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Lasker Talks about his Match with Capablanca

  • #1

    An excerpt from Lasker's booklet on the match, "Mein Wettkampf Mit Capablanca," as translated by Dr. Maxwell Bukhofzer.

     

          This match, presenting, as it did, greater difficulties than any previous one. was a classic treat for me. The outward conditions, to be sure, were unfavorable. but Capablanca’s chess proffered real lessons. His games are clear, logical and robust. There is nothing secretive, artificial or affected about them. From his moves you glean his idea, even where he intends to be crafty. Whether he is playing for a draw or a win or is afraid of losing, his every move proclaims aloud what he feels. In spite of it his moves, while not inscrutable. are by no means obvious, and often deep.
          Capablanca favors neither complication nor adventure. He desires to know where he steps. His is a depth of a mathematician, not of a poet. His mind is Roman, not Greek. The combinations of an Anderssen or Tschigorin were possible only at definite moments and extremely individual. Those of Capablanca do not depend on time. ln almost every case he can, with impunity, delay them. He hardly needs to modify them. since they are the product of a general principle. Anderssen and Tschigorin were guided by incidental occurrences; Capablanca conforms to the permanent characteristics of the positive. He puts stock only in stability, such as the solidity of his position, the pressure upon a weak spot, and he distrusts the accidental, a problem mate, for instance.
          Mason and Schlechter were precursors of Capablanca. He excels them, however, because he possesses. in addition, the gift of devising subtle and keen combinations, a trait but rarely revealed by Mason and Schlechter. ln the fifth game of the match Capablanca, by such a combination, refutes an opening, the possibility of which had been problematical for many years. You cannot scare Capablanca with spurious or suspicious looking sacrifices. Given sufficient time for reflection, he minutely examines the combinations of his adversary and exposes its weakness. He plays as though he distrusts the style of Anderssen and Tschigorin; more than that, as though he detests and, mayhaps fears it.
          To use his brand of chess was quite sympathetic. l was glad to find in him an opponent of mettle, albeit circumstances did not permit me to play in accordance with my plans. Under the influence of climate and diet my powers diminished steadily. My position judgment, the accuracy of my combinations, in fact, the mere beholding of the position, were enfeebled, confused. and, as l became fatigued. nearly demolished. l simply could not get away from this predicament. though it failed to demoralize me, it had purely physical causes: Excessive perspiration, loss of weight, inability to sleep soundly and, hence, to concentrate for an extensive period. Although this effect extended to my mentality, it did not influence my disposition, determination and self-respect.
          Realizing that my health was menaced with permanent injury, l became alarmed. However, l would not rely upon my subjective impression, so l consulted a physician, a Cuban, the family doctor of mutual friends. He was quite learned and humanitarian and thoroughly familiar with his native island. I had to talk to him in Spanish, reinforced with bits of French and Latin, all of which l command but insufficiently. Nevertheless. we conversed at length and with interest.
    When l had explained the symptoms of my trouble to him, the doctor most urgently advised rest. He declared: "There is too much noise, light and heat for you here. The sunlight, with us. is a great deal more active than in the North. The result is that the human body radiates and consumes more energy than in darker and colder climates." “Does that, then, account for my vehement and instinctive craving for rest, doctor? is that the reason that my powers refuse to function. however hard l try?” “Certainly! You need rest. Your brain does not respond to the demands you impose upon it.” He entered into many details. His explanations confirmed my experiences. He analyzed my attacks of dizziness and showed me why I was unable, after several hours of playing, to employ position judgment or even accurately to see the pieces.
          However, as l defined previously, these facts do not clear up everything. They were supplemented by an inherent defect in my chess play. For years l did not do a thing to improve my playing strength. On the contrary, i actually hindered the development of my style. l stood in need of my mental powers, most compellingly and unrestrictedly, for other purposes. Furthermore, l was unwilling to aid the speedy progress of chess since I held that this speedy progress imperils the very life of the game. l beheld how chess was losing its charm of adventure and sport. l saw its problematical nature changing, more and more, into certainty, and. thereby, the game sinking to the level of mechanics and mnemonics. My heart grew sad because of the swift advance of this evolution which appeared to me needlessly rapid. l would not keep pace with it, comprehending all the while that, ultimately, it was inevitable as it is inevitable that man must die. This loss of years l could not retrieve during the match; for the time. was scant and the extrinsic conditions unfavorable.
          Capablanca, on the other hand, seems to personify the automatic style. And now, that l have battled against it and thus felt its vitality, I am reconciled. l see now that this style, likewise is destined to run its course of development and, withal, to offer problems. That reconciles me. because I cherish whatever is still unexplored.
          Of course, chess is not going to remain problematical much longer. The old game approaches its hour of destiny. Chess in its present form will die soon of "the draws." The victory of certainty and mechanism, inevitable as it is, is going to seal the fate of chess. Then you will have to invent new rules. Perhaps you will have to change the setting of the pieces and modify the gradations of ‘win’ or ‘lose.’ in order to increase difficulties and create new mysteries. For you cannot afford to let the old game die.
    Is Capablanca the ideal, the consummate chess master? l do not think so. All the same he deserves to be the world’s champion. His is a style of an original stamp, accurate, inventive, logical, energetic. Out of every combat he will emerge with honors.
          Capablanca's style astounds by its logic. it is a style begotten of sheer self exertion. lt is appropriateness hammered down. Picture to yourself a very young man, endowed with tremendous will power, who fails to hit upon the domain of politics or business, where he rightfully belongs, but accidentally happens into the realm of chess and displays a considerable, if not towering phantasy [sic] for this game. Such a young man, spurred by youthful ambition, is going to labor enormously to overpower a-to him incomprehensible -material resistance. Heedless of didactic comment he is bound to investigate the intrinsic nature of this matter. Such, then, was Capablanca’s evolution. The result is a style still exhibiting the callouses of creative toil, a style shaped by its goal. Capablanca, true son of a race directed toward the practical, allots to himself the task to win against the proper opponent at the proper time; neither more nor less. Well, there are other aims worthy of pains. For instance: To delve profoundly into the everlastingly valid explorations of chessic reflection. For ‘all that, though, the goal before Capablanca’s eyes, legitimately pursued, is deserving of respect and its attainment in a masterly fashion is of interest.
          Purely tactical is the machinery of which Capablanca avails himself most generally: Deployment of the pieces in the center of the board; tediously prepared exchange of pawns. In that manner he effects an alteration of the situation which he can utilize fully owing to the central grouping of his pieces.
          Capablanca's phantasy is bridled. He wants to understand. Let his opponent grope, he is going to see just where he steps. We are accustomed to imagine that all great geniuses are gropers, who seer-like, behold the things hidden from the view of others. Probably Capablanca suppressed this trait of clairvoyance in himself -- for the perils of failure are exceedingly great. Again it it possible that, his acumen being of a practical and logical mold, he does not desire to be a seer except in that one respect (hos practical goal). For all that seems to me Capablanca's phantasy lacks the "pinions magnificent and unshackled."

  • #2

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  • #3

    Did Dover once publish a reprint of that?

  • #4

    ufs, almost, that I understand everything, but would not read again, thank you!

  • #5

    WOW.

     

    #1.  Deep thanks to Batgirl for supplying this most illuminating excerpt.

     

    #2.  Many highly accomplished scientists are ignorant or woeful when it comes to the philosophy of science.   They can do science, but woeful when it comes to the philosophy of science.  However, there are a few highly accomplished scientists who excel at both science and the philosophy of science.  They are rare.

     

    Lasker is a World Champion Chess Player who also excels at the philosophy of chess!  A rare combination!  Notice in his reflections how he predates Fischer960!

     

    I am blessed by the reading of this excerpt.  Thanks Batgirl.

  • #6
    kindaspongey wrote:

    Did Dover once publish a reprint of that?

    I have no idea.

  • #7
    SeniorPatzer wrote:

     

     

     

    Lasker is a World Champion Chess Player who also excels at the philosophy of chess!  A rare combination! 

     

    Lasker's writings all have a floral quality and a philosophical side. He's fun to read.

  • #8

    Here's a photo of Capablanca and his wife published in Dec. 1922.  I like how they simply caption him as "The Champion."

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  • #9

    'My position judgment, the accuracy of my combinations, in fact, the mere beholding of the position, were enfeebled, confused. and, as l became fatigued. nearly demolished. l simply could not get away from this predicament. though it failed to demoralize me, it had purely physical causes: Excessive perspiration, loss of weight, inability to sleep soundly and, hence, to concentrate for an extensive period. Although this effect extended to my mentality, it did not influence my disposition, determination and self-respect.'

     

    This is why chess is a sport because of the physical demands it places on a player.  Lasker writes well. He wrongly predicted a 'death of draws'.

  • #10

    I am not fond of bats, except Cricket bats.

    But in spite of that, I like many others here, like batgirl.

    Another great bit of research from her.

    Very, very insightful thoughts expressed by the old genius that Lasker was. 

  • #11

    Not sure about Cuba, but I've been on Yucatán and I thought I wouldn't survive it.

  • #12

    Capablanca was the most handsome chess world champion.

  • #13

    It's not like the opposition has been tough in that aspect...

  • #14

    Ahh...

  • #15

    Lasker v Capablanca...

  • #16

    Thanks for this , batgirl. Fascinating stuff. As you say, lasker's writing style was unusual, which always makes him interesting to read. There is an english version of one of his philosophical books, 'Kampf' I think, online somewhere. Thanks again.

  • #17

    Wow,is this a centenary?

  • #18

    gold.pnggold.pnggold.pnggold.pnggold.png

  • #19

    thanks for the good read chatty batty; enjoyed the insights immensely.

  • #20

     Chess in its present form will die soon of "the draws."  Reminds one of London chess classics these days ^^

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