Chess book - Capablanca

May 10, 2008, 4:54 PM |

For those who don't know, I am working on writing a book about chess. More info can be found on my previous (and future) blog posts, here.

This is part of my second chapter, which will include profiles of some famous players.


    JosÈ Ra˙l Capablanca was one of the most famous chess players of all time. He was born 1988, and learned to play chess at the age of four, by watching his father. At age 14, he beat Juan Corzo, who was, until that time, the leading Cuban chess player. He began to study chemical engineering, but did not even complete one semester, instead preferring to become a professional chess player. He won against US champion Frank Marshall (+8-1=14), an overwhelming victory. He quickly won several tournaments, including one at San Sebasti·n at age 22, which included all of the strongest players in the world, excluding Emanuel Lasker. Lasker was World Champion at the time. When he challenged Lasker for his title in 1911, Lasker proposed conditions that Capablanca did not agree to, and so he declined. He gained a perfect score in a tournament two years later, one of only a few perfect scores by any grandmaster, at high level chess tournaments. He was recruited by the Cuban Foreign Office not long after, and his duties consisted solely of playing chess. He quickly won many more tournaments. When he first played Lasker in a 1914 tournament, he beat Lasker in some games, but lost others, coming in second, half a point behind. He did not play much professional chess over the next few years, due to World War II. In 1920, he played a match against Lasker, winning with an astounding +4 -0 =10! This was the first world championship match ever in which one of the players lost no games. He won many tournaments, and had such a good showing at some that he became overconfident. When he played Alexander Alekhine in 1927, he lost (+6 -3 =25), in the longest world championship match to date (it was 73 days long!). He most likely could have beaten Alekhine in a rematch, however, Alekhine never allowed him to play such a rematch. Capablanca won several more tournaments, with some very strong showings. He also began to do simultaneous showings. Max Euwe beat Alekhine in a match, taking the title of World Champion, and Capablanca again hoped that he could regain his title. However, Euwe allowed Alekhine the rematch allowed by the rules, which Alekhine won. Capablanca never had a chance to regain his title. He later suffered several strokes, finally dying 1942. During his professional career, he lost fewer than 40 games in serious conditions. This included a streak of 63 games that he did not lose, over a period of 8 years of time. When he finally lost the game after this, it made newspaper headlines.