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Capablanca Quotes

Here are a few Capablanca quotes.

“I don’t care much for blindfolded chess, and other stunts like that…I’ve played that way, but it seems to me too much like charlatanism.” – Montreal, 1909

When asked why he avoided blindfold play, Capablanca said, “I don’t want to kill myself.”

On his match with Frank Marshall in 1909, Capablanca wrote, “I beat him eight to one with 14 draws thrown in between. I can safely say that no player ever performed such a feat, as it was my first encounter against a master, and such a master – one of the first 10 in the whole world. The most surprising feature of all was the fact that I played without having ever opened a book to study the openings.”

“I used to play chess before I learnt to write, but I have not studied it. I only study it when I am playing. – London 1911

“Players’ weaknesses, like their strengths, are relative within the circle in which they belong, for the weakness of one player compared with other entrants in the tournament would no longer be a weakness in the context of players slightly less strong. In chess, as in life, everything is relative.” – Capablanca-Magazine, 1912

“I can say that I am considered the fastest player in the world amongst the masters.” – Capablanca-Magazine, 1913

“The style of Morphy, they say, and if it is true that the goddess of fortune has endowed me with his talent, the result will not be in doubt. The magnificent American master had the most extraordinary brain that anybody has ever had for chess. Technique, strategy, tactics, knowledge which is inconceivable for us; all that was possessed by Morphy.” – St Petersburg, 1914

“Where openings are concerned, chess masters are like a flock of sheep; everyone follows the first master’s example. Of course it is true that, as in everything, there are exceptions. It must always be remembered that White can hope only to obtain a positional advantage and not a game that is relatively easy to win.” – Capablanca-Magazine, 1914

“I believe that my early and very strong attraction to the game of chess was due to the peculiar set of mind that I had developed as a result of my military environment, and also to a peculiar intuition.” – Munsey’s Magazine, 1916

“In chess, memory may be an aid, but it is not indispensable. At the present time my memory is far from what it was in my early youth, yet my play is undoubtedly much stronger than it was then. Mastery of chess and brilliance of play do not depend so much upon the memory as upon the peculiar functioning of the powers of the brain.” – Munsey’s Magazine, 1916

“I know more about chess than any living person. I could play 30 of the best players of the United States at one time and not lose a game.” – Pittsburgh, 1916

“Chess is often played on the battlefield. In trenches taken by the French, a chessboard with the pieces set up were found; apparently the officers who were playing were taken by surprise by an attack and did not have time to put the set away. From magazines we also know that large quantities of boards and sets have been sent to different fronts and hospitals, which may very well mean a considerable increase in the number of chess fans, with the result that the war will tend to develop our Art, which had been relatively little practiced.” – Bohemia magazine, 1918

“There is only one game [chess] for the man who thinks.” - London, 1919

“It is quite possible to make all the best moves in a game of chess; and I think I have done so myself on several occasions.” - London, 1919

Capablanca was once asked if he was a pussyfooter. He replied, “I am not – nor am I a Mormon.” - England, 1919

Capablanca was asked if he ever got weary of chess. He replied, “No, because, except in matches and exhibitions, I rarely play. For recreation, I play anything, indoors or outdoors. I can play all games. One had to keep fit, or one cannot play chess. That is why I do not smoke, and drink very little wine.” – Yorkshire, 1919

“[Chess] is the finest of mental exercises. It develops concentration and logical reasoning; and it is one of few games in which you cannot rectify a mistake. If you make a mistake, you lose, unless your opponent makes a worse mistake.” - England, 1919

“Most of the chess masters of the first rank are men of culture, men of good social as well as intellectual training, as such qualities become more and more necessary every day.” – Manchester, 1919

“We Cubans are the most civilized of the Latin Americans.” – Sheffield, 1919

“Chess is a very logical game and it is the man who can reason most logically and profoundly in it that ought to win. – England, 1919

“Exhibitions of simultaneous games are merely to give practice and encouragement to your chess players.” - Cardiff, 1919

“Every boy of intelligence ought to take up the game [of chess]. In later life, he will never need to feel bored if he can play chess. Whether working out games or problems alone or engaged in a contest with a fellow player, a chess player can always deeply interest himself.” – Wales, 1919

“Up to a point, chess can be learnt like any other art – for I think of chess more as an art than a science – but after that superior natural grasp and ingenuity necessarily count.” – Norwich, 1919

“Chess players should acquire knowledge of the three phases [opening, middlegame, endgame] of the game equably, and not pay excessive study to any one. In the opening, development must be sought, and the pieces placed in a natural position where they will maintain the maximum of usefulness. In the middle game, the pieces should not be transferred to places from which they cannot easily return to another part of the field. In the end game, time-saving is the essence of the play.” - Swiss Cottage, 1919

“Do not mind losing, for it is only by learning that you will improve, and by losing, if you use the knowledge you gained, you will improve rapidly. If you play with a much better player, so much more likely that you will learn. Any ordinary man can learn a great deal of chess just as of music, art or science, if he cares to devote his time and attention to study of the game.” – Dudley, 1919 I

n responding to a hopeful world championship match with Lasker, Capablanca wrote, “I hope the match will come. The sooner the better, as I don’t want to play an old man, but a master in the plenitude of his powers.” - 1920

“As the champion of the world, I shall insist in introducing modifications in the playing rules of matches and tournaments that will tend to make them more attractive to its supporters…guided be three things, viz: 1, the interests of the chess masters; 2, the interest of the chess public, and 3, last but not least, the interest of chess, which to me, far more than a game, is an art.” – American Chess Bulletin, 1920

“There have been times in my life when I came very near thinking that I could not lose even a single game. Then I would be beaten, and the lost game would bring me back from dreamland to earth. Nothing is so healthy as a thrashing at the proper time, and from few won games have I learned as much as I have from most of my defeats.” – My Chess Career, 1920

“A passed pawn is either very weak or very strong, and that its weakness or strength, whichever happens to be in the case to be considered, increases as it advances, and is at the same time in direct relation to the number of pieces on the board. A passed pawn increases in strength as the number of pieces on the board diminishes.” – Chess Fundamentals, 1921

“I have always had a very vivid imagination, which I have, after a long struggle, partly succeeded in controlling in order to use it to better purpose, according to the requirements of the occasion.” Windsor Magazine, 1922

When asked what makes a great chess player, Capablanca responded, “Some minds work one way, some another. Some rely on sheer memory, some picture the board. But there must be one thing – the power to concentrate strongly and completely.” – Paris, 1922

Capablanca wrote about his match with Lasker. “He [Lasker] talks of food and loss of weight and claims I am tireless. I lost 10 pounds and ate very little, not because the food was bad, but because of the natural nervous strain attached to such a hard contest.” – British Chess Magazine, 1922

“I am always being asked, What kind of a brain must a chess champion possess? To begin with, I can only say that I have today a rather poor memory, though as a child I could remember anything with ease. As I have grown older, I have always tried to forget everything which I have not considered essential to remember, and I have succeeded so well in my training that I now have difficulty in remembering things in general. I can hardly remember a single chess game I have played. A game played today I may hazily keep in my head for a few weeks, but after that it is gone forever.” – The English Review, November 1922.

“Chess is not merely a game nor a mental training, but a social attainment. I have always regarded the playing of chess and the accomplishment of a good game as an art, and something to be admired no less than an artist’s canvas, or the product of a sculptor’s chisel. Chess is a mental diversion rather than a game. It is both artistic and scientific.” – New York World, 1925

“It may be that we have not yet reached the point of being able to make draws at will, but if we have not arrived, we are not far away. I must ingenuously confess that under the proper conditions of training and health, for example, at the end of the Moscow 1925 tournament, it was impossible for me to understand how I could be beaten in a game as long as I was confining myself by scoring a draw. I am not saying this out of vanity since, in chess at least, I have never been vain. I say it out of conviction, admitting, of course, the possibility that I may be wrong.” - Revista Bimestre Cubana, 1926

Capablanca on veteran chess players, “Today we have plenty of confidence, the confidence which only years of continuous success can give, but most of the ambition is gone and the fickle lady has not been kind of late. Today, we know our opponents thoroughly, but alas! Our capacity for work is not the same. Today we are cool and collected and nothing short of an earthquake will ruffle us. We have now more experience, but less power.” – New York Times, 1926

“There is no doubt that the science of chess has greatly developed in the past 60 years. Players offer more resistance every day and the requirements and conditions necessary to overcome other masters are greater than before. In short, the ideal way of playing a game would be rapid development of the pieces of strategic use for attack or defense, taking into account the fact that the two elements are Time and Position. Calm in defense and decisiveness in attack.” – Mundial (Uruguayan magazine), 1927

“In order to make progress in chess, it is necessary to pay special attention to all the general principles, spending a little less time on the openings. Play the openings on the basis of your general knowledge of how to mobilize pieces and do not become involved in technicalities about whether the books recommend this or that move; to learn the openings by heart it is necessary to study a great number of books which, moreover, are sometimes wrong. However, if you study from the point of view of the general principles you are taking a more certain path for although a player’s intellect can fail at a given moment, principles well used never fail.” – Cuba lecture, 1932

“A good player is always lucky.” (Perhaps never said by Capablanca, but attributed to him. He said that luck favored him during the prize awards at Nottingham in 1936)

“My individual style of play does not in any way reflect my Southern origin. Inclined to simplicity, I always play carefully and try to avoid unnecessary risks. I consider my method to be right as any superfluous “daring” runs counter to the essential character of chess, which is not a gamble but a purely intellectual combat conducted in accordance with the exact rules of logic.” – Sachovy Tyden, 1938

“Intuition is a wonderful means to an end; but intuition should not be made the end of all the means that intelligence places at our command. I relied too much on intuition and didn’t prepare properly for my World Championship match with Alekhine in 1927. I paid the penalty.” – Conversation with Dr. Savielly Tartakower, 1938

“It is difficult to judge oneself. In chess one can lose with age the strength and fullness of one’s vision, sureness in the order of one’s moves, resistance to fatigue, etc., but one never loses one’s judgment, and I imagine I sill possess it. Precise positional judgment, the overall vision of every maneuver in the interdependence of its cogwheels, is what characterizes a great master. It is not a question of a great master seeing any number of isolated moves or of his knowing who to construct a mate; all that is to be taken granted. What counts is that he should have ideas, and that these ideas should be accurate.” – Buenos Aires, 1939

“I received a great number of chess sets as gifts. I especially remember a very handsome and rare set which I tried to hold on, but which has gone with the others. The result is that today [1942] I do not possess a single set. My travels, my changes of residence, and my children did away with every single one.” – Last Chess Lectures, 1942

“Help me – help me remove my coat.” – Capablanca’s last words before he fell to the floor and lapsed in a coma at the Manhattan Chess Club, New York, March 7, 1942

“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.”

“In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else. For whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and end game must be studied in relation to the end game.”

“The best way to learn endings, as well as openings, is from the games of the masters.”

“The winning of a pawn among players of even strength often means the winning of the game.”

“None of the great players has been so incomprehensible to the majority of amateurs and even masters, as Emanuel Lasker.”

“When you sit down to play a game, you should think only about the position, but not about the opponent. Whether chess is regarded as a science, or an art, or a sport, all the same psychology bears no relation to it and only stands in the way of real chess.”

“Chess can never reach its height by following in the path of science…Let us, therefore, make a new effort and with the help of our imagination turn the struggle of technique into a battle of ideas.”

“An hour’s history of two minds is well told in a game of chess.”

“Chess is something more than a game. It is an intellectual diversion which has certain artistic qualities and many scientific elements.”

“Ninety percent of the book variations have no great value, because either they contain mistakes or they are based on fallacious assumptions; just forget about the openings and spend all that time on the endings.”

Comments


  • 20 months ago

    billwall

    It was actuually Ossip Bernstein who argued with the organizer (Mieses) that Capa should not play in a masters tournament, as he was unknown and probably too weak.  Bernstein changed his mind after round 1 when Capa played Bernstein in round 1 and crushed him.

  • 20 months ago

    NimzoRoy

    Another good article by Bill Wall!

    Capa's glowing account of his match vs Marshall omits 2 minor details: Both Lasker and Tarrasch also squashed poor Marshall in matches with very similar scores.

    Despite the thrashing, there was a debate about inviting Capa to the great San Sebastian Masters Tnmt of 1911, which required all contestants to have won at least two 3rd-place prizes in international tnmts. Capa didn't meet this requirement, but Marshall of all people argued for him being allowed to play anyway. Nimzovitch supposedly argued against Capa's entry and guess who won their game?

  • 2 years ago

    Jeffmon

    The Dutch reporter Han Hollander did a short segment on January 15, 1935 featuring Dr. Euwe and Capablanca, in anticipation of the upcoming Euwe-Alekhine match. Capablanca:

    "Dr. Alekhine's game is 20% bluff. Dr. Euwe's game is clear and straightforward. Dr. Euwe's game – not so strong as Alekhine's in some respects – is more evenly balanced."

    The video recently surfaced from the G24 (Dutch history channel) archives, and was featured on chessbase.com. You can see it here:
    http://www.geschiedenis24.nl/speler.program.7099385.html

    Only the dialogue between Hollander and Capablanca is in English.

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Alekhine as Luke Skywalker? 

  • 2 years ago

    __vxD_mAte

    I wonder how he would react to getting banned from chess.com.

  • 2 years ago

    Twobit

    In fact it takes more to go down (while hugging the bottle, beset by all kinds of problems), getting beaten by Euwe THEN come back and regain it all. That, Lawdoginator, is the archetype of a hero's journey a la Luke Skywalker.

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Hey, I don't hate Capa or anything like that. I'm just not as impressed with him as he was with himself. He wanted to win with the apparent effortlessness of a god. That was some sort of a weird ideal at the time. The movie Chariots of Fire touches on that a bit. 

     

    Anyway, his life reads like a Greek Tragedy: A man is a hero, he gets a big head, his hubris gets him in trouble, he takes a big fall, it ends in disaster. I knew that archetype long before I ever heard of Capablanca. He just fits it so well. 

     

    So, I like Morphy, Alekhine, Tal, and Fischer. Love their attacking games. I'm not going to get all bent out of shape if someone points out they were all sick, mentally or physically ill. It doesn't take away from their greatness. If anything, it shows what they overcame. 

  • 2 years ago

    Elubas

    lilAj, arrogance is never justified. You can feel confident in yourself, but no matter how good you are at something, you never have to outwardly express that any chess player should bow down to you. And that's what he did; go back to my post where I took a couple of key quotes of this blog; I think it really illustrates the above.

    That doesn't mean I don't have respect for him -- quite the contrary. Arrogance is never good, but nobody is perfect, and I do think that Capa's attitude is tolerable.

  • 2 years ago

    lilAj

    read my post again smh...

    in ten years he lost once.... 8 of the 10years he didn't lose at all 

    you are so clearly pitching for an argument you didn't bother to read into that did you?

    you speak as if Capa had a vice so much worse than his colleagues that it singled him out; what?! the very Alekhine, who is the hero of your charge, was a man washed in 'faults'; most, much less justified that Capablanca's show of confidence. the fact is lawdog, we acknowledge these great men of history for their amazing contribution to the game we love. we don't contend with history based on heresy and third party evidence; we don't launch a personal vendetta "he got what he deserved in life"    

    anyhow, the fact remains, Capablanca, one of the greatest of all time, is not stirring in the afterlife at your denouncement of his person, so why on earth am I...

    peace and love 

                                                                                                              Aj

  • 2 years ago

    Twobit

    I am wearing Lawdoginator's jersey in this game...

    (It is a matter of taste if you excuse an exceptional person to think he is an exceptional person, but I consider the last piece of the perfection puzzle to be humble. By the way, I do not believe that Capa contributed to the world of chess with teaching, tutoring, coaching, writing books, attempting to share his gift like Max Euwe, Alekhine, Kasparov did.)

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Your entitled to your opinion that Capa wasn't arrogant. And I'm entitled to consider that ridiculous. Capa's fatal flaw was his hubris and it drips out in all his writings and that's why he lost the title. He got what he deserved in life. That's pretty cool I think. 

     

    And it was eight years that he went without a loss, not ten. And there was this thing called the Great World War going on at the time, not much chess being played. And then he played a Match in 1927 against Alekhine and Capa got his butt kicked. 

  • 2 years ago

    lilAj

    you know these declarations about 'arrogance' are to me pointless. how can such an accuasation be made? arrogance is the expression of overexaggerated self worth. verbosity without evidence or claim.

    Janowski, was a man renown for his arrogance, his voiced superiority however, was not reflected in his achievements over the board- a vastly different situation from Capablanca's!

    now its time you all stop being ridiculously unfair. Capablanca lost one game in ten years (1914-1924) one game! playing against top class opponents, without religiously studying chess material

    and you don't think he's allowed to affirm his rep?    

    my goodness! if i played for almost a decade against strong opposition without losing, I'd..... I'd... woah! lol. well the point is, the whole world would know about it in the most explicit way! and im the quietest guy on the block :)

    here are my points:

    1. what Capablanca opined of himself was echoed by his peers! (unless they were being arrogant too?) not undeserved or overexaggerated.

    2. look at Bill's post again, Capa made several observations about the value of losing. also, look at Capa's description of other players, particularly his rivals- he is respectful and not condescending 

    3. look at the world champions, before and after Capa; they also had the confidence and skills to booth and many inclusive of Kaspy and Bobby were more colourful in their assertion of power! 

                                                                                                                   Aj

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Champions have always abused the advantages of being champion to exclude challengers and hang on to the title longer than they deserved and get more money than previously thought possible. Alekhine was hardly the first to do that. In fact, he learned a lot about that from Capablanca himself. 

     

    In fact, the whole idea of a world chess champion seems archaic now that there is a universally accepted and accurate ranking system. Magnus Carlsen should just be declared number one and be done with it like in tennis and golf. 

  • 2 years ago

    Twobit

    What always puzzled me about 1927 was that Capa (as unbeatable he was), reportedly demanded 10 thousand dollars in gold to be put up by the challenger and Alekhine had a hard time to find sponsors. Was it only because he was bothered by frivolous challengers?

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Not so simple. There's plenty of evidence of arrogance dripping from every point in Capa's life and very little evidence, one quote to the contrary, that he really liked a good trashing for humility's sake.

     

    It was poetic justice that Alekhine humiliated him and never gave him a chance to get all puffy again on the world championship. It was a lesson in humility that Capa really never learned and had to live with for fifteen years. 

  • 2 years ago

    Twobit

    billwall, I also would look forward to a Bobby Fischer quote article, although I have to warn you, there are unexpectedly many haters of him. He made some comments later in his life that were offensive to many and this will undoubtedly overshadow whatever he had said before that time. Reading some recent comments on this site this may be an overly heated and quite emotional topic.

  • 2 years ago

    lilAj

    lawdoginator, i have read both your comments and Jalidrivas and I think you're missing the point:

    "Alekhine gave him the most proper thrashing of his life. But far from being grateful to Alekhine for this healthy correction, he hated Alekhine for the rest of his life." 

    "Alekhine won the match and that was fair, because Capa didn't take Alekhine seriously. Huge mistake by Capa and a well deserved defeat. Capa didn't hate Alekhine at all after that.In fact they were almost friends.The bad bood between them started when Alekhine didn't want to give Capa a rematch. Alekhine was a coward."

    you made a declaration, which painted a picture of Capa hating Alekhine for life as a result of the defeat,  you were corrected on that, Simple. 

  • 2 years ago

    billwall

    I'll try to do a Fischer quote blog.  I will keep it confined to chess.

  • 2 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Yeah, but Alekhine's combinations are brilliant and beautiful like Mozart's compositions. Whereas Capa kept his games simple and precise. 

  • 2 years ago

    Elubas

    According to a source, though, Mozart already had a couple-thousand hours of experience before the age of six, because his father had him being trained! So how natural could that be?

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