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Paul Keres vs Jose Raul Capablanca
AVRO (1938), The Netherlands, rd 6, Nov-14
French Defense: Tarrasch Variation. Open System Main Line (C09)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jun-01-07  jmrulez2004: Capablanca was such a wonderful player that it took an endgame to beat him, many players after keres wonderful moves would have lost in midgame.
Apr-18-08  Ulhumbrus: On 14 c4 Black cannot reply with 14...d4 and so it may seem that Black's centre has become a target instead of a weapon. However instead of 15...dxc4 which leaves Black with a shattered Queen side, 15...c5! changes things. It threatens ...d4 and on 15...c5 16 cxd5 Nxd5 threatens ...Nf4. So why did Capablanca not play it? The answer is that he was suffering from blood pressure and was playing in a haze, if not in a daze : Anything could have failed to occur to him. Had Capablanca been in better health, the public would have gained a completely different impression of his strength, such as that which he displayed at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939.
Aug-02-09  birthtimes: This game provides a wonderful example of Nimzowitsch's concept of overprotection. By move 17, the d4 square is contacted by White's bishop, knight, and queen. On move 20, Keres moves his f1 rook to d1, further "overprotecting" the d4 square.

On the next move, Keres moves his knight onto the d4 square, and from that point onwards, as Nimzowitsch states, "the reward came in the form of a large radius of activity for the pieces engaged on that service [of overprotecting a strategically important point]."

That is, the knight radiated out from d4 to e6, g5, and f7; the queen to g4; the bishop to g7; and the d1 rook to d7 followed by e7.

Thus, "everything that we can include in the conception of strategically important points, should be overprotected. If the pieces are so engaged, they get their reward in the fact that they will then find themselves well posted [for further beneficial action] in every respect."

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Capablanca played the French all 3 games he faced 1 e4 in this tournament with only one draw to show for it. 6..Qe7+ was first played in Panov-Bondarevsky 1937 USSR Championship; it seems dubious as White obtains a large lead in development. 9..Bd6?! led to a further loss of time; 9..Nf6 followed by ..Be7 seems more logical. 15..dxc was almost forced due to the threats of c5 and Ng5. Capablanca may have been counting on playing 21..Rd5 only to realize that after 22 Nxc6!..Rxd1+ 23 Rxd1..Qxc6 24 Rxd6! White wins a pawn. Kasparov showed extensive analysis of 25..Re7 with Black having decent drawing chances. Capablanca's last chance to stay in the game would have been 27..Bxg3. Instead, he lost a second pawn and had no chance to save the game.
Sep-13-11  Kasparovsky5: Instead of: 28.Rxf4 Keres could have won prettily as follows: 28.Rd7!!,Bb8. 29.Bxg7!!,Rh5 (Kxg7. 30.Nd6+ wins the queen). 30.R4-d4,Rd5 (Practically forced). 31.Nh6 mate.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: <Kasparovsky5> - <28. Rd7> is better met by <28...Rd5>, for instance, 29. Rd4 Qxd7 30. Qxd7 Rxd7 31. Rxd7. I believe that Keres' actual move is still the best continuation.
Sep-16-11  Kasparovsky5: < Chessical> After 28. ...,Rd5 Keres has 29.Re7!!,Bxg3. 30.Nh6+!!,gxh6. 31.Rg7+,Kf8. 32.Qxg3,Qf5. 33.Rxh7 with an extra pawn and a dominating position as 33. ...,Qb1+?? loses as follows: 34.Kh2,Qxb2. 35.Qf3+,Kg8. 36.Qf7 mate!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: <Kasparovsky5: < Chessical> After 28. ...,Rd5 Keres has 29.Re7!!,Bxg3. 30.Nh6+!!,gxh6. 31.Rg7+,Kf8. 32.Qxg3,Qf5. 33.Rxh7 with an extra pawn and a dominating position as 33. ...,Qb1+?? loses as follows: 34.Kh2,Qxb2. 35.Qf3+,Kg8. 36.Qf7 mate!!>

Can't <30.Nh6+> simply be taken by ...Bxh6? Remember Black still has a Bf4, since your suggestion eschews its capture on move 28.

Even if Keres saw such tactical possibilities (and be likely saw many options) he chose the most solid and easily winning. Nothing to quibble about...

Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: Oh, I see... Well Keres' move is still best, but I see you have Capa playing 29.. Bxg3. In either case, Keres is still crushing his opponent.
Nov-06-18  laskereshevsky: From what i know the only other game Capablanca was in the position after 6...♕e7+ was in this 1929 simul game Capablanca vs D E McNab, 1929 .... just in the white camp (!) ... He played 7. ♕e2 and lost... May be he hope Keres did the same choice? ... of course 7 ♗e2 is much better
Jan-02-19  machuelo: "Gypsi" is wrong. Keres just beat Capa once, in AVRO 1938.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: I wonder why Keres avoided 23.Nxg7.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Telemus: <Honza Cervenka> At least some commentators thought that White loses a piece after 23. ♘xg7 ♗e5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Telemus: <Honza Cervenka> At least some commentators thought that White loses a piece after 23. ♘xg7 ♗e5.> OK, Keres apparently, as well as these commentators, missed that after 23.Nxg7 Be5 24.Bxe5 Qxe5 white can play 25.Qg4 attacking the Rook on c8 with next retreat of Knight from g7 via h5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  fredthebear: Paul Keres
"Keres beat nine world champions during his career, including Tal, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky and Fischer, some of them several times. He was the most consistently successful player and won more international tournaments than any of his contemporaries."


Jul-29-19  pdvossen: Paul Keres is one of my favorite players. I love Fischer, Tal, Kasporov, Short and more. However, the inventive and very strong games of Paul Keres intrigue me. So close to becoming World Champion so many times. His chess is simply powerful, and beautiful to study. If not for Soviet Politics, he most probably would have been one of the great World Champions. His not being a " Russian " no doubt hindered him in many ways. Yet, he made no excuses. This match as well as others are all worthy of study, this one particularly a good to consider in his creative style.
May-05-20  jerseybob: <Ulhumbrus: On 14 c4 ...instead of 15...dxc4 which leaves Black with a shattered Queen side, 15...c5! changes things. It threatens ...d4 and on 15...c5 16 cxd5 Nxd5 threatens ...Nf4> I'll agree that 15..dxc4 was bad(Stockfish suggests 15..Ng6), but the idea that 15..c5 is a game-changer seems a little over the top. I don't have Keres' notes, but after 16.cxd5,Nxd5 17.g3 seems OK, and if 17..Nb4 18.Qc3,f6 19.Bc4!? and black has defensive resources for sure, but I'd take white.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <perfessor>
On 23. Nxg7 Be5 24. Bxe5 Qxe5 25. Qg4 f5, why can't White simply play <26. Nxf5>?
May-05-20  RookFile: If chess was like Wimbledon in tennis and they had a championship tournament every year, undoubtedly Keres would have won some of these.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessmaletaja: <LOW PRECISION>

I have analyzed this game Keres - Capablanca 1938 using the chess engine Komodo. Chessbase's "Tactical Analysis", 30 min/move (I do not know the other parameters). Bad news for Capablanca!


White = 53%,
Black = 20%>

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessmaletaja: <About the move 8...♕b4>


"Couldnt Capablanca have held onto the extra pawn with 8. ...Qb4?" Knezh:
"8. ..Qb4 9.Nb3 what now?"

Let us see, what happens if Black is trying to desperately defend one's extra pawn ♙/d4?

8...♕b4? 9. ♘b3 ♗c5? 10. a3 ♕b6 ▢ 11. ♘xc5 ♕xc5 12. b4! (Δ 13. ♗b2) 12...♕c3?? 13. ♗d2! ♕c3 14. ♗d3! Now the pawn ♙/d4 is Black's worst enemy. 14...♗e6 15. ♕e2 Δ 16. ♖fb1

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessmaletaja: <About the move 9. ♖e1>

"9.Re1 Be7 10.Nb3 is another possibility..."

9. ♖e1?! ♘f6!

and White has gained nothing. Black can castle anyway, while the move 9. ♖e1 was not so useful for White's other plans - like winning back the central pawn ♙/d4.

10. ♗c4+? ♗e7 and the pawn ♙/d5 is defended.

10. ♘xd4?? ♘xd4 11. ♗b5+ ♔d8 and there is no checkmate 12. ♖e8+ because of 12...♘xe8.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessmaletaja: <It is better to pass than to move one's queen>


1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. ♘d2 c5 4. exd5 exd5 5. ♘f3 ♘c6 6. ♗b5 ♕e7+ 7. ♗e2 cxd4 8. 0-0

to free one's bishop ♗/f8 Capablanca made the move


It is the sideline of ECO C09/02. The mainline is paradoxical


Black has sacrificed a tempo to throw White's bishop from b5 back to e2. This move was made in the game

Geller vs Spassky, 1968

The move 8...♕c7 has been more popular.

Kasparov writes in his books "My Great Predecessors, part 2" that the move 8...♕d8 "is hardly any better".

It is interesting to note, however, that the move 8...♕c7, while the most popular, does not belong to the list of 4 best moves, according to the chess engine Komodo. If the depth of analysis is 32 half-moves, the machine provides the following evaluations in the centipawns:

8...♕d8 (0.44/32);

8...♘f6 (0.44/32);

8...♕d6 (0.55/32);

8...♕d7 (0.58/32).

Now, let us consider the variation

6. ♗e2 cxd4 7. 0-0

See the diagram below:

click for larger view

The chess engine evaluations above mean that in the position shown it is better for Black to pass - to make an illegal empty move

7... ♕d8-d8

than to move


(and no one has ever made that last move).

The position of the queen on c7 is 1/10 centipawns worse than on d8.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessmaletaja: <Capablanca had a wrong plan in the opening.>

Several commentators, including Keres, have noted Capablanca's mistakes during the 5. - 9. moves:

5...♘c6 better was 5...♘f6;
6...♕e7 better was 6...♗d6;
7...cxd4 better was 7...♕c7;
8...♕c7 better was 8...♕d8 (computer's suggestion);
9...♗d6?! better was 9...♘f6.

The move


has been regarded as forced.

The commentators have not criticized this move and have regarded it as natural because of White's threat 11. ♘b5. The chess engine Komodo, however, identifies 10...a6? as the first Black's move that loses more than 0.20 centipawns (it loses approximately 0.50 centipawns). Better was


This move gives up the bishop pair, that's why I have marked the preceding move 9...♗d6 with the mark "?!".

I would rather say that up to now, Capablanca has done no mistakes, but his plan has been mistaken, and the move 10...a6? completing this plan was a final and considerable mistake.

After 10...a6? the following position is on the board:

click for larger view

White has lost 2 tempos: ♘d2-b3-d4.
In sum, Black has lost 4 - 2 = 2 tempos: ♘/g8 has not been developed and Black has not castled.

Note that the value of White's position is (0.98/30). Suppose now, that it is Black to move. Then the value of the position is (0.00/29) and the best continuation is 11...♘f6.

Thus, because of Black's ambitious plan chosen, the value of 1 tempo is approximately 100 centipawns here (usually, it is about 33 centipawns). If Black succeeds to castle, without trouble, then Black's position is fine.

In 1938, however, Keres failed to make the move

11. c4! ⩲

and played

11. b3? =

and temporarily, Capablanca escaped.

In 1966, Keres's book "100 Games" was published in Russian (in Estonian, Keres's analysis of the game was published earlier, in 1961). In that book, the move 11. c4! was suggested. In 1969, Tal successfully used the move 11. c4! in the game

Tal vs A Zaitsev, 1969

11. c4! ♘f6?

(better is 11...♘ge7 12. cxd5 ♘xd5 13. ♗c4 ± Keres)

12. ♗g5! ♘e4?! 13. cxd5 ♘xd4?? 14. ♕xd4 ♘xg5 15. ♕xg7! +-

Jan-22-21  tympsa: White had decisive advantage already after queen +rook trade . pawns on both wings supported by bishop , passer. Capa may as well resigned several moves sooner .

This was peak Keres , he did not lose a game in AVRO. Later, in war years, Alechine proved that he was still stronger than Keres although they both were not in top shape and Botvinnik was on other side of front, couldnt obviously play against them .

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