Lasker's Strategic Masterpiece Vs. Capablanca - Best of the 1910s - Lasker vs. Capablanca, 1914

Lasker's Strategic Masterpiece Vs. Capablanca - Best of the 1910s - Lasker vs. Capablanca, 1914

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Has there ever been a more anticipated chess matchup than that between Lasker and Capablanca? Nearly as soon as Capablanca burst on to the chess scene, the public clamored for a match against the long-reigning World Champion Emanuel Lasker. While initial discussions looked promising, negotiations soon broke off as the young and overly hot-headed Capablanca offended the overly prickly Lasker.

With the desired match forestalled, the chess community looked to rare tournament battles to satiate their thirst for drama and high-stakes chess. The opportunity finally came at the great St. Petersburg tournament of 1914. By any measure, the two-stage tournament must be considered one of the great tournaments in chess history. Capablanca won the first stage convincingly, scoring a dazzling 8/10 with six wins and but four draws. Lasker finished second with 6.5/10. Their individual game was drawn.

In the second stage, Lasker reversed their placements to win the event by a half-point, scoring an incredibly 7/8 and defeating Capablanca in one of the most-discussed positional masterpieces of all time. As Capablanca's rich and honest annotations show, Lasker's play was not perfect, and Capablanca could have secured an advantage in the critical moment. However, Lasker's victory was arguably exactly in his style - not perfect, but tricky, opportunistic, and always creating problems for his opponent.

Lasker's victory cemented his deserving status as world champion, but it would not silence Capablanca and his supporters as they still plead for a match. However, World War I would temporarily silence those pleas. It was not until 1921, seven years after they met in St. Petersburg, now Petrograd and soon to be Leningrad, that they would contest a match. By then, Capablanca was clearly the stronger player, but he was not yet so here, in 1914.

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