Jose Raul Capablanca – 3rd World Chess Champion
Jose Raul Capablanca was born on November 19, 1888 in the administrative center of one of the Spanish colonies in the city of Havana (the Spaniards left Cuba in 1898 according to the Paris Peace Treaty). He met the ancient game at the age of 4, watching his father, Jose Maria, play against his colleagues. A few days later, the boy already knew perfectly how the pieces walk and even drew the parent’s attention to the error in the completed move. On the same day, he was able to easily beat his dad. The young child prodigy was sent for further training to the Havana Chess Club. Here he worked real miracles, defeating the strong masters of Taubengauz and Iglesias with a handicap in the form of a queen! And it’s only 5 years old! By the age of eight, he firmly became the second chess player on his native island, losing so far only to reigning champion H. Corso.
In 1901, the 12-year-old Capablanca met Corso in an official match. Jose Raul was able to answer his two victories with four of his and proved his superiority. It is interesting that the first successes of the Cuban are connected exclusively with his natural gift, since he was not familiar with chess theory and did not study it from textbooks. He possessed incredible intuition, which made it possible, as it were, to see in advance the development of the chess game. The advantage in this meeting was provided by Capablanca’s brilliant endgame game, where he managed to persuade the party in his favor with an equal position in the opening and middlegame. The following year, in the national championship, Corso managed to take revenge, leaving the ambitious teenager behind him in 4th place.
In 1904, Jose Raul moved to New York to prepare for admission to Columbia University. His stay in the United States was paid for by a good friend of the Marquis de Valdesiria family, who set the stage for chemistry, not chess. Here Capablanca diligently learns English, is fond of baseball and, contrary to the wishes of the philanthropist, does not forget about the ancient game, visiting secretly the Manhattan Chess Club. Two years later, his dream came true – he became a student, starting to study chemical engineering. Two years later, he will leave the university and focus on chess. This deprived Capablanca of its livelihood, as the Marquis refused to finance the obstinate Cuban.
The beginning of a chess career
In the period 1908-1909, Jose Raul traveled around the United States with simultaneous games, and then met with one of the strongest players in the world, Frank Marshall. Then, few people bet on the young Capablanca – everyone preferred the notebook favorite. The result is even more surprising: eight victories of the Cuban with one defeat. This was already a serious bid for world leadership.
At the beginning of the second decade of the 20th century, Capablanca debuted in Europe. It happened in 1911 at a tournament in San Sebastian. Here he left behind all his rivals, including the magnificent Emanuel Lasker. Then followed a lap-win at a tournament in New York (1913) and 2-place in his native Havana. Soon, Jose-Raul sent to St. Petersburg as an adviser to the Cuban embassy and was actively involved in the chess life of Russia. On the way here, he traveled to many European countries, participating in simultaneous game sessions and exhibition meetings with the strongest players. All of his opponents, among whom were Alekhine, Tartakover, Reti and many others, the brilliant Cuban defeated, losing only to Aurbakh.
In Russia, Capablanca met with all the strongest masters of the country, including Alekhine, Duz-Khotimirsky, Znosko-Borovsky, and did not concede to any of them, by the sum of the parties. He visited many cities and participated in a representative tournament organized in 1914 in St. Petersburg. Despite confident leadership in the preliminary round, Jose Raul still lost to Lasker and took second place. A revenge on a principled opponent will take place in Berlin, where during a blitz match, Capablanca took revenge with a score of 6.5: 3.5.
The years of the First World War, Capablanca spends in New York, where he performs in local tournaments, confidently winning three of them. The game against F. Marshall, played in 1918, was included in the annals of world chess, because the ingenious Cuban did not leave stone unturned from the workpiece of an opponent he had been working on for nine years.
In 1919, Bora Kostić, who had previously drawn four games with him, threw a challenge to Jose-Raul. However, the match in Havana showed who is who, and after five lost games, the Serb admitted defeat.
Rivalry with Lasker
After winning the tournament in San Sebastian, Capablanca challenged the reigning champion E. Lasker for a full-time duel. A bright game of the applicant, made the opponent take time to think. The pause dragged on for 9 years. Only in 1920, with the mediation of the Dutch Federation, an agreement was reached on the match. But six months later, Lasker himself refused the game, motivating his decision with the outstanding skill of the opponent. But under pressure from the press, public opinion and the Cuban Federation, which proposed $ 20 thousand, the fight still took place. It was held in 1921 in Havana.