Jose Capablanca - Chess History Part 5 (Losing the Title)

Apr 22, 2008, 11:50 AM |


Losing the title

Capablanca had overwhelming success at New York 1927, a quadruple-round robin with six of the world's top players. He was undefeated, with 14/20, and 2½ points ahead of the second-placed Alexander Alekhine. This was a stratospheric 2827 performance, according to, and indeed, had Capablanca needed the points, he may have been able to turn several other favorable positions into victories, instead of agreeing to draws. Capablanca also defeated Alekhine in their first game [15], won the first brilliancy prize against Rudolf Spielmann[16], and won two games against Nimzowitsch. [17],[18]

This made him the prohibitive favorite for his match with Alekhine, who had never defeated him, later that year. However, the challenger had prepared well, played with patience and solidity, and the marathon match, held at Buenos Aires, proved to be Capablanca's undoing. Capablanca lost the first game in very lackluster fashion,[19] then took a narrow lead by winning games 3 [20] and 7[21] — attacking games more in the style of Alekhine — but then lost games 11 [22] and 12.[23] He tried to get Alekhine to annul the match when both players were locked in a series of draws. Alekhine refused, and eventually prevailed +6 -3 =25.

Alekhine refused to play a return match, even though doing so had been a pre-condition of the match. Despite the collapse of the financial markets in 1929, Alekhine continued to insist on the London conditions, with a $10,000 purse to be secured by the challenger. Capablanca found it difficult to satisfy this condition, because the world's economy was mired in what became known as the Great Depression. Edward Winter explored this failed rematch situation further on in 2007. Instead, Alekhine played two matches against Efim Bogoljubov, a fine player, but one who posed no great threat in a long match (Capablanca had a 5-0 lifetime record against him). Throughout Alekhine's first tenure as champion (1927-1935), he refused to play in the same tournaments as Capablanca, and indeed was able to prevent Capablanca's participation in events which Alekhine himself wanted to play.[12]

Years after he won the title, Alekhine was asked how he had beaten Capablanca. Not known for his modesty, Alekhine nevertheless responded, "Even now I cannot explain that."