José Raúl Capablanca


José Raúl Capablanca

Infobox chess player
playername = José Raúl Capablanca


caption=
birthname = José Raúl Capablanca
country = CUB
datebirth = birth date|1888|11|19
placebirth = Havana, Cuba
datedeath = death date and age|1942|3|8|1888|11|19
placedeath = New York City, United States
worldchampion = 1921-1927
rating =
peakrating =

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (November 19, 1888 – March 8, 1942) was a Cuban chess player who was world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. He is often referred to as a candidate for the greatest chess player of all time.

Childhood

Referred to by many chess historians as the Mozart of chess, Capablanca was a chess prodigy whose brilliance was noted at an early age. Richard Réti said about him "Chess was his mother tongue".

According to Capablanca, he learned the rules of the game at the age of four by watching his father play. He said he noticed his father make an illegal move with his knight, accused him of cheating, and then demonstrated what he had done. Capablanca was taken to the Havana Chess Club when he was four. He was given queen odds and defeated a leading player, but his level of play was astonishing for a four year old, even given the queen odds. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1481959 Ramon Iglesias vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com] In December 1901, just turned 13, he defeated the leading Cuban player, Juan Corzo, by the score of four wins, three losses, and six draws. But later in April 1902 he only came fourth in the National Championship. Capablanca later began a semester as an undergraduate student of chemical engineering at Columbia University in New York City, but did not complete it, and chess became his profession.

Early adult career

In 1909, at the age of 20, Capablanca won a match against US champion Frank Marshall by +8-1=14. This was a comparable margin to Marshall's World Championship loss (+8-0=7) to Emanuel Lasker in 1907. After the match, Capablanca said that he had never opened a book on chess openings. [Citation
last=Kasparov|first=Garry|authorlink=Garry Kasparov
year=2003
title=My Great Predecessors, part I
publisher = Everyman Chess
ID=ISBN 1-85744-330-6
page=232
]

Capablanca won the New York State Championship in 1910. [cite web|url=http://www.monmouth.com/~colonel/chess/nyschamps.html|title=www.monmouth.com/~colonel/chess/nyschamps.html ] Then, in a tournament at New York 1911, Capablanca placed second, with 9½/12, half a point behind Marshall, and half a point ahead of Charles Jaffe and Oscar Chajes. Marshall insisted that Capablanca should be allowed to play in a tournament at San Sebastián, Spain in 1911. It was one of the strongest tournaments of the time. All of the world's leading players except world champion Emanuel Lasker were in attendance. At the beginning of the tournament Ossip Bernstein and Aron Nimzowitsch objected to Capablanca's presence because he had not won a major tournament. But after Capablanca won his first round game against Bernstein, capturing the tournament's brilliancy prize, [cite web|url=http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1264025|title=www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1264025 ] Bernstein quickly acknowledged Capablanca's talent and said that he would not be surprised if Capablanca won the tournament. Nimzowitsch took offense when Capablanca made a comment while watching one of his blitz games, and remarked that unproven players should hold their tongue in the presence of their betters. Capablanca quickly challenged Nimzowitsch to a series of fast games, which he won "with ridiculous ease." The assembled masters soon concluded that Capablanca had no equal at fast chess, a distinction which was to remain his until virtually the end of his life. Capablanca went on to win his tournament game with Nimzowitsch as well, using an opening setup much admired by Mikhail Botvinnik. [cite web|url=http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1102350|title=www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1102350 ] By tournament's end, Capablanca had astounded the chess world by taking first place at San Sebastián, with a score of +6 -1 =7, ahead of Akiba Rubinstein, Carl Schlechter and Siegbert Tarrasch. The one game he lost was against Rubinstein, one of the most brilliant chess creations of the latter's career.

World title contender

In 1911, Capablanca challenged Emanuel Lasker for the world championship. Lasker accepted his challenge but proposed seventeen conditions for the match. Capablanca disapproved of some of the conditions and the match did not take place. Capablanca won the New York National tournament of 1912 with 11/13, half a point ahead of Marshall. [http://www.chessmetrics.com, Capablanca player file]

In 1913, Capablanca played in his hometown of Havana where he came in second to Frank Marshall, with 10/14. He lost one of their individual games after having a much better position. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1001096 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Frank James Marshall] ChessGames.com] Reuben Fine claimed that Capablanca had the mayor clear all the spectators so they would not see him resign, and this story has uncritically circulated in books and around the Internet. However, Winter documents that Fine's story has no basis whatsoever. Instead, there were 600 spectators present, who naturally favored their native hero, but sportingly gave Marshall "thunderous applause". [Winter, "Capablanca", ch. 2: "Rapid ascent", 1989.] Marshall's own notes corroborated this—when he heard the roar, he thought that the crowd was going to kill him, and he asked for security escort "and quickly rushed over to my hotel. Afterwards I was told they were cheering for me." [Soltis, Andy, "Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion", p.213, McFarland, 1994.]

Then Capablanca scored +13 -0 =0 in a 1913 tournament in New York (Rice), although Oldrich Duras was the only International Grandmaster class opponent; IM-strength players Oscar Chajes and Abraham Kupchik also played. This was one of only a handful of perfect scores ever in high-level chess tournaments.Capablanca was again perfect in a second tournament at Havana 1913 with 9/9.http://www.chessmetrics.com, Capablanca player file.]

In September 1913, Capablanca secured a job in the Cuban Foreign Office. He appears not to have had any specific duties other than playing chess, but what he had he was reported to have carried out conscientiously. For many years, he was the most famous Cuban alive.

In October 1913 to March 1914 Capablanca traveled to Europe on his way to the Consulate at St Petersburg to play matches or exhibition games against their leading masters. In serious games, he scored nineteen wins, four draws, and one loss during that period. First, he defeated Jacques Mieses and Richard Teichmann in Berlin. Then in St. Petersburg, he played a six-game series, two games against Alexander Alekhine, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky and Fyodor Dus-Chotimirsky, losing once to Znosko-Borovsky and winning the rest—his first encounters with Alekhine, who was outclassed; [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1011878 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Alexander Alekhine] ChessGames.com] , [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1011876 Alexander Alekhine vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com] next he beat Nimzowitsch in an elegant opposite colored bishops endgame [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1284173 Aron Nimzowitsch vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com] in Riga. In 1914, he beat Bernstein in Moscow in a game listed in many anthologies as a brilliancy for winning move 29...Qb2!! and for the new strategy with hanging pawns. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1261680 Ossip Bernstein vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com] In Kiev, he won among others against Fedor Bogatyrchuk. Then in Vienna he won one game from Richard Réti and defeated Savielly Tartakower 1½-½. Capablanca also gave many simultaneous exhibitions noted for their speed and very high winning scores.

At the great 1914 tournament in St. Petersburg, with most of the world's leading players (except those of the Austro-Hungarian empire), Capablanca met the great Emanuel Lasker across the chessboard for the first time in normal tournament play (Capablanca had won a knock-out lightning chess final game in 1906, leading to a famous joint endgame composition). Capablanca took the large lead of one and a half points in the preliminary rounds, and made Lasker fight hard to draw. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1258183 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Emanuel Lasker] ChessGames.com] [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1258182 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Emanuel Lasker] ChessGames.com] He again won the first brilliancy prize against Bernstein [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1260576 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Ossip Bernstein] ChessGames.com] and had some highly regarded wins against David Janowsky, [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1064762 Jose Raul Capablanca vs David Janowski] ChessGames.com] Nimzowitsch, [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1102386 Aron Nimzowitsch vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com] and Alekhine. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1011923 Alexander Alekhine vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com]

However, Capablanca fell victim to a comeback by Lasker in the second stage of the tournament, including a famous victory by Lasker. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1258181 Emanuel Lasker vs Jose Raul Capablanca] ChessGames.com] Capablanca finished second to Emanuel Lasker with a score of 13 points to Lasker's 13½, but far ahead of third-placed Alexander Alekhine. After this tournament, Tsar Nicholas II proclaimed the five prize-winners (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, Marshall) as "Grandmasters of Chess".

Alekhine reports:

:His real, incomparable gifts first began to make themselves known at the time of St. Petersburg, 1914, when I too came to know him personally. Neither before nor afterwards have I seen — and I cannot imagine as well — such a flabbergasting quickness of chess comprehension as that possessed by the Capablanca of that epoch. Enough to say that he gave "all" the St. Petersburg masters the odds of 5–1 in quick games — and won! With all this he was always good-humoured, the darling of the ladies, and enjoyed wonderful good health — really a dazzling appearance. That he came second to Lasker must be entirely ascribed to his youthful levity — he was already playing as well as Lasker.Alekhine, A., tribute to Capablanca, pp. 157–158, in: Alekhine, A., "107 Great Chess Battles", tr. E.G. Winter, Oxford University Press, 1980.]

In short, Capablanca was unrivaled as a fast chess player, even by the very best players of his own time (and perhaps of later times as well). [ [http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3455 Computers choose: who was the strongest player?] ChessBase.com]

Wartime years

World War I began in midsummer 1914, and international chess was virtually stopped for more than four years. Capablanca spent the war years mainly in the United States, and played several events, winning all of them, but these fields were not that strong. At New York 1915, he won with 13/14, a point ahead of Frank Marshall. At New York 1916, Capablanca won with 14/17, ahead of David Janowsky (11), Oscar Chajes (10½), Borislav Kostic (10), and Abraham Kupchik (10). Then at New York 1918, Capablanca won with 10½/12, ahead of Kostic and Marshall. In this tournament, Capablanca, with the white pieces, faced Marshall, who unveiled his Marshall Attack variation of the Ruy Lopez for the first time. Capablanca accepted the gambit and went on to win the game; it was later rumored that Marshall had analyzed the line for ten years before using it. This variation remains popular among top Grandmasters of the present day, nearly 90 years later.

World Champion

In 1919, Capablanca overwhelmed the strong Serbian Borislav Kostić in a match at Havana with five straight wins, whereupon Kostic resigned the match. Capablanca later wrote in 1927 that he had played the best chess of his life in this match. Capablanca also won the Hastings 1919 Victory tournament with a dominant 10½/11, a point ahead of Kostic.

In 1920, Lasker saw that Capablanca was becoming too strong, and resigned the title to him, saying, "You have earned the title not by the formality of a challenge, but by your brilliant mastery." Capablanca wanted to win it in a match, but Lasker insisted that he was now the challenger. They played a match in Havana in 1921, and Capablanca defeated Lasker +4 -0 =10. This feat of winning the world title without losing a game to the incumbent went unequaled for almost eight decades, until Vladimir Kramnik's win over Garry Kasparov +2 -0 =13 in 2000.

The new world champion, Capablanca dominated the field at London, 1922, with 13/15, ahead of Alexander Alekhine (11½), Milan Vidmar (11), and Akiba Rubinstein (10½). [http://chessmetrics.com, the Capablanca player file.] There was an increasing number of strong chess players and it was felt that the world champion should not be able to evade challenges to his title, as had been done in the past. At this tournament, some of the leading players of the time, including Alexander Alekhine, Efim Bogoljubov, Geza Maroczy, Richard Reti, Akiba Rubinstein, Savielly Tartakower and Milan Vidmar, met to discuss rules for the conduct of future world championships. Amongst other things, one of the conditions proposed by Capablanca was that the challenger would have to raise at least ten thousand dollars for the prize money. These were the so-called 'London Rules'. That same year, Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition against 103 opponents, the largest in history up to that time, and scored 102 wins and one draw, losing none.

In the following years, Rubinstein and Nimzowitsch challenged Capablanca, but were unable to raise the stipulated funds. Alekhine's subsequent challenge, in 1927, was backed by a group of Argentinian businessmen and the president of Argentina who guaranteed the funds.

Capablanca was second, with 14½ points, behind Lasker's 16, at the elite New York 1924 tournament, one of the greatest ever staged, and again ahead of third-placed Alekhine. In this tournament, his loss to Reti was his first in eight years. His performance was still a superb 2792. At Moscow 1925, Capablanca scored 13½ for third place, behind Efim Bogoljubov (15½) and Emanuel Lasker (14). Capablanca won at Lake Hopatcong 1926 with 6/8, ahead of Abraham Kupchik (5) and Geza Maroczy (4½). [http://www.chessmetrics.com, the Capablanca player file.]

As World Champion, Capablanca also underwent major changes in his personal life. In December 1921, he married Gloria Simoni Betancourt. They had a son, José Raúl Jr., in 1923 and a daughter, Gloria, in 1925, but the marriage ended in divorce. Both his parents died during his reign, his father in 1923 and mother in 1926. [Winter, "Capablanca", ch. 5: "Champion", 1989.]

Losing the title

Capablanca had overwhelming success at New York 1927, a quadruple-round robin with six of the world's top players. He was undefeated, with 14/20, and 2½ points ahead of the second-placed Alexander Alekhine. Capablanca also defeated Alekhine in their first game, [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012524 Alexander Alekhine vs Jose Raul Capablanca, New York 1927] ] won the first brilliancy prize against Rudolf Spielmann, [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007840 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Rudolf Spielmann, New York 1927] ] and won two games against Nimzowitsch. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007807 Aron Nimzowitsch vs Jose Raul Capablanca, New York 1927] ] [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007846 Aron Nimzowitsch vs Jose Raul Capablanca, New York 1927] ]

This made him the clear favorite for his match with Alekhine, who had never defeated him, later that year. However, the challenger had prepared well, played with patience and solidity, and the marathon match, held in Buenos Aires, proved to be Capablanca's undoing. Capablanca lost the first game in very lackluster fashion, [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012486 Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match 1927] ] then took a narrow lead by winning games 3 [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012490 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Alexander Alekhine (1927) ] ] and 7 [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012487 Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match 1927] ] — attacking games more in the style of Alekhine — but then lost games 11 [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1270221 Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match 1927] ] and 12. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012498 Alexander Alekhine vs Jose Raul Capablanca Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match 1927] ] He tried to get Alekhine to annul the match when both players were locked in a series of draws. Alekhine refused, and eventually prevailed +6 -3 =25.

In a tribute to Capablanca after his death, Alekhine wrote:

:How did it happen that he lost to me? I must confess that even now I cannot answer that question with certainty, since in 1927 I did not believe that I was superior to him. Perhaps the chief reason for his defeat was his over-estimation of his own powers arising out of his overwhelming victory at New York 1927, and his underestimation of mine.

Alekhine refused to play a return match, even though doing so had been a pre-condition of the match. Despite the collapse of the financial markets in 1929, Alekhine continued to insist on the London conditions, with a $10,000 purse to be secured by the challenger. Capablanca found it difficult to satisfy this condition, because the world's economy was mired in what became known as the Great Depression. Edward Winter explored this failed rematch situation further on chessbase.com in 2007. Instead, Alekhine played two matches against Efim Bogoljubov, a fine player, but one who posed no great threat in a long match (Capablanca had a 5-0 lifetime record against him). Throughout Alekhine's first tenure as champion (1927-1935), he refused to play in the same tournaments as Capablanca, and indeed was able to prevent Capablanca's participation in events which Alekhine himself wanted to play.Reuben Fine. "Lessons from My Games: A Passion for Chess". Dover Publications, New York, ISBN 0486244296, [1958] 1983, p. 80.]

Post-championship

After Capablanca lost the title, he won a number of strong tournaments, hoping that his showing would force Alekhine to grant him a rematch, but it was not to be. Capablanca won at Stockholm 1928 with 4/4, ahead of Erik Lundin and Gosta Stoltz.At the very strong Bad Kissingen 1928 tournament, with nine of the world's top 14 players, Capablanca placed second with 7/11, behind Efim Bogolyubov.Capablanca won at Budapest 1928 with 7/9, with Frank Marshall one point behind.At Berlin 1928, Capablanca again triumphed over a field which had seven of the top 13, with a powerful 9½/13, 2½ points ahead of runner-up Aron Nimzowitsch.

From 1929 to 1931, Capablanca maintained his exceptional standard, with seven tournaments played, resulting in five first places, one second place, and one shared second/third place. At Ramsgate 1929, Capablanca claimed first with 5½/7, ahead of Akiba Rubinstein and Vera Menchik. Then at Carlsbad 1929, one of the great tournaments in chess history, with 14 of the top 17 competing, Capablanca shared second/third places with Rudolph Spielmann on 14½/21, half a point behind Aron Nimzowitsch. Capablanca dominated a middle-range field at Barcelona 1929 with 13½/14, two points ahead of runner-up Savielly Tartakower. At Budapest 1929, Capablanca won with 10½/13 , a point ahead of Akiba Rubinstein. Capablanca won at Hastings 1929-30 with 6½/9, ahead of Milan Vidmar and Frederick Yates. At Hastings 1930-31, Capablanca finished second with 6½/9, half a point behind Max Euwe. Then at New York 1931, Capablanca won with an excellent 10/11, 1½ points ahead of Isaac Kashdan. [cite web|url=http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables2.htm|title=4th Italian Championship, Milan 1931] Also in 1931, Capablanca defeated the outstanding Dutch player Max Euwe, who was ranked #6 in the world, according to chessmetrics.com ratings, in a match at Amsterdam by 6-4 (+2 -0 =8).

Withdrawal, then resumption

Then he withdrew from serious chess, and played only less serious games at the Manhattan Chess Club and simultaneous displays. Reuben Fine recalls that in this period he (Fine) could fight on almost level terms with Alekhine at blitz chess, but that Capablanca beat him "mercilessly" the few times they played. On 6 December 1933, Capa scored 9/9 in a strong blitz tournament where Samuel Reshevsky and Fine tied for second with Milton Hanauer two points behind. [ [http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/winter30.html#4817._Capablancas_clean_sweep Chess Notes by Edward Winter ] ]

In 1934, Capablanca resumed serious play. He had begun dating Olga Chеgodaeva (Russian: Ольга Чегодаева), whom he eventually married in 1938, and she inspired him to play again. Capablanca's first event in more than three years was Hastings 1934-35, a very strong tournament, where he placed fourth with 5½/9, a point behind the three joint winners Max Euwe, Salo Flohr, and George Alan Thomas, but ahead of Mikhail Botvinnik and Andor Lilienthal. [ [http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables5.htm GER-ch 2nd Aachen 1934 ] ] At Margate 1935, Capablanca placed second with 7/9, half a point behind Samuel Reshevsky. [http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables6.htm GER-ch 3rd Aachen 1935 ] ] Capablanca took part in the elite Moscow 1935 event, which had eight of the top 18 players, and ended fourth with 12/19, as Botvinnik and Flohr tied with 13, half a point ahead of the 65-year-old Emanuel Lasker. Later in 1935, Alekhine, later claiming that he was plagued by problems with alcohol, lost his title to Euwe. Capablanca had renewed hopes of regaining his title, and he achieved tremendous results in 1936. First he won Moscow 1936, a double-round robin event which had five of the top ten players, with 13/18, unbeaten, ahead of Botvinnik (12), Flohr (9½), Lilienthal (9), and Emanuel Lasker. Then he won at Margate 1936, with 7/9, half a point ahead of Flohr. [ [http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables7.htm All-Union YM 1936 ] ] Then he tied with Botvinnik in the super-tournament of Nottingham 1936, with 10/14, ahead of Euwe, Lasker, Alekhine, and the leading young players Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky (avenging a defeat here) and Salo Flohr.

This was Capablanca's first game with Alekhine since their great match, and the Cuban did not miss his chance to avenge that defeat. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1008348 Jose Raul Capablanca vs Alexander Alekhine (1936) ] ] He had the worse position, but caught Alekhine in such a deep trap, luring him into giving up three pieces for two rooks, that none of the other players could work out where Alekhine had gone wrong except for Lasker, who immediately saw the mistake. Capablanca recounted this episode in "Capablanca's Legacy: Capablanca's Last Chess Lectures", pp. 111–112, expressing his admiration for Lasker's insight even in his sixties. But Capablanca did not mention that his opponent was Alekhine. Their feud was still intense, so they were never seen seated together at the board for more than a few seconds. Each man made his move and then got up and walked around.

Final years

In 1937, Euwe, unlike Alekhine with respect to Capablanca, fulfilled his obligation to allow Alekhine a return match. Alekhine regained the title. Thereafter there was little hope for Capablanca to regain his title, and Alekhine played no more world championship matches until the time of his death in 1946. The absolute control of the title by the title-holder was a major impetus for FIDE to take control of it, and try to ensure that the best challenger has a shot at the title. Capablanca tied for third/fourth places at the elite Semmering/Baden tournament with 7½/14, behind winner Paul Keres. [ [http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables8.htm ] at www.rogerpaige.me.uk]

Capablanca won Paris 1938 with 8/10. [http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables9.htm Amsterdam (NED-ch10th) 1938 ] ] But then his health took a turn for the worse. He suffered a small stroke during the AVRO tournament of 1938, to which he had rushed right after his wedding, and had the worst result of his career, seventh out of eight, with 6/14, as Keres and Fine tied for first. This was the only minus score of his career, and his only placing out of the top four. But even at this stage of his career he was capable of producing strong results. At Margate 1939, Capablanca shared second/third places with 6½/9, a point behind Keres. [ [http://www.rogerpaige.me.uk/tables10.htm Aberdeen (Scottish Championship) 1939 ] ] In the 1939 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, Capablanca made the best score on top board for Cuba, with an unbeaten 11½/16, to win the gold medal, ahead of Alekhine and Paul Keres. [ [http://www.olimpbase.org/1939/1939cub.html OlimpBase :: 8th Chess Olympiad, Buenos Aires 1939, Cuba ] ] More drama was missed because he refused to play Alekhine in Cuba's match with France. This was his last tournament; World War II started during the Olympiad.

On 7 March 1942, he was happily kibitzing a skittles game at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York when he collapsed from a stroke. He was taken to Mount Sinai hospital, where he died the next morning. The autopsy showed that there were numerous haemorrhages in his heart tissue related to the stroke. [ [http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg16121764.800-fear-itself.html fear itself - 06 March 1999 - New Scientist ] ] Remarkably, the Cuban's great rival, German-born Emanuel Lasker, had died in that very hospital only a year earlier.

His bitter rival Alekhine wrote in a tribute to Capablanca:

:… 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.

He was later buried in Colon Cemetery in Havana.

Assessment

In his entire chess career, Capablanca suffered fewer than 40 losses in serious games. He was undefeated for over eight years of active, world-class competition, from February 10, 1916, when he lost from a superior position against Oscar Chajes; to March 21, 1924, when he lost to Richard Réti in the New York International tournament. This was an unbeaten streak of 63 games, and included the strong London tournament of 1922, as well as the world championship match against Lasker.

In fact, only Marshall, Lasker, Alekhine and Rudolf Spielmann won two or more serious games with the mature Capablanca, but their overall lifetime scores were minus (Capablanca beat Marshall +20 -2 =28, Lasker +6 -2 =16, Alekhine +9 -7 =33), except for Spielmann who was level (+2 -2 =8). Of top players, only Keres had a narrow plus score against him (+1 -0 =5), and that win was when Capablanca was 50 and Keres 22.

The site chessmetrics.com, which specializes in historical chess ratings, rates Capablanca's three-year peak, from January 1919 to December 1921, at 2857, the third highest of all time, just behind Gary Kasparov and Bobby Fischer. Capablanca debuted on the chessmetrics ratings at #3 in the world in May 1909, and he stayed continuously in the top ten until September 1940 (except for a short two-month period, January and February 1935, when he was coming off a stretch of inactivity). He was #1 in the world from April 1919 until December 1923, as well as for several other periods, totaling 81 months. Capablanca was ranked as the #5 player of all time, in the statistical study of top players, "Warriors of the Mind", written by Nathan Divinsky and Raymond Keene.

Boris Spassky, world champion from 1969-1972, considered Capablanca the best player of all time. ["Chess Canada" magazine, February 2008, p. 13.]

Capablanca loved simple positions and endgames, and his judgment of positions was so good that most attempts to attack him came to grief without any apparent defensive efforts on his part. However he could play great tactical chess when necessary — most famously in the 1918 Manhattan Chess Club Championship tournament (in New York) where Marshall sprung a deeply-analyzed "prepared variation" on him and he refuted it while playing under the normal time limit (although ways have since been found to strengthen the Marshall Attack). cite book
author=Fine, R.
title=The World's Great Chess Games
date=1952
publisher=Andre Deutsch (now as paperback from Dover)
] cite web
url=http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1095025
title=Jose Raul Capablanca vs Frank James Marshall, New York 1918
publisher=chessgames.com
A page where you can play through the game (no annotation)] He was also very capable of using aggressive tactical play to drive home a positional advantage provided he considered it safe and the most efficient way to win, for example against Spielmann in the 1927 New York tournament.cite book
title=Capablanca's 100 Best Games of Chess
author=Golombek, H.
publisher=Bell
date=1947
] cite web
url=http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1007840
title=Jose Raul Capablanca vs Rudolf Spielmann, New York 1927
publisher=chessgames.com
A page where you can play through the game (no annotation)]

A study found that Capablanca was the most accurate of all the World Champions when compared with computer analysis, [ [http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3455 Who was The Strongest Chess Player of All Time? Computer Analysis of World Chess Champions] by Matej Guid and Ivan Bratko] although this study received some criticism. [ [http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3465 Review of "Computer Analysis of World Chess Champions"] , by Søren Riis, "Chessbase", 2006] For more detail see Comparing top chess players throughout history.

Capablanca founded no school "per se", but his style was very influential in the games of two world champions Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. Mikhail Botvinnik also wrote how much he learned from Capablanca, and pointed out that Alekhine received much schooling from him in positional play, before their fight for the world title made them bitter enemies.

Botvinnik regarded Capablanca's book "Chess Fundamentals" as the best chess book ever written. In it, Capablanca pointed out that while the bishop was usually stronger than the knight, queen and knight was usually better than queen and bishop – the bishop merely mimics the queen's diagonal move, while the knight can immediately reach squares the queen cannot. Botvinnik credits Capablanca as the first with this insight. (However, modern research does not support this. [Citation
surname1=Flear|given1=Glenn|authorlink1=Glenn Flear
year=2007
title=Practical Endgame Play - beyond the basics: the definitive guide to the endgames that really matter
publisher=Everyman Chess
pages=422
id=ISBN 978-1-85744-555-8
] )

As a chess writer Capablanca did not present large amounts of detailed analysis, but focused on the critical moments in a game. His writing style was plain and easy to understand.

Earlier, Capablanca had received some criticism, mainly in Britain, for the allegedly conceited description of his accomplishments in his first book, "My Chess Career." So Capablanca took the unprecedented step of including virtually all of his tournament and match defeats up to that time in "Chess Fundamentals", together with an instructive group of his victories. Nevertheless his preface to the 1934 edition of "Chess Fundamentals" is confident that "reader may therefore go over the contents of the book with the assurance that there is in it everything he needs."

However, J. du Mont, in his foreword to Golombek's book "Capablanca's 100 Best Games", wrote that he knew Capablanca well and could vouch that he was not conceited. Rather, critics should learn the difference between the merely gifted and the towering genius of Capablanca, and the contrast between a British tendency towards false modesty and the Latin and American tendency to say "I played this game as well as it could be played" if he honestly thought that it was correct. Du Mont also said that Capablanca was rather sensitive to criticism. cite book | title=Capablanca's Hundred Best Games of Chess | author=Golombek, H. | publisher=Hardinge Simpole | date=2004 | isbn=184382129X ] And the chess historian Edward Winter documented a number of examples of self-criticism in "My Chess Career." cite web | url=http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/capablanca.html | title=Capablanca Goes Algebraic | author=Winter, E. | date=1997 ]

"Morphy and Capablanca had enormous talent, Steinitz was very great too. Alekhine was great, but I am not a big fan of his. Maybe it’s just my taste. I’ve studied his games a lot, but I much prefer Capablanca and Morphy. Alekhine had a rather heavy style, Capablanca was much more brilliant and talented, he had a real light touch. Everyone I’ve spoken to who saw Capablanca play still speak of him with awe. If you showed him any position he would instantly tell you the right move. When I used to go to the Manhattan Chess Club back in the fifties, I met a lot of old-timers there who knew Capablanca, because he used to come around to the Manhattan club in the forties — before he died in the early forties. They spoke about Capablanca with awe. I have never seen people speak about any chess player like that, before or since. Capablanca really was fantastic. But even he had his weaknesses, especially when you play over his games with his notes he would make idiotic statements like 'I played the rest of the game perfectly.' But then you play through the moves and it is not true at all. But the thing that was great about Capablanca was that he really spoke his mind, he said what he believed was true, he said what he felt." – Bobby Fischer, Icelandic Radio Interview, 2006 [ [http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3468 Fischer on Icelandic Radio] , Chessbase, 4 November 2006]

Despite his achievements Capablanca appeared more interested in baseball than in chess, which he described as "not a difficult game to learn and it is an enjoyable game to play." [ cite journal | url=http://www.chessarch.com/excavations/0017_capablanca/capablanca.shtml | title=One Man’s Mind | author=Reynolds. Q. | journal="Collier’s" magazine | date= March 2, 1935 ]

Capablanca chess

Chess diagram 8x10|=
tright|
= 8 |rd|nd|ad|bd|qd|kd|bd|cd|nd|rd|= 7 |pd|pd|pd|pd|pd|pd|pd|pd|pd|pd|= 6 | | | | | | | | | | |= 5 | | | | | | | | | | |= 4 | | | | | | | | | | |= 3 | | | | | | | | | | |= 2 |pl|pl|pl|pl|pl|pl|pl|pl|pl|pl|= 1 |rl|nl|al|bl|ql|kl|bl|cl|nl|rl|= a b c d e f g h i j
Capablanca chess. Archbishop (bishop+knight compound) is placed between knight and bishop on the queen's side, chancellor (rook+knight compound) on the king's side.
Capablanca predicted that chess could face major problems if the various top players chose to draw every game. To prevent this from happening, Capablanca suggested a new variation on chess, called "Capablanca chess", to be played on a 10x8 board, with two new pieces introduced:
* ;
* .

His idea was that the added pieces and board size would increase the complexity of chess and allow the strongest player more opportunities to turn the game in his favor. Contrary to the assertion of some critics, Capablanca proposed this complicated variant "while he was world champion", not as sour grapes after losing his title. [Winter, "Capablanca", ch. 8: "Changing the Rules", 1989.] He played a few games of this variant against Edward Lasker. Lasker stated that Capablanca won them.Fact|date=June 2007

Writings

* "Havana 1913", by Jose Raul Capablanca. This is the only tournament book he wrote. It was originally published in Spanish in 1913 in Havana. Edward Winter translated it into English, and it appeared as a British Chess Magazine reprint, Quarterly #18, in the early 1980s.
* "A Primer of Chess" by José Raúl Capablanca (Preface by Benjamin Anderson. Originally published in 1935. Harvest Books, November 2002, ISBN 0156028077)
* "Chess Fundamentals" by José Raúl Capablanca (Originally published in 1921. Everyman Chess, October 1994, ISBN 1857440730) Revised and updated by Nick de Firmian in 2006, ISBN 0-8129-3681-7.
* "My Chess Career" by José Raúl Capablanca (Hardinge Simpole Limited, October 2003, ISBN 1843820919)
*"World's Championship Matches, 1921 and 1927" by José Raúl Capablanca (Dover, June 1977, ISBN 0486231895)
*"Last Lectures" by José Raúl Capablanca (Simon and Schuster, January 1966, ASIN B0007DZW6W)

ee also

* World Chess Championship 1927

References

Further reading

* Schonberg, H. C. (1973). "Grandmasters of Chess". New York, NY: W W Norton & Co Inc.
* Edward G. Winter (1981). "World chess champions" London, UK: Pergamon Press.
* Irving Chernev (1982). "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings". New York: Dover Publications.
* Harry Golombek (1947). "Capablanca's Hundred Best Games of Chess". London, UK: Bell.
* Fred Reinfeld (1990). "The Immortal Games of Capablanca". New York, NY: Dover Publications.
* Brandreth, D. & Hooper, David (1993). "Unknown Capablanca". New York, NY: Dover Publications.
* Irving Chernev (1995). "Twelve Great Chess Players and Their Best Games". New York, NY: Dover Publications.
* Edward G. Winter (1989). "Capablanca: A Compendium of Games, Notes, Articles, Correspondence, Illustrations and Other Rare Archival Materials on the Cuban Chess Genius Jose Raul Capablanca, 1888-1942". Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.
* Gary Kasparov (2003). "My Great Predecessors: part 1". Everyman Chess, ISBN 1-85744-330-6.

See also

* List of people who have beaten José Raúl Capablanca in chess

External links

*
* [http://www.chesscorner.com/worldchamps/capablanca/capablanca.htm Biography on Chesscorner.com]
* [http://batgirl.atspace.com/LaskerMagazine.html Lasker's Chess Magazine (Feb 1905) recognizes Capablanca at age 16]
* [http://www.chessclub.demon.co.uk/culture/worldchampions/capablanca/capablanca.htm Capablanca biography]
* [http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/capablanca.htm Capablanca's Chess] — a program implementation.
* [http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/capablancaolga.html The Genius and the Princess] by Edward Winter (1999), with considerable input by Capablanca's widow Olga on his life.


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