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Rolando Illa vs Jose Raul Capablanca
Exhibition game (1911), Buenos Aires ARG, Jun-12
French Defense: McCutcheon. Exchange Variation (C12)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: This game is given as <R. Illa-Capablanca>, pg 93, in Neil R McDonald: <The Giants of Strategy>
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: <Gypsy>This game is also given the same citation in Jon Speelman's book "Endgame Preparation", Batsford, 1981

Speelman suggested that White should set up a "barrier" with 68. ♘c4, but Black would still win with 68....h3 69. ♔h3 ♔f4 70. ♘a3 ♘e3 71. c4 ♔e4 72. c5 ♔d5 73. ♔g3 ♔c5 74. ♔f2 ♔b4 75. ♘b1 ♘d1+ 76. ♔e1 ♘c3 77. ♘d2 a3

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: By move 29, Illa was having difficulty defending his a-Pawn.

click for larger view

However, he could still have held by playing: (-.25) (24 ply) 29.Ke2! Rc6 30.Rb1 b5 31.Rb4 Rb6, (-.15) (23 ply) 32.Nf1 Kd7 33.Ne3 Ke7 34.Kf3.

Instead, he moved his King to e3, where it was subject to check by a Rook capturing on c3 (see 32.Ke2): (-.89) (24 ply) 29.Ke3? Rc6 30.Nb1 Rb6 31.R3a2 Kd7 32.Kf3 Kc7 33.Ke3 Rba6 34.Ra3 Nc8 35.h3 Nb6, and Black will win a Pawn.

Illa's 30.Rb1, instead of 30.Nb1, only increased Black's advantage.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: At move 35, Fritz preferred the following winning line for Black: (-1.83) (31 ply) 35...a3 36.Kc1 Kc7 37.Kb1 Ne4 38.Nxc4 Nxc3+ 39.Ka1 Nb5, (-2.13) (28 ply) 40.d5 exd5 41.Ne3 Kc6, (-2.27) (28 ply) 40.c4 dxc4 43.Nxc4 Kd5 44.Ne5 f6 45.Nd7 Ke6 46.Nc5+ Kd6 47.Nd3 Kd5 48.Ka2, (-4.04) (29 ply) 48...a5 49.Ne1 Ke4.

Black is also winning after: (-2.24) (28 ply) 40.Ka2 Nxd4 41.Ne3 Kc6 42.Kxa3 Kc5, (-2.90) (28 ply) 43.Ka4 Nf3, or (-2.90) (28 ply) 43.Kb2 Nf3

Instead of the line Fritz preferred, 35...a3! 36.Kc1 Kc7, or 35...Kc7! 36.Kc1 a3, Capablanca played (-1.40) (28 ply) 35...Kb7 36.Kc1. While not as strong, Capablanca's continuation also provided Black with winning chances.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: On Black's 37th move, instead of 37...Kd5!, Fritz slightly preferred a move that would enable Black to defend his pawn on a4. However, Fritz was then unable to demonstrate a continuation that would give Black winning chances.

Fritz eventually recognized that Black's best continuation was as Capablanca played, 37...Kd5!. The game then followed Fritz's continuation for several moves: (-1.20) (31 ply) 37...Kd5! 38.Ka3 Nb5+ 39.Kxa4 Nxc3+ 40.Kb4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: On his 40th move, Black's strongest continuation, leading to a clearly winning position, was 40...Kxd4!: (-1.50) (30 ply) 40...Kxd4! 41.Nxc4 Nd5+ 42.Kb3 f6 43.Nd6 Kc5 44.Nf7 Ne3 45.Nh6 e5 46.Ng8 Nd5 47.c4 exf4 48.gxf4 Nxf4 49.Nxf6 h5 50.Kc3 a5 51.Nd7+ Kd6, (-3.96) (28 ply) 52.Nb6 Ne6 53.h4 Nc5 54.Nd5 Ke5 55.Ne3 f4 56.Nc2 f3, and Black is winning.

After Capablanca's 40...Na2+, the win is more difficult: (-1.07) (30 ply) 40...Na2+? 41.Ka3 Nc1, (-1.10) (32 ply) 42.Kb2! Ne2 43.c3 h5 44.Nf3 a5 45.Kc2 h4 46.Nxh4, (-1.44) (31 ply) 46...Ke4 47.Ng2 a4 48.Kb2 a3+ 49.Kxa3 Nxc3, (-1.89) (30 ply) 50.Kb2 Ne2 51.Ne1 Ke3, (-2.13) (28 ply) 52.Kc2 Kf2 53.d5 exd5 54.Kd2 Nd4 55.h4 Ne2 56.h5 Nxg3 57.h6 Ne4+, (-2.49) (33 ply) 58.Kc1 Nf6 59.Nc2 Kf3 60.Nb4 d4, (-2.52) (30 ply) 61.Nc6 Kxf4, and Black is winning.

Instead of playing the best move, 42.Kb2!, Illa made an error by playing 42.c3?.

After 42.c3?, Black's strongest continuation was: (-2.24) (31 ply) 42...Nb3! 43.Nf3 f6 44.Ka4 a6 45.Ne1 Nd2 46.Ng2 Nf1 47.Ka5, and Black is winning after: (-4.30) (30 ply) 47...h5, or (-3.59) (30 ply) 47...Ke4, or (-3.26) (30 ply) 47...Nxh2.

However, Capablanca's continuation, 42...f6, was also winning for Black.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: Illa's 43.Kb2 was White's best try. Capablanca then had a choice between two good moves: (-1.59) (28 ply) 43...Nb3! 44.Nb1 a6 45.Kc2, (-1.87) (29 ply) 45...Ke4 46.Na3 Na5 47.Kd2 Kf3 48.Kd1 Kg2 49.Ke2 Kxh2 50.Kf2, (-3.43) (26 ply) 50...h5, and Black is winning.

If White captures the Knight, 43...Nb3 44.Nxb3 cxb3 45.Kxb3 a5 46. h3 h5 47.h4 Ke4, the Pawn ending is won for Black. If 46.h4, then 46...h5 47. Ka4 Kc4.

Capablanca's move 43...Nd3+ was indicated as inferior to 43...Nb3 in the book, "The Unknown Capablanca", but Fritz calculates that both moves are winning for Black: 43...Nd3+ 44.Ka3 Ne1, (-1.28) (30 ply) 45.Kb4 Nc2+ 46.Ka4, (-1.65) (31 ply) 45.Kb4 Nc2+ 46.Ka4 Ne3 47.Kb4 a6 48.h4, (-3.45) (27 ply) 48...h5 49.Nb1 Nc2+ 50.Ka4 Ke4 51.Ka5 Nxd4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: A diagram shows the remarkable position after 43.Kb2:

click for larger view

As indicated in my previous note, if Black plays 43...Nb3!, White will lose whether he exchanges Knights or not.

Capablanca's move 43...Nd3+ also gave Black a winning position. In addition to these two winning moves, Black could also win by: 43...Ne2 44.Kc2 Ng1 45.Nf1 Nf3 46.Ne3+ Ke4 47.Nxc4 Nxh2 48.Nd6+ Kd5 49.Ne8 Ng4.

At move 44, Fritz indicated White's best try was: (-1.07) (28 ply) 44.Ka3 Ne1, (-1.28) (30 ply) 45.Kb4 Nc2+ 46.Ka4, (-1.61) (27 ply) 46...Ne3 47.Kb4 a6, (-2.27) (27 ply) 48.Ka5 Nd1 49.Kb4 a5+ 50.Kxa5 Nxc3 51.Kb4 Kxd4 52.Nxc4 e5 53.Nd6 e4 54.Nxf5+ Kd3, and Black is winning.

Illa's 44.Kc2 was not an improvement on Fritz's line: (-2.04) (31 ply) 44...e5 45.fxe5 fxe5 46.dxe5 Nxe5 47.Kd1 Ng4, (-2.35) (30 ply) 48.Nf1 a5 49.Kc2 h5 50.h3 Ne5 51.Nd2 Nd3 52.h4 Ne5 53.Kb2 Ng4, (-3.40) (29 ply) 54. Kc2 a4 55.Kb2 Nf2 56.Nf1 Ke4 57.Nd2+ Kd3 58.Nf3 Nd1+ 59.Ka3 Nxc3, and Black is winning.

In David Hooper's & Dale Brandreth's book, "The Unknown Capablanca", 44...a5 was recommended for Black. This move is also winning for Black: (-1.65) (30 ply) 44...a5 45.Kb1 e5 46.fxe5 fxe5 47.dxe5 Nxe5, (-2.28) (30 ply) 48.Kb2 h5 49.Ka3 Ng4 50.Ka4 Nxh2 51.Kxa5, (-2.99) (30 ply) 51...Kc5 52.Ka4 Ng4 53.Nf3 Ne3 54.Ng1 Nd5 55.Ne2 f4 56.gxf4 h4 57.Ng1 Nxf4 58.Nf3 h3 59.Ka3 Kd5, and Black is winning.

Mar-04-09  paladin at large: <Pawn and Two> Thanks, interesting stuff. Hooper & Brandreth reported further that Illa was the strongest Argentine player at the time. They noted after 49. h4 "It was reported that a large crowd showed 'great enthusiasm' watching this game. Their champion has trapped the mighty Cuban's knight. If, however, 49. Kc2 a4 50. Nb1 Ke4 51. KxN Kd3! and black wins."
Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <paladin at large> This was an epic struggle. In the first phase, Capablanca carefully and forcefully maneuvered until finally Illa slipped with 29.Ke3. Capablanca then had a winning ending, until he erred with 44...a6 & 45...Ne1+.

Illa could then have held the draw, until he erred with 52.e6. Capablanca concluded the game in a fine ending, with a Knight and two passed Pawns 7 files apart, against a Knight and two passed Pawns 3 files apart.

Illa was a strong master. He won the "Club Argentino Championship" in Buenos Aires in 1910, and again from 1912-19 (some references give 1913-21).

The first "Argentine Championship" was held in 1921. Illa participated in three of these championships, 1921/22 - 5th, 1923/24 - 6/7th, & 1924 - 7/9th.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: As noted in my post of 03/04/09, Capablanca could have retained his winning advantage by: 44...e5, 44...a5, or 44...Ne2.

After 44...a6?, the difference of one tempo!, Illa had some chances for a draw: (-.50) (30 ply) 44...a6? 45.Nf1 Kc6! (better than 45...e5 46.Ne3+ Ke4 47.Nxc4+) 46.Ne3 Ne1+ Kd1 Nf3 48.h3 e5 49.fxe5 fxe5 50.dxe5 Nxe5, (-.66) (28 ply) 51.Kc2 Kd6 52.Nxf5+ Kd5 53.Ng7 Ke4 54.Nh5, (-.73) (29 ply) 54 Nd7! 55.g4 Kf3 56.g5 Nf8 57.Kd2 Kg2 58.Nf4+ Kg3 59.Ke3 a5, and Black is winning. Additional analysis of this long and difficult variation is needed, to determine if there are any improvements that would enable White to draw.

After 45...Ne1+?, Capablanca obtained no more winning opportunities until 52.e6? sealed Illa's fate.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: After 48...h5, as noted by <paladin at large>, the large crowd watching the game showed 'great enthusiasm', believing their champion had trapped Capablanca's Knight! A glance at the position shows what was causing all the excitement:

click for larger view

White can win the Knight by playing 49.Kf2?, but after 49...a5 50.Nb1 Ke4 51.Kxf2 Kd3, Black will win the game.

If White recognizes his error after 49.Kf2? a5 50.Nb1 Ke4, he could play 51.Ke2, and still have fair drawing chances after: (-1.03) (27 ply) 51...h4 52.Nd2+ Kd5 53.Nb1 e5 54.fxe5 fxe5 55.dxe5 Kxe5 56.Na3 f4, or 56...Ke4. Additional analysis is needed to determine if this line is winning for Black, or if White can hold the draw.

Illa showed good judgement in not going after the Knight. After 49.h4, the game remained about equal.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: On his 49th move, Black played 49...e5, which Fritz indicates gives an equal game: (.00) (30 ply) 49...e5 50.dxe5 fxe5 51.fxe5 a4 52.Nxc4 f4 53.Kf3 Ne1+ 54.Kxf4 Kxc4 55. e6 a3 56.e7 a2 57.e8Q a1Q. Black could also have played: (-.13) (30 ply) 49...a4 50.Nb1 e5 51.fxe5 fxe5 52.dxe5 f4 53.Kf3 Ne1+ 54.Kxf4 Nc2 55.g4 hxg4 56.h5 g3 57.Kxg3 Kxe5, with about an equal game.

On his 52nd move, White could have played 52.Nb1: (.00) (30 ply) 52...f4 53.Kf3 Ne1+ 54.Kxf4 Nc2 55.g4 hxg4 56.h5 g3 57.Kxg3 Kxe5, or, (-.11) (30 ply) 52..Kxe5 53.Kf2 Ke4 54.Kxg2 Kd3 55.Kf3 Kc2 56.Na3+ Kb3 57.Nb5 a3 58.Nxa3 Kxa3, with an equal game.

White could also have played: (.00) (27 ply) 52.Nxc4 f4 53.Kf3 Ne1+ 54.Kxf4 Kxc4 55.e6 a3 56.e7 a2 57.e8Q a1Q, with an equal game.

Instead of playing 52.Nxc4 or 53.Nb1, with equality, Illa played 52.e6??, and Capablanca again had a winning advantage.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: After 52.e6? Kxe6 53.Nxc4 f4, White had three reasonable moves to try for a draw, 54.Kf2, 54.gxf4, and 54.Kf3.

In the book, "The Unknown Capablanca", the authors claim that 54.Kf2 Ne3 55.Na3 would draw.

However, after (-2.44) (30 ply) 54.Kf2 Ne3 55.Na3 Nd1+ 56.Kf3 fxg3 57.Kxg3 Nxc3 58.Kf4 Kf6, (-3.85) (30 ply) 59.Nc4 Nb5 60.Ne3 a3 61.Nc2 a2, Black is clearly winning.

Illa's 54.gxf4 Nxh4 55.Kf2 Nf5 was a better try, but after (-2.78) (30 ply) 56.Kg2 Nd6 57.Na3 Kd5 58.Kg3 Ke4 59.c4 Nf5+, Black will soon win material and the game.

The authors of "The Unknown Capablanca", note the position after 54...Nxh4, is of theoretical interest.

click for larger view

The material is even, but the Black position, with passed pawns seven files apart, can defeat White, who has passed pawns 3 files apart.

The best try for White was 54.Kf3. But after (-1.63) (31 ply) 54.Kf3 Ne3 55.Na3 Kf5 56.gxf4 Nd5, (-1.70) (30 ply) 57.Nb5 Nxf4 58.c4, (-3.01) (28 ply) 63...Nf5 64.c6 Ke6 65.c7 Kd7, (-3.80) (28 ply) 66.Nc3 a3 67.Kc4 h4 68.Kb3, (-6.02) (22 ply) 68...h3 69.Ne4 Kxc7 70.Kxa3 h2, Black is winning.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: After 54...Nxh4 55.Kf2 Nf5, the White Knight and King were gradually forced to the edge of the board, to restrain the passed Pawns.

After 66.Kh3, White's defense was stretched to the breaking point. The Black King then moved in, threatening the White Pawns by 66...Kd5 67.Kg4 Ke4.

After 67...Ke4, White had only poor choices. If 68.Nc4 h3 69.Kxh3 Kxf4 70.Na3 Ke4 71.c4 Kd4 72.Kg2 Ne3+ 73.Kf2 Nxc4 74.Nb5+ Kd3 75.Ke1 Ne3, and Black will promote his a-Pawn.

White tried 68.c4, but after 68...Kd4 he resigned. The Black King will play next to c5 and b4, winning the Pawn and the game.

A neat ending to a great game.

Jun-10-15  TheFocus: This was one of thirteen exhibition games against the best players of Argentina, played during Capablanca's 1st South American Tour.

This game was played in Buenos Aires on June 12, 1911.

Jan-26-18  Joe le Taxi: According to The Unknown Capablanca, this game was played on June 12, 1911 (El Dia, June 26, 1911) but according to the Revista del Club Argentino de Ajedrez, July-September 1911, this game was played on June 17, 1911.

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