Jose Capablanca - History Part 2 (World Title Contender)

Apr 15, 2008, 11:53 AM |


 World title contender

In 1911, Capablanca challenged Emanuel Lasker for the world championship. Lasker accepted his challenge but proposed seventeen conditions for the match. Capablanca disapproved of some of the conditions and the match did not take place. Capablanca won the New York National tournament of 1912 with 11/13, half a point ahead of Marshall.[4]

In 1913, Capablanca played in his hometown of Havana where he came in second to Frank Marshall, with 10/14. He lost one of their individual games after having a much better position.[2] Reuben Fine claimed that Capablanca had the mayor clear all the spectators so they would not see him resign, and this story has uncritically circulated in books and around the Internet. However, Winter's book below (pp. 47–48) documents that Fine's story has no basis whatever. Instead, there were 600 spectators present, who naturally favored their native hero, but sportingly gave Marshall "thunderous applause". Marshall's own notes corroborated this—when he heard the roar, he thought that the crowd was going to kill him, and he asked for security escort "and quickly rushed over to my hotel. Afterwards I was told they were cheering for me."

Then Capablanca scored +13 -0 =0 in a 1913 tournament in New York (Rice), although Oldrich Duras was the only International Grandmaster class opponent; IM-strength players Oscar Chajes and Abraham Kupchik also played. This was one of only a handful of perfect scores ever in high-level chess tournaments. Capablanca was again perfect in a second tournament at Havana 1913 with 9/9.[5]

In September 1913, Capablanca secured a job in the Cuban Foreign Office. He appears not to have had any specific duties other than playing chess, but what he had he was reported to have carried out conscientiously. For many years, he was the most famous Cuban alive.

In October 1913 to March 1914 Capablanca traveled to Europe on his way to the Consulate at St Petersburg to play matches or exhibition games against their leading masters. In serious games, he scored nineteen wins, four draws, and one loss during that period. First, he defeated Jacques Mieses and Richard Teichmann in Berlin. Then in St. Petersburg, he played a six-game series, two games against Alexander Alekhine, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky and Fyodor Dus-Chotimirsky, losing once to Znosko-Borovsky and winning the rest—his first encounters with Alekhine, who was outclassed;[3],[4] next beat Nimzowitsch in an elegant opposite colored bishops endgame [5] in Riga. In 1914, he beat Bernstein in Moscow in a game listed in many anthologies as a brilliancy for winning move 29...Qb2!! and for the new strategy with hanging pawns,[6]. In Kiev, he won among others against Fedor Bogatyrchuk. Then in Vienna he won one game from Richard Réti and defeated Savielly Tartakower 1½-½. Capablanca also gave many simultaneous exhibitions noted for their speed and very high winning scores.

In short, Capablanca was unrivaled as a fast chess player, even by the very best players of his own time (and perhaps of later times as well)[7]. Alekhine described with awe the feat of Capablanca playing simultaneous fast games between rounds of a tournament, giving five minutes to each opponent but taking only one for himself, and winning.[citation needed]

At the great 1914 tournament in St. Petersburg, with most of the world's leading players (except those of the Austro-Hungarian empire), Capablanca met the great Emanuel Lasker across the chessboard for the first time in normal tournament play (Capablanca had won a knock-out lightning chess final game in 1906, leading to a famous joint endgame composition). Capablanca took the large lead of one and a half points in the preliminary rounds, and made Lasker fight hard to draw [8],[9]. He again won the first brilliancy prize against Bernstein [10] and had some highly regarded wins against David Janowsky[11], Nimzowitsch[12] and Alekhine.[13]

However, Capablanca fell victim to a comeback by Lasker in the second stage of the tournament, including a famous victory by Lasker.[14] Capablanca finished second to Emanuel Lasker with a score of 13 points to Lasker's 13½, but far ahead of third-placed Alexander Alekhine. After this tournament, Tsar Nicholas II proclaimed the five prize-winners (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, Marshall) as "Grandmasters of Chess".