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On Chess Mastery and My Issue with Capablanca

I have been looking at Capablanca’s games recently. Capablanca is a World Champion whose chess style troubles me because it is furthest from my own, one I understand the least, and find least emulatable. How does he win from such simple positions? Capablanca’s win over Euwe from London, 1922 is a great example. Capablanca plays the Black side of a Ruy Lopez in as insipid a style as can be imagined. He literally sits back and does what appears to my eyes nothing for 20 moves, emerges by winning a pawn somehow, gets handed the two Bishops, and then future World Champion Euwe resigns fourteen moves later. How can this type of play win games? I am still working on that question and have no answer I can share yet. Here is the score of that troubling game for those interested:

Euwe – Capablanca
C66: Ruy Lopez [C66]
London (Round 1), 1922

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.Nc3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 8.Re1 0-0 9.Bf1 Re8 10.f3 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Be6 12.Qf2 c6 13.Bd2 Qb6 14.Na4 Qxf2+ 15.Kxf2 d5 16.e5 Nd7 17.g3 Bf5 18.Rac1 b5 19.Nc3 Bc5+ 20.Kg2 Nxe5 21.g4 Bg6 22.Kg3 h5 23.Bf4 f6 24.Bxe5 fxe5 25.Bd3 Bf7 26.g5 g6 27.Re2 Bd6 28.Kg2 Kg7 29.Rce1 Re7 30.Nd1 Rf8 31.Nf2 Be8 32.b3 Ref7 33.c4 Rxf3 34.cxd5 cxd5 35.Bb1 Bc6 36.Rd1 R3f4 37.Be4 Bc5 38.Nd3 dxe4 0-1

But that is not what I am really writing about. The interesting tidbit I wanted to share came from the fourteenth round of the London, 1922 tournament. Capablanca had first place all but sewn up, being a point ahead, but has Black against a dangerous rival who is tied with Alekhine for second place: Akiba Rubinstein. After playing his thirteenth move as White in a not very interesting opening, Rubinstein proposed a draw and Capablanca accepted. Here is that game:

Rubinstein – Capablanca
D02: Queen’s Pawn game
London (Round 14), 1922

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 e6 4.e3 Bd6 5.Nbd2 Bxf4 6.exf4 c5 7.dxc5 Qc7 8.g3 Qxc5 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.c3 0-0 11.0-0 b5 12.Ne5 Bb7 13.Qe2 ½-½

Apparently, some London (or maybe Dutch) spectators must have been disappointed not to have seen what would have resulted from this opening had the two titans instead decided to fight on. I searched my database from this position and found only six games played from this position. The surprise was that they were all from 1922! From this, I surmise that some wealthy chess patron must have soon after the tournament commissioned several strong players, one of whom was Euwe, another was Tarrasch, to take up this position and play on from it. I append those six games below for those who are interested in seeing them.

What I want to focus on in this article is the position after Rubinstein’s thirteenth move. What do you make of it? If you had Black, what would you play as your thirteenth move response? Please take some time now to really look at the position.

White has just played his Queen to e2. He could have instead played 13.Nb3 to kick Black’s Queen back. He might have played 13.Nf3 to ensure that in the event of an exchange on e5, he would be able to maintain a Knight there. Perhaps Rubinstein pondered both options for a while and decided to postpone the decision by making the Queen move to threaten Black’s b5-pawn, a threat that had to be responded to. And if he threw in the draw offer, maybe Rubinstein figured he could get off the hook for having to decide which way to go with the Knight at all.

Okay, so let’s you and I take Black. Our b-pawn is threatened. What are our realistic options? We can protect the b-pawn with 13…a6, right? We can advance the b-pawn by playing 13…b4 as well, right? Each of these alternatives has its plusses and minuses, and we can sit there and ponder them for quite some time. In the six games played from this position, the masters chose 13…a6 four times, 13…b4 twice. Computer programs tell us that each option is about as good as the other and that White’s advantage is only around a quarter of a pawn either way. Here is the important question: is there another alternative we should be looking at?

The surprising answer is “Yes!” We need to fully consider and appreciate the strength of 13…Nxe5!?, a move found by a computer program. This move is just as good as the other two, although very independent strategically. Yet few if any humans would give it the consideration it deserves. I suspect not even players up through IM level would fully consider this move. That’s because on the surface it looks absurd. It appears to do nothing to address the pressure White is placing on b5. Even worse, it invites a pawn recapture, which would force Black to move the Knight on f6 in a way that can’t help the b5-pawn one iota. What gives?

Well, the thing is we have to take our consideration of the possibilities out one move further. We have to see that after 13…Nxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.Bxb5, Black has a very playable countermove. Black should then play 15…Nxe5. White can take the Knight on e5, but then he has to give up the Bishop on b5 for it. The position after 15…Nxe5 is quite comfortable for Black, probably even slightly more comfortable than the positions reached after playing the other thirteenth move alternatives.

In my opinion, this position and example are worth a great deal of study and are very important to fully understand and appreciate. The heart of chess mastery is truly in this example. One can not look at only two of the three viable alternatives and hope to beat the person who has the ability to see and consider all three. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight! The way to chess mastery is accurately looking moves ahead to find the real consequences of best move alternatives. I hope this discussion helps you as much as it helped me.


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  Play ... Latest Forum Posts > Chess Forums > Chess Articles
  On Chess Mastery and My Issue with Capablanca

nimzo1



 Topics started


United Kingdom
Fri Aug 2 2013 6:21PM | MsgID: 16686902


capablanca was known as the chess machine! machines arent known for lively play!



Taotaomonas





 Topics started


Australia
Thu Mar 21 2013 11:16PM | MsgID: 16332462


Facinating.



DanQuigley



 Topics started


United States
Thu Mar 7 2013 10:05PM | MsgID: 16290995


Appendix: the six games promised in the article.

Game 1
13…a6 14.Rfd1 Rfd8 15.h3 Rac8 16.Nb3 Qb6 17.Nxc6 Bxc6 18.Qe3 Qxe3 19.fxe3 Nd7 20.Rd2 Kf8 21.Rad1 Ke7 22.Kf2 h6 23.h4 f5 24.Nd4 Nf6 25.Ke2 Be8 26.Re1 Bh5+ 27.Kf1 Be8 28.Kg2 Bd7 29.Kh2 Rh8 30.Kg1 Rcg8 31.Nf3 Ng4 32.Bf1 Nf6 33.Bd3 Ng4 ½-½ G. Oskam – L. Fick, Gravenhage theme-A (3), 1922

Game 2
13…b4 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Nb3 Qb6 16.Nxc6 Bxc6 17.cxb4 Qxb4 18.Qe3 Ba4 19.Qd4 Qxd4 20.Nxd4 Bd7 21.b4 Rb8 22.a3 Rfc8 23.Ba6 Rxc1 24.Rxc1 Ne8 25.Rc5 Kf8 26.Ra5 Nc7 27.Bd3 Rb7 28.Nb3 Ne8 29.f5 h6 30.Nc5 Rc7 31.Nxd7+ Rxd7 32.fxe6 fxe6 33.Bb5 Re7 34.Bxe8 Kxe8 35.f4 Rd7 36.Kf2 Ke7 37.Ra6 Kf6 38.g4 g6 39.Ke3 Rc7 40.Kd3 h5 41.h3 hxg4 42.hxg4 Rc4 43.Ke3 Rc3+ 1-0 S. Tarrasch – W. Fick, Gravenhage theme-A (3), 1922

Game 3
13…a6 14.Rac1 Rfd8 15.Rfd1 Rac8 16.Nb3 Qb6 17.Bb1 d4 18.Nxc6 Qxc6 19.f3 dxc3 20.Rxc3 Rxd1+ 21.Qxd1 Qb6+ 22.Kg2 Rxc3 23.bxc3 Nd5 24.Qd3 g6 25.Nd4 Qc5 26.Nc2 Ne3+ 27.Kf2 Ng4+ 28.Ke1 Nxh2 29.Nd4 b4 30.Bc2 bxc3 31.Bd1 c2 32.Nxc2 Qg1+ 33.Kd2 Qxg3 34.Qd8+ Kg7 35.Qd4+ Kh6 36.Qb4 Bxf3 37.Qf8+ Kh5 38.Qxf7 h6 39.Bxf3+ Nxf3+ 40.Kc1 Qg1+ 41.Kb2 Qb6+ 42.Kc1 Qc5 43.Qxe6 Qxc2+ 0-1 G. Zittersteyn – M. Euwe, Gravenhage theme-A (3), 1922

Game 4
13…b4 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Nb3 Qb6 16.Nxc6 Rxc6 17.Nd4 Rcc8 18.f5 bxc3 19.bxc3 Rfe8 20.fxe6 fxe6 21.Rb1 Qc7 22.Nb5 Qc5 23.Qe5 Ba6 24.Rfc1 Qxf2+ 25.Kxf2 Ng4+ 26.Kf3 Nxe5+ 27.Ke3 Nxd3 28.Kxd3 Rc5 29.a4 Rb8 30.Kd4 Rc4+ 31.Ke5 Re4+ 32.Kd6 Rb6+ 33.Kd7 Rxa4 34.Nxa7 Rxb1 35.Rxb1 Bd3 36.Rb8+ Kf7 37.Nc6 Bf5 38.Rb6 h5 39.Kd6 Kf6 40.h4 Rg4 41.Ne5 Rxg3 42.Rb7 Bg6 43.Re7 Kf5 44.Rxg7 Rg4 45.Rxg6 Rxh4 46.Rxe6 Rh3 ½-½ G. Brakkee - Goedhart, Gravenhage theme-B (3), 1922

Game 5
13…a6 14.Ndf3 Rad8 15.g4 Ne7 16.Nd4 Ng6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 18.Nxg6 fxg6 19.Rfe1 Rfe8 20.Nxe6 Qe7 21.Nxd8 Qxe2 22.Rxe2 Rxe2 23.Nxb7 Nxg4 24.Nc5 Rxb2 25.Nxa6 Nxf2 26.a4 Nh3+ 27.Kh1 Nf2+ 28.Kg1 bxa4 29.Rxa4 Ne4 30.Ra3 Rc2 31.Nb4 Rc1+ 32.Kg2 Nxc3 33.Nc6 Nb5 34.Ra8+ Kf7 35.Ne5+ Ke6 36.Ra6+ Kf5 37.Nxg6 d4 38.Ra5 Rb1 39.Nf8 d3 40.Ra2 Nd4 41.Rd2 Ke4 0-1 G. Key – B. Van Trotsenburg, Gravenhage theme-B (3), 1922

Game 6
13…a6 14.g4 d4 15.Nb3 Qd5 16.c4 bxc4 17.Bxc4 Qd6 18.f3 Rfd8 19.Rad1 Rac8 20.Rfe1 Qc7 21.Nxf7 Kxf7 22.Bxe6+ Kf8 23.Bxc8 Qxc8 24.Nc5 Re8 25.Qc4 Re3 26.Ne6+ Ke7 27.Nxd4 Rxe1+ 28.Rxe1+ Kd7 29.Qf7+ Kd6 30.Nf5+ Kc5 31.Qb3 1-0 H. Van der Veen – G. Bosscha, Gravenhage theme-B (3), 1922



DanQuigley



 Topics started


United States
Thu Mar 7 2013 10:02PM | MsgID: 16290988


I have been looking at Capablanca’s games recently. Capablanca is a World Champion whose chess style troubles me because it is furthest from my own, one I understand the least, and find least emulatable. How does he win from such simple positions? Capablanca’s win over Euwe from London, 1922 is a great example. Capablanca plays the Black side of a Ruy Lopez in as insipid a style as can be imagined. He literally sits back and does what appears to my eyes nothing for 20 moves, emerges by winning a pawn somehow, gets handed the two Bishops, and then future World Champion Euwe resigns fourteen moves later. How can this type of play win games? I am still working on that question and have no answer I can share yet. Here is the score of that troubling game for those interested:

Euwe – Capablanca
C66: Ruy Lopez [C66]
London (Round 1), 1922

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.Nc3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 8.Re1 0-0 9.Bf1 Re8 10.f3 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Be6 12.Qf2 c6 13.Bd2 Qb6 14.Na4 Qxf2+ 15.Kxf2 d5 16.e5 Nd7 17.g3 Bf5 18.Rac1 b5 19.Nc3 Bc5+ 20.Kg2 Nxe5 21.g4 Bg6 22.Kg3 h5 23.Bf4 f6 24.Bxe5 fxe5 25.Bd3 Bf7 26.g5 g6 27.Re2 Bd6 28.Kg2 Kg7 29.Rce1 Re7 30.Nd1 Rf8 31.Nf2 Be8 32.b3 Ref7 33.c4 Rxf3 34.cxd5 cxd5 35.Bb1 Bc6 36.Rd1 R3f4 37.Be4 Bc5 38.Nd3 dxe4 0-1

But that is not what I am really writing about. The interesting tidbit I wanted to share came from the fourteenth round of the London, 1922 tournament. Capablanca had first place all but sewn up, being a point ahead, but has Black against a dangerous rival who is tied with Alekhine for second place: Akiba Rubinstein. After playing his thirteenth move as White in a not very interesting opening, Rubinstein proposed a draw and Capablanca accepted. Here is that game:

Rubinstein – Capablanca
D02: Queen’s Pawn game
London (Round 14), 1922

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 e6 4.e3 Bd6 5.Nbd2 Bxf4 6.exf4 c5 7.dxc5 Qc7 8.g3 Qxc5 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.c3 0-0 11.0-0 b5 12.Ne5 Bb7 13.Qe2 ½-½

Apparently, some London (or maybe Dutch) spectators must have been disappointed not to have seen what would have resulted from this opening had the two titans instead decided to fight on. I searched my database from this position and found only six games played from this position. The surprise was that they were all from 1922! From this, I surmise that some wealthy chess patron must have soon after the tournament commissioned several strong players, one of whom was Euwe, another was Tarrasch, to take up this position and play on from it. I append those six games below for those who are interested in seeing them.

What I want to focus on in this article is the position after Rubinstein’s thirteenth move. What do you make of it? If you had Black, what would you play as your thirteenth move response? Please take some time now to really look at the position.

White has just played his Queen to e2. He could have instead played 13.Nb3 to kick Black’s Queen back. He might have played 13.Nf3 to ensure that in the event of an exchange on e5, he would be able to maintain a Knight there. Perhaps Rubinstein pondered both options for a while and decided to postpone the decision by making the Queen move to threaten Black’s b5-pawn, a threat that had to be responded to. And if he threw in the draw offer, maybe Rubinstein figured he could get off the hook for having to decide which way to go with the Knight at all.

Okay, so let’s you and I take Black. Our b-pawn is threatened. What are our realistic options? We can protect the b-pawn with 13…a6, right? We can advance the b-pawn by playing 13…b4 as well, right? Each of these alternatives has its plusses and minuses, and we can sit there and ponder them for quite some time. In the six games played from this position, the masters chose 13…a6 four times, 13…b4 twice. Computer programs tell us that each option is about as good as the other and that White’s advantage is only around a quarter of a pawn either way. Here is the important question: is there another alternative we should be looking at?

The surprising answer is “Yes!” We need to fully consider and appreciate the strength of 13…Nxe5!?, a move found by a computer program. This move is just as good as the other two, although very independent strategically. Yet few if any humans would give it the consideration it deserves. I suspect not even players up through IM level would fully consider this move. That’s because on the surface it looks absurd. It appears to do nothing to address the pressure White is placing on b5. Even worse, it invites a pawn recapture, which would force Black to move the Knight on f6 in a way that can’t help the b5-pawn one iota. What gives?

Well, the thing is we have to take our consideration of the possibilities out one move further. We have to see that after 13…Nxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.Bxb5, Black has a very playable countermove. Black should then play 15…Nxe5. White can take the Knight on e5, but then he has to give up the Bishop on b5 for it. The position after 15…Nxe5 is quite comfortable for Black, probably even slightly more comfortable than the positions reached after playing the other thirteenth move alternatives.

In my opinion, this position and example are worth a great deal of study and are very important to fully understand and appreciate. The heart of chess mastery is truly in this example. One can not look at only two of the three viable alternatives and hope to beat the person who has the ability to see and consider all three. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight! The way to chess mastery is accurately looking moves ahead to find the real consequences of best move alternatives. I hope this discussion helps you as much as it helped me.