Ask any Grandmaster and you are almost assuredly going to find Capablanca’s name mentioned as a contributing factor in their development and depth of understanding toward its mastery. There are hundreds of examples to choose from to illustrate the genius that prodigious beginning led– an abundance of exciting chess play, tournament victories, and to the World Championship when he defeated the great Emmanuel Lasker.
After examining or should I say reexamining his games, I select here two examples of his typical style and confidence. Often his battles waged around building his results from accumulating advantageously tiny wrinkles from positions that often eluded opponents until he unleashed the hidden fire in the furnace.
The first game is from the 3rd round of the 1935 Moscow tournament where he finished 4th in the 19 round tournament with 12 points behind Botvinnik and Flohr, each with 13 points and Lasker with 12.5 points.
Alatorzeff (White) vs Jose R. Capablanca (Black)
Queen’s Gambit Declined –Orthodox Defense
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 This defense was often chosen by Capa.
6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Nf3 Nxc3 9.bxc3 b6 10.Be2 Probably around the time this game was played the b6 defense was popular and c6 later gained a preference. White’s passive move obviously was geared to forcing trades and hopefully to achieve a drawish position. Personally I would play 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.0-0 c5 12.Qe2 cxd4 13.cxd4 when I expect Capa would try to attain good chances using his Q-side pawn majority.
10…Bb7 11.0-0 c5 12.Ne5 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.Bf3 Rac8 15.a4 cxd4 16.cxd4 g6! Capa takes time out to give his King ‘air’ since exchanges have reduced mating attacks and a backrow mate is now eliminated.
17.Bxc6 Rxc6 18.Qd3 White’s idea of a4 is to try to get in a5 to exchange one of the Q-side pawns. Capa will concentrate on preventing this. The immediate push would be met by b5.
18…Qb7 Stopping a5 again and to meet a possible White challenge of the c-file by 19.Rfc1 Rfc8 20.Qd2 by creating a battering ram with Qc7.
19.Rfb1 Rfc8 20.h3 Necessary because if White tries to force a5 instead thinking the ‘pin’ enables him to carry out hisplan, it proves an illusion because after b5 21.Rxb5 Rc1+ wins.
20…a6 This nips in the bud any hope of an a5 push. The threat seen is a Nimzowitschian element of the 7th rank scenario incursion by the black Rook.
21.Qa3 Rc2 22.Qd6 An act of desperation because White realizes that his position is hopeless after eg: 22.Qb3 R8c3 23.Qxb6 Rc1+ wins the Exchange and after 22.Rc1 Black has Rxc1+ 23.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 24.Qxc1 b5.
22…Rxf2! 23.Qg3 After 23.Kxf2 Rc2+ 24.Ke1 Qxg2 a cute maneuver and instructive series finds White unable to get a perpetual check draw. 25.Qb8+ Kg7 26.Qe5+ Kf8 27.Qd6+ Ke8! 28.Qb8+ Ke7 29.Qa7+ Kf6 and wins.
23…Re2 White must play now 24.Rc1 Rxc1+ 25.Rxc1 Qe4! 26.Rc3 Ra2 so White tips his King in resignation. 0-1.
Lessons from this game:
1. It is dangerous to play passively and seek exchanges in hopes of drawing especially with the white pieces;
2.Tempi are important in openings as well as later on.
3.Pawn structure where the black Q-side had a 2 vs 1 edge required attention where he tried to achieve exchanging his isolai a-pawn for one of the pair. Capablanca recognized the need to maintain those connected pawns and concentrated to that end until it was impossible for white to achieve his plan.
4. MY SYSTEM by Nimzowitsch fully explains the element of Rooks on the 7th (2nd if black) and its strategic importance.
St. Petersburg 1914 (Moscow) Capablanca won 8-2 (6 wins and 4 draws) ahead of a strong field that included Lasker, Tarrasch, Alekhine, Marshall, Bernstein, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, Blackburne, Janowski and Gunsberg.
O. Bernstein (White) vs Jose R. Capablanca (Black)
Queens Gambit Declined
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg5 0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 b6 8.cxd4 exd5 9.Qa4 The w/s weakness created by b6 was demonstrated by Capa’s straightforward play by 9.Bb5 based upon his principle of compounded development that partly brought about my own sq/ct theory as a result of studying Alekhine and Capablanca games.
9…Bb7 Others who provide notes suggest that Capablanca could have played here c5 giving up a pawn but leave White behind in development and subsequently Black will regain the material with good prospects. Capa most likely did not like 10.Qc6 Rb8 11.Nxd5. He rarely liked to take chances and it is worth noting that this tournament was one of a number where he traveled abroad to compete and earn his spurs. The move chosen by Capa actually draws the Q to a6 and gives Black a chance to gain a tempo which he apparently felt more potent without taking undo chances where a miscalculation is always possible. Capablanca liked keeping plans simple and clear with a pressure that sometimes seems almost neutral but added together provided a building block of tiny pin pricks.
10.Ba6 Bxa6 11.Qxa6 c5 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.dxc5 bxc5 14.0-0 White gives Black the infamous ‘hanging pawns’ but Capa recognizes the pro and con of this pawn structure. Playing for a win, he plans to utilize the assets afforded by this feature as again explained so vividly in MY SYSTEM by Nimzowitsch.
14…Qb6 15.Qe2 White retreats because exchanging only strengthens the pawn chain and eliminates the 3 pawn islands that existed. Gaining a tempo, Capa jumps at the chance to set the enemy Q-side pawns.
15…c4! High class!!! This move on first thought seems weak as the d4 square now becomes available for the pesky Knight and the d-pawn is backward which usually means trouble as such pawns can easily become targets. Capa recognizes that a Knight on d4 blocks the action against the pawn so a double edged strategy unfolds and the question becomes: “Who is right?”
16.Rfd1 White avoids e4 which seems to lead to a complete equality and probable draw that both want to avoid at this stage especially given the perceived pawn weakness. Probably 16.e4 dxe4 17.Nxe4 Rab8 18.Nxf6+ Bxf6 19.Qxc4 Qxb2 would lead to a draw.
16…Rfd8 17.Nd4 Bb4 Another example of Capablanca’s thoughts expressed in his CHESS FUNDAMENTALS about compound development where pieces strike into enemy territory.
18.b3 Rac8 19.bxc4 dxc4 20.Rc2 Bxc3 21.Rxc3 Nd5! An excellent move as this Knight brings misery into White’s thoughts because Rxc4 is met by Nc3 winning the Exchange.
22.Rc2 c3 23.Rdc1 Rc5 24.Nb3 Rc6 25.Nd4 Rc7 26.Nb5 Rc5 27.Nxc3? Missing the point. Going back to d4 was necessary.
27..Nxc3 28.Rxc3 Rxc3 29.Rxc3 Qb2!!! White resigns. An incredible finish.
Lessons from this game:
1. It is important to have confidence in any opening you choose to play. Capa frequently adopted this system in his apprenticeship period especially because it led to a solid position with certain imbalance features so suttle that just tiny infractions would offer up what one might term “pressure chess”.
2.Tempo moves, exchange offerings and if you examine many of the positions from the point of my square count theory (sq/ct) the games of Capablanca and also those of Alekhine demonstrates that they utilized my concept even without giving such comment in their own annotations per se. It is also useful to performing a graph illustration of the ups and downs of the battle between minds.
3.The last part of this game shows a wonderful example of the use of squares as important contributions to victory…Qb2 placed the Queen where it could be captured but left the back rank exposed to a back row mate by the Rook. Oddly here both the Queen and Rook are unprotected and if the Queen moves to protect the Rook, then black simply captures the Rook with his Queen since the Queen cannot leave the lst rank because of mate!