The Best of All Time (Part 1)

  • GM Julio_Becerra
  • | Jun 15, 2011

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera was born on November 19, 1888 in Havana, Cuba. His father was an army officer who liked to play chess. One day, the young boy 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 five, where the leading players found it impossible to beat the boy when giving him a queen advantage.

When he was twelve years old he defeated the Cuban Champion Juan Corzo in an informal match by the score of 4 wins, 3 losses, and 6 draws; in the summer of 1904 his parents sent him to New York to study English and prepare to enter Columbia University. In 1906, he won in a rapid chess tournament ahead of the reigning World Chess Champion, Emanuel Lasker.

In 1909 he achieved a sensational win in a match against US Champion Frank Marshall crushing him by 8 wins to 1 with 14 draws; he was only 20 years old.

Marshall insisted that Capablanca be allowed to play in a tournament at San Sebastian, Spain in 1911. It was one of the strongest tournaments of the time. All of the world's leading players except world champion Emmanuel Lasker were in attendance. At the beginning of the tournament Ossip Bernstein and Aaron Nimzowitsch objected to Capablanca's presence because he had not won a major tournament. But after Capablanca won his first round game against Bernstein, with an effort which was to win the tournament's brilliancy prize, Bernstein quickly acknowledged Capablanca's talent and said that he wouldn't 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 tongues in the presence of their betters. Capablanca quickly challenged Nimzowitsch to a series of fast games, which he won easily. 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; Capablanca had astounded the chess world by taking first place at San Sebastian.

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.

The St. Petersburg 1914 chess tournament was the first in which Capablanca played with the World Champion under normal tournament conditions. This event was arranged in an unusual way: after a preliminary single round-robin tournament involving 11 players, the top five were to play a second stage in double round-robin format, with scores from the preliminary tournament carried forward to the second contest. Capablanca placed first in the preliminary tournament, 1½ points ahead of Lasker, who was out of practice and made a shaky start. Despite a determined effort by Lasker, Capablanca still seemed on course for ultimate victory. However, in their second game of the final, Lasker reduced Capablanca to a helpless position and Capablanca was so shaken by this that he blundered away his next game to Siegbert Tarrasch. Lasker thus finished half a point ahead of Capablanca and 3½ ahead of Alekhine.

Alekhine commented: "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 or afterwards have I seen, nor can I imagine as well such a flabbergasting quickness of chess comprehension as that possessed by the Capablanca of that epoch." It is sufficient 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-humored, 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.

In the ten years after this tournament (from 1914 to 1924) he lost only one game and the chess world was beginning to think he was invincible. However, Capablanca had to wait another seven years until he could prove he was the world champion.

In January 1920, Emanuel Lasker and Capablanca signed an agreement to play a World Championship match. Because of the delay, Lasker insisted that if he resigned the title, then Capablanca should become World Champion. Lasker then resigned the title to Capablanca on June 27, 1920, saying, "You have earned the title not by the formality of a challenge, but by your brilliant mastery." When Cuban enthusiasts raised $20,000 to fund the match provided it was played in Havana, Lasker agreed in August 1920 to play there, but insisted that he was the challenger as Capablanca was now the champion. Capablanca signed an agreement that accepted this point, and soon afterwards published a letter confirming.

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 unequalled for almost eight decades, until Vladimir Kramnik won over Garry Kasparov +2 -0 =13 in 2000.

In December 1921 he married Gloria Simoni Betancourt. They had a son, Jose Raul in 1923 and a daughter, Gloria in 1925.

Capablanca won the London tournament of 1922 with 13 points from 15 games with no losses, In 1922, Capablanca also 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 in a large simultaneous exhibition.





  • 4 years ago


    Cpablanca is the greates of all time.

  • 5 years ago


    1. Morphy

    2. Alekhine

    3. Fischer


    5. Kasparov

  • 5 years ago


    José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera was born on November 19, 1888 in Havana, Cuba. 

    In 1909 he achieved a sensational win in a match against US Champion Frank Marshall crushing him by 8 wins to 1 with 14 draws; he was only 20 years old........ this dosn't add up lol

  • 5 years ago


    Nice article.Thanks.

  • 5 years ago


    I suppose looking at these games maybe Capablanca was one of the best as he makes it look so simple i was playing a game while reading this article and i was at move twelve and said to myself look at the position as Capablanca might have and see if there is a way to win quickly instead of worring about his last move or castling 

    Low and behold i seen a way to win in three moves(that i never would have even considered save for this article) but my opponent copped on fair play as they are not highly rated but at that stage the position was lost anyway as the queen will fall of the king have a look at the game and see what you think and pause at move twelve and instead of the normal moves ask what would Capablanca move

  • 5 years ago


    He continues to leave out Alekine... Alekine beat Capa...6 games to 3 with 20something draws , to TAKE the World Championship FROM Capa !!! Alekine beat Capa, head to head !!! NO Excuses !!! Save it !!!

                                                                     ...   Uncle Bill   

  • 5 years ago


    Lasker on Capablanca...

    I have known many chess players, but among them there has been only one genius - Capablanca!

  • 5 years ago


    Alekhine on Capablanca...

    Never before and never since have I seen - and I cannot even imagine, such an amazing rapidity of chess thinking that Capablanca possessed in 1913-14. In blitz games he gave all the St. Petersburg players odds of five minutes to one - and he won.

    Capablanca was snatched too early from the chess world. With his death we have lost a great chess genius, the like of whom we will never see again

  • 5 years ago


    Tal on Capablanca:  Without technique it is impossible to reach the top in chess, and therefore we all try to borrow from Capablanca his wonderful, subtle technique. 

    (all my quotes from

    -Alekhine can claim victory in the WC against Capa (he was great, after all), but overall minus record against Capablanca, and profound cowardice afterward.

    -Botvinnik was a future lengthy world champ and only has an even record against a brain-deteriorating Capablanca.

    -Keres is considered (arguably) the greatest non-champ ever, has the only plus score against Capablanca whose brain was falling apart from hypertension when they played and Keres was a young adult.

    Every champ has suffered a humiliating defeat...Steinitz getting crushed by Lasker, Lasker by Capablanca, Alekhine earlier in his career and against Euwe, Botvinnik against Tal, though he got a quick rematch, etc.  Even Fischer was smited by Tal as a young GM.  Kasparov got Kramnik'd. Kramnik got owned (or should I say, Anand?)  Petrosian and Spassky got owned by Fischer.     Capablanca's losses were barely, few and far between and still has an overall plus against Alekhine, even though defeated in the WC match.

    Name one player that Capablanca ever avoided due to fear??  Who tried to change the rules so more matches be played and world championship, not the ridiculous spectacle of avoiding the strongest players?   Who created a chess variant, well before he lost his championship instead of after he realized he'd never compete against the youngsters?   Why was Alekhine playing Bugoljubov and Euwe for championships in the 1930's?  You think Capablanca would lose to Euwe?  Capablanca.  

  • 5 years ago


    Capablanca did not face up Russian chess machine.In 1970,URSS and EUA were the more powerful countries in the world,it was like a WAR,and when Capablanca faced up Alechine(RUSSIAN),he was defeated.Capablanca was LAZY,arrogant,he did not like to study,despite of not having the same talent,ALEKHINE defeated Capablanca.He was lazy.Fischer smashed LARSSEN,6-0.FISCHER smashed T.PETROSSIAN.He was known----- the fever  FISCHER 

  • 5 years ago


    Karpov on Capablanca...

    The ideal in chess can only be a collective image, but in my opinion it is Capablanca who most closely approaches this …

  • 5 years ago


    Fischer on Capablanca...

    "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."

  • 5 years ago


    One more thing, Capablanca style of playing - they're so simple, giving the impression that anyone could do it.

    His brilliancy shone on the chess board.

    So simple, so amazing

  • 5 years ago


    no one comes close to Capablanca, Fischer is a lesser player compared to Capablanca. So is Karpov, Kasparov, Spassky, Botvinnik, Tal and all other great masters and world champions, even the attacking genius Alexander Alekhine has to hand it to Capablanca, a man who prepares so little and look at the chess board no more then he look at his christmas cards. Capablanca is the greatest genius of all time simply because he is a natural player, and he has a normal life too, I'm not against Fischer or anything but look at that lad. He might be great too but Fischer is eccentric, weird and always causing controversials, I'm not saying that's not good but being good at chess cost Fischer something, the same thing does not apply to Capablanca, he has a normal life - a life that we all wanted.

    Truely the best, Capablanca

    Alekhine and Morphy comes behind the packing list.

  • 5 years ago


    Raul was one of the best of all time in chess history!

  • 5 years ago


    CAPABLANCA,a genious,a great chess player,but FISCHER was from another PLANET.INCOMPARABLE.FISCHER forever.

  • 5 years ago


    FISCHER smashed BYRNE,a great chess player,after he lost his QUEEN,and checkmated BYRNE---------AFTER--------23 MOVES---NOT 4,5 moves,like CAPABLANCA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!FISCHER the best of all time.

  • 5 years ago


    i wonder what where the 17 conditions proposed by lasker to capablanca for accepting challenge for world title in 1911?

    and which ones and why did capablanca object to some of the conditions?

  • 5 years ago


    @BONAPARTISTE, re: FISCHER was much better than Capablanca.


    Yeah, except he wasn't.  BAM!

  • 5 years ago


    greatzzzzzzzzzzz puzzelllllllllllsss

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