JOSE RAUL CAPABLANCA

    Jose Raul Capablanca y Graupera was the third World Chess Champion and one of the greatest players of all time. He was born in Havana, Cuba on November 19, 1888. His father was a Spanish military officer. Like many of the game's greatest players, Jose Capablanca was a chess prodigy. He learned chess at the age of four simply by watching his father and his friends play casual games. As legend would have it, the young Capablanca pointed out an illegal move his father made. Embarrassed by his son and doubting the four year old even knew how to play chess, Jose's father challenged him to a game, looking to make a quick example. The young Jose beat his father in both the first game and the subsequent rematch. The young Capablanca was taken to the Havana Chess Club where he frequently played. By the age of 13 he already established himself as the best player in the entire country after defeating the Cuban Champion, Juan Corzo.

    In 1905, Jose Capablanca was accepted into Columbia University. Although only 16 years old when he arrived at Columbia, the multi-talented Capablanca even played Shortstop on the Freshman baseball team. It was at that time that Capablanca began frequenting the Manhattan Chess Club. There his chess abilities would flourish, as it was the gathering place of some of the world's greatest players, like U.S. Champion Frank Marshall and World Champion Emanuel Lasker. Capablanca soon established himself as the club's strongest regular member. He displayed a special ability for rapid-chess and was easily the best blitz-player in the world even at that time. Capablanca was perhaps more than any other player in history "a natural". He seldom studied chess, yet moved quickly and flawlessly. He would soon leave his studies at Columbia to pursue chess full time.

    Capablanca gave hundreds of simultaneous exhibitions leading to a nationwide tour of the United States in 1909. He would play 602 games in 27 cities scoring a winning percentage of 96.4%. Capablanca would go on to play a match vs. then U.S. champion Frank Marshall. The match would result in a crushing victory for Capablanca with a final score of 8 wins, 1 loss and 14 draws. Capablanca began to garner international interest. While many masters opposed his "un-earned" participation, Capablanca played in the San Sebastian Tournament of 1911 at the urging of Frank Marshall. San Sebastian was one of the strongest tournament fields ever assembled. Capablanca would quiet all of the naysayers by winning first place in the tournament. He scored victories against Aaron Nimzowitch, Rudolf Spielman and David Janowski.

    Name

    Jose Raul Capablanca

    Country

    Cuba

    Born

    November 19, 1888

    Death

    March 7, 1942

    Title

    Grandmaster

    Peak Rating

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    Beginning in 1911, Capablanca would repeatedly offer challenges to World Champion Emanuel Lasker. Due to constant disagreement over tournament conditions and stipulations, the two would not play for the championship until 1921. In the meantime, Capablanca continued to play and consistently win, if not finish among the leaders in strong international tournaments. He was afforded this luxury, because he was appointed a job in the Cuban foreign office, a goodwill ambassador of sorts. With his expenses paid, Capablanca had time to focus on chess. Well travelled, young and handsome, Capablanca soon became a chess celebrity. Capablanca eventually played Emanuel Lasker for the World Championship in Havana, Cuba. The match was played in March-April 1921; after 14 games Lasker would concede the match after 4 losses and 10 draws. Perhaps an even more amazing feat was that Capablanca did not lose a single game in any tournament play from 1916-1924, an accomplishment which has never been duplicated. This earned him the nickname the "chess machine". He had an air of invincibility among his peers.

    In 1927, Capablanca was heavily favored against Russian, Alexander Alekhine in their World Championship match held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Perhaps the Cuban underestimated his equally brilliant opponent. Alekhine had been diligently dissecting Capa's games and was in top physical condition, while Capablanca had little preparation. What would ensue would be one of the greatest chess battles of all time, a "clash of the chess titans". After 34 games Alekhine won the title with 6 wins, 3 losses and 25 draws. Capablanca continued to compete and perform well in tournaments and sought a rematch for the crown, which he was never granted. Discouraged by his inability to secure a rematch verse Alekhine, Capablanca withdrew from competitive chess in 1931. He would make a triumphant return some 3 years later, reasserting himself as one of the game's greatest players.

    Capablanca died on March 7, 1942 after suffering a massive heart attack while at the Manhattan chess Club. He was given a public funeral in Havana and today he is recognized as one of the greatest players of all time. His positional style was fluid and straightforward, and he had the ability to make victory look easy. He was perhaps most renowned for his fantastic endgame technique. His games continue to inspire chess enthusiasts all over the world, and he has achieved legendary status.

    Some famous Capablanca quotes:
    "Chess is something more of a game. It is an intellectual diversion which has certain artistic qualities and many scientific elements."

    "The best way to learn endgames as well as openings is from the games of the masters."

    On Capablanca:
    "Capablanca was snatched too early from the chess world. With his death we have lost a great chess genius, the likes of who we will never see again." – Alexander Alekhine

    "The ideal in chess can only be a collective image, but in my opinion it is Capablanca who most closely approaches this." – Anatoly Karpov



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