WE end the week on the 70th anniversary of the death in 1942 of the great Cuban former World champion, José Raúl Capablanca, who died aged 53 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while watching a game at New York’s Manhattan Chess Club.
Capablanca was born in Havana in 1888 and learned to play chess at the age of four simply from observing his father playing.
“Wonder child” was how he was portrayed in the media when he won the championship of his native Cuba in 1901 at the age of 12. And from that early promise, he went on to dominate the game from the end of the First World War until 1927.
At his peak, Capablanca was close to being invincible – and during a ten-year period from 1914 to 1924, he lost only one game. The war years, though, intervened in his quest to become world champion; but he did so in 1921 by easily beating the aging Emanuel Lasker to end his 27-year reign. And of all the world champions, Capablanca’s play was effortlessly smooth and he had the lowest proportions of defeats in all his matches and tournament games.
Despite being so gifted, he was also bone idle, and it was this complacency lost him the world title in 1927 to his arch-rival, Alexander Alekhine. On the 20th anniversary of his death, in 1962, chess addict and revolutionary leader Che Guevara initiated a series of Capablanca Memorial tournaments in Havana that are still held annually.
J Capablanca - A Alekhine
World Championship, 1927
Queen’s Gambit Dec, Cambridge Springs
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Nbd7 5 e3 c6 6 Nf3 Qa5 7 Nd2 Bb4 8 Qc2 0–0 9 Bh4 c5 10 Nb3 Qa4 11 Bxf6 Nxf6 12 dxc5 Ne4 13 cxd5 Bxc3+ 14 bxc3 Nxc5 15 Rd1 exd5 16 Rxd5 Nxb3 17 axb3 Qc6 18 Rd4 Re8 19 Bd3 Qxg2 20 Bxh7+ Kf8 21 Be4 Qh3 22 Qd2 Be6 23 c4 a5 24 Rg1 Qxh2 25 Rh1 Qc7 26 Qb2! Qc5 27 Bd5 Ra6 28 Re4 Rd6 29 Rh7 Ke7 30 Qxg7 Kd8 31 Bxe6 fxe6 32 Qxb7 Qb4+ 33 Qxb4 axb4 34 c5 Rc6 35 Rxb4 Rxc5 36 Ra7 1–0