Lasker on Capablanca: San Sebastián 1911

Lasker on Capablanca: San Sebastián 1911

Emanuel Lasker annotated 7 of Capablanca’s games from San Sebastián 1911 for his chess column in The Louisville Courier-Journal in the period March 26 – April 30 1911:

Frank J. Marshall – José Raúl Capablanca
Round 2, February 21 1911
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5
The exchange balances the position, whereas white should retain initiative. 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 seems therefore slightly preferable.
3… cxd5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Qb3 e6 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4 Qb6
Of doubtful value. 8… Be7 would have been good enough.
9. Qxb6 axb6 10. e3 Bd7 11. Bb5 Bb4 12. O-O
This is certainly weak. 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Ke2 would have ensured him a good ending. Now the balance of position is rather slightly in favor of black.
12… Bxc3 13. bxc3 Ne4 14. c4
If 14. Rfc1 Ra3 15. c4 Nc3 16. Rc2 the position is probably more advantageous for black than with the actual continuation.
14… Nc3

15. a4
Well done. He sacrifices a pawn in order to keep the initiative.
15… dxc4 16. Bxc4 Rxa4 17. Rxa4 Nxa4 18. Ra1 Na5 19. Ne5 Nxc4
Here 19… b5 was tempting, but the reply 20. Nxd7 Nxc4 21. Nc5 would have been satisfactory.
20. Nxc4 f6 21. Rb1 Bc6 22. f3 Kd7 23. Nxb6+ Nxb6 24. Rxb6 Ra8 25. Rb2 Ra1+ 26. Kf2 f5 27. Bg3 Bd5 28. Be5 g6 29. Bg7 h5 30. h4 Ra2 31. Rxa2 Bxa2 32. e4 drawn.

Marshall. Star Gazette, January 14 1911.

The play thus far at San Sebastián has brought Capablanca to the front. In the first week of the tournament, in which no less than 75 per cent of the games were drawn, he won two out of four. This is an excellent beginning that insured him a high position. Nine and one-half points should take first prize in the money; nine points would probably tie for first and second place.
(March 26 1911)

Capablanca. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, March 25 1911.

The combination that Capablanca made in his first victory at San Sebastián, against Dr. Bernstein, has been greatly underrated. The critics did not do what I consider to be their duty. Without investigation they assumed that Bernstein had made the best move, and since he lost easily, that the combination was a superficial one. In that way they failed to do justice to its profundity. In fact, the combination has many branches. Dr. Bernstein selected a weak defense which gave Capablanca no opportunity of continuing his game in the brilliant style that he must have planned, and it is therefore plainly the office of the critic to resurrect Capablanca’s idea, which through the fault of his opponent has failed to come to maturity. This was the course of the game:

José Raúl Capablanca – Osip Bernstein
Round 1, February 20 1911
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Be7 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bxc6+ bxc6 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4 Bd7 9. Bg5 O-O 10. Re1 h6 11. Bh4 Nh7 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. Qd3 Rab8
Until this point the game has followed the lines laid out by a game of my match with Janowski, in 1909, and copied several times since. Here Bernstein varies. 13… Rfe8 in order to leave the f8-square free for the knight – a very favorable post for it – would have been preferable.
14. b3 Ng5 15. Rad1 Qe5 16. Qe3 Ne6 17. Nce2 Qa5

18. Nf5 Nc5 19. Ned4 Kh7 20. g4 Rbe8 21. f3 Ne6 22. Ne2 Qxa2
This is dangerous. 22… Qb6 would have been more cautious. But Bernstein thought that he would be able to weather the storm, and, possibly, he was right.
23. Neg3 Qxc2
This is the mistake. He should have continued with 23… f6 and Rf7.
24. Rc1 Qb2 25. Nh5 Rh8
Too late now for 25… f6 on account of 26. Nhxg7, menacing Qxh6+. White threatened Rc3, followed by Nhxg7, hence black prepared for it, intending Kg8 as a reply to Rc3.
26. Re2 Qe5 27. f4 Qb5

28. Nfxg7 Nc5
Thus he loses without resistance. He could have made a fight by 28… Nxg7 29. Nf6+ Kg6 30. Nxd7 f6! Then white had but one continuation to win the game: 31. e5! For instance, 31… dxe5 32. Qe4+ Kf7 33. Rxc6 Ne6 34. Nxf6 Nxf4 (34… Kxf6 35. f5) 35. Rd2; further 31… fxe5 32. fxe5 Re7 33. Rf1 threatening Rf6+ as well as Qe4+; again 31… Kf7 32. Nxf6 Re7 33. Ne4 dxe5 34. f5 Rd7 35. Rd2 with an overwhelming position.
29. Nxe8 Bxe8 30. Qc3 f6 31. Nxf6+ Kg6 32. Nh5 Rg8 33. f5+ Kg5 34. Qe3+ resigns.

Bernstein. Wiener Schachzeitung 1914, p. 81.

Capablanca’s games at San Sebastián arrive slowly. Only the other day, the third one came to hand, his encounter with Dr. Tarrasch. That ended in a draw, but, after the opening stage had passed, the young master had all the initiative, and it was only with difficulty that Tarrasch could stand off his attacks. There is no doubt that a player of marked originality has come, who combines soundness and daring. The game follows:

Siegbert Tarrasch – José Raúl Capablanca
Round 4, February 24 1911
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Qb3 Nce7 11. O-O O-O 12. Rfe1 c6 13. a4
Up to this point all book. The doctor’s move perhaps is based upon a good idea. b5 will be prevented, the bishop on c8 will be embarrassed .
13… Qb6
He takes the bull by the horn. Either the queen is exchanged or he gains time to develop Bc8.
14. Qa3 Be6 15. a5 Qc7 16. Ne4
He might have attacked by 16. Ng5. The move he makes loses valuable time.
16… Rad8 17. Nc5 Bc8
Black has now his position well in hand. But the pieces of white are also on firm ground. Yet Capablanca contrives to make an attack that comes very near winning.
18. g3 Nf5 19. Rad1 Nd6 20. Bxd5 Nb5 21. Qb4
He could not play 21. Bxf7+, because the knight on f3 is unguarded.
21… Rxd5 22. Nd3 Bg4 23. Nde5

23… h5
Excellent! White gets into difficulties.
24. Nxg4 hxg4 25. Nh4 Rfd8 26. Re7 Qd6 27. Qxd6 Nxd6 28. a6 bxa6 29. Rxa7 Nb5 30. Rxa6 Nxd4 31. Kf1
The only salvation.
31… g5 32. Ng2 Nf3 33. Rxd5 cxd5 34. Ne1!
A skillful defense. Everything else would lose.
34… Re8 35. Nxf3 gxf3 36. Rd6 Rc8 37. Ke1 Re8+ 38. Kf1
If black protects the d-pawn by 38… Re5, white gains time, for 39. h3 f5 40. g4, and the f3-pawn remains indefensible.
38… Rc8 drawn.
(April 2 1911)

Tarrasch. Wiener Schachzeitung 1914, p. 88.

Capablanca has won the proudest distinction that Europe at this moment could offer him. The first prize in one of the strongest tournaments, if not the strongest, ever held, has been won by him. American chess friends will surely be glad. It is to their credit to have produced such a pupil, and have formed the style of one so worthy to represent them.

Here follows one of Capablanca’s wins:

José Raúl Capablanca – Amos Burn
Round 3, February 23 1911
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 Be7 7. Nbd2 O-O 8. Nf1 b5 9. Bc2 d5 10. Qe2 dxe4 11. dxe4 Bc5 12. Bg5 Be6 13. Ne3 Re8 14. O-O Qe7
That provokes the move that follows. He should have retreated 14… Be7. If, then, 15. Rad1 Qc8 16. Nd5 Bg4, the doubling of the pawns by Nxe7 or Bxf6 would not have amounted to a great deal.
15. Nd5 Bxd5 16. exd5 Nb8

17. a4!
That hits the weakness.
17… b4
Black is now lost. He should have let the pawn go. With 17… Nbd7 he could have fought on, for instance: 18. axb5 axb5 19. Rxa8 Rxa8 20. Qxb5 e4 (preparing Rb8, now ineffectual because of 20… Rb8 21. Bxf6 gxf6 22. Qd3) 21. Bxe4 Qxe4 22. Bxf6 Bxf2+ 23. Rxf2 Nxf6.
18. cxb4 Bxb4 19. Bxf6 Qxf6 20. Qe4 Bd6
If 20… Qg6 21. Qxb4 Qxc2 22. Rac1 would win easily.
21. Qxh7+ Kf8 22. Nh4 Qh6 23. Qxh6 gxh6 24. Nf5 h5 25. Bd1 Nd7 26. Bxh5 Nf6 27. Be2 Nxd5 28. Rfd1 Nf4 29. Bc4 Red8 30. h4 a5 31. g3 Ne6 32. Bxe6 fxe6 33. Ne3 Rdb8 34. Nc4 Ke7 35. Rac1 Ra7 36. Re1 Kf6 37. Re4 Rb4 38. g4 Ra6 39. Rc3 Bc5 40. Rf3+ Kg7 41. b3 Bd4 42. Kg2 Ra8 43. g5 Ra6 44. h5 Rxc4 45. bxc4 Rc6 46. g6 resigns.

Burn. The British Chess Magazine, January 1926.

A few of Capablanca’s games have arrived. The Schachwelt published three of them. Of these the most interesting one is that against Janowski. Though Capablanca commits a mistake, and, in consequence, is hard pressed, one must put a high value upon the accuracy of the defence of the young Cuban. And his counter-attack at the end is finely carried through.

José Raúl Capablanca – David Janowski
Round 5, February 27 1911
1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Nf3 c5 4. c4 e6 5. Nc3 Be7 6. dxc5 O-O 7. a3 Bxc5 8. b4 Be7 9. Bb2 a5
This advance has no purpose. It only weakens the square b6. 9… Nc6 and then to capture the c-pawn would be sound.
10. b5 b6 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Nd4 Bd6 13. Be2 Be6 14. Bf3 Ra7 15. O-O Rc7 16. Qb3
Here he should maintain his pressure upon b6 by 16. Na4. If, then, 16… Nfd7 17. Nc6 Qc8 18. e4! Also after 16… Rc4 17. Rc1 the development of white would be preferable.
16… Nbd7 17. Rfd1 Ne5 18. Be2 Qe7 19. Rac1 Rfc8 20. Na4 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 22. Bxc1 Ne4 23. Bb2
He wants to capture the b-pawn, which at this moment would have failed on account of Qc7. But white should have taken the c-file by 23. Qc2.
23… Nc4 24. Bxc4

24… Bxh2+
This assures him, evidently, of at least a draw.
25. Kxh2 Qh4+ 26. Kg1 Qxf2+ 27. Kh2 Qg3+ 28. Kg1
If 28. Kh1 Bh3 wins.
28… dxc4 29. Qc2 Qxe3+ 30. Kh2 Qh6+ 31. Kg1 Qe3+ 32. Kh2 Qg3+ 33. Kg1 Qe1+ 34. Kh2 Nf6 35. Nxe6 Qh4+ 36. Kg1 Qe1+ 37. Kh2 Qh4+ 38. Kg1 Ng4 39. Qd2 Qh2+ 40. Kf1 Qh1+ 41. Ke2 Qxg2+ 42. Kd1 Nf2+ 43. Kc2 Qg6+ 44. Kc1 Qg1+ 45. Kc2 Qg6+ 46. Kc1 Nd3+ 47. Kb1 fxe6 48. Qc2
But at this point 48. Ka2 was preferable.
48… h5 49. Bd4 h4 50. Bxb6 h3 51. Bc7 e5 52. b6
52. Qxc4+ Kf8 53. Bd6+ Qxd6 54. Qc8+ might have drawn. The text move should lose.
52… Qe4 53. Bxe5 Qe1+
A mistake. He should have kept the diagonal bearing upon b7. 53… Qh1+ was necessary.
54. Ka2 Nxe5
Another error. 54… Nc1+ would have drawn. Now he is lost.
55. b7 Nd7 56. Nc5 Nb8 57. Qxc4+ Kh8 58. Ne4 Kh7 59. Qd3 g6
White has played all this excellently. If 59… h2 60. Ng5+ Kh6 61. Nf7+ Kh5 62. Qf5+ black is finally mated upon g1.
60. Qxh3+ Kg7 61. Qf3 Qc1 62. Qf6+ Kh7 63. Qf7+ Kh6 64. Qf8+ Kh5 65. Qh8+ Kg4 66. Qc8+ resigns.
(April 9 1911)

Janowski. American Chess Magazine 1898, p. 215.

News has just come that Capablanca has won. His score of 9½ is the same I predicted three weeks ago would be sufficient for gaining the first prize. He probably aimed at no more and kept his powder dry, seeing what his rivals would do. This is a great moment in his life. His name has become known everywhere, his fame as a chess master is firmly established. The Berliner Tageblatt published his biography, the Lokal Anzeiger his picture; countless newspapers, chess columns and chess periodicals will speak of him, the man and the master. And he is 22 years of age. Happy Capablanca!

His style of play has pleased. It is sound and full of ideas. It has a dash of originality. No doubt that the chess world would not like to miss him, now that it has got to know him. In the beginning of his career, eight years ago, there were those who were fearful of his becoming what he is. They wanted him to have a profession and to be a chess master besides. Happily, nature was stronger than their influence. The world would have gained little had he become an engineer; the chess world would certainly have been poorer thereby.

Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung, March 22 1911.

Capablanca’s only loss in the San Sebastián tournament ran as follows:

Akiba Rubinstein – José Raúl Capablanca
Round 13, March 13 1911
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. c4 e6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. g3 Be6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O Rc8
As indicated in the book of the St. Petersburg tourney, 8… h6 is here the right move.
9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Ng5
10. e4 d4 11. Nd5 would have kept an advantage, for instance: 11… Bxd5 12. exd5 Qxd5 13. Ne5.
10… Nf6 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Bh3 Qe7 13. Bg5
If 13. e4 dxe4 14. Bg5 Rd8, the queen has no good move left at her disposal.
13… O-O 14. Bxf6 Qxf6
Rubinstein makes now a wonderfully precise combination. Black should have captured with the pawn.

15. Nxd5 Qh6 16. Kg2 Rcd8 17. Qc1
If now 17… Rxd5 18. Qxh6 followed by Bxe6+.
17… exd5 18. Qxc5 Qd2
Capablanca, a pawn minus, fights now like Richard III, fallen from the horse.
19. Qb5 Nd4 20. Qd3 Qxd3 21. exd3 Rfe8 22. Bg4
Here he should have played 22. Rfe1, against 22… Nc2 23. Rxe8+ Rxe8 24. Rc1 Re2 25. Kf1 Rd2 26. Be6+ Kf8 27. Bxd5, white would win easily.
22… Rd6 23. Rfe1 Rxe1 24. Rxe1 Rb6 25. Re5 Rxb2 26. Rxd5 Nc6 27. Be6+ Kf8 28. Rf5+ Ke8 29. Bf7+ Kd7 30. Bc4 a6
With this he loses an important move. 30… Kd6 was preferable. If white exchanges the castle [sic.], black’s extra pawn should be very threatening.
31. Rf7+ Kd6 32. Rxg7 b5 33. Bg8 a5 34. Rxh7 a4 35. h4 b4 36. Rh6+ Kc5 37. Rh5+ Kb6

38. Bd5?
He had an easy victory by 38. Bc4, which assures him an excellent position with his rook on b5. For instance: 38. Bc4 b3 39. Rb5+ Kc7 40. Bxb3 axb3 41. axb3 Nd4 42. Rd5, and his pawns cannot be stopped.
38… b3
He could have made a better fight with 38… Rxa2. If, then, 39. Bxa2 b3, black wins. White would still have had to continue 39. Bc4 Rc2 40. Rb5+ Kc7 41. Bg8, and white would win, but with some difficulty.
39. axb3 a3 40. Bxc6 Rxb3
Against 40… a2 41. Rb5+, white gets on the a-file, thus: 41… Ka6 42. Rb8.
41. Bd5 a2 42. Rh6+ resigns.
Against 42… Kb5 43. Bc4+ obtains the a-file.
(April 16 1911)

Rubinstein. Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung, June 14 1914.

Here follows the game that secured the first victor of San Sebastián his prize. Had Dr. Vidmar won the contest he would have taken the place of his opponent.

Milan Vidmar – José Raúl Capablanca
Round 15, March 16 1911
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. e3 Nf6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. dxc5
For an aspirant for the first prize this is far too tame. Why not 9.b3 followed by Bb2? To assume that the isolation of his d-pawn would lose him the game would be nervous anxiety. And he would have had hopes of obtaining a king’s side attack with smashing results. Now the elimination of the strong pieces, though it secures him against defeat, robs him of all chances to win by formidable assault.

Vidmar. Wiener Schachzeitung 1907, p. 6.

9… Qxd1 10. Rxd1 Bxc5 11. a3 b6 12. b4 Be7 13. e4 Rd8
He wants to place his knight on e8 if e5 drives it off. Hence he frees his rook before developing Bc8.
14. Bf4 Bb7 15. e5 Ne8 16. Bd3 Rac8 17. Nb5 Rd5
Thus he prepares the doubling of the rooks, in order to deprive white of his last means of attack, the rooks. At the same time he has in mind a pretty and effective way of parrying the attack that white may attempt.
18. Nd6 Nxd6 19. exd6 Bxd6 20. Bxd6
If 20… Rxd6, white wins by 21. Bxh7+. But
20… Rd8
Black regains the piece in another way. The game is now absolutely even, and a draw was agreed upon.
(April 30 1911)

“From a photograph taken at San Sebastián”. Linlithgowshire-Gazette, October 27 1911.

One Reply to “Lasker on Capablanca: San Sebastián 1911”

  1. I had no idea that Lasker once wrote a column for the Courier-Journal, for my Louisville home city. I am also glad to see how well he appreciated Capablanca’s play, given some European masters thought he should not have even been invited to play.

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