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Leon Paredes vs Jose Raul Capablanca
Match-series (1901), Havana CUB, rd 1, Sep-20
Ponziani Opening: Spanish Variation (C44)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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  wwall: This should have been a miniature. Black could have resigned after move 7. After 7.O-O?? White drops a piece. He should have played 7.Nxd7 or 7.Bxc6 or 7.Nd2. After 7.O-O?? Nxe5! and Black wins a piece. If 8.Bxd7+, then 8...Nxd7, and Black remains a piece up.
Feb-11-21  Sergash: Capablanca was 12 years old when this game took place, and was possibly already the best Cuban player, as he would become national champion this same year.

<1.e2-e4 e7-e5 2.Ng1-f3 Nb8-c6 3.c2-c3> This is the Ponziani Opening, named after Domenico Lorenzo Ponziani who analyzed it in 1769. Historically, it has been less played than 3.Bf1-b5 (Ruy Kopez), 3.Bf1-c4, 3.d2-d4 and 3.Nb1-c3. It seems somewhat inferior to developing a piece.

<3...d7-d5!> Not as popular, historically, as 3...Ng8-f6, but possibly stronger, as it shows better statistics. This also suggests that Capablanca knew the openings he was playing, as opposed to what he said that he opened his first chess book at the age of 14?

<4.Bf1-b5??> Already, this is a losing move... The main line goes 4.Qd1-a4! f7-f6 5.Bf1-b5 (but better seems 5.d2-d3! Ng8-e7= leading to equality, and possibly developed due to the Computer Age in chess. Lev Lukovski (2053) vs. Peter Kahn (2154), 16th German Seniors Championship 2004 in Templin, section A, round 5, 1-0) Ng8-e7 ▢ 6.e4xd5! Qd8xd5 ▢ 7.d2-d4! (inferior is 7.0-0?! e5-e4! ∓ which leads to a clear advantage for Black. See for instance Showalter vs Pillsbury, 1894, 1-0) Bc8-d7 ( ⩱) Ignatz Von Popiel vs. Jackson Whipps Showalter, 11th DSB Kongress (German Championship) 1898, round 1, 1-0.

<4...Qd8-d6??> A way of protecting the e5-pawn? Was Capablanca out of his book line and improvised this conservative move? The winning advantage is obtained this way, which is also the most played move since it was first introduced in 1848 by the great Adolf Anderssen: 4...d5xe4! ▢ 5.Nf3xe5 ▢ Qd8-g5! ▢ 6.Qd1-a4 (or 6.d2-d4 Qg5xg2 ▢ 7.Rh1-f1 Bf8-d6 ▢ -+ Velimirovic vs M Boudiba, 1989, draw) Qg5xg2! 7.Bb5xc6+ b7xc6 8.Qa4xc6+ Ke8-d8 ▢ 9.Rh1-f1 (or 9.Ke1-d1 Qg2xh1+ 10.Kd1-c2 (Robert Keith Taylor (2185) vs. Mark Hebden (2540), Aintree Open (England) 1988, round 1, 0-1) Qh1xh2 ▢ (Novelty) 11.Ne5xf7+ Kd8-e7 -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT; if 9.Qc6xa8?? Qg2xh1+ 10.Ke1-e2 Bf8-d6! -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT) Bc8-h3 ▢ 10.Qc6xa8+ Kd8-e7 ▢ 11.Ke1-d1 ▢ Qg2xf1+ 12.Kd1-c2 (A. Faas vs. Konstantin Agapov (2335), Semifinals Leningrad Championship (USSR) 1983, Group 2, 0-1) Ng8-h6! (novelty) -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT

<5.d2-d4?> White gets a clear advantage with 5.e4xd5! Qd6xd5 6.Qd1-e2! ▢ (Kontantin Sakaev (2450) vs. Nikola Mitkov (2370), USSR vs. Yugoslavia Under 20 match 1991 in Leningrad, 1-0) a7-a6 (novelty) 7.Bb5-c4 Qd5-d6 ▢ ± Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

Feb-12-21  Sergash: <5...d5xe4?? 6.Nf3xe5 Bc8-d7 ▢ +-> Four mistakes in a row, two by each player! And now White has a winning position... Equality is obtained for Black by playing 5...e5xd4! ▢ 6.e4-e5 (6.Nf3xd4 Bc8-d7 = Martin Vaclavik vs. Petr Bazant jr., Czech Republic Championship Under 16 1998 in Světlá nad Sázavou, round 2, 1-0; 6.Qd1xd4 (Dragan Savic (2140) vs. Dragan Brakus (1989), 25th Belgrade Trophy 2011 in Obrenovac (Serbia), round 7, 1-0) Bc8-e6N! = Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCN) Qd6-g6! 7.0-0! (7.c3xd4N Qg6xg2 8.Rh1-g1 ▢ Qg2-h3 ▢ ⩱ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT) Bc8-h3 ((Jean-Philippe Orsoni (1887) - Antoine Cristofari (2141), Corsico Championship (Italy) 2008, round 2, 0-1) 8.Nf3-h4N Qg6-g4 ▢ 9.Qd1xg4! Bh3xg4 = Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<7.0-0?? Nc6xe5 -+> A fifth consecutive error! As <wwall> posted above: "After 7.O-O?? White drops a piece. He should have played 7.Nxd7 or 7.Bxc6 or 7.Nd2. After 7.O-O?? Nxe5! and Black wins a piece. If 8.Bxd7+, then 8...Nxd7, and Black remains a piece up." So, White is still winning after 7.Ne5xd7 Qd6xd7 8.0-0 +- Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<8.d4xe5?! Qd8xd1 ▢ 9.Rf1xd1 Bd7xb5 -+> A sixth consecutive weak move... If White wants to retain the slightest chance of a "swindle" later in the game (else why continue playing?), he should keep the queens on board: 8.Qd1-b3 -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<10.Nb1-d2 -+> Why not develop the bishop on c1 first? 10.Bc1-f4 -+ for instance. Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<10...f7-f5 11.Nd2-b3 -+> 10...0-0-0! or 10...Bb5-d3! appear more precise. Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<11...Bb5-a4 12.Bc1-e3 Ng8-e7 -+> It is somewhat surprising that eleven moves into the game, Black only has one piece in play that is not on its starting square! 11...Ng8-e7! -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

We rarely see so many notes and variations for the first 12 moves of a game!

Feb-14-21  Sergash: <13...c7-c6 14.c3-c4 -+> 13...e4xf3e.p.! 14.g2xf3 g7-g5! -+ Δ 15.Be3xg5? Rh8-g8 Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<14...a7-a6 15.Be3-b6 Ba4xb3 16.a2xb3 Ne7-g6 17.g2-g3 Bf8-e7! 18.Kg1-f2 h7-h5! 19.h2-h4 -+> Strange move... More logical would be 14...b7-b6! -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<19...Ke8-f7 20.Rd1-d7 -+> 19...Ng6-f8! -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<20...Kf7-e6 21.Rd7xb7 Rh8-b8 22.Rb7xb8 Ra8xb8 23.c4-c5 -+> 20...Rh8-b8! -+ followed with Ng6-f8 and Kf7-e6. Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<23...Rb8-a8 24.b3-b4 -+> ***TACTICS ALERT*** 23...Be7xh4! 24.g3xh4 Ng6xf4 -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<24...Ng6-h8 25.Ra1-d1 -+> This knight is apparently heading to g4, but again 24...Be7xh4! 25.g3xh4 Ng6xf4 -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<25...Nh8-f7 26.Bb6-c7 -+> Better is 25...Nh8-g6! (Δ Be7xh4! as given previously) 26.Kf2-e3 Ng6-f8 -+ Δ Nf8-d7 Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<26...Nf7-h6 27.Kf2-e2 -+> Capablanca doesn't seem to know what to do with his knight! 26...Ra8-a7! -+ Δ Ra7-b7 Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<27...Nh6-f7 28.Rd1-d4 -+> Again 27...Ra8-a7 -+ Δ Ra7-b7 Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

<28...Ra8-c8 29.Bc7-a5 Be7-d8! 30.Ke2-e3 Bd8xa5 31.b4xa5 Rc8-b8 32.b2-b4 Rb8-d8 33.Rd4xd8 Nf7xd8 -+> 28...Be7-d8! 29.Bc7-d6 a6-a5! -+ Stockfish 12 - 64 bits POPCNT.

Capablanca's play was far from perfect in this game, but he has been a piece up and winning since move #9. It is human to stop to continually looking for the "best move" when in such an obviously winning position. The moves Capablanca played after move 9 were good enough for the win, a win that was never put at risk.

The two terrible mistakes he made at move 4 and 5 could maybe reveal a "tactical weakness". As said in a previous post, at this time Capablanca was possibly the best Cuban player and possibly a national master, or at least a "candidate national master". But Cuba was not known to be a chess powerhouse, compared with other contry with a richer chess History...

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