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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Herman Steiner
"Hollywood Ending" (game of the day May-08-2010)
Living Chess Exhibition (1933) (exhibition), Los Angeles, CA USA, Apr-11
Four Knights Game: Spanish. Symmetrical Variation (C49)  ·  1-0



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Given 69 times; par: 29 [what's this?]

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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Herman Steiner (1933) Hollywood Ending

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 5 OF 6 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Jul-19-12  LoveThatJoker: Guess-the-Move Final Score:

Capablanca vs H Steiner, 1933.
Your score: 38 (par = 29)


Premium Chessgames Member
  gezafan: If you consider the situation a pre-arranged game doesn't seem such a terrible thing.

For one thing it was played at Steiner's club which gave the club publicity. Steiner was benefiting from the arrangement.

It was a public exhibition so an 80 move game with a 40 move endgame would not arouse the interest of the casual player. A short, attacking game with a king hunt would be of more interest to the casual player.

Steiner was a strong player. His poor play in this game lends support to his claim that the game was prearranged.

Pre-arranging an exhibition game is not the same as pre-arranging a tournament game and does not deserve the same moral condemnation.

Waiting until Capablanca passed to reveal that the game was pre-arranged shows respect for Capablanca, not disrespect.

Mar-31-13  Alien Math: Her news notes
<Played at the Hollywood Athletic Club and refereed by famous film director Cecil B. De Mille, in this particular living game, Capablanca mated Steiner in 25 moves.

Capablanca died in 1942, but Steiner went on from this particular loss to form the Steiner Chess Club, which was eventually renamed the Hollywood Chess Group, which had a lot of famous guests, like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, and José Ferrer. Steiner wrote a chess column for the Times until his death in 1955.>

Apr-08-13  bamonson: RESOLVED: GAME A FAKE

Sorry to disappoint all the Capa purists out there who think he would never agree to a prearranged game, but you'd be wrong. This game was in fact prearranged. It's certainly not a slam against Capa to bring light on this fact, it's just reality.

This was not a practice employed only by Capablanca at this time, it was pretty standard. These 'living' games were meant to be entertainment to wow the crowd. The last thing you'd want is two guys battling through a four hour, 60-move game, and boring the crowd to death, which is why the game Morphy-Duke of Brunswick was so often used in these events. But obviously Capa isn't going to 'plagiarize' Morphy, so...

On the other hand, if you'd like a bigger question about what Capa was willing to accept, just look at the 'drawn game' from a 1933 simul he played against Mary Bain (the future U.S. Women's champion) during the same time he was in Hollywood. Capablanca actually hung a piece after about 12 moves and promptly resigned, but Bain offered him a draw instead, which he actually accepted! How disingenuous is that?!

For many years I have been working on Herman Steiner's biography. I have his own records on this matter, including several photos. One photo, in fact (with Cecil B. deMille looking on: he was master of ceremonies for this event), shows Capa and Herman playing this EXACT SAME Four Knights variation, but with <STEINER> playing the WHITE PIECES!

Clearly, they were in the process of 'crafting the brilliancy.' Ironically, Steiner--a brilliant tactician--likely contributed greatly to the aesthetic beauty of the final combination, knowing in the end he would have to play the fool. Well, it's Capablanca, so there would have been no question about who would take the winning side.

It's unfortunate that this game has been included in so many 'brilliancy' games anthologies, and presented as a real game.

Dec-28-13  solskytz: So it isn't that after Capa's death, Steiner, a great master in his own right, feels embarrassment about losing in such a horrible way, and tells us a nice story :-)
Dec-28-13  Petrosianic: <bamonson: RESOLVED: GAME A FAKE

Sorry to disappoint all the Capa purists out there who think he would never agree to a prearranged game, but you'd be wrong. This game was in fact prearranged. It's certainly not a slam against Capa to bring light on this fact, it's just reality.>

It's a plausible supposition, but your believing it doesn't make it fact. You've provided no evidence, no citations, no testimony, no nothing to support the conclusion that it was pre-arranged, other than your own unshakable faith.

Dec-28-13  RookFile: Winter writes in Chancho's link that "Our book also quoted Steiner’s comment on page 66 of the March 1943 Chess Review that the Los Angeles game was ‘pre-arranged by Capablanca’, and we are aware of no counter-evidence."

As somebody with no particular interest in this, before clicking on the next game to look at, it's hard to imagine any reason why Steiner was say that it was pre-arranged, if it wasn't so. It's not like losing a game to Capa was anything to apologize for.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: Not losing sleep over it, but a game with human pieces wasn't taken totally seriously by the particpants? Shocking. Prearranged? I think the weight of the evidence leans toward yes, though I see nothing wrong with it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: Anyone else find it a real shame that 7 of them finished the game on their original square?
Dec-29-13  micartouse: <OCF: Anyone else find it a real shame that 7 of them finished the game on their original square?>

Yes, now that you mention it. If it was a prearranged game, it would have been more fun for the participants if the composer allowed each one to move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: But the game had to be pretty quick.
Are there many flashy games of about 30 moves wherein every piece moves?
Dec-29-13  Petrosianic: As I say, a plausible supposition. But I wouldn't buy a book from someone who didn't know the difference between one of those and a fact.
Dec-29-13  RookFile: Very lovely picture above of the living game.
Dec-29-13  PJs Studio: This game prearranged or not, is gorgeous. Absolutely genius mate.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Living art seems to fit on this page.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: The "Los Angeles Times" for Tuesday, April 11, 1933 published a picture of Capablanca and Herman Steiner on either side of an attractive young woman y whose rapt gaze was fully focused on Capablanca. Part o tf the caption read:

<"Tonight the former champion will pay [sic] a "living chess" match at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Beautiful girls play the part of the pieces in this novel contest.">

Clif Sherwood's column in the Times for Sunday, April 16, confirms that the game was played Tuesday, and gives the score of the game.

Oct-07-16  ughaibu: "an attractive young woman y whose rapt gaze was fully focused on Capablanca"

Why? Was Capablanca, in 1933, any more enrapturing to look at than Steiner?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Perhaps he wasn't giving off the right vibes. Women can sense these things. It might also explain the following mystery:

Herman Steiner

Oct-08-16  ughaibu: So, you think that Capablanca was gay? I guess that could marry Ernest Jones' theory and Capablanca mythologism.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: The clue's in the name: <Herman>
Oct-08-16  ughaibu: Clue? It's a dead give away.
Dec-10-16  ChessHigherCat: Rxf6 is obvious but since this is Saturday I was expecting a more subtle continuation like kxf6, 18. Qxh7, Rh8. 9.Rf1+, Nf5, Qg6+, 10. ke7, but I'm not sure it works. That's a fantastic photo of the human chessboard. I've heard of games where various glass/bottles of alcohol are used as pieces that have to be drunk by the opponent when captured (which may justify an early queen sacrifice if it's a bottle of Johnny Walker), but the human variant opens up all kinds of orgiastic possibilities!
Dec-10-16  scormus: <human pieces> I don't see anything wrong with a prearranged game, in the circumstances it's almost necessary.

When I was at uni the chess club arranged an exhibition game with human pieces as part of fund raising for charity. The club president played the Mayor in the city centre square. The club champion was the Mayor's "advisor".

The moves followed a published game, carefuly chosen to be interesting, not too long, and every piece and pawn getting a move.

The spectators thought it was a live game between the 2 club players but those of us in the club knew. BTW, The Mayor won.

Dec-10-16  YouRang: Saturday 17.?

click for larger view

I guessed pretty quickly that the lead-off move would be <17.Rxf6 Kxf6>. There's no better move to break into black's castle, especially since we can instantly bring our other rook into the attack with check via <18.Rf1+>

click for larger view

Black must block with the knight: <18...Nf5> (not 18...Kg7? 19.Rf7+ Kh8 20.Qxh7#), and then <19.exf5>

click for larger view

White threatens Qh6+ followed by Qxe6+, winning easily, and there's not much black can do to avoid having his king hopelessly exposed to relentless attacks.


I see that in the game, white opted for <19.Nxf5>, so there must be more than one way to skin this cat.

Premium Chessgames Member
  agb2002: Too famous.
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