A small Capablanca tribute

0 | Chess Event Coverage

José Raul Capablanca passed away exactly 70 years ago today. In this small tribute we'd like to point out a 1939 interview with Capablanca, translated by chess historian Edward Winter. The interview was originally published in the Buenos Aires magazine El Gráfico in 1939 and reprinted on pages 103-107 of Homenaje a Capablanca (Havana, 1943).

In the interview, the third World Champion speaks quite favorably about Emanuel Lasker and Mikhail Botvinnik and also mentions Alexander Alekhine and Paul Keres. The Cuban also makes clear that he felt he was at his best in 1918, three years before he won the world title in his match against Lasker. He blamed his failure at the AVRO 1938 tournament to high blood pressure problems.

A sample:

Amongst the new talents there are two who stand out more as great masters than the others: Botvinnik and, on a secondary level, Keres. Also Alekhine, of course; but he is not new; he is old like me. Keres plays admirably well; his sense of fantasy is enormous, his imagination fiery. But his judgment is unsteady. (...) Old Lasker, however, was astonishing in the sureness of his judgment. When a position was submitted to him, he examined it for a while and then, rapidly, without wasting time analyzing, he would state, “White is better” or “Black is better” or “It is a draw”, and he was not mistaken. t is difficult to judge oneself. Nonetheless, the general opinion of masters is that the precision and speed of my chess judgment were superior to Lasker’s. In chess one can lose with age the strength and fullness of one’s vision, sureness in the order of one’s moves, resistance to fatigue, etc., but one never loses one’s judgment, and I imagine I still possess it.

You can read the full interview here.

Capablanca passed away on March 8th, 1942, in the early morning, in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The night before he had collapsed while present in the Manhattan Chess Club. The cause of death was given as "a cerebral haemorrhage provoked by hypertension".

Alexander Alekhine wrote in a tribute to Capablanca:

Capablanca was snatched from the chess world much too soon. With his death, we have lost a very great chess genius whose like we shall never see again.

Emanuel Lasker, who had died in the same hospital only a year earlier, once said:

I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius: Capablanca.

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