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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Borislav Kostic
Capablanca - Kostic (1919), Havana CUB, rd 5, Apr-05
French Defense: Classical. Burn Variation (C11)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-28-05  paladin at large: This is apparently the complete score. Kostic, who was generally very frustrated at being down 4-0, quit at this point.

Capablanca noted years later that he felt at the height of his powers during this time. Kostic whined in public about the weather in Havana and made various excuses for his own showing. However, Winter, citing primary sources, reports that Kostic undoubtedly admired Capablanca: "Kostic was once told by Sava Gerdec: 'That Senor Capa plays like a God and, my dear Boris, it is impossible to do anything'. Kostic replied: 'It seems, Sava, that you are right.'"

Apr-14-09  CalvinT: Ok, white has a better position, but why should black resign? I see no obvious reason for it. Maybe it was psychological from being down 0-4, like you said.
Apr-15-09  AnalyzeThis: Sure, resignation is hasty here. But among other things, I think black appreciated how worthless his b7 bishop is. It commands a majestic view, pointing to white's king. Who cares? Is black doing the attacking? No, it is his own king that is going to get burned down. Practically speaking, black is a piece down on the kingside, where the attack is going to happen.

I'm sure that a computer will demonstrate a way for black to survive into a worse ending - against Capablanca, that is just prolonging the tortue.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <AnalyzeThis>

Briefly scanning the position (all I had time for), after natural moves like 15...Nf6 16. Qd3 Qc8 17. Ng4 Rd8 18. Nxf6+ Bxf6 19. Qh7+ Kf8 20. Be5 then, to hold the kingside, seems like Black has to try 20...Ke7 21. Bxf6+ <Kxf6> which looks awful, although I wasn't able to find the knockout punch for White.

Jul-20-09  whatthefat: Seems like Kostic just snapped here.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <whatthefat>
Improving my previous post, what if White plays 15...Nf6 16. Qd3 Qc8 17. Ng4 Rd8 <18. Be5!> (which I had missed in my brief scan last time). Looks to me like Black's kingside will be ripped apart in the near future.
Jul-21-09  whatthefat: <beatgiant>

I would consider 16...Be4 simplifying there.

I mean sure, Black's position is unpleasant, but it seems crazy to resign already. Knowing that Kostic quit the match at this point says to me that he just lost it. Perhaps he was annoyed at himself for messing up the opening yet again (check out his awful play in the other 4 games), and couldn't bear playing on.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <whatthefat>
Duh! Yes, <16...Be4> and trading off light squared bishops defuses the attack.

White could try preparing this idea with 15...Nf6 <16. f3>. Then it might continue with 16...c5 17. Qc2 cxd4 18. Ng4 Re8 19. Be5 with a strong attack, but I can't work out whether it wins.

And yes, I agree that resignation was premature.

Jul-21-09  whatthefat: I was wondering about 16.f3 c5 myself. Perhaps someone could set an engine looking at this final position?
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <whatthefat>
I didn't find a good defense, but since I've already had to correct myself twice, it would be nice to see what an engine thinks.

The best defense I could find with my puny human intellect was 15...Nf6 16. f3 Re8 17. Qc2 Kf8 18. Ng4 Nxg4 19. fxg4 Bf6 20. Be5 Bxe5 21. dxe5 Qg5 22. Qh7 Qxg4 23. Rxf7+ Kxf7 24. Bg6+ Qxg6 25. Rd7+ Re7 26. Rxe7+ Kxe7 27. Qxg6, and Black <survives into a worse ending>, as <AnalyzeThis> so aptly put it above.

Jul-22-09  whatthefat: Come to think of it, if 15...Nf6 is really Black's best move then his entire position is farcical. Black surely can't stand to lose that many tempi: 12...Qd5/13...Qd8 and now 14...Nd7/15...Nf6.

In any case, I plugged the position after 15...Nf6 into my ancient laptop overnight and got the following assessment from Fritz at 17 ply:

1.(1.81) 16.Rd3 Be4 17.Rg3 Bxb1 18.Rxb1 Kh8
2.(1.68) 16.Qe3 h5 17.Qg3 a6 18.Rfe1 Bb4

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <whatthefat>
<if 15...Nf6 is really Black's best> The only other defense against White's queen and bishop battery seems to be ...f5, hopelessly weakening e5 and e6.

A score like 1.81 from an engine is usually a solid win. But I'd be curious to see the end of its line, and what move it most recommends for Black in this position.

Jul-23-09  whatthefat: <beatgiant>

After 16.Rd3 Be4 17.Rg3 Bxb1 18.Rxb1 Kh8, Fritz likes 19.Rd1:

click for larger view

Black's positional is horrible (about +2 according to Fritz), but there's still no finish. I'd be surprised even if Ivanchuk were to resign here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <whatthefat>
In your diagram above, White's threatening to smash through with 20. d5. <19...Bd6> looks like the only defense, but I can't find any immediate knockout punch after that.

I'm curious what defense the engine found after my suggested 16. f3. Anything better than the line I posted above? For that matter, is 15...Nf6 really the only move?

Jul-24-09  whatthefat: <beatgiant>

19...Qe8 is another idea.

I think Black's hands are kind of tied. White is obviously generating serious threats on the kingside, which will ultimately demand the return of the knight to the kingside (hence Kostic's frustration). 15...Re8 was one idea intending ...Nf8, but I'm worried about ideas of Bxh6, e.g., 16.Qd3 Nf8 17.Bxh6 gxh6 18.Qg3+ Bg5 19.f4.

15...Bd6 is another idea that might be playable, although I think ...Nf6 is likely forced in the long run anyway.

I agree that 15...Nf6 16.f3 also looks strong. Fritz at 18 ply gives:

1.(1.37) 16...Re8 17.Qc2 Kf8 18.Ng4 Bd6 19.Be5
2.(1.39) 16...Bd6 17.Qc2 Qe7 18.Ng4 g6 19.Nxh6+

And it seems to be too late for central counterplay, as 16...c5 17.Qc2 cxd4 is met by 18.Ng4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <whatthefat>
I rejected 15...Re8 because of 16. Qh5, apparently forcing the rook back to f8. In a position like this, it doesn't seem likely Black can afford to give White a free extra move to play Qh5, although I haven't worked it out to a win.

On 15...Bd6, White has 16. Qc2 Nf6 17. Ng4 Re8 (note that now ...Be4 would lose a piece to Nxf6+) 18. Be5. It's like a line I posted above where Black's kingside gets ripped apart.

An immediate 15...f5 loses at least a pawn to 16. Ng6. Maybe 15...Qe8 to prepare it. Then 16. Qd3 f5 17. Qg3 looks bad enough for Black, although I don't see an immediate loss.

Oct-13-11  waustad: Kostic probably expected to do better because all of their games before the match were drawn.
Sep-28-13  Karpova: Bobby Fischer analyses this game:
Sep-30-13  Edmontonchessclub: Premature resignation.

Black would be ok after 15...Qe8!

For example:
16.Qd3 f5 17.Qg3 Rf6! defending everything. 18.Nxd7? would not win a pawn as Black could turn the tables and win with 18...Rg6!

Sep-30-13  offramp: A direct link to the Fischer video is: This game must have been chosen because out was for Serbian Telly and Kostich was a Serb.
Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: A curious game. As >Edmontonchessclub< says, 15..Qe8 is playable and what's more Capablanca could have prevented it with 15 Bc2.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: I feel for Kostic at various levels and think the reasons he gave about the temperature etc were valid.

If only Kostic knew of the dynamic Burn variation with 5...Be7 with the idea of gxf6 if Bxf6 is played as used a lot by Ulf Anderrson with success. This poxy opening was pure passivity and reflected Kostic's absolutely negative perspective - compounded by the fact that he drew four games before this match vs Capablanca.

The same feeling I have when Lasker had to play in Havana in addition to being in a noisy casino. Lasker in my view was technically stronger than Capablanca for years after Capablanca became World champion, evidenced by coming ahead of Capablanca in some key tournaments.

Lasker was a "Play the position" player and could even play accurately in blindfold simuls. Krammik considers Lasker the first 2700 player with a link to modern chess. Capablanca was admirably more of a Steinitzian accumulation of advantage player with major risk management in terms of liking endgame simplification. Like an "agile programmer".

Capablanca was using not always the most accurate way to play but effective against most opponents of the day who often self-destructed with committal pawn moves and didn't ave a clue about "Weakness of last move" as another major issue with many of these games - even in this match. E.g. Nfd2 in an earlier round allowing Bh4 which in theory would have obliterated Capablanca.

Unfortunately, it seems Capablanca wasn't being fully tested and this led to arrogance when he had the match against Alekhine later. Having opponent's play at their best is important in matches. In a way, Capablanca was the loser of this match because it just increased his match arrogance and as they say "Pride comes before a fall". And that fall was later to come to the shock of the chess world when he lost to Alekhine.

Kostic later in Hastings was in much better form and giving Capablanca a good run for the 1st position.

Anyway, just being honest here. This match was unfortunate for both players in different ways.

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