Capablanca - San Sebastian

by Cecil



Capablanca y Graupera was born in November 19, 1888 and died on March 8, 1942. He was a Cuban world-class chess player of the mid-twentieth century. He held the title of world chess champion from 1921 to 1927 and was also a highly-regarded chess writer.

In 1909, at the age of 20, Capablanca won against US champion Frank Marshall by +8-1=14 which was one of his greatest wins of all times. Then, in a tournament at New York 1911, Capablanca placed 2nd behind Marshall. So Marshall insisted Capablanca should play in a tournament at San Sebastian, Spain in 1911. It was one of the toughest tournaments of that time.

All of the world's leading players marked their appearance where Ossip Bernstein and Aaron Nimzowitsch objected to Capablanca’s presence as he hadn't won any other tournaments. But he was allowed to play his first round against Bernstein and had a brilliant win over him which forced Bernstein to acknowledge Capablanca’s talent.

Nimzowitsch took offense when Capablanca made a comment that unproven players should hold their tongue in the presence of higher players. Capablanca quickly challenged Nimzowitsch for a series of fast games and won with ridiculous ease. The assembled masters of the game applauded Capablanca. After which Capablanca went on to win the tournament at San Sebastian and this is considered to be his one of the greatest achievements in his chess career.

Capablanca,Jose Raul - Bernstein,Ossip
San Sebastian, Spain
Cecil Richardson

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5

Capablanca plays the Ruy Lopez Opening.

3...Nf6 4.0-0 Be7 5.Nc3 d6

Transposing to the Berlin Defense.

6.Bxc6+ bxc6

White takes the exchange option. Many people say the bishop is better than the knight but now Black's pawn formation is compromised.

7.d4 exd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7

Black doesn't want to play c5 as this will weaken his control on d5.

9.Bg5 0-0 10.Re1 h6

Compelling the bishop to make a decision.


Bishop chooses discretion as the better part of valor.


Discovered attack on the bishop.

12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Qd3 Rab8 14.b3 Ng5 15.Rad1

White centralizes his forces.

15...Qe5 16.Qe3 Ne6 17.Nce2

White is determined to keep a knight on e4.

17...Qa5 18.Nf5!

Offers Black the a-pawn.

18...Nc5 19.Ned4

Again the second knight stands as a ready replacement for his partner should he be needed.

19...Kh7 20.g4 Rbe8 21.f3 Ne6 22.Ne2 Qxa2

Black finally accepts the pawn but now his queen is away from the main battlefield.


The queen is offered a second pawn in exchange for another tempo.

23...Qxc2 24.Rc1 Qb2 25.Nh5

White's knight's moving towards the enemy king.

25...Rh8 26.Re2 Qe5

The queen has regained a central position but is still locked out of the kingside by the knight on h5.

27.f4 Qb5

White drives the queen away.

28.Nfxg7 Nc5

28...Nxg7 29.Nf6+ Kg6 30.Nxd7 f5+/-

29.Nxe8 Bxe8

Now White has achieved a material lead.

30.Qc3 f6 31.Nxf6+ Kg6 32.Nh5!

Threatening mate and attacking the rook.

32...Rg8 33.f5+ Kg5?

Now there is a forced mate ahead. Should have played 33...Kh7 , still losing but this is stiffer resistance. 34.Nf6+ Kg7 35.Nxg8+ (35.Nxe8+ Kf7 36.Nxd6+ cxd6 37.Rg2+-) 35...Kxg8 36.Re3+-

34.Qe3+ and Black resigns.

If Black had tried to play on then 34.Qe3+ Kxg4 (34...Kh4 35.Qg3+ Kg5 36.h4#) 35.Rg2+ (35.Nf6+ Kh4+ 36.Nxg8 Qxb3 37.Qf4+ Kh3 38.Qxh6+ Kg4 39.Nf6+ Kf3 40.Rf2#) 35...Kh4 (35...Kxh5 36.Qh3#) 36.Rxg8 (36.Qf2+ Kxh5 37.Qf3+ Kh4 38.Rxg8 Qf1+ 39.Kxf1 Bg6 40.Rxg6 Nxe4 41.Qg4#) 36...Qf1+ 37.Rxf1 Bg6 38.Nf6 Nxe4 39.Qxh6+ Bh5 40.Qxh5#


You can play through this game here.

Nimzowitsch,Aaron - Capablanca,Jose Raul
San Sebastian, Spain
Cecil Richardson

1.e4 e6

Black answers the King's Opening with the French Defense.

2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.Be2 Bd6

White has allowed Black to win more space and his pieces have a cramped look. Black's pieces on the other hand have much more room to breathe.

6.0-0 Qc7

Increasing the heat on h2.

7.Re1 Nge7 8.c3 0-0 9.a3 f5 10.Bf1

Nimzowitsch liked this idea of supporting the king's direct protector with the bishop from the rear.

10...Bd7 11.exd5 exd5 12.b4 Rae8

With the extra space, Black's pieces are taking up good positions but White's pieces are looking forlorn.

13.Bb2 b6 14.d4 c4!

Choosing not to open the space in front of White's miserable pieces. They must continue to suffer.


White gives up the knight for two pawns so that he can release himself from Black's crushing advance and establish his bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal with tempo.

15...dxc4 16.Bxc4+ Kh8 17.Ng5

The knight leaves his post as h2's protector, White is going for broke now.

17...Bxh2+ 18.Kh1 Bf4 19.Nf7+ Rxf7

Black must give up the rook for the knight. Not 19...Kg8? because of 20.Qh5 g6 21.Ng5+ Kg7 22.Qxh7+ Kf6 23.Nh3 Bd6+/= and now White has the upperhand.

20.Bxf7 Rf8 21.Bh5 Ng8 22.c4

White wants to open up the long diagonal.


threatening 23...Qh4+

23.Qf3 Qh4+ 24.Qh3 Qxf2 25.Re2 Qg3 26.Qxg3 Bxg3

Almost even in material but White's king is much more exposed.

27.c5 Nce7 28.Bf3 Bb5 29.Rc2 Nf6 30.a4 Bd3 31.Rcc1 Ne4 32.b5?

Now it's over with a forced mate ahead. Better was 32.cxb6 axb6 33.d5 Nxd5-+ Still losing but still fighting.

32...Rf6 33.Bxe4 Bf2

and White resigns. Best White can do now is 33...Bf2 34.Bxf5 Trying to plug the gap on h3. 34...Nxf5 35.g3 Be4+ 36.Kh2 Rh6#


You can play through this game here.

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