The style of Capablanca: World Championship Match 1921 against Lasker GAME #2

The style of Capablanca: World Championship Match 1921 against Lasker GAME #2

Mar 12, 2018, 4:56 AM |
White: Lasker

Black: Capablanca

1921 Mar-17 Havana, Cub

Round 2


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. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. e3  Lasker chooses a slow and closed way to develope, leaving DSB inside pawn chain. Capa comments here: "On general principles it is better to bring the Queen’s Bishop out first." 5.-Be7 6. Bd3 0-0 7. 0-0 dxc5 8. Bxc5  Black gets a tempo capturing the c pawn and forcing LSB to move second time, a very typical device in this kind of position. After 6.-dxc5 the game could easily have been transposed to current position with 7. Bxc5 0-0 8. 0-0.



I do not know the opening theory here, but I quickly form a simplistic line with queenside fianchettoes.



a.) 8.-c5 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. a3 a6 11. b4 Ba7 12. Bb2 b5 13. Bb3 Bb7 14. Rc1 Rc8 = Game is rather symmetrical, boring and equal.


And indeed, Capa plays 8.-c5. Now I start to make my guesses for the moves. 9. Qe2 [dxc5] After checking, 9. Qe2 seems to be the main line, indeed. The purpose of the Qe2 is, imo, to play soon Rfd1 seizing the d-file, in some cases making even possible d4-d5 aggressive push and protecting LSB. For instance, the c2-square would not be optimal for the white lady, because c-file might be opened soon, and then Ra1 and Ra8 will occupy it. This is typical development in this kind of position, for instance in Nimzo-Indian defence Parma variation the same idea is used.


9.-a6 [a6]. b7-b5 seems imminent. How should white continue?



a.) 10. a4 !? cxd4 11. exd4 Nb6 11. Bb3 Bd7 12. Rd1 Bc6 13. Bf4 Nbd5 =~ Imo, this is very sharp line. Both sides have a lot of activity.

b.) 10. dxc4 Bxc4 (stop b4) 11. a4 b6 12. Rd1 Bb7 13. b3 Qe7 14. Bb2 Rfd8 15. Rac1 Game is equal =


10. Rd1!? [a4] What is this, how is white going to deal with b5? Can white play like this? 10.-b5 [b5]



a.) 11. Bd3 And now the question is, is c5-c4 sensible? First instinct is that it is unsound. Often these kind of pushes are over-extensions and might backfire, so that the overextended pawn or pawn control in the center (or even both) are lost. But what is the case here? 11.-c4!? 12. Bc2 Bb7 Here I was going to play b3 attacking the advanced pawn, but then I get a valuable LESSON by Stockfish:  13. b3? would allow b5-b4 push hitting knight, and after 14. Na5 c3! black's queenside pawns have invaded the white position, and e3-e4 is too late counterstrike in the center -+. Correct line is 13. a3! (stopping b5-b4) 13.-Qc7 14. e4 = after which black's queenside lunge gives enough compensation to equalize =. This is almost exactly the same lesson repeated from game #1 around move 17, and the same error that I made last time, too, calculating candidate variations. happy.png Maybe now I finally have learned my lesson?  LESSON BY STOCKFISH 7: YOU SHOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE ROLLING POWER OF (QUEEN)SIDE PAWNS. BEWARE THE PUSHES HITTING VALUABLE PIECES AND GETTING DANGEROUS TEMPO, AND STOP THE ROLL IN TIME WITH COUNTERPUSHING YOUR OWN CORRECT PAWNS.

b.) 11. Bd3 Bb7 12. b3 (intends Bb2) Rc8 13. Bb2 cxd4 14. exd4 (forced imo) And here Stockfish 7 shows me, that this position is in black's favor (the erroneus move being 12. b3?): 14.-Qa5 15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Bxe4 Bxe4 17. Qxe4 Nf6 18. Qd3 Nd5 =+ White has IQP position, with only 2 minor pieces remaining that have limited activity, only suitable for defensive tasks.


11. Bd3 Bb7 [11. Bd3 Bb7 ] And now I am expecting my variation b.) above: 12. e4 [b3] What on earth is this? This looks very peculiar way to play an opening? Lasker is actually opening a line for his DSB, as Capa comments the move 12. e4: "Played in order to develop the Queen’s Bishop and thereby condemning his whole plan of development, since he could have done that before, as indicated in the previous note, and the only reason he could have had for playing e3 on the fifth move would have been to develop this Bishop via b2."


Next I analysed some candidate lines in this position, which proves to be very extraordinary one. Stockfish shows me, that I lack understanding of this position completely. Basically, all my choices seem to be mistakes. However, also Stockfish seems to take a long time and change its evaluation many times, and even both Capa and Lasker fail to find best lines, as you are about to see:



a.) 12. -c4 Again this line seems unorthodox, black expanding queenside and leaving the center to the white. But Stockfish seems to think, that this modern sharp play is justified by equality: 13. Bc2 b4! 14. Na4 Rc8 15. a3 = And it is difficult for me to assess, how to deal with the queenside expansion. Traditional strategy does teach us, that flank attack should be met with attack in the center, as is well known, but here it seems that white does not have means for that.

b.) 12. -cxd4 13. Nxd4 Here I would play 13.-Qb6 but it is throwing away the advantage according to Stockfish. I formulated a line: 14. Be3 Bc5 15. Bc2 Rfd8 16. Rac1 Rac8 17. a3 which seems to be full of errors. Stockfish thinks that one possible correct line is: 13.-Ne5 14. Bc2 Qb6 15. Bg5 Rfd8 16. Nb3 =+ And black is better.

c.) 12. -Rc8 13. Bg5 After some calculation this DSB seems to be very annoying piece from black's point of wiev, imo:  13.-h6 14. Bh4 Qb6!? 15. e5 Wins a piece right away +- However, I could not be more wrong, 13. Bg5? is a blunder and better was 13. d5: 12.-Rc8 13. Bg5? cxd4 14. Nxd4 b4! 15. e5 (crazy stuff) Nxe5 16. Qxe5 bxc3 17. bxc3 =+ Black is better.

d.) 12. - Qb6 Here, I form a line advancing the d-pawn: 13. d5 exd5 14. exd5. However, 13. d5 is a blunder and better was 13. e5: 12.-Qb6 13. d5? exd5 14. exd5 Rfe8! 15. Bf5 Bd6 16. Qc2 h6 -+ Black is much better.

e.) In the game, I would have played this completely erroneus line following the rule of completing the development: 12.-Rc8 13. Bg5 h6 14. Bh4 Qb6 15. Rc1 Re8


So this is a bit depressing, have I ceased to understand anything about chess positions? However, both masters fail to grasp the full aspects of this position, too. I am starting to feel, that you could write a whole book about this position, it is so complex.

12.-cxd4 [Rc8] 13. Nxd4 [Nxd4] Ne5 [Qb6] This surprises me, I was thinking it should be essential to get the queen out of the d-file, but 13.-Ne5 is a truly good move here. 14. Nb3 [Bc2] Surprise, why does Lasker give black 2 bishops? How is he going to defend the e-pawn? And indeed, 14. Nb3 is a blunder according to Stockfish, the correct move is 14. Bc2:


LINE BY STOCKFISH 7 (as already above):

a.) 14. Bc2 Qb6 15. Bg5 Rfd8 16. Nb3 =+ And black is better.


Next Capa answers: 14.-Nxd3 [14.-Nxd3] However, this seems also a big blunder by Stockfish, who finds 14.-b4! a winning move:



a.) 14. Nb3? b4! 15. Na4 Nxd3 16. Rxd3 Qc7 17. Rd4 (what an ugly move defending poor e4-pawn) -+ black is winning.


This position proves really unique, not just me but also both world champions make blunders here one after another. So I am not feeling bad alone, anymore. happy.png  15. Rxd3 Qc7 [15. Rxd3 Qc7] Here the game goes as I expected. And slowly I come to understand, that Lasker is going to meet the powers of the black's bishop pair with a trump of his own: lifted rook Rd3 intending Rd3-g3! LESSON BY LASKER: A ROOK LIFT CAN BE A FACTOR MEETING THE POWER'S OF THE BISHOP PAIR.


16. e5 [Bg5] And here I feel really stupid at first, Bg5 would have dropped e4-pawn, as Capa kindly points out commenting move 16. e5: "White could not play Bg5 because of the rejoinder, Nxe4." Why did I not concentrate enough to see this combination? But then I take a glance at Stockfish and just gawk without words. Capa's line loses instantly:



 a.) 16. Bg5? Nxe4?? 17. Nxe4 Bxe4 18. Rc3! (is this the intermediate move Capa missed) Qb7 19. Bxe7 ++- And white wins a minor piece.


So first I missed a tactics in where Capa misses the next tactics. Amazing! Maybe this is a valuable LESSON BY CAPA: WE ARE ALL HUMANS AND SHOULD ACCEPT THE FACT THAT WE CAN SOMETIME MAKE MISTAKES!


Now it is time to take a deep breath and continue.  16. e5 is on the board, and how should Capa continue?



 a.) 16.-Nd5 makes the knight most active, preventing momentarily Be3, Bf4 or Bg5. White is forced to exchange, imo. 17. Nxd5 Bxd5 (this is a valuable piece!) 18. Rg3 And now, how is black supposed to defend white's menacing attack? I am trying to figure out a set up like Rfd8+Bf8+g6. 18.-Rfd8 19. Bh6 Bf8 And now Qg4 is not possible due to Qxe4 so maybe 20. Rc1 And the situation is unclear, should black really retreat the queen to 20.-Qb8!? ~ eyeing e5, this looks silly? Stockfish finds a better rejoinder: 20.-Bc4 -+ Of course.


16.-Nd5 [Nd5] 17. Rg3 [Nxd5] AND HERE IS A LESSON BY LASKER: THERE IS NO REASON TO CAPTURE A PIECE SO THAT OPPONENTS PIECE OCCUPIES A GOOD POSITION AFTER RECAPTURING. AFTER Nxd5 Bxd5 BLACK'S LSB WOULD BE A VALUABLE PIECE. This is even highlighted after the following move, which surprises me: 17.-Nxc3 [Rfe8] Why does Capa give away his great central horse? He even loses a tempo after: 18. Rxc3 [Rxc3] hitting the queen, that now has to move.


 But then I get a LESSON from Capa: 18.-Qd7 [Qb8!?] I am wondering, how on earth Capa is going to defend his king? 19. Rg3 Rfd8 20. Bh6 [19. Rg3 Rfd8 20. Bh6] And then simply: 20.-g6! [Bf8] Of course, this defence is adequate. I was worried about the black king getting airy and weak in dark squares, but CAPA'S LESSON TEACHES THAT SOMETIMES YOU MUST DEFEND THE CASTLE WITH g7-g6 (g2-g3) AND RELY ON THE POWER OF YOUR COUNTERATTACK.



Let's pause for a moment to make some positional assesments:



a.) White's attack with his rook lift has been stopped effectively with g7-g6, at least for a moment.

b.) The safety of either kings is not ideal. Black's castle is weakened on dark squares (because of g6 and e5 pawns). White's back rank, on the other hand, is weak because the other rook is stuck at least for a while on the 3rd rank. White's rooks are disconnected weakening their mutual power.

c.) While e5 is weakening black's castle, it also makes white's DSB  a bad bishop, and e5 itself can be a target.

d.) White would like to continue his attack with things like h2-h4-h5 and Nd2-e4-f6/g5, but these time-consuming moves seem very difficult or impossible to reach, before black's attack arrives.

e.) Meanwhile, black does have the bishop pair, althgouht the DBS might be needed to defend the black king.

f.) Furthermore, the open c- and d-files play now an important role, and black does have the upper hand there. Rg3 is clearly misplaced when it comes to the fight of the open files, and soon the necessity to control the entry squares (d2+c2) to the 2nd rank might prove to be vital.


Actually, Capa comment's the move 18.-Qd7 in his self-confident manner: "It was my impression that, after this move,Black had a very superior game." After assessing these positional factors, I must agree with Capa, and I would choose the black pieces here.



a.) 21. Rc1 Rac8 22. Rgc3 Rxc3 23. Rxc3 Qd1+ 24. Qf1 Qh5! (forking Bh6, e5 and Rd1) -+ This is not good for white.

b.) 21. h3 (slow, but at least white cannot be mated on the back rank) Rac8 22. Rc1!? Rxc1 23. Bxc1 Qd1+ 24. Qf1 (best, imo) -+ And now black is doing fine with the bishop pair. However, it is easier said than done to try to exploit this factor and turn it into a success. 

c.) 21. Rc3 Qd5 (mate threat) 22. f3 !? Rac8 23. Rac1 Rxc3 24. Rxc3 And now Stockfish continuation: 24.-a5! 25. Rc1 a4 26. Nd2 Bc5+ -+ Black is better.

d.) 21. Bg5 Maybe it was time to exchange one bishop. Why did not Lasker play this? 21.-Bxg5 22. Rxg5 (now the rook is even more misplaced) 22.-Rac8 There is really much white can do to challenge the ownership of c- and d-files. 23. h3 Ba8 (prevent forks with Na5) 24. Re1 Rc4 =+ Black has total control of open files, but is it enough to win?


 21. Be3 [Rc3] I am not sure, what Lasker's plan here is. Maybe he is desperately trying to get his DSB into game, possibly dreaming of Nc5 fork or Be3-b6-a5 forcing the Rd8 rook to relinquish the d-file momentarily. But now the bishop is blocking the access of Rg3 back into game.



a.) 21. Be3 Rac8 22. Bb6 Re8 23. Ba5 Qd5! (mate threat) 24. Re1 -+


21.-Qd5 [Rac8] Now white can exchange the LSB away. 22. Na5 Rac8 23. Nxb7 Qxb7 [22. Na5 Rc8 23. Nxb7 Qxb7] Here Capa comment's move 21.-Qd5: "This leads to the exchange of one of the two Bishops, but it would be very difficult to find a better move." 


And here I miss a couple of finesse.  24. Bh6 [h6?] I realize only later, that the threat here was simply 24.-Qe4! intending to capture the undefended e5. Lasker prevents this and puts the DSB to h6-square weakening black's back rank. 24.-Qd5! [Rd7] Of course, I realize also only later that it was essential to seize the control of open files. Any other move would have allowed Rd3 challenging the open files. Also, d5-square is a good active place for the lady, where she is eyeing squares like e5, a2, d3, d2, d1 (attack) and d7, d8 (defence). Moreover, white's DSB cannot challenge the queen here. However, usually you would like to have your rook leading the attack to the 2nd rank. Now the attack is a bit ackward with queen ahead. Making progress might not be easy for black. This position seems very difficult and gives me a headache. What are the plans for both sides here?



a.) Capablanca's plan: I have problems finding a plan, where black could penetrate to the 2nd rank. If black doubles rooks on c-file, then immediately Rg3-d3 is possible. However, penetration to d-file is impossible when Bh6 is controlling d2-square. Maybe Capa could attack e5-pawn with Rc8-c5 or Rc8-c4-e4, but these attacks seem to be preventable. Therefore, I am beginning to think, that maybe the only way to proceed is to get the black pieces to optimal squares, keeping white tied down, and then start rolling queenside pawns. Maybe the penetration point can be found in that direction.

b.) Lasker's plan: My defensive plan consists of white's moves like h3, Kh2, Bf4 (if needed), Re3 (in case of Rc8-c4-e4) and if Kh2 is already played maybe then a defusing sequence like: /Rc1 Rxc1/Bxc1 Qxa2/Rg3-a3 Qd5/Rxa6 = But I cannot formulate specific lines, the defensive tools here depend on black's moves and are reactions to them.


25. b3 [h3] Of course, now Ra1 is free to move. Also, b3 is stoppping Rc4-ideas. However, b3 seems to make the dark squares accessible to black DSB. Now Capa could put his DSB to b4 or a3.



a.) 25.-Ba3 26. Rb1 (stoppping Bb2 fork) And now if black tries to triple on d-file, white is able to defend it with h3 + Kh2. But moreover, I miss a tactics: 26.- Rd7? 27. b4! (equalizing immediately) 27.-Bc1 (forced) 28. Rxc1 Rxc1 29. Bxc1 Qd1+ 30. Qf1 Qxf1+ 31. Kxf1 Rd1+ Ke2 = game is equal


25.-Qd4 [Ba3] 26. Rf1 [Rb1] Here I was expecting Rb1 to defend the hole in b2. How is Lasker going to defend, this looks bad for white?



a.) 26.-Ba3 27. h3 Bb2 (hit e5) 28. Re3 Qd2? 30. Qf3! (intending Qf6) = White gets counterplay. This is not the correct plan.

b.) 26.-Bb4? 27. Rg4! Is this not the refutation? 27.-Qc5 28. h3 Bc3 =+ Black is not making progress.

c.) 26.- Rd5 27. Re3 Qd2 28. g3 Bf8 29. Bxf8 Kxf8 30. Re1 Rc2 31. a4 b4 -+ And Stockfish is proving my point, that advancing queenside pawns was maybe the correct plan after all.


26.-Rd5 27. Re3 [26.-Rd5 27. Re3] Ba3 [Qd2] 


Here Capa comments move 27.-Ba3: "Bf8 was better, as white could not very well afford to take the Bishop; he would be compelled to play first Re4, to be followed later on by Bf4." What is this line Capa is referring to?



a.) 27.-Bf8 (Capa's line) 28. Bxf8 Kxf8 29. h3 And now, maybe Rc3 is the point: 29.-Rc3 For instance, 30. Re1 Rxe3 31. Qxe3 Qxe3 32. Rxe3 Rd1+ (intending Rd2 next) Black invades the 2nd rank and black wins a pawn by force.


28. g3 [h3?] Oops, here I missed a clear tactics, which Lasker obviously saw: 28. h3? drops Bh6 immmediately with 28.-Qh4! Now I analyse Capa's moves extensively:



a.) 28.-Bb2 Is refuted immediately with 29. Qf3! (intending Qf6) =

b.) 28.-Rc5 29. Re1 Bb4 30. Re4 And now if 30.-Qc3 31. Rc1! = Holds for white.

c.) 28.-Qd2 This seems to be an extremely complex line, and I fail to grasp all aspects of it. You could write an essay of this position alone. Here is just one sample (and surely not the best) line: 29. Re1 Rc2 30. Qf3! (intends Qf6 mate attack) Bf8 31. Bxf8 Kxf8 32.Kg2 =+ seems to hold for white.

d.) 28.-Bb4 29. Re4 Qc3 30. Rc1! +=

e.) 28.-Qb2 (intending Rc2) 29. Re1 Rc2 30. Qf3 (intending Qf6 attack) but then 30.-Bf8 31. Bxf8 Kxf8 And I find nothing else than 32. R1e2 Qxa2 -+ Black wins a2-pawn.


And indeed, this seems to happen: 28.-Qb2 29. Re1 Rc2 30. Qf3 [28.-Qb2 29. Re1 Rc2 30. Qf3] But now: 30.-Be7 [Bf8] What is going on, did not Bf8 just win a pawn? Now white can try a4:



a.) 31. a4 And if black triples: 31.-Rdd2 32. Qa8+ Bd8 (32.-Rd8 33. Qf3 =) 33. Bf4 Qd4 34. Bxd8 Qxd8 35. Qxd8 Rxd8 = And the position is defused.


31. R3e2 [a4] What is this? 31.-Rxe2 [Qxa2] 32. Rxe2 [Rxe2]

And Capa comments move 30.-Be7: "This was my thirtieth move; I was very much pressed for time and I could not make the necessary analysis to find out whether Bf8 would have been a winning or losing move.If 30…Bf8 31.Bxf8 Kxf8 32. Qf6 Kg8. 33.h4 and Black would have a very difficult position to defend." So now I understand, what was the problem with 30.-Bf8. Then he explains a simple tactics, that I missed on move 31.-Rxe2: "Qxa2 now would lose because of 32.Rxc2 Qxc2 33.Rc1 followed by Rc8+,etc." Of course. I am sure I thought of the danger of Rc1 here, but then I apparently forgot it formulating my lines.

Now couple of moves that I expected: 32.-Qb1+ 33. Kg2 [32.-Qb1+ 33. Kg2] It seems to me, that Lasker has got out of danger now.  33.-Bf8 [Qd1] In this position, first thing that comes to mind about white's defence is, that after exchanging the DSBs, is Rd5-d1 a threat?



a.) 34. Bxf8 Kxf8 35. Qc3 Rd1 36. Qc2 (offering to simplify) Rg1+ 37. Kf3 (this seems safe, after all) Qf1 38. h4 Qg2+ 39. Ke3 Qd5 40. Qe4 Qc5+ 41. Kf3 Qc3+ 42. Qe3 = White's king dances but is safe.


34. Bf4!? [Bxf8] Is not the white DSB a worse bishop, was it not time to let it go? But on the other hand, I find no winning plan for black here. But then Stockfish shows, that 34. Bf4? is a blunder... but Capa does not see it either:



a.) This is how I saw the position: 34. Bf4!? Qd1 35. Qe3 Kg7 36. Rd2 (defuse) Rxd2 37. Qxd2 Qxd7 38. Bxd2 = draw

b.) The line of Stockfish 7: 34. Bf4? Rd1! The point is that now the invasion to the 1st rank is dangerous, probably because Qf3-f6 attack is no longer possible: 35. Kh3 Rd3! 36. Re3 Rd2 37. Rc3 Qf1+ -+ And white is suffering, at least.


34.-h6 [Qd1] Is Capa addressing to the bad bishop (Bf4) problem? 35. h4 [h4] Protecting the DSB. 35.-b4 [Qd1] What is this? Now Capa's DSB is restricted. On the other hand, b4 prevents Qc3 activity. 36. Qe4 [Qe3] Offering queen exchange. 36.-Qxe4 37. Rxe4 [36.-Qxe4 37. Rxe4]


Now it is time to make the final assesment of the last position. There is still the final weakness in the position, e5 pawn, that is a bit akward to defend, but surely that must be possible for white.



a.) Lasker's plan: I would position white pieces in a set up like Kf3-e4 and Rc4. It seems difficult to release the DSB from protecting e5, but I see no attack for black, either. I would start with Kf3.

b.) Capa's plan: Black pieces are a bit better than white, but not much, and black's king seem to be worse than the white one. I would try a set up like h5, Kg7 and Bc5 starting with h5.


37.-Kg7 [h5] 38. Rc4 [Kf3] Bc5 [Bc5] 39. Kf3 [Kf3] Until now, the players have sticked to my plans, althought in reversed order. 39.-g5 [h5] What is this? Did Capa play g6-g5 because the white monarch was coming to e4 next? 40. hxg5 hxg5 41. Bxg5 [40. hxg5 hxg5 41. Bxg5] ½-½




The style of Capablanca in this game appears again quiet and controlled. Capa is avoiding any crazy unclear lines, and likes to keep everything under beautiful and simple control. Lasker plays a dubious opening, and after move 10. Rd1 he is already worse than black. But do we have to assume, that he has prepared this line with 12. e4? I am not sure. After move 12 the position is very unclear. Furthermore, around move 20 and forward until move 37 I find this game extremely difficult to asses for me. The position is not complex at first glance, but the quiet threats by both sides make my head ache trying to figure out correct play. Also both masters make blunders in this game occasionally. Capa's comments are often very self-confident in this game, too. 


THE LESSONS learned by me are as follows: