Capablanca: Always in Zeitnot?!
Capablanca with a beautiful young woman in an unidentified location (Capablanca: A Chess Biography, by Miguel Sanchez, McFarland Publishing, Jefferson, NC 2015)

Capablanca: Always in Zeitnot?!

RoaringPawn
RoaringPawn
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THE GREAT CUBAN HAD ALWAYS BEEN IN THE TIME PRESSURE... IN ONE THING.

The Hungarian Russian Grandmaster Lilienthal played ten world champions in his career, and beat six of them. In his time, he was one of the top elite players, next to such world-renowned artists like Dr. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tartakower, Euwe, Flohr.

A saying goes: A man who had no enemies, has not lived. Yet, the life of Andre Arnoldovich Lilienthal has refuted this theory - he had only friends (like the Serbian GM Svetozar Gligoric in more recent times).

But his fame and popularity did not come the easy way to him. He had most uncertain and difficult years in life before gaining a worldwide recognition.

Lilienthal was born in Moscow, but moved to Hungary with his Jewish parents at two. After years of hardship, he left Hungary after WWI looking for a job, and ended playing chess in the the Café de la Régence in Paris betting money, together with his teacher Saviely Tartakower. He emigrated to the USSR in 1935.

Lilienthal's Russian Life for Chess book cover

Lilienthal's Russian Life for Chess book cover

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In 1969 was published his book Life for Chess (or Chess was my Life) with his games and many interesting personal experiences, facts and stories. Today I am sharing one of the stories with you, about the great Capablanca and his chronic shortage of time.

Capablanca never in his life got in time trouble, stated Gerald Abrahams in his Not Only Chess book, a collection of chessays published in 1974. The only case we know of was the 1936 Nottingham tournament, where Capablanca lost his game to Flohr, not on time, but admitted making bad moves in time trouble.

Now you are going to get surprised with what GM Lilienthal is going to tell you about Capablanca. It turns out, the Gran Maestro was constantly with the lack of time! Here is GM Lilienthal in Life for Chess, p. 6:

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Lilienthal Sacking Queen to Capablanca

20.e5xf6! Lilenthal sacking Queen to the great Capa at Hastings 1935 (from the above book)

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[After WWI] "I couldn't find a tailoring job and soon, looking for one, I was forced to leave Hungary. I found myself in Austria. One day, wandering through the streets of Vienna, I spotted a colorful poster announcing the simultaneous exhibition on forty boards to be given by Jose Raul Capablanca. Admission: 5 schillings for spectators, 10 schillings for participants.

"Of course, just to be there and watch could not satisfy me. I wanted to play, even though 10 schillings was a huge amount for me. But it was so tempting to play Capablanca. I couldn't help myself and collected my last pennies to take part in the event.

"Too absorbed with the game, I didn't realize that I was the last one remaining, still playing the elegant, and a little bit restrained Master. I was so flustered. Although I had a piece for two pawns, Capablanca's authority was stifling, so, with much trepidation, I offered a draw. Peace was agreed. I was feeling high as a kite.

"I wanted a validation of my successful debut and stretched out my score-sheet over to my idol for an autograph, but it was too late as Capablanca was already gone. Later I learned the Cuban was in his usual time trouble - he rushed off to a date.

"No matter how complex chess is, the life is even more so - on the board Capablanca almost never got into the time trouble."

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"Once the legend of him as a new Don Juan, Valentino or Latin lover, or the way Alekhine described him, "the darling of the ladies," began to grow, there was no way to stop it." (Jose Raul Capablanca: A Chess Biography, by Miguel Sanchez, McFarland Publishing, Jefferson, NC, 2015)

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