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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Frank Marshall
Capablanca - Marshall (1909), Wilkes-Barre, PA USA, rd 8, May-03
Spanish Game: Steinitz Defense (C62)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jul-01-05  lentil: i really like C's cool defense against M's swindle attempt starting at move 24.
Premium Chessgames Member
  al wazir: 26...BxR 27. Rf1 Rf8 (27...Rd7 28. Nd6 Re7 29. Qc8+) 28. Nd6 Qxc2 29. Nxf7 Rxf7 30. Qxf7#. Or 29. Rxf7 Qd1+ 30. Rf1+ Rf7 31. Qxf7#.
Aug-20-05  humanehuman: I think a very ugly opening by Marshall
Nov-22-05  capablancakarpov: This game was played in Wilkes-Barre,Pa., May 3rd 1909.
Apr-30-06  patzer2: With 24. gxh5!! Capa accepts Marshall's threatened win of the exchange, realizing this positional sacrifice will give him a winning attack on the weakened Black castled position.

Capa's combination of offensive and defensive chess in out calculating one of the greatest tacticians of all times is truly amazing. Capa's positional play was ahead of its time, and may help to explain why Capa felt no need to study books and articles by contemporaries who failed to grasp the dynamics he understood with his natural genius. Yet, this game demonstrates he was also without peer in the tactical phase of the game, especially when the position called for it.

If Marshall had gone completely for the win of the exchange, play might have continued 25... Bxe1 26. hxg6 hxg6 27. Qxg6+ Kf8 28. Nd6 Rf1+ 29. Kg2 Rf2+ 30. Kg1 Ke7 31. Qg7+ Ke6 32. Nf5 Rg8 33. Qxg8+ Kxe5 34. Qg7+ Kf4 35. Qc7+ Kf3 36. Rd3+ Kxe4 37. Nd6+ Ke5 38. Qe7+ Kf4 39. Qe4+ Kg5 40. Rg3+ Kh5 41. Qh7#

Oct-01-07  PAWNTOEFOUR: <lentil>..........while playing over this game,when i got to that point i was wondering how capa was going to get out of it.....but he did.......when i see a threat like that i usually panic,but i'm no capablanca either
Aug-01-08  Ulhumbrus: After 25 Kh1 Marshall does not play 25...Bxe1 but threatens 26...Qf3+ at once by 25...Qc3. The reason for this is that he does not have time to take the Rook. on 25..Bxe1 26 Nd6 wins as in the game after 26...Bxd6 27 Bxd6 Qc3 28 Qe8+ Kg7 29 h6+ when after 29...Kxh6 30 Qxf7! covers f1 and f3.

After 26 Re3 the d4 pawn is pinned and cannot take the R whike the Black Q cannot take it as it is defended by the N. What about the B? It seems that this removes an obstruction from the f file and so gives White a winning tempo to use the opened f file to attack Black's Rf7. On 26...Bxe3 27 Rf1 Rf8 28 hxg6 hxg6 29 Qxg6+ Rg7 30 Qxg7 is mate.

26...Qxc2 attacks the Rd1 whereupon 27 Re3-d3 defends the Rd1, removes the Re3 from attack and blockades the d4 pawn, not a bad piece of work for one move.

After 31 h6+ Kxh6 the point of 32 Qxf7! as before os that the Queen covers f3 and f1 and denies them to the Black Q and after 32..Qxe4+ 33 Qf3 leaves White with two extra Rooks.

Nov-12-08  visayanbraindoctor: Is a computer playing White? Starting with 24. gxh5, White's moves look computer-like, combining accurate defense and offense. Just at the verge of getting mated, a precise series of moves wins Black's mating piece.

Capablanca probably already saw 31. h6+ when he moved 23.g4, as he must already have anticipated 23...Bh4 by the aggressive Marshall.

If someone were to suddenly start playing with such cool precision under a potentially mating attack in an international tournament today, he could get accused of cheating with a computer.

Jul-15-10  sevenseaman: All hopes and plans entertained by Marshall are stumped by the farsighted positioning of White pawn on h5 for 31 h6+, thus netting Capablanca the essential mating piece, the black rook. Its crucial that the piece is taken out of battle.
Oct-14-10  visayanbraindoctor: Some cool-headed computer-like play by the Cuban chess machine, in incredibly double-edged positions, can be seen in this game.


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Marshall's plan is clear. He is going to use the f-file for his Rook in a venomous attack on the White King.

Capa spots the weak e6 pawn and nonchalantly goes about targeting it.

21. Qh3

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This move attacks both the e6 pawn and h5 Knight. Marshall defends his Knight. Marshall has probably decided even a few moves back to sac his e6 pawn in order to gain tempi for his attack, and also to lure away White's Queen from the third rank, which he could later occupy with his own Queen via Qc3. Marshall is also planning to bring in his Bishop to the attack via Bh4 while Capa goes pawn hunting. Marshall sees that in this way, he can bring in his Rook, Knight, Bishop, and Queen into a direct attack on the White King.

Capablanca, allows him! IMO very few players would allow such an attack of so many pieces on their King. Paradoxically, probably only the most foolhardy or the most superb calculators who could see each and every possible critical variation would allow that to happen.

21...g6 22. Qxe6+ Rf7

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In this position, Capa plays 23. g4

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Marshal: What the?!. He is allowing me to attack him with Bh4, and Qc3!? With my Queen swinging over, supported by my Rook on the f-file and Bishop, this newbie Cuban club player must have a death wish!

23...Bh4 24. gxh5 Bxf2

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Marshall: Now I have this patzer! He has to move his king to h1 or g2, in which case Qc3 and my incoming Queen will quickly checkmate him.

25. Kh1 Qc3

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Marshall: That's it. Not only am I attacking his Rook, I am threatening to mate him with Qf3!

Oct-15-10  visayanbraindoctor: Capa: (Silence) ... Just... 26. Re3!

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Marshall: Oh my God, where did that come from?? His Rook is on a square blocking my way to Qf3, but it's a square attacked by 3 of my pieces! Is he crazy?

Marshall thinks... Oh no, I cannot take that stupid Rook! With my Queen it's defended by his Knight on c4. With my pawn, he'll take my Rook on d8. With my Bishop Bxe3, the f-file is suddenly open and he could swing his Rook to the f-file Rf1 directly attacking my own Rook at f7, and giving me no time to do anything before he mates my own King.


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Marshall: At least this attacks his Rook. In fact both his Rooks are under attack. But he still has

27. Red3... maybe I can still swindle him 27...Qe2

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Marshall: Now please.. just two more tempi! If I can only play Be1 and Qf1 mate!

Capablanca: So sorry, Senor Marshall. But I have seen EVERYTHING a long time ago, and in whatever line you choose to go to, I win.

28. Nd6 Rxd6 29. Bxd6 Be1

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Marshall: Yes!! One more move and I've mated him!

30. Qe8+ Kg7 31. h6+

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Capablanca: Do you now see, Senor Marshall? You may have been threatening to mate me, but now I win your Rook that threatens to mate me. As I have said, I have seen EVERYTHING!

1 - 0

Oct-15-10  pulsar: <vbd> Great annotation! :)
Oct-15-10  kellmano: I second that.

Great stuff <vbd>

Premium Chessgames Member
  paulalbert: Although Capa is perceived by many as primarily a positional and great endgame player, and during a portion of his career he seemed to tend towards simplification and reliance on technique, in fact he was an incredible tactician, whether his petites combinaisons which enhanced his positional advantage or outright sacrificial combinations as part of a mating attack, his tactical vision was extraordinary. Czerniak after losing to Capa at the 1939 Chess Olympiads in Buenos Aires, where Capa took the Gold Medal for best performance on 1st Board, Capa's last official competitive chess event, made an interesting observation: " They always underestimated his tactical ability." An incredible talent and person, really the only matinee idol world chess champion.
Oct-15-10  BobCrisp: <really the only matinee idol world chess champion.>

Could be the start of a fun parlour game.

<Steinitz>, the only <blankety-blank> world chess champion.

And so on.

Oct-15-10  Phony Benoni: Yes, Steinitz was generally considered a <blankety-blank> world chess champion, but he was certainly not the only one.
Oct-15-10  visayanbraindoctor: Every new human generation suffers from a 'narcissistic generation syndrome', a feeling of intrinsic superiority to any one from the past. In particular, nearly every one assumes we are intrinsically more intelligent that any one from the past. That would be true only if somehow, we have evolved or mutated our brains into something significantly more superior than our immediate ancestors, but that has not happened yet. Our immediate ancestors were just as intrinsically intelligent as us, although they lacked our accumulated cultural knowledge and technology.

Take the above game. If a 21 year old club player today with utterly no international tournament experience were to beat a former Candidate (let us assume that Marshall was of Candidate strength) in such a manner, wading through all tactically bizarre positions with computer-like precision, there is absolutely no doubt kibitzers will be hailing him as a prodigy who has raised chess to a higher level. In fact, if we just erased the names of Capablanca and Marshall above, presented this game to kibitzers who have newer seen it before, and say that a 21 year old club player won it just yesterday.. I wonder what the reactions of most would be?

One thing for sure.. No one would even imagine that a pre-WW1 youth can produce such a chess game. They were too dumb during that era.

Oct-15-10  visayanbraindoctor: <paulalbert> If a young Grandmaster today with matinee-idol looks were to begin playing chess games like the above, it would be unbelievable.

I guess that after Capablanca and Alekhine, Caissa has decided that making World Champions as handsome as models and actors is putting too much eggs in one basket.

Oct-15-10  Phony Benoni: And where would Spassky and Kasparov rank on the Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love Scale?
Dec-08-11  King Death: <visayan> Marshall must have wondered what truck hit him after 26.Re3.

<paulalbert: Although Capa is perceived by many as primarily a positional and great endgame player, fact he was an incredible tactician, whether his petites combinaisons which enhanced his positional advantage or outright sacrificial combinations as part of a mating attack, his tactical vision was extraordinary.>

He could never have played positional chess like he did without this tactical vision. The two seemingly opposite sides of the coin form the whole. This game is only one of the most spectacular examples.

Dec-22-11  Birthday Boy: Thanks <visayanbraindoctor>, Great Annotations! Finally i understand if black played 26...Bxe3 he'll just play Rf1 =)
Nov-20-12  mizo.chess: guys, check out this Bf2 line 26.Re3 Bxe3 27.hxg6 hxg6 28.Rf1 and then Bf2?! then white's win is not clear, am i right? or do i miss something? 29.Rxf2 is not possible on account of Qe1+ and in my own rough analysis the black king cannot be checkmated it just runs around in circles and capa has to defend the one-move Qf3 mate also..

29.Rxf2 is not good because of Qe1+
29.Qxg6 Kf8 30.Rxf2 Qe1+ 31.Qg1 Qxf2 is not so good for White too

Then Nd6 is also there for White but no time because of the Qf3 mate..

Feb-01-16  thegoodanarchist: What a thrashing by Capa. Marshall wasn't competitive in this game.
Dec-25-17  anonymous17: <mizo.chess> I don't think Rf1 is good. try this: 26... Be3 27.hxg6 hxg6 (if 27... Rdf8 28.gxf7 Rxf7 29. Qc8+ Rf8 30. Qg4+ Kf7 31.Rf1+ Ke7 32.Bd6+ and mate follows. if 31... Ke8 32.Qc8+ Ke7 33.Bd6#) 28.Nd6 Rxd6 (28... Rdd7 29.Qe8+ Rf8 30.Qxg6+ and mate follows) 29.Bxd6 Bf2 (or 29... Qxc2) 30.Qf8+ Kg7 31.Be5+ and wins. I don't know if I missed something, but surely 27.Rf1 Bf2 would be embarrassing to white as you suggested.
Dec-25-17  WorstPlayerEver: Mate-in-12 (28 ply) 26... Be3 27. hxg6 hxg6 28. Qxg6+ Kf8 29. Nd6 Rdd7 30. Nxf7 Bg5 31. Rf1 Qe1 32. Bd6+ Rxd6 33. Qxd6+ Kg7 34. Qe5+ Bf6 35. Qxf6+ Kf8 36. Qd8+ Kg7 37. Qh8+ Kg6 38. Qh6#
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