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Jose Raul Capablanca
Number of games in database: 1,169
Years covered: 1893 to 1941

Overall record: +376 -47 =265 (73.9%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games in the database. 481 exhibition games, blitz/rapid, odds games, etc. are excluded from this statistic.

With the White pieces:
 Ruy Lopez (151) 
    C66 C78 C62 C84 C64
 Orthodox Defense (79) 
    D63 D51 D52 D50 D67
 Queen's Gambit Declined (66) 
    D30 D37 D31 D06 D38
 Queen's Pawn Game (50) 
    D02 D00 D05 D04 A46
 French Defense (49) 
    C12 C01 C11 C14 C13
 Four Knights (36) 
    C49 C48
With the Black pieces:
 Orthodox Defense (53) 
    D67 D63 D53 D51 D64
 Ruy Lopez (52) 
    C72 C66 C77 C68 C71
 Queen's Pawn Game (39) 
    A46 D00 D02 D05 E10
 French Defense (19) 
    C01 C12 C15 C11 C09
 Caro-Kann (19) 
    B13 B18 B15 B12 B10
 Nimzo Indian (19) 
    E24 E34 E40 E37 E23
Repertoire Explorer

NOTABLE GAMES: [what is this?]
   Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924 1-0
   Capablanca vs Marshall, 1918 1-0
   O Bernstein vs Capablanca, 1914 0-1
   Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1927 0-1
   Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921 0-1
   Capablanca vs K Treybal, 1929 1-0
   Capablanca vs M Fonaroff, 1918 1-0
   Marshall vs Capablanca, 1909 0-1
   Janowski vs Capablanca, 1916 0-1
   Capablanca vs J Corzo, 1901 1-0

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: [what is this?]
   Lasker - Capablanca World Championship Match (1921)
   Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship Match (1927)

NOTABLE TOURNAMENTS: [what is this?]
   Capablanca - Marshall (1909)
   Rice Memorial (1916)
   American National (1913)
   New York (1918)
   New York Masters (1915)
   Hastings (1919)
   London (1922)
   New York (1927)
   Budapest (1929)
   New York Masters (1911)
   St. Petersburg (1914)
   Havana (1913)
   New York (1924)
   Karlsbad (1929)
   Moscow (1925)

GAME COLLECTIONS: [what is this?]
   Capa.blanca by fredthebear
   Capablanca! by chocobonbon
   Capablanca! by Sven W
   Match Capablanca! by amadeus
   Capablanca plays the world....(I) by MissScarlett
   Jose Raul Capablanca's Best Games by alip
   Jose Raul Capablanca's Best Games by dcruggeroli
   Capablanca plays the world... (II) by MissScarlett
   Jose Raul Capablanca's Best Games by KingG
   Immortal Games of Capablanca, F. Reinfeld by Sergio0106
   Immortal Games of Capablanca, F. Reinfeld by demirchess
   Immortal Games of Capablanca, F. Reinfeld by Incremental
   Immortal Games of Capablanca, F. Reinfeld by fphaase
   Immortal Games of Capablanca, F. Reinfeld by mjk

   Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921
   Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921
   Lasker vs Schlechter, 1910
   Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921
   Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1913

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(born Nov-19-1888, died Mar-08-1942, 53 years old) Cuba

[what is this?]

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera was the third World Champion, reigning from 1921 until 1927. Renowned for the simplicity of his play, his legendary endgame prowess, accuracy, and the speed of his play, he earned the nickname of the "Human Chess Machine".


Capablanca, the second son of a Spanish Army officer, was born in Havana. He learned to play at an early age by watching his father and defeated Cuban Champion Juan Corzo in an informal match in 1901 by 6.5-5.5 (+4 −3 =5), turning 13 years of age during the match. Despite this and despite taking 4th place in the first Cuban Championship in 1902, he did not focus on chess until 1908 when he left Columbia University where he had enrolled to study chemical engineering and play baseball. He did, however, join the Manhattan Chess Club in 1905, soon establishing his dominance in rapid chess. He won a rapid chess tournament in 1906 ahead of the World Champion Emanuel Lasker, and played many informal games against him. Within a year or two of dropping out of university and after playing simultaneous exhibitions in dozens of US cities, winning over 95% of his games, Capablanca had established himself as one of the top players in the world, especially after the Capablanca - Marshall (1909) New York match exhibition win 15-8 (+8 -1 =14).


Capablanca won the 1910 New York State Championship by defeating co-leader Charles Jaffe in a tiebreaker match. In 1911, he placed second in the National Tournament in New York, with 9½ out of 12, half a point behind Marshall, and half a point ahead of Jaffe and Oscar Chajes. There followed Capablanca’s ground breaking win at San Sebastian (1911) with 9.5/14 (+6 -1 =7), ahead of Akiba Rubinstein and Milan Vidmar on 9, Marshall on 8.5, and other luminaries such as Carl Schlechter , Siegbert Tarrasch and Ossip Bernstein. Before the tournament, Aron Nimzowitsch protested the unknown Capablanca’s involvement in the event, but the latter demonstrated his credentials by defeating Nimzowitsch in in their game. Winning at San Sebastian was only the second time a player had won a major tournament at his first attempt since Harry Nelson Pillsbury ’s triumph at Hastings in 1895, and it provided a powerful boost to his credibility to challenge for the world title. He did so, but the match did not take place for another 10 years.

In early 1913, Capablanca won a tournament in New York with 11/13 (+10 -1 =2), half a point ahead of Marshall. Capablanca then finished second with 10/14 (+8 -2 =4), a half point behind Marshall in Havana, losing one of their individual games, rumour having it that he asked the mayor to clear the room so that no-one would see him resign. Returning to New York, Capablanca won all thirteen games at the New York tournament of 1913, played at the Rice Chess Club. 1914 saw the <"tournament of champions"> played at St. Petersburg. Capablanca, with 13/18 (+10 -2 =6), came second behind Lasker and well ahead of Alexander Alekhine on 10, Tarrasch on 8.5 and Marshall on 8.

After the outbreak of World War I, Capablanca stayed in New York and won tournaments held there in 1915 (13/14 (+12 -0 =2)), 1916 (14/17 (+12 -1 =4)) and 1918 (10.5/12 (+9 =3)). During the New York 1918 tournament, Marshall played his prepared Marshall Attack of the Ruy Lopez* against Capablanca, but Capablanca worked his way through the complications and won. Soon after the war, Capablanca crossed the Atlantic to decisively win the Hastings Victory tournament 1919 with 10.5/11, a point ahead of Borislav Kostic.

Capablanca did not play another tournament until 1922, the year after he won the title from Lasker. During his reign, he won London 1922 with 13/15 (no losses), 1.5 points ahead of Alekhine; placed second behind Lasker at New York 1924 (suffering his first loss in eight years – to Richard Reti – since his 1916 lost to Oscar Chajes); placed 3rd at Moscow in 1925 behind Efim Bogoljubov and Lasker respectively with +9 =9 -2; won at Lake Hopatcong (New York) 1926 with 6/8 (+4 =4), a point ahead of Abraham Kupchik; and won at New York in 1927 with 14/20 (+10 -1 =9), 2.5 points clear of Alekhine, his last tournament before his title match with Alekhine. During the latter tournament, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rudolf Spielmann, Milan Vidmar, Nimzowitsch and Marshall played a quadruple round robin, wherein Capablanca finished undefeated, winning the mini-matches with each of his rivals, 2½ points ahead of second-placed Alekhine, and won the "best game" prize for a win over Spielmann. This result, plus the fact that Alekhine had never defeated him in a game, made him a strong favourite to retain his title in the upcoming match against Alekhine. However, Alekhine's superior preparation prevailed against Capablanca's native talent.

After losing the title, Capablanca settled in Paris and engaged in a flurry of tournament competition aimed at improving his chances for a rematch with Alekhine. However the latter dodged him, refusing to finalise negotiations for a rematch, boycotting events that included Capablanca, and insisting that Capablanca not be invited to tournaments in which he participated. In 1928, Capablanca won at Budapest with 7/9 (+5 =4), a point ahead of Marshall, and at Berlin with 8.5/12 (+5 =7), 1.5 points ahead of Nimzowitsch; he also came second at Bad Kissingen with 7/11 (+4 -1 =6), after Bogoljubov. In 1929, Capablanca won at Ramsgate with 5.5/7 (+4 =3) ahead of Vera Menchik and Rubinstein, at Budapest with 10.5/13 (+8 =5), and at Barcelona with 13.5/14, two points clear of Savielly Tartakower; he also came equal second with Spielmann and behind Nimzowitsch at Carlsbad with 14.5/21 (+10 -2 =9). He won at the 1929-30 Hastings tournament and came second at Hastings in 1930-31, behind Max Euwe, his only loss being to Mir Sultan Khan. Several months later he won New York for the last time, this time with a score of 10/11 (+9 =2) ahead of Isaac Kashdan.

Perhaps discouraged by his inability to secure a rematch with Alekhine, there followed a hiatus for over three years before he reentered the fray with a fourth placing at Hastings in 1934-35 with 5.5/9 (+4 -2 =3), behind Sir George Alan Thomas, Euwe and Salomon Flohr but ahead of Mikhail Botvinnik and Andre Lilienthal. In 1935, he secured 4th place in Moscow with 12/19 (+7 -2 =10), a point behind Botvinnik and Flohr, and a half point behind the evergreen Lasker. Also in 1935, he came second at Margate with 7/9 (+6 -1 =2), half a point behind Samuel Reshevsky. 1936 was a very successful year, coming 2nd at Margate with 7/9 (+5 =4), a half point behind Flohr, but then he moved up a gear to take Moscow with 13/18 (+8 =10), a point ahead of Botvinnik who in turn was 2.5 points ahead of Flohr, and then came =1st with Botvinnik at the famous Nottingham tournament, with 10/14 (+7 -1 =6) ahead of Euwe, Reuben Fine and Reshevsky on 9.5, and Flohr and Lasker on 8.5. These latter two results were the only tournaments in which he finished ahead of Lasker, which enhanced his chances of challenging for the title, but a challenge to World Champion Euwe was out of the question until after the Euwe - Alekhine World Championship Rematch (1937) , which was won by Alekhine. In 1937, Capablanca came =3rd with Reshevsky at Semmering with 7.5/14 (+2 -1 =11) behind Paul Keres and Fine and in 1938 he won the Paris tournament with 8/10 (+6 =4) ahead of Nicolas Rossolimo. The worst result of his career occurred at the AVRO tournament which was played in several cities in the Netherlands in 1938, placing 7th out of 8 players with 6/14 (+2 -4 =8), the only time he ever had a negative score in a tournament. His health in this tournament was fragile as he had suffered severe hypertension, which affected his concentration towards the end of his games; he may have also suffered a slight stroke halfway through the tournament. Traveling between the numerous cities in which the tournament was played was also hard on the ageing master. In 1939 he played his last tournament at Margate, placing =2nd with Flohr on 6.5/9 (+4 =5) a point behind Keres. Shortly afterwards, he finished his playing career – albeit unknowingly - in a blaze of glory by winning gold with +7 =9 on board one for Cuba at the 8th Olympiad in Buenos Aires.


In addition to the informal match against Corzo in 1901 and the exhibition match against Marshall in 1909 (see above), Capablanca played a three game match against Charles Jaffe in New York in 1912, winning two and drawing one, and won the first game of a match against Chajes before the latter withdrew from the match. In 1914, he defeated Ossip Bernstein 1.5-0.5, Tartakower by 1.5-0.5 and Andre Aurbach by 2-0. On his way to the 1914 tournament in St Petersburg, he played two-game matches against Richard Teichmann and Jacques Mieses in Berlin, winning all his games. Once he reached Saint Petersburg, he played similar matches against Alexander Alekhine, Eugene Aleksandrovich Znosko-Borovsky and Fyodor Ivanovich Dus Chotimirsky, losing one game to Znosko-Borovsky and winning the rest. In 1919, Capablanca accepted a challenge to a match from Borislav Kostić who had come second at New York in 1918 without dropping a game. The match was to go to the first player to win eight games, but Kostić resigned the match, played in Havana, after losing five straight games. In late 1931, just before his temporary retirement from top level chess, Capablanca also won a match (+2 −0 =8) against Euwe.

World Championship

Capablanca’s win at San Sebastian in 1911 provided the results and the impetus for Capablanca to negotiate with Lasker for a title match, but some of Lasker’s conditions were unacceptable to Capablanca, especially one requiring the challenger to win by two points to take the title, while the advent of World War I delayed the match. In 1920, Lasker and Capablanca agreed to play the title match in 1921, but a few months later, former was ready to surrender the title without a contest, saying, "You have earned the title not by the formality of a challenge, but by your brilliant mastery." A significant stake ($25,000, $13,000 guaranteed to Lasker) was raised that induced Lasker to play in Havana where Capablanca won the Lasker - Capablanca World Championship Match (1921) - without losing a game - after Lasker resigned from the match when trailing by 4 games, the first time a World Champion had lost his title without winning a game until the victory by Vladimir Kramnik in the Kasparov - Kramnik World Championship Match (2000). From 1921 to 1923, Alekhine, Rubinstein and Nimzowitsch all challenged Capablanca, but only Alekhine could raise the money stipulated in the so-called “London Rules”, which these players had signed in 1921. A group of Argentinean businessmen, backed by a guarantee from the president of Argentina, promised the funds for a World Championship match between Capablanca and Alekhine, and once the deadline for Nimzowitsch to lodge a deposit for a title match had passed, the title match was agreed to, beginning in September 1927. Capablanca lost the Capablanca - Alekhine World Championship Match (1927) at Buenos Aires in 1927 by +3 -6 =25 in the longest title match ever, until it was surpassed by the legendary Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (1984). The match lasted over ten weeks, taking place behind closed doors, thus precluding spectators and photographers. All but two of the 34 games opened with the Queen's Gambit Declined. Before Capablanca and Alekhine left Buenos Aires after the match, they agreed in principle to stage a rematch, with Alekhine essentially sticking with the conditions initially imposed by Capablanca. Despite on-again off-again negotiations over the next 13 years, the rematch never materialised, with Alekhine playing two title matches each against Bogolyubov and Euwe in the subsequent decade. While Capablanca and Alekhine were both representing their countries at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939, an attempt was made by Augusto de Muro, the President of the Argentine Chess Federation, to arrange a World Championship match between the two. Alekhine declined, saying he was obliged to be available to defend his adopted homeland, France, as World War II had just broken out. A couple of days prior to this, Capablanca had declined to play when his Cuban team played France, headed by Alekhine, in the Olympiad.

Simultaneous exhibitions

Capablanca’s legendary speed of play lent itself to the rigours of simultaneous play, and he achieved great success in his exhibitions. From December 1908 through February 1909, Capablanca toured the USA and in 10 exhibitions he won 168 games in a row before losing a game in Minneapolis; his final tally for that tour was 734 games, winning 96.7% (+703 =19 -12). In March and April 1911, Capablanca toured Europe for the first time, giving exhibitions in France and Germany scoring +234=33-19. Once completed, he proceeded to San Sebastian and his historic victory before again touring Europe via its cities of Rotterdam, Leiden, Middelburg, The Hague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin, Breslau, Allenstein, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Paris, London and Birmingham at the end of which his tally was +532=66-54. After he received his job as a roving ambassador-at-large from the Cuban Foreign Office, Capablanca played a series of simuls in London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Riga, Moscow, Kiev, and Vienna on his way to St Petersburg in 1914, tallying +769=91-86. In 1922, Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition in Cleveland against 103 opponents, the largest in history up to that time, winning 102 and drawing one – setting a record for the best winning percentage ever – 99.5% - in a large simultaneous exhibition. In 1925 Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition in Leningrad and won every game but one, a loss against 12 year old Mikhail Botvinnik, whom he predicted would one day be champion. Capablanca still holds the record for the most games ever completed in simultaneous exhibitions, playing and completing 13545 games between 1901-1940.**

Legacy, testimonials and life

Soon after gaining the title, Capablanca married Gloria Simoni Betancourt in Havana. They had a son, José Raúl Jr., in 1923 and a daughter, Gloria, in 1925. His father died in 1923 and mother in 1926. In 1937 he divorced Gloria and in 1938 married Olga Chagodayev, a Russian princess.

Capablanca's famous “invincible” streak extended from February 10, 1916, when he lost to Oscar Chajes in the New York 1916 tournament, to March 21, 1924, when he lost to Richard Réti in the New York International tournament. During this time he played 63 games, winning 40 and drawing 23, including his successful title match against Lasker. Between 1914 and his World Championship match against Alekhine, Capablanca had only lost four games of the 158 match and tournament games he had played. In match, team match, and tournament play from 1909 to 1939 he scored +318=249-34. Only Spielmann held his own (+2 −2 =8) against Capablanca, apart from Keres who had a narrow plus score against him (+1 −0 =5) due to his win at the AVRO 1938 tournament, during which the ailing Capablanca turned 50, while Keres was 22.

Capablanca played himself in Chess Fever, a short film shot by V. Pudovkin at the 1925 Moscow tournament. The film can be seen at

On 7 March 1942, Capablanca collapsed at the Manhattan Chess Club and he was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he died the next morning from "a cerebral haemorrhage provoked by hypertension". Emanuel Lasker had died in the same hospital the year before. Capablanca's body was given a public funeral in Havana's Colón Cemetery a week later, with President Batista taking personal charge of the funeral arrangements.

Capablanca proposed a new chess variant, played on a 10x10 board or a 10x8 board. He introduced two new pieces. The chancellor had the combined moves of a rook and knight (the piece could move like a rook or a knight). The other piece was the archbishop that had the combined moves of a bishop and knight.

Capablanca‘s style also heavily influenced the styles of later World Champions Botvinnik, Robert James Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. Botvinnik observed that Alekhine had received much schooling from Capablanca in positional play, before their fight for the world title made them bitter enemies. While not a theoretician as such, he wrote several books including A Primer of Chess, Chess Fundamentals and My Chess Career.

Alekhine: <…Capablanca was snatched from the chess world much too soon. With his death, we have lost a very great chess genius whose like we shall never see again.>

Lasker: <I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius: Capablanca.>


Capablanca occasionally played consultation on the team consisting of Reti / Capablanca.


Bill Wall's Chess Master Profiles -; Edward Winter's article A Question of Credibiity:; Chess Corner's article on Capablanca: and <kingcrusher>'s online article at A list of books about Capablanca can be found at

* Ruy Lopez, Marshall (C89) **

Wikipedia article: José Raúl Capablanca

 page 1 of 47; games 1-25 of 1,169  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. R Iglesias vs Capablanca 0-1381893Odds game000 Chess variants
2. Capablanca vs E Delmonte 1-0181901Match-seriesB21 Sicilian, 2.f4 and 2.d4
3. Leon Paredes vs Capablanca 0-1451901Match-seriesC44 King's Pawn Game
4. Capablanca vs E Corzo 1-0351901Match-seriesC67 Ruy Lopez
5. J Corzo vs Capablanca 1-0411901Havana casualB01 Scandinavian
6. Capablanca vs A Fiol ½-½491901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
7. A Gavilan vs Capablanca 0-1391901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
8. A Ettlinger vs Capablanca 0-1531901Havana casualC45 Scotch Game
9. Capablanca vs M Marceau 1-0311901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
10. M M Sterling vs Capablanca ½-½501901HavanaC77 Ruy Lopez
11. Capablanca vs J A Blanco 1-0491901Match-seriesC45 Scotch Game
12. E Delmonte vs Capablanca 0-1321901Match-seriesD00 Queen's Pawn Game
13. Capablanca vs Leon Paredes 1-0291901Match-seriesC02 French, Advance
14. E Corzo vs Capablanca 1-0321901Match-seriesC11 French
15. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-1601901Havana casualC45 Scotch Game
16. A Fiol vs Capablanca 0-1361901HavanaC55 Two Knights Defense
17. Capablanca vs A Gavilan 1-0771901Match-seriesC01 French, Exchange
18. Capablanca vs M M Sterling 1-0301901HavanaC01 French, Exchange
19. Capablanca vs E Corzo 1-0421901Havana casualC40 King's Knight Opening
20. Capablanca vs E Corzo 0-1301901Havana casualC40 King's Knight Opening
21. J A Blanco vs Capablanca 0-1771901HavanaC55 Two Knights Defense
22. Capablanca vs C Echevarria 1-0491901Simul, 8bC44 King's Pawn Game
23. Capablanca vs J Corzo 0-1291901Capablanca - CorzoC45 Scotch Game
24. J Corzo vs Capablanca 1-0271901Capablanca - CorzoC52 Evans Gambit
25. Capablanca vs J Corzo ½-½611901Capablanca - CorzoA80 Dutch
 page 1 of 47; games 1-25 of 1,169  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Capablanca wins | Capablanca loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 171 OF 261 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Aug-07-09  LIFE Master AJ: <Visay> OK.
Aug-11-09  MANOLITODEREGLA: gloria eterna al inmortal genio del juego ciencia!!!
Aug-14-09  visayanbraindoctor: <LIFE Master AJ> I am planning on looking at your analysis of Capablanca's games one by one.

I have started on your analysis of Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924, and it was wonderful! Comparing the analysis and opinions of various authors and computers gives a more meaningful diversity of views, kind of looking at the same beautiful painting from different angles.

Frankly, I agree with every one who says that this game is the greatest rook and pawn endgame ever played. IMO with 23. h4 Capablanca must have seen all the way nearly to the end more than 10 moves later. With this move he shows that he has committed himself to sacking his Queenside pawns for the sake of a more active King and Rook. Again Capa shows his incredible and peerless ability to choose and control middlegame to endgame transitions. As you say Tartakower, who was quite a mean endgame player himself, may have even thought he was winning. Simply incredible.

What is even more unbelievable is that prior to this game, no one seems to have played a Rook and Pawn endgame in this manner. Yet, called to do so by the circumstances, not only did Capablanca play it perfectly; he actually intentionally steered the middlegame into it; and moreover it still remains as the gold standard of its genre, still unsurpassed until today nearly a century later. It's at least as miraculous as Capablanca playing the Modern Benoni and Benko Gambit set-up in a text book perfect manner, at a time when these openings did not exist. And to top it all, Capablanca played these games over the board, with no prior prepping. It is probably these unbelievable spontaneous displays of chess-playing ability that has led so many World Champions and Almost World Champions to universally proclaim Capablanca as one heck of a chess genius.

Aug-14-09  slomarko: <Capablanca was among the greatest of chess players, but not because of his endgame. His trick was to keep his openings simple, and then play with such brilliance in the middlegame that the game was decided - even though his opponent didn't always know it - before they arrived at the ending. - Robert Fischer> Very good observation by Fischer.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <drnooo> Here is my list of top twelve endgame players of all time (in no particlar order) 1. Fischer, Robert
2. Lasker, Emanuel
3. Capablanca, Jose
4. Botvinnik, Mikhail
5. Karpov, Anatoly
6. Kasparov, Gary
7. Smyslov, Vasily
8. Korchnoi, Viktor
9. Rubinstein, Akiva
10. Petrosian, Tigran
11. Andersson, Ulf
12. Alekhine, Alexander

Can anyone suggest anybody else to replace any player in this list? Bet it would be difficult.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <TheFocus> Among the more historical players, technical endgame specialists like Flohr or Eliskases may probably get an endgame nod over Alekhine. (Btw, Nimzo was also a very good endgame player.)

More recently, I see Vladimir Kramnik as second to none when it comes to endgame. Gata Kamsky's endgame proves are awesome as, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, are Shirov's. Without trying to start arguments: Kasparov's endgames are good, but he probably would be first to concede an edge in this particular aspect of the game to Kramnik (endgame and defense). (Anand has no weakness.)

Among the young guys, Karjaking wins are built upon his endgame skills. Lately, Carlsen's endgame play also got quite sublime.

Aug-14-09  AnalyzeThis: I think TheFocus has a good list.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: I'm don't see Ulf Andersson surviving against the titans. I see him more as a specialist nursing small advantages to victory through infinite patience, and generally not against elite players.

Pillsbury outplayed Lasker at St Petersburg 1895/96 in a knight versus bishop ending, so he would be my replacement for Ulf.

Aug-14-09  slomarko: <11. Andersson, Ulf
12. Alekhine, Alexander>
rofl, dude you need brain transplantation.
Aug-14-09  SugarDom: ditto to the 100th power.
Aug-14-09  NakoSonorense: <Here is my list of top twelve endgame players of all time (<in no particlar order>)>
Aug-14-09  veigaman: Endgame players (10): (chronological order)

Morphy,Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Keres, Botvinnik, Tal, Smyslov,Fischer, Karpov

Aug-14-09  slomarko: where are Rubinstein and Korchnoi?
Aug-14-09  AnalyzeThis: I was going to mention Morphy. The guy was very accurate.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <I was going to mention Morphy. The guy was very accurate.>

I was going to mention <Steinitz>; he laid down the very foundation of modern endgame play. Realization of the 2B advantage is the most notorious concrete manifestation of his endgame work: Englisch vs Steinitz, 1883.

And <Tarrasch's> endgame contribution probably also should not be completely forgotten -- at least not when one cashes-in a spatial advantage of one sort or another: Tarrasch vs Teichmann, 1912.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I can never take these sorts of lists seriously, because there are no common criteria.

Endgames are even more cumulative than other aspects of chess; every great endgame player owes a debt to his predecessors. Assuming that, say, Kramnik makes fewer endgame errors than Rubinstein, how do we judge between the two?

Also, do we make an adjustment for players before 1990 because they had adjournments to help them analyze?

Selection bias is an even bigger problem in these kind of lists than it usually is. Anyone who has an endgame book has seen endings by Lasker and Capablanca, but how much do most of us know about the endgames of players in the past 20 years, or the past 50? This endgame blew me away when I saw it unfold (Topalov vs Kasimdzhanov, 2005) it seemed equal or better than any classic. But for all I know Topalov, Anand, Kramnik etc. have 50 endgames each that good.

Finally, Morphy? I can think of two good endgames he played, against Harrwitz. If that is enough to get him on the all-time list, then we are just wasting our time.

Aug-14-09  parisattack: <TheFocus: <drnooo> Here is my list of top twelve endgame players of all time (in no particlar order) 1. Fischer, Robert 2. Lasker, Emanuel
3. Capablanca, Jose
4. Botvinnik, Mikhail
5. Karpov, Anatoly
6. Kasparov, Gary
7. Smyslov, Vasily
8. Korchnoi, Viktor
9. Rubinstein, Akiva
10. Petrosian, Tigran
11. Andersson, Ulf
12. Alekhine, Alexander >

I think you have the Top-12, but imagine a lot of difference of opinion in order...I can't see Fischer as one of the top-3 myself. Lasker, Capablanca, Karpov, Rubinstein, Smyslov my Top 5 - and I am not sure of the order; it would depend on who's games I last saw! Flohr, Fine, Tarrasch and Kashdan also right up there...

Marshall, BTW, was an excellent endgame player - he just didn't get to them very often; one way or the other.

Aug-15-09  AnalyzeThis: I don't think we're strong enough to distinquish a Smyslov from a Karpov. It's probably good enough to just through the best on a list a call it a day.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: It would have probably been easier to name a top twenty list. But, good suggestions by all who gave them. ("particlar" makes me sound like George W. Bush!!)
Of course, of the twelve I originally listed, Kasparov would be #12, or #11 before Andersson.
Aug-17-09  visayanbraindoctor: <keypusher> I have been trying to follow up on some of the more recently played endings by the top chess masters of the world, although I am probably not entirely succeeding.

Given my limitations, during the past decade IMO only game 14 of the Kramnik vs Leko, 2004 approaches the Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924 endgame as to <greatness>, and unfortunately there, Leko's passive play somewhat spoils the aesthetic feel of the game.

One of the most astonishing things about the Capablanca vs Tartakower, 1924 endgame is that Capablanca brilliantly steered the middlegame into it (which is another proof of Fischer's saying that Capablanca's trick <was to keep his openings simple, and then play with such brilliance in the middlegame that the game was decided - even though his opponent didn't always know it - before they arrived at the ending>. As posted above when Capa played 23. h4, he must have been inviting Tartakower to follow his lead. Tartakower, one of the best endgame players of that era himself, seems to have misjudged the resulting positions and as <LIFE Master AJ> noticed, probably thought he was winning; which is not really surprising as apparently some chess computer programs run for a reasonable amount of time also give the advantage to Black! (See his analysis in

Capablanca's play in this game mostly defies both human and computer 'comprehension'.

On top of that, as posted above <What is even more unbelievable is that prior to this game, no one seems to have played a Rook and Pawn endgame in this manner. Yet, called to do so by the circumstances, not only did Capablanca play it perfectly; he actually intentionally steered the middlegame into it; and moreover it still remains as the gold standard of its genre, still unsurpassed until today nearly a century later. It's at least as miraculous as Capablanca playing the Modern Benoni and Benko Gambit set-up in a text book perfect manner, at a time when these openings did not exist. And to top it all, Capablanca played these games over the board, with no prior prepping. It is probably these unbelievable spontaneous displays of chess-playing ability that has led so many World Champions and Almost World Champions to universally proclaim Capablanca as one heck of a chess genius.>

By the way, I think time control during that era was on move 30, and so one cannot attribute Capablanca's incredible play to adjournment analysis. He had to begin his calculations and make the decision to sac his Queenside pawns even at move 23. h4

Aug-18-09  visayanbraindoctor: <LIFE Master AJ> I just went through your analysis of O Bernstein vs Capablanca, 1914

It's pretty clear that Capablanca played perfectly, and going into the middlegame may have always found the best possible move in all the game's positions.

15... c4

looks at first sight anti-positional, and Capablanca even lectures against such moves in his Chess Fundamentals. So why does he play it anyway?

The most obvious answer is that it increases the scope and activity of his pieces. This is very noticeable in practically all of Capablanca's games. He nearly always gave priority to piece activity over static pawn structures, and was always more than willing to incur pawn weaknesses and even sac pawns if he were to get more piece activity out of them.

Unfortunately, Capablanca's Chess Fundamentals is NOT clear at all on the importance of piece activity and dynamic play; nor was any other work of his. The interesting question is why?

My hypothesis is that at that time, it was in the vogue for masters to theoretically explore static advantages rather than dynamic advantages. Capablanca, following other known works by Steinitz, Lasker, Tarrasch, Nimzovich, etc. could have been trying to unconsciously replicate their written works.

Yet Capablanca, as can be seen clearly in this game, often did not follow his own advise! He could have often been making plans and moves by instinct rather than by rigid chess dogma in the vogue then. Since IMO Capablanca had the best chess instincts ever in the history of chess, this made him a less-than-excellent writer, but a colossus of a chess player.

In brief, Capablanca may have been at a loss in explaining how he played. He did NOT know how to explain how he played.

Later with the advent of the Soviet Union school of chess, dynamic play and piece activity became hot topics. The peculiar thing about Capablanca is that his games are marvelous models of dynamic play and piece activity; but he just did not know how to explain it.

Aug-18-09  Ziggurat: Totally agree, <visayan>. Capa's writings can sometimes come off as almost dogmatic, but his actual play sure wasn't. I think the same is true of Tarrasch, although he wasn't quite at Capa's level, of course.
Aug-18-09  visayanbraindoctor: <Ziggurat: Totally agree, <visayan>. Capa's writings can sometimes come off as almost dogmatic>

One does not even have to read Chess Fundamentals to get acquainted with Capablanca's dogmatic way of writing. I have been going through his annotations in the Lasker-Schlechter World Championship Match (1910) games, and one of the first things that occurred to me was that Capablanca would NOT even follow some of his own suggestions if he were the one playing the games!

Capablanca was IMO a poor annotator. Fischer, who probably is one champion chess player who has spent more time and effort actually studying Capablanca's games move for move by himself and not relying on other analysts went as far as saying that Capa's annotations were <idiotic>.

Aug-18-09  birthtimes: "The fact is that chess consists of those three elements [force, space, time] plus the inherent element of position, and that position is first, last, and foremost.

Position, as the word indicates, has reference to the location of the pieces on the board; and it is generally valued by the greater or lesser mobility of the pieces, plus the pressure that these pieces may exert against different points of the chessboard, or against certain pieces of the opponent...This does not mean that you should neglect any of the other three elements, but that you should give pre-eminence to the element of position."

By Jose Capablanca, in A Primer of Chess, 1995, pp. 66-67.

Aug-18-09  birthtimes: "The queen of course cannot be taken because of 31. Nxe7+. Notice how the knight exerts an enormous pressure (f5 is one of the strongest places for a knight when attacking the king castled on that side).

White's queen move accomplishes three things: it unpins the knight, it gains time by forcing the black queen to move, and it brings the queen in line with the white bishop (after the bishop takes the b-pawn), controlling the diagonal a4-e8.

Later on, as a result of the manoeuvre, when the queens are exchanged on d7, the white bishop will remain there, controlling the square e8, thus protecting the advance of White's passed e-pawn which will queen at e8.

If the reader will carefully consider all these moves and combinations he will find not only the beauty of the whole thing, but, what is far more important for his progress, the underlying principle of the middle-game: co-ordinating the action of the pieces."

Capablanca's wonderful annotations on his game against Dus-Khotimirsky (Black) in St. Petersburg on December 13, 1913, after 30. Qc6, ibid., p.69.

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