION> I meant to say that to say Capablanca was NOT a good endgame player, the facts don't support that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  ganstaman: Ok, well possibly more interesting for me: who was the worst endgame player, out of anyone who was ever top 10 or so?
Jul-02-07  brankat: Capablanca stated that Dr. Lasker had no equal in the field of Endgames.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <ganstaman> David Janowski tends to come up in such discussions, but that may be because he claimed not to like endgames.

I wonder if anyone could be flat-out bad at endgames and be top 10, at least in the past hundred years or so. They're just so important.

Bogoljubov seems to come up as a negative example in Fine's Basic Chess Endings, either failing to win won endings or losing drawn endings.

Among modern players, Tal was sometimes criticized for his endgame play, which bugged him. Someone here <whatthefat>, I think -- gathered statistics on how chessplayers did in long games, or perhaps it was games where queens had been exchanged, and as I recall the statistics tended to bear out the accusation that Tal wasn't the best endgame player. Of course he played some great endings--the 1964 win over Smyslov is often cited as one of the best endings ever. If endings really were a shortcoming for him, it was probably because he got careless or inattentive in very dry endings.

Kasparov was occasionally self-critical about his own endgame play, but if he was weak in endings it was only by comparison to, say, Karpov.

Jul-02-07  whatthefat: <keypusher>

Here are those statistics, for Tal, then Kasparov-Karpov, then some modern day greats:


Games are separated using the criterion: "Have queens been traded by the 30th move (or the end of the game, depending which comes first)?" Results for <player A-player B> are presented as probabilities of <player A wins / draw / player B wins>.

Queens not traded: 0.43 / 0.43 / 0.14
Queens traded: 0.20 / 0.47 / 0.33

Queens not traded: 0.45 / 0.32 / 0.23
Queens traded: 0.18 / 0.71 / 0.12

Queens not traded: 0.24 / 0.57 / 0.19
Queens traded: 0.09 / 0.70 / 0.22

Queens not traded: 0.04 / 0.74 / 0.22
Queens traded: 0.10 / 0.50 / 0.40

Queens not traded: 0.14 / 0.48 / 0.38
Queens traded: 0.14 / 0.67 / 0.19


<to the end of 1986>

Queens not traded: 0.14 / 0.78 / 0.08
Queens traded: 0.07 / 0.74 / 0.19

<from 1987>

Queens not traded: 0.27 / 0.53 / 0.20
Queens traded: 0.07 / 0.89 / 0.04

<Note>: While the general trend of Kasparov's improved endgame play remains, the absurd number of short agreed draws between K&K clouds these statistics somewhat. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that the drawing percentage is much higher with queens on!


Queens not traded: 0.35 / 0.45 / 0.20
Queens traded: 0.30 / 0.67 / 0.04

Queens not traded: 0.35 / 0.50 / 0.15
Queens traded: 0.23 / 0.59 / 0.18

Queens not traded: 0.36 / 0.39 / 0.25
Queens traded: 0.28 / 0.48 / 0.24

Queens not traded: 0.19 / 0.62 / 0.19
Queens traded: 0.11 / 0.79 / 0.09

<Note>: Given how close this record is, the fact that Shirov dominates Kramnik makes Kasparov-Shirov an interesting match up, though there is less data to work from:

Queens not traded: 0.47 / 0.53 / 0.00
Queens traded: 0.57 / 0.43 / 0.00

<Note>: This is a completely unexpected result, given that Shirov convincingly beats both Kramnik and Topalov. Obviously this method is insufficient to explain why, but it still at least gives some insight. Despite being an excellent endgame player, Shirov's results are actually worse with an early queen trade. This suggests to me that Shirov's problems against Kasparov are emerging earlier in the game, i.e., he is being consistently out prepared.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Thanks, <whatthefat>. There are quite a few surprises in there, but one of the biggest is that Tal's big problem with Korchnoi seems to be the middlegame!
Jul-03-07  JMJ565X: doesnt look like a draw to me play the game wankers
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <CapablancaFan> I don't intend to "report Benko's statement as fact," just to report it. I haven't made a detailed study of Capablanca's endgames, and of course both Capablanca and Benko are/were far superior endgame (and other parts of the game, for that matter) players to me.
Oct-11-07  Erdkunde: <JMJ565X> the pawn structure is completely symmetrical, and there are opposite coloured bihops. After the heavy pieces are traded off along the c-file, the position would classically be considered a draw. Generally, players of this calibre do not bother to play out such positions where the end result is already obvious.
May-26-14  Ashperov1988: What a bunch of sour comments above. What counts in reality, concerning this subject, was his endgame performances in competitions. in the heat of the battle. sure maybe many armchair generals are fantastic from the comfort of their home in the endgame with their slippers on. But Capa won many fantastic endgames in the "heat of the battle" while the "pressure" was on. this is what counts above all else. you may find grandmasters who are better than the world champion from the comfort of their own home. but that's not what counts. there was an endgame book on capablancas best endgames. I have it at home somewhere and is a joy really, especially for an amateur like me with a professional life outside the royal game. Anyway Kudus capa, a pioneer of much we take for granted now.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <JMJ565X: doesnt look like a draw to me play the game wankers>

On a page replete with rubbish, this is the silliest comment of all.

May-27-16  edubueno: Alekhine was affraid of Capa in this game. Why not to intend 16 Tc1 . Db6?
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