Sunday, November 19, 2006

José Raúl Capablanca

Today would have been Capablanca's birthday, had he lived to 118. He was the third World Chess Champion, and one of the all time greats. Current World Champion Vladimir Kramnik describes him this way:
We can compare Capablanca with Mozart, whose charming music appeared to have been a smooth flow. I get the impression that Capablanca did not even know why he preferred this or that move, he just moved the pieces with his hand. If he had worked a lot on chess, he might have played worse because he would have started to try to comprehend things. But Capablanca did not have to comprehend anything, he just had to move the pieces!
Well, at least I have a lack of comprehension in common with Capablanca. Anyhow, wikipedia has a brief article about him here, whilst below is a short and spectacular crowd-pleasing win of his, against the amateur Jaime Baca Arus in an Exhibition Match in Havana, 1912. Capablanca played white. See if you can spot the continuation from the diagram position.

1. d4 d5 2. e3 e6 3. Bd3 c6 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. Nbd2 f5 6. c4 Qf6 7. b3 Nh6 8. Bb2 O-O 9. Qc2 Nd7 10. h3 g6 11. O-O-O e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. cxd5 cxd5

I should let you know at this point that Capablanca was playing blindfolded.

But can you see his next move?

Well, here is how the game finished:

14. Nc4 dxc4 15. Bxc4+ Nhf7 16. Rxd6 Qxd6 17. Nxe5 Be6 18. Rd1 Qe7 19. Rd7 Bxd7 20. Nxd7 Rfc8 21. Qc3 Rxc4 22. bxc4
. Some sources say black resigned here, whilst others give these concluding moves: 22. ... Nd6 23.Qh8+ Kf7 24.Ne5+ Ke6 25.Qxa8. Either way, white won. Anyhow - Happy Birthday Capablanca, from Streatham & Brixton Chess Club!

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