# The style of Capablanca: World Championship Match 1921 against Lasker GAME #1 (2nd edition)

Feb 23, 2018, 2:25 PM |
5

White: Capablanca

Black: Lasker

1921 Mar-15 Havana, Cub

Round 1

In this series, I will analyse all the games in the World Championship Match year 1921. First, I will play the game with guess a move -method. Then, I will prepare an analysis of the game, including some candidate lines in all positions. I will also compare my notes to Capa's own notes. All this will be done without the help of a computer. I try to do an abstract of Capa's playing style, and find some important things to learn from every game. Finally, I might check the lines with computer.

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Nf6 4. Bg4 Be7 5. e3 White has developed DSB outside pawn chain. 5.-Nbd7 6. Nc3 0-0 7. Rc1

(Sorry guys, I am going to use diagrams only. We must move the pieces in our head and develope our visualization ability!)

After shuffling moves a bit, I assume 7. Rc1 is the most important theoretical continuation, althgouht I do not know classical QGD so much.  But why is Rc1 played? I suppose, one reason is to delay developing LSB, because that would give black a possibility to gain a tempo with dxc4. Rc1 is the most logical developing move, because white's QGD game will often be focusing on half open c-file and pressuring black's weak c-pawn. Moreover, black would like to play c7-c5 break, naturally, and Rc1 is staring this c-pawn. I am not going to present different opening variations of orthodox QGD here. I merely state that black's next main moves are 7.-c6, 7.-a6 and 7.-b6.

7.-b6 According to Pachmann, Lasker often used 7.-b6 move. 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bb5!?

What is this? LSB, white's better bishop, feels artificial and vulnerable. White might soon be forced to exchange it to a lesser piece.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 9.-Bb7 10. 0-0 a6 (kick  LSB) 11. Bd3 c5  +=  (black is fighting for equality, white has lost 2 tempi and black has played the c5-break)

At this point, I simply did not see the point in 9. Bb5!? But then we look at the continuation: 9.-Bb7 10. Qa4 And now I start to understand Capa's plan, althought I am still not convinced it will produce something. Because after all, Nd7 is not pinned. White's LSB is about to be exchanged for a lesser piece. What good can the Bb5 produce?

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 10.-a6 11. Bxd7 Nxd7 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 =  (And white has exchanged his better bishop away, helped black to connect rooks with Qe7, and white is behind development. Surely black must be doing fine here?)

10.-a6 (black wants to defuse the position) 11. Bxd7 (so then it happened, LSB is gone) Nxd7 12. Bxe7 Qxe7

And now I start to understand, that this must be Capa's plan. White is going to play against black's bad bishop in b7. However, at first glance it seems, that black will soon get c5-break and unleash the LSB, possibly getting hanging pawns in c5+d5 squares. Will these central pawns prove to be strong or a weakness? Is black's queenside so disorganized, that white can attack it succesfully? Actually, here is Capa's own comment in move 9. Bb5: "A new move which has no merit outside of its novelty. I played it for the first time against Teichmann in Berlin in 1913. The normal move is Bd3, but Qa4 may the best, after all." I understand, that this 9. Bb5 opening line is actually called the QGD Capablanca variation.

So, moving on, now I start to make my guesses for the moves: 13. Qb3 [0-0] So my guesses in parenthesis are red if faulty, and green if correct. Again, at first I do not understand Capa's choice. I felt it urgent to castle. But then I understand, that Qb3! is stopping c5 by hitting weak points d5 and b6. I like Capa's multipurpose move more and more. However, this is Capa's own comment after 13.Qb3: "With the idea of preventing c5, but still better would have been to castle."

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 13.-c5!? 14. Nxd5 Here I was going to play 14.-Bxd5 but Stockwish and Capa kindly point me out that the situation is more complex, and black can also play 14.-Qd6! 15. Nf4 Bxf3 16. gxf3 cxd4 17. 0-0 = Black is doing very well.

13.-Qd6 [Qd6] Lasker's multipurpose move matches Capa's by protecting d5 and b6. It also eyes h2, with a distant possibility of Nd7-f6-g4 and a mating attack. At the moment, Qd6 seems to be better placed than Qb3, because Qb3 is blocking b2-pawn.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 14.0-0 c5 (the c5 break must be calculated all the time) 15. dxc5 Nxc5 (bxc5 is not possible, because Bb7 is hanging: 15.-bcx5 16. Qxb7 Rfb8 17. Qxd5 and queen escapes) and now maybe queen should retreat to 16. Qd1 and black has IQP and activity. Imo, this might be a playable line.

14. 0-0 [0-0] What else? White must castle before any adventures. 14.-Rfd8. Sensible move, no argument there. I was expecting maybe 14.-c5. This is a LESSON  BY LASKER to remember: BE PATIENT AND DEVELOPE EVERYTHING BEFORE STARTING ADVENTURES, IF NO IMMEDIATE ACTION IS REQUIRED.  15. Rfd1 [Rd1] Also sensible.

White has problems to find edge, how to pressure c7 enough? Could white somehow magically manage to play b4 and double rooks on the c-file? It is not very clear, if white has any useful plan waiting c7-c5 to emerge on the board.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 15.-c5 same as before: 16. dxc5 Nxc5 (bxc5 is not possible, because Bb7 is hanging)  and now maybe 17. Qc2 (Qa3 is also an option) 17.-Rac8 = and the question is, does the queen belong to Qd2 or Qf5? It probably belongs to d2, because fighting against IQP position, you are supposed to exchange minor pieces but keep at least one pair of rooks and the queens on the board, because the queen stops the enemy king form helping the isolated pawn. Black has IQP and activity. Imo, this might still be a playable line.
b.) 15.-Rac8 White seems to have a number of moves like Ne2, Na4, a3, h3, but nothing especial. Game is equal. 16. Na4 c5!? 17. dxc5 Nxc5 18. Qxb6! Nxa4 19. Qxb7 Rcb8  And I was going to play Qa7, but Stockfish shows a better move: 20. Qc6! +=

15.-Rb8! I did not see that move, the rook protecting Bb7, strenghtening b6 and staring at the white queen. Black's plan must now be c7-c5. I did not realize it first time so clearly, but now I see that nothing else makes sense. The only preparing move that comes to my mind could be h6 strenghtening back rank. White cannot stop c7-c5, that must be admitted. I form a mini plan for white playing 16. Qc2 and intending b2-b3 putting my pawns on the color of black's LSB.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 16. Qc2 c5 17. dxc5 bxc5 (now, d5-d4 is an option: 18. b3? d4! 19. exd4 Bxf6 ruining whites pawns 20. gxf6 cxd4 21. Ne4 =+ ((21. Ne2 is better =)) so something else must be found) Stockfish shows, that there is also 18. Ne4! pin in the position +-

16. Ne1 [Qc2] So Capa is regrouping his knight. At first I thought, that he intends Ne1-d3 and possibly from there Nf4, but Capa's own notes reveal to me now, that his main motif is to escape possible BxNf3 capture after d5-d4. 16. Ne1 :"The object was to draw the Knight away from the line of the Bishop, which would soon be open, as it actually occurred in the game."

So, is c7-c5 finally coming?

LINES TO CALCULATE:

16.- c5 17. dxc5 bxc5? 18. Nxd5! Bxd5 19. Qxd5 Qxd5 20. Rxd5 Rxb2 21. Rcd1 Rb7 22. Rxc5 +- winning a pawn, so it seems black cannot play c5-break yet.

16.-Nf6 Protect d4 to achieve c7-c5 break and intend possibly some time Nf6-e4 or Nf6-g4.

Now, how should white exploit this moment? What will white's plan be? In the game, I would have played here Nd3 continuing the plan that I thought Capa was hatching. But now analysing, I see that Nd3 is a mistake allowing c- and d-pawns to roll.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 17. Nd3? c5 18. dxc5 bxc5. And now the threat is c5-c4 fork, so 19. Qc2 is necessary (because 19. Nf4? runs into d4!-+) 19.-d4 20. exd4 cxd4 21. Ne2 Rbc8 22. Qd2 =+ and white is retreatring in all parts of the board.

17. Rc2!? [Nd3] What on earth is this?

At first I am totally amazed. But slowly I come to see Capa's ideas: Rc2 is flexible, white can double on either c- or d-file. Rc2 also strenghtens 2nd rank. However, on the negative side, Rc2 does certainly restrict white's queen, that is kind of stuck facing Rb8 rook. Where is the white's queen heading? a3 does not seem very promising escape for Queen, if b6 and Bb7 are cleared away. Also, there is not much room for the rooks, they might find themselves stepping on each other's toes.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 17.-c5 18. dxc5 bxc5 19. Rcd2 at first I thought, this was stopping all black's attacks, but then Stockfish and Capa together later kindly pointed to me, that Ng4 is a big threat: 19.-Ng4! winning. Maybe 20. g3 is the only save, but that looks horrible, too. -+
b.) 17.-c5 18. Rcd2 At first, imo, this looks really good for white. Why did Capa not play this? Now white can capture cxd5 with Rxd5, Ng4 can be met with Nf3 and if black plays c5-c4, that can be only good for white, when he can attack the pawns with b2-b3.  However, later Stockfish shows me, that c5-c4 is actually very good for black: 18.-c4! 19. Qc2 b5! and queenside pawns keep coming. Now, b3 runs into b4! so maybe:  20. a3 is forced. Even if white's position looks cramped but positionally okay to me, this is a misjudgment from my side. White's  knight cannot find home: 20.-Re8 21. Nf3 Ne4 21. Nxe4 dxe4 22. Ng5 h6 23. Nh3 g5 -+ and black is dominating the board, even if his white squared pawns restrict his LSB. This is a lesson to be learned, how pawns can suddenly start rolling like an avalanche and how knight need good outposts to function properly. LESSON BY STOCKFISH 7: YOU SHOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE ROLLING POWER OF (QUEEN)SIDE PAWNS. BEWARE THE PUSHES HITTING VALUABLE PIECES AND GETTING DANGEROUS TEMPI, AND STOP THE ROLL IN TIME WITH COUNTERPUSHING YOUR OWN CORRECT PAWNS.

17.- c5 Finally. 18. dxc5 [Rcd2] cxd5 19. Ne2 [Rcd2] Ne4 Of course, black jumps to e4 square, now that Nc3 has retreated. Ne2 looks passive and allows Ne4, but afterwards I understand, that this had to be played in view of Ng4! attack. Capa comments: "All the attacks beginning either with Ng4 or d4 would have failed." So what are these attacks?

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 19.-Ng4 20. Ng3 d4 21. Qa3 (this is probably the correct retreat) = and black's attack is stopped
b.) 19.-d4 20. Qa3 (maybe again correct) Ng4 21. Ng3 = transposition

But now the horse is in e4-square, and it is annoying restricting white's rooks. The ways to kick it are Ng3 and f3. Of course, f3 looks ugly, making e3 a target, and I am ashamed to admit, that is what I would have played. But I was afraid, that Ng3 allows d5-d4.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 20. Ng3 d4 But this is not dangerous to white: 21. Qa3 Nxg3 22. hxg3 Rbc8 23. exd4 cxd4 24. Qxd6 Rxd6 25. Rcd2 and black's passed pawn is stopped =
b.) 20. Ng3 d4 21. Qa3 Nxf2? I calculated also this sacrifice, but it is unsound: 22. Rxf2 (forced) dxe3 23. Rxd6 exf2+ 24. Kxf2 Rxd6 25. Qxc5 +- white wins
b.) 20. f3!? this weakens e3, but is there tactical justification: 20.-Nf6 21. Qa3 (hitting c5) Rbc8 (protect c5) 22. Rdc1 (hitting c5) c4 23. Qxd6 Rxd6 24. Nd4 and white is fine! +=

20. Qa3 [f3] Capa finally sidesteps with the lady from the path of black's rook, hard to argue with that. 20.-Rbc8 The rook has done it's job staring at the white queen. Now it goes to back up c-pawn. Otherwise f3 might drop the c-pawn.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 21. Ng3 Nxg3 22. hxg3 d4 23. exd4 cxd4 24. Qxd6 Rxd6 25. Rxc8 Bxc8 Now, whose pawns are better, a6+d4 or a2+b2? Is it not in princip advantageous for white, that queens are off the board, so the white king can come to attack the passed pawn? +=
b.) 21. f3!? same as before: 21.-Nf6 22. Rdc1 += white is fine
c.) 21. b3 I would have played this, to control c4 and stop the pawns: 21.-Re8 (is this rook lift dangerous?) 22. Ng3 Nxg3 23. hxg3 Re6 24. Nd3 seems to be the best continuation with complex play ~

21. Ng3 [b3] Kicking the Ne4 away. 21.-Nxg3 22. hxg3 [hxg3] 22.-Qb6! I did not see this move, maybe d5-d4 was premature.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 23. Nf3 d4 24. exd4 Bxf3 25. gxf3 cxd4 26. Rxc8 Rxc8 +=
b.) 23. Ne3 d4 24. Nxc5? (this line is problematic for white) 24.-dxe3! And now with best play white is still in trouble because of the pinned knight: 25. Rdc1 exf3+ 26. Rxf2 =+
c.) 23. Rdc1 d4 24. exd4 cxd4 25. Rxc8 Bxc8! (forced) = black is fine
d.) 23. Rcd2 d4 24. exd4 Rxd4 = black is fine

So d5-d4 is instoppable. 23. Rcd2 [Nf3] h6! THIS IS THE EARLIER LESSON REPEATED BY LASKER: BE PATIENT AND DEVELOPE EVERYTHING BEFORE STARTING ADVENTURES, IF NO IMMEDIATE ACTION IS REQUIRED . Imo, black very wisely defends back rank before opening lines. I like this move a lot. Now, game goes as I expected: 24. Nf3 d4 25. exd4 Bxf3 [24. Nf3 d4 25. exd4 Bxf3] But then I miss a better move: 26. Qxf3! [gxf3] Now the grandmaster and the soon to be world champion gives me a valuable LESSON. The point of taking with queen is, that after following moves: 26.-Rxd4 27. R2c2! [Rxe4?] the rook can sidestep, so that the c-pawn will not be a passed pawn! Capa's lesson teaches, that DO NOT GIVE OPPONENT A PASSED PAWN IF POSSIBLE. 27.-Rxd1 28. Qxd1 [27.-Rxd1 28. Qxd1]

Things are really heatening up. And more lessons are coming soon. Now after smoke has cleared, it is time to evaluate situation. Of course, white's a2+b2 are better than black's two pawn islands a6+c4. But is it enough to win? How should black try to defuse the situation? The play with only heavy pieces is notoriously difficult.

LINES AND PLANS TO CALCULATE:

a.) Should black advance the c-pawn at one? 28.-c4? (This makes b2 a backward pawn, and if white plays b3, maybe c4-c3 turns the c-pawn into a passed pawn? But now I think, white has the classical plan of blocking the pawn with rook, and then playing b3 winning the c-pawn: )  29. Qc1 (hit c4) Qd4 (defend c4) 30. Rc3! (block c4) a5 31. b3 (wins c4) +- So this plan is faulty.
b.) Should he advance the a-pawn to create a blockade with a5+c5? 28.-a5!? 29. Qc1 Qb5 30. Rc4 (block c5) Kf8 (wait) 31. Qc3 (prepare advance) Kg8 (wait) 32. a3 Kf8 (wait) 33. b4 axb4 axb4 (wins c5) +- So sitting on a blockade does not work.

28.-Rd8! [c4] Active defence is best. 29. Qe2! [Qc1] LESSON: HERE BOTH LASKER AND CAPA TEACH ME AN IMPORTANT LESSON, THAT ACTIVITY IS WHAT MASTERS WANT. Rd8 HITS QUEEN AND EYES SQUARES LIKE  d1+, d2, d5 AND h5 (VIA d5). FURTHERMORE, CAPA PLACES QUEEN TO e2, WHERE IT MULTIPURPOSELLY EYES SQUARES LIKE b2, Rc2, f2, h5 (DEFENCE), c4 (SQUARE IN FRONT OF ISOLATED PAWN), e3, e5, e7, e8+ AND a6 (ATTACKING). c1 WOULD HAVE BEEN HORRIBLY PASSIVE SQUARE FOR THE LADY.

29.-Qd6! [a5] I was still in a blockading mood, but Lasker appreciates activity. I was worried about Qe3 hitting c5, but now I see, that Qe3? drops the rook with Qd8+. So maybe its time for white to get king off the first rank. 30. Kh2 [Kh2]

And now comes a great move: 30.-Qd5!! This an excellent square for the black queen because it is actively eyeing h5 + d8 (perpetual squares), protecting Rd8 and c5 and hitting a2. This is an lesson above repeated by Lasker.

So what should white do, how to make progress?

LINES AND PLANS TO CALCULATE:

a.) How about a plan with b3 + g4 (stopping Qxa2 and Qh5 perpetual)? 31. b3 a5 32. g4!? Qd6+ 33. g3 Qd4 (hitting g4) 34. Rc4!? Qd2! (invading 2nd rank, this must be equal) =

31. b3 [b3] Qf5 [a5] Surprise, what is this? Is Qf5 better than Qd5? However, queen is active in f5, too, hitting Rc2 and eyeing h5. 32. g4 [g4] Capa seems to be following my plan above with  b3+g4. 32.-Qg5 33. g3 [g3] Stopping Qh4+.

33.-Rd6 Surprising move, black defends a6 and is ready to exchange f2 pawn for g4 pawn. Capa is excited about this move: "Unquestionably the best move; with any other move Black would, perhaps, have found it impossible to draw." Maybe Capa is right, althought 33.-a5 would have saved the pawn for the moment. Now what?

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) My idea was to play 34. f4!? Qd5 And now I was going to put king to safety with 35. Kh3. But then 35.-Qh1+ 36. Qh2 and naturally this is not a position a master wants to be in. So f4 is too bold.

So what can white do, it seems difficult to make progress. 34. Kg2 [f4] And now black:

LINES AND PLANS TO CALCULATE:

a.) 34.-Kf8 35. Qe4! seems to be good answer threatening Qa8+ +=
b.) 34.-Rg6? 35. Qe8+! Kh7 36. Qxf7 Qxg4 37. Rxc5 Qe4+ 38. Qf3 +- white wins a pawn

34.-g6! Great move, I did not see this possibility. Now king can save f7-pawn after Qe8+ with Kg7.  In this position, I find only one active move for white, namely Qc4,  targeting a6+c5, eyeing f7, and protecting g4.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 35. Qc4. Now, black could exchange queens with Qd5+. However, defending two isolated pawn islands is easier with queen. Also, when in worse position, it is better to exchange pawns, not pieces. 35.-Qd5+!? 36. Qxd5 Rxd5 37. Kf3 and white monarch is a bit better than the black one +=.

35.Qc4 [Qc4] Now what is the defence, is Rd7 the only way to sidestep and grab g4? 35.-Re6! [Rd7] Of course, now rook is protected. But what about f3 now?

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 36.f3 Oh, but then it seems that the rook invades 2nd rank: 37.-Kg7 (e.g) 38. Qxc5!? Qxc5 39. Rxc5 Rd2+! = draw

36. Qxc5 [f3] Qxg4 [Qxg4] Now in princip, the strategic idea is, that black must advance h6-h5-h4 to expose the white king, because queenside panws roll fast. But then I realize: f3 forces a queen trade! Did Lasker miss this?

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 37. f3 Qg5 (forced) 38. Qxg5 hxg5

And indeed, Capa seizes the queen trade: 37. f3 Qg5 38. Qxg5 hxg5 [37. f3 Qg5 38. Qxg5 hxg5]

Now white must better, with queenside majority. I form a plan to walk the king to queenside with Kf2-e3-d4-c5. This seems to be Capa's plan, too. 39. Kf2 [Kf2] (to control e2) 39.-Rd6 [Rd6] (keeping the rook mobile, intending Rd3 if for instance b3-b4) 40. Ke3 [Ke3] Re6+ [f5] 41. Kd4 Rd6+ [41. Kd4 Rd6+]

42. Ke3 [Kc5] So Capa turns back, I was sure he was going for Kc5. Here is Capa's own comment: "K-c5 was too risky. The way to win was not at all clear and I even thought that with that move Black might win."

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 42. Kc5 Rd3 43. Kb6!? Rxf3 44. Kxa6 Rxg3 And now Stockfish seems to think, that white does actually have good chances with 45. b4! +-

42.-Re6+ [Re6+] 43. Kf2 [Kd3] Surprise,I would have tried the Kd4-Kc3-Kb2 route to shadow.

LINES TO CALCULATE:

a.) 43. Kd4 (a new try) Rd6+ 44. Kc3 Rc6+ 45. Kb2 Rd6 46. b4 += And white has chances, imo.

43.-Rd6 [Kg7] Why not activate king? But maybe Lasker is unconsiosly hoping for a three fold repetition at this point. 44. g4 Rd1 Surprise, is the rook strongest on the 1st rank? This seems to be an endgame LESSON by Lasker: IN AN ENDGAME, ROOK CAN GO TO THE 1ST RANK TO ATTACK PAWNS FROM BEHIND AND CAUSE DISTORTION.  45. Ke2 Ra1 (rook behind the pawn) 46. Kd3 Kg7 47. b4 Rf1 48. Ke3 Rb1 49. Rc6 Rxb4 50. Rxa6 Rb2 ½-½ This is a known drawn position. Capa comments move 48: "The remainder of the game needs no comments."

SUMMARY:

The style of Capablanca in this game appears to me quiet and cautious, but cautiousness is understandable because this is the first game in the match, and therefore neither side takes too much risk. Capa's opening does not give him edge, and he is imo even somewhat worse especially around move 17. Rc2. Maybe the point of his opening choice is to avoid the main theoretical lines of the era. Capa's endgame technique does not make impression in this game, either. Capa's comments reveal, that he is very self confident, in many cases he overestimates his position. Maybe this is a necessary personality trait for a succesful chess competitor.

THE LESSONS learned by me are as follows:

1. (1.1) BE PATIENT AND DEVELOPE EVERYTHING BEFORE STARTING ADVENTURES, IF NO IMMEDIATE ACTION IS REQUIRED.  Moves 14.-Rfd8 and 23.-h6. Lasker.

2. (1.2) YOU SHOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE ROLLING POWER OF (QUEEN)SIDE PAWNS. BEWARE THE PUSHES HITTING VALUABLE PIECES AND GETTING DANGEROUS TEMPI, AND STOP THE ROLL IN TIME WITH COUNTERPUSHING YOUR OWN CORRECT PAWNS. Move 17.-c5. Stockfish 7.

3. (1.3) DO NOT GIVE YOUR OPPONENT A PASSED PAWN IF POSSIBLE. Move 27. R2c2. Capablanca.

4. (1.4) MASTERS WANT ACTIVE AND MULTIPURPOSE MOVES. 28.-Rd8 and 29. Qe2. Lasker and Capablanca.

5. (1.5) IN AN ENDGAME, ROOK CAN GO TO THE 1ST RANK TO ATTACK PAWNS FROM BEHIND EFFECTIVELY. Move 44. Rd1. Lasker.

Next game (#2) I will annotate in a few weeks. Comments and discussion welcomed!

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