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WCC: Lasker-Capablanca 1921
Compiled by WCC Editing Project

ORIGINAL: Lasker - Capablanca World Championship Match (1921)


Jose Raul Capablanca was regarded as a chess prodigy,<1> yet his father wanted him to maintain the "even tenor of the average boy's way in his youth."<2> Capablanca moved to the USA in 1904 to complete his education. However, he left Columbia University in 1910 without a degree and pursued a career in chess.<3> His first international success was his clear win (+8 -1 =14) over the former world championship challenger in Capablanca - Marshall (1909). After that, he was considered a worthy contender for the title of world champion,<1> and reigning champion <Emanuel Lasker> commented "Capablanca has shown himself to be a great player."<4>

Capablanca's admirers had suggested a title challenge as early as 1908.<5> Even prior to his first European tournament, León Paredes had suggested to Lasker that he play a match with Capablanca,<6> but Lasker declined.<7> Capablanca himself remained cautious.<5> The hype surrounding Capablanca made Lasker admit that the subject got "on his nerves."<8> Capablanca made his international tournament debut at San Sebastian (1911). He unexpectedly won 1st prize, a result even he hadn't anticipated.<9> About seven months after this success, he challenged Lasker to a title match.<10>

Lasker published the proposed conditions,<11> but Capablanca replied in a private letter that they were unacceptable.<12> After Lasker had published a commentary on the conditions in the press,<13> Capablanca issued a statement to him asking "But why should he not play me on the same terms that he has granted to all other aspirants for his title?"<14> Lasker replied to Capablanca's first letter, complaining that the Cuban wanted to impose his own rules on him and called for Walter Penn Shipley to act as arbiter.<15> Both Amos Burn<16> and the "British Chess Magazine"<17> sided with Capablanca, since the proposed conditions were obviously in favor of Lasker. The world champion accused Capablanca of having "aimed a deliberate blow against my professional honor,"<18> and when Shipley did not side with him, Lasker broke off the negotiations.<19> Most people considered Lasker's treatment of Capablanca to be unjust.<20> The Cuban would later assess Lasker's chances in a title match in 1911 to "have been excellent."<21>

Akiba Rubinstein challenged Lasker for the title in August 1912 and after negotiations, the match was scheduled for the fall of 1914.<22> The outbreak of World War I led to the cancellation of the match. Capablanca suggested a world championship tournament<23> and hoped for a match in 1915.<24> During St. Petersburg (1914), won by Lasker ahead of his former challenger, Capablanca drew up a new set of rules for the world championship.<25>

After the war, Capablanca considered himself, Lasker and Rubinstein to be the strongest players.<25> Capablanca began negotiations with Lasker in January 1920,<26> and published "My Chess Career" to convince the public of his right to a challenge.<27> Yet Rubinstein still had a contract and felt left out. He proposed an official body to administer the world championship, and suggested a triangular tournament as a compromise to determine the champion. But Rubinstein had lost his basis of financial support in post-war Europe,<28> and Capablanca was left as Lasker's chief rival. Capablanca declared that, should he win the title, he would accept a challenge from Rubinstein.<25>

On January 23, 1920 Lasker and Capablanca agreed to a title match to begin no earlier than 1921.<26> In June, Lasker suddenly resigned, declaring Capablanca the new world champion.<29> The Cuban didn't want to become champion that way,<30> so he managed to convince Lasker to play a match. Lasker agreed, although he insisted on being regarded as the challenger.<31> The match was held in Havana from March 15 to April 27, 1921.<32> The winner would be the first to 8 points, draws not counting. If neither player reached that goal, the one with more points after 24 games would win. There would be five play days a week, with one session of play lasting 4 hours. The time limit was 15 moves per hour, and the referee was Alberto Ponce. Lasker would receive $11,000 and Capablanca $9,000 of the $20,000 purse. An additional $5,000 was donated after five games had been completed, with $3,000 going to the winner and $2,000 to the loser.<33> After his win in game 14, with the score now +4 -0 =10 in the Cuban's favor, Lasker gave up and Capablanca was declared the new world champion.<32>

1 "Wiener Schachzeitung" August 1909, pp.236-239. In "ANNO / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek"

2 J R Capablanca, "Munsey's Magazine" October 1916, pp.94-96. In Edward G Winter, "Capablanca: a compendium of games, notes, articles, correspondence, illustrations and other rare materials on the Cuban chess genius José Raúl Capablanca, 1888-1942 (McFarland 1989), p.2

3 Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.10-12

4 Emanuel Lasker, "The Evening Post". In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.17

5 Edward Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.55

6 L Paredes (President of the Havana Chess Club) "Crónica de Ajedrez" May 1911, p.12. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.33

7 Emanuel Lasker, "New York Evening Post" 15 March 1911. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.33

8 "American Chess Bulletin" April 1910, p.88. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.32

9 Olga Capablanca, "Chessworld" May-June 1964, pp.20-37. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.32

10 Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.56

11 Emanuel Lasker, "The Evening Post" 22 November 1911. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.56-57

12 Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland, 1989), pp.57-59

13 Emanuel Lasker, "The Evening Post". In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.59-61

14 "American Chess Bulletin" February 1912, p.31. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.61-62

15 Emanuel Lasker, "The Evening Post" 20 January 1912. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.62

16 A Burn, "Liverpool Courier" 19 January 1912, p.3. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.63

17 "British Chess Magazine, February 1912, pp.51-52. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.63

18 Emanuel Lasker in a letter to Shipley, 20 February 1912. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.64

19 Emanuel Lasker, "The Evening Post" 15 May 1912. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.64-65

20 Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.66

21 J R Capablanca, "The Windsor Magazine" December 1922, pp.86-89. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.4-8

22 John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev, "The Life & Games of Akiva Rubinstein – Volume 1: Uncrowned King, 2nd edition" (Russell Enterprises 2006), pp 290-295

23 "American Chess Bulletin" July 1912, p.147. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp. 65-66

24 "Glasgow Weekly Herald", 10 October 1914. In Edward Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.83

25 "The Observer, 24 August 1919, p.9. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.97-98

26 "American Chess Bulletin" March 1920, pp.45-46. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.108-109

27 Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.105

28 Donaldson and Minev, pp.370

29 "American Chess Bulletin" July-August 1920, p.126. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.109

30 "British Chess Magazine" October 1922, pp.376-380. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), pp.112-115

31 "American Chess Bulletin" September-October 1920, p.141. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.110

32 Edward Winter, "How Capablanca Became World Champion" 2004

33 "The World's Championship Chess Match Played at Havana between Jose Raul Capablanca and Dr. Emanuel Lasker 1921" (New York 1921), p.39. In Winter, "Capablanca" (McFarland 1989), p.111

For further reading:

How Capablanca Became World Champion Edward Winter (2004)

Lasker on the 1921 World Championship Match Edward Winter

Capablanca's Reply to Lasker Edward Winter


EDIT Passage <Karpova>

After the war, Capablanca considered himself, Lasker and Rubinstein to be the strongest players.25 Capablanca began negotiations with Lasker in January 1920,28 and published "My Chess Career" to convince the public of his right to a challenge.26 Yet Rubinstein still had a contract and felt left out. He suggested a triangular tournament as a compromise to determine the champion. But Rubinstein had lost his basis of financial support in post-war Europe,27 and Capablanca was left as Lasker's chief rival. However, the Cuban declared that, should he win the title, he would accept a challenge from Rubinstein.25

EDIT material <Karpova>

Capablanca's US education:
C.N. 6378,

In 1904 Capablanca entered Woodycliff School in South Orange, NJ.Y

<In C.N. 3333 we added that in 1906 Capablanca was attending Groff School, 228 W 72 Street, New York.>

Capablanca's university record (he was a non-graduate in engineering in the Class of 1910, although we are not sure exactly when the course was broken off) is mentioned on page 134 of the Columbia University Alumni Register 1754-1931 (New York, 1932)

Baseball team picture: C.N. 5108, Link:

Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921  
(D63) Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defense, 50 moves, 1/2-1/2

Lasker vs Capablanca, 1921  
(D37) Queen's Gambit Declined, 41 moves, 1/2-1/2

Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921  
(C66) Ruy Lopez, 63 moves, 1/2-1/2

3 games

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