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Jose Raul Capablanca vs George Alan Thomas
Hastings (1919), Hastings ENG, rd 4, Aug-14
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. Hedgehog Variation (C66)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jul-22-08  tbrown55: This position is included in Wilf Holloway's: "Winning Chess Psychology, Volume 1". I thought I'd check it out here at because I needed some clear-ification on some things. Just a note that the author had mixed up the colors of the players.

There's some really interesting piece relationship geometry going on in the final position.

Aug-01-09  Zzyw: I'm going to follow up on some really old discussion here but black did not resign in a won position: white can hold the draw.

After 29...♖xa2! 30. ♕xa2 ♖xb8 31. ♖xb8 ♕xb8 32. h4! white can prevent black from making progress by pushing h5 and keeping a perpetual mating threat on the back rank, rendering black's queen severely handicapped.

For example, 32...♕g8 33. ♕f7! c5 34. h5 c4 35. ♕c7 and black has no advantage.

This from Bouwmeester's "100 opzienbarende blunders" (translated: 100 sensational blunders).

Dec-22-09  Whitehat1963: For those who haven't seen the game, there's an excellent Wednesday/Thursday puzzle after 25...h6.
Dec-22-09  zanshin: <Whitehat1963: For those who haven't seen the game, there's an excellent Wednesday/Thursday puzzle after 25...h6.>

Strange that after all these years, I was unaware of such an amusing game. Apart from the historical significance already outlined by others, it gives an interesting case study for engine analysis.

In the position mentioned by <Whitehat1963>, <26.Ng6> jumps out to a human player because we can see that after the Knight exchange, the pawn on g6 is very restricting to Black. The value of the move becomes apparent to Rybka after several plies. Initially, she favors <26.Ne6>:

click for larger view

[+5.12] d=16 26.Ng6 (0:24.16) 280383kN

[+0.97] d=13 26.Ne6 Qg8 27.a4 Re7 28.a5 Kh7 29.R3b2 Rxb2 30.Rxb2 c6 31.Rb1 Rf7 32.h3 Qe8 (0:00.05) 666kN

Dec-22-09  zanshin: On move 28 for White, Rybka suggests <28.Qa4> before the move actually played, Rb8.

click for larger view

[+5.09] d=16 28.Qa4 c6 29.Rb8 Re8 30.Rxe8 Rxg2 31.Kxg2 Qxe8 32.Kf2 Qxg6 33.Qxc6 Qg4 34.Qc2 Qf4 35.Kg1 Qg4 36.Qg2 Qc8 37.a4 Qc7 38.Qf3 (0:00.10) 1742kN

However, after sliding forward, then back (to give Rybka a peek at the outcome), she changes her recommendation:

[+9.96] d=15 28.Rb8 (0:05.30) 90400kN
[+5.09] d=14 28.Qa4 c6 (0:01.18) 15536kN

This suggests Capa probably played the best move.

Dec-22-09  zanshin: Analysis of the last move shows where engines are strong. Rybka clearly finds the weakness in Capa's last move:

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[+11.68] d=16 29.Qb5 (0:10.05) 209228kN

[-0.32] d=13 29.Qa8 Rxa2 30.Qxa2 Rxb8 31.Rxb8 Qxb8 32.Qe6 Qf8 33.Qd7 c5 34.Qe6 Qb8 35.Kf2 (0:00.16) 2462kN

<29.Qb5> doubles attack on the Rook. Black cannot prevent a back rank mate (e.g., 29.Qb5 Rd8 30.Rxd8 Qxd8 31.Qb8 and mate in 7) - again because of the strong pawn on g6.

May-29-13  Damianx: doesn,t 30 Qb7 win even after 29a8 and Ra2
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sastre: <Damianx: doesn,t 30 Qb7 win even after 29a8 and Ra2>

No, Black is fine after 29...Rxa2 30.Qb7 Rxb8 31.Qxb8 Ra8.

Aug-29-14  Mating Net: I think Thomas' failure to find the saving 29...Rxa2! was largely due to Capa's growing reputation as a chess machine. If a lesser mortal would have had the White pieces, Thomas would have had a greater incentive to find the move. One caveat is the clock situation. Perhaps this played a big role in the final sequence of events.
Aug-30-14  panzerkampf: 28...Rc1?
Premium Chessgames Member
  wwall: The New York Times, September 7, 1919, wrote this about the game: ‚ÄúDetails of the encounter between Jose Capablanca and Sir George Thomas show that game to have been one of the most curious in the annals of chess play. Capablanca committed an oversight at his last turn, which laid him open to a draw, but he scored the game without further play in consequence of the immediate resignation of the baronet, who failed to see that he had at his command a continuation which would force a draw. Both of the moves overlooked by the two experts were of the nature of problem moves so-called, and escaped attention of the players, simply because they did not devote sufficient time to an examination of the position. When the Cuban made his last move, he did so with an air of finality that gave the impression that the game was practically decided, and Sir Thomas was under the same impression, as matters did look hopeless on the surface. When the game had been abandoned and scored to the credit of Capablanca, the onlookers took hold of the position and quickly demonstrated a draw for the Englishman. Upon having their attention drawn to it, both Capablanca and Sir Thomas acknowledged the correctness of the claim."
Dec-05-16  Dave12: the endgame after Rc1+ is lost
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Dave12>
<the endgame after Rc1+ is lost> Are you talking about the final position? If so, I don't see it.

After 29...Rc1+ 30. Kf2 Rc2+ 31. Kg1, Black can either draw by repetition with 31...Rc1+ again, or go for 31...Rxa2 as discussed in previous kibitzing above.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: As I have always said, nobody saves a game by resigning.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <beatgiant:> <<Dave12> <the endgame after Rc1+ is lost> Are you talking about the final position? If so, I don't see it.

After 29...Rc1+ 30. Kf2 Rc2+ 31. Kg1, Black can either draw by repetition with 31...Rc1+ again, or go for 31...Rxa2 as discussed in previous kibitzing above.>>

In fact, 29...Rc1+ is not so good for black as 29...Rxa2, because after 30.Rxc1 Rxb8 31.Qc6 white still has some advantage. Maybe the best continuation for black is then 31...f5 32.exf5 (32.Rf1 looks playable too) 32...Qxf5 33.Qxc7 Rf8 34.Qc2 and white holds an extra Pawn with at least some practical winning chances. Another "practical" idea can be 29...Rc1+?! 30.Kf2!? Rc2+ 31.Ke3!? Rc3+? 32.Kf4! Ra3 (there is nothing better) 33.Rxe8 Rxa8 34.Rxf8+ Rxf8 35.Rb7 with decisive advantage of white due to active Rook and King, passed Pawn on a-file and unsolved problem of black with weak back rank. Unfortunately for white, black still has (after 29...Rc1+ 30.Kf2 Rc2+ 31.Ke3) a rabbit in his hat thanks to 31...Rxa2!

Dec-08-16  Dave12: Thanks, <beatgiant> and <Honza Cervenka>. i thought the position after Rc1+ Rxc1 Rxb8 Qc6 to be very bad for black, given the healthy A pawn and cornered king, because that was the all concept of exchsanging knights on g6 in move 26 instead of Rb8 right away. but i missed Rxa2.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Capablanca had calculated 29.RxR RxR 30. QxR RxR 31. RxR RxR 32. RxR QxR 33. RxR# but in fact Black can improve with 29.RxR QxR 30. RxR RxR 31. RxR RxQ 32. RxR QxR 33. QxR RxR#
Mar-11-17  JimNorCal: Are there enough rooks in the Universe for that variation?
Mar-11-17  Howard: Uhhh, yeah, it appears that there are too many rooks for that variation to hold up.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: What I meant was 29.RxR RxR 30. QxR RxR 31. RxR RxR 32. RxR QxR 33. RxR QxR 34. RxR RxR 35. RxR RxQ 36. RxR QxR 37. QxR RxR 38.RxR RxR 39. QxR RxR 40. RxP QxP 41. RxR RxR 42. RxR QxR 43. RxR QxR 44. RxR RxR 45. RxR RxQ 46. RxR QxR 47. QxR and then 47...RxR#
Mar-11-17  JimNorCal: OK, that's clear then.
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Geez! No wonder Thomas resigned.
Jul-15-17  morfishine: Thomas may have missed <29...Rc1+>

but Capa missed the simple forced win <26.Rb8> pinning the Black Queen

click for larger view

The problem for Black is <26...Rc1+> does not work now: The White King can run to <g3>. Black's impotent rook on <f7> is fatal to the Black position due to its immobility


Premium Chessgames Member
  tpstar: Some early early kibitzing here.

<simple forced win 26. Rb8> I think Black could respond 26 ... Rc1+ 27. Kf2 Rxb1 28. Rxf8+ Rxf8 with two Rooks for the Queen. See <zanshin>'s initial post from 12/22/09 where Rybka gives 26. Ng6+ first (+5.12) and 26. Ne6 second (+0.97).

29 ... Rxa2! is an amazing resource.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Adding to the comments already made, it seems the "chess machine" was not quite as accurate as imagined. The "chess machine" is about as accurate as Hal in 2001.

In this game, at the end, Rxa2 is an amazing resource but psychology plays a big role in chess, and if black doesn't keep hold of his guns, and try and keep firing them so to speak with detailed forcing move analysis, then things will be missed.

19: Jose Raul Capablanca - George Alan Thomas 1-0 4.0, Hastings Hastings ENG 1919

click for larger view

Analysis by Stockfish 15 - 3 threads max:

1. = (0.03): 30.Qxa2 Rxb8 31.Rxb8 Qxb8 32.Qd5 Qe8 33.Qf7 Qc8 34.Kf2 c6 35.Kf3 h5 36.Ke3 Qa8 37.Kf2 d5 38.exd5 cxd5 39.Ke3 Qc8 40.Qxd5 Qc1+ 41.Ke4 Qb1+ 42.Qd3

It seems in a previous round of this tournament, Capablanca was also prone to excessive caution with a Bxd4 move instead of Qxb2. Round 3 had this position:

18: Harold Godfrey Cole - Jose Raul Capablanca 0-1 3.0, Hastings Hastings ENG 1919

click for larger view

Analysis by Stockfish 15 - 3 threads max:

1. -+ (-1.61): 16...Qxb2 17.Bf2 Rab8 18.Nde2 a5 19.Ba7 Rb4 20.Bf2 Ne6 21.f5 Ng5 22.a3 Qxa3 2. ∓ (-1.00): 16...Bxd4+ 17.Qxd4 Qxb2 18.Qd3 f5 19.Qc4+ Kh7 20.Bf2 Rab8 21.Bxa7 Qb4 22.Rd4 Qxc4 23.Rxc4 Ra8 24.Bf2 c5 25.e5

I thought initially in my analysis Capablanca had sidestepped some trap but it was not the case in reality. Ideas of Qxb2 Rb1 Qa3 Nd5? would just be refuted by Bxd4 CHECK.

Reputation matters and it seems many of Capablanca's opponents are trying to be too clever with unsound gambits and stuff through it seems fear of Capablanca's reputation. "Rabbits in the Headlights" so to speak.

Evidence is showing that Capablanca's tactics aren't as accurate as imagined in this year of his play or at least this tournament in particular. His tactics are driven often by fear and overoptimism. Both led to mistakes potentially even for Capablanca.

At this point in my studies of Capablanca, I would say both Paul Morphy and Emanuel Lasker are less prone to these emotions than Capablanca. They both had sometimes greater overall accuracy.

The question to ask is: Would Paul Morphy or Emanual Lasker have played Qa8 in the end here allowing Rxa2 ?

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