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Jose Raul Capablanca vs Siegbert Tarrasch
St. Petersburg (1914), St. Petersburg RUE, rd 8, May-19
Four Knights Game: Spanish Variation (C49)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <beatgiant> <gypsy> you are two of the best & most interesting analysts on this website. So keep it up, both of you!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <beatgiant> Since it is now clear that this is just a banter between two endgame enthusiasts, I am quite game to pitch in. It just that it is not worth to me to step on other folk toes around here. The people willing to put up variations are few and their feelings, and my, of course, need to be protected! :-))

I do not have a definite analysis of the position, but I do have a couple of thematic key variations. I will post them in a couple of hours (my current time alocation for chess expired).

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: If I was playing White after the <14.Rxd6 Bxf3 15.Rxf6 gxf6 16.Bxe5 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 fxe5 18.Rb1 Rd8 19.Rb7 Rd2 20.Rxc7 Rxc2 21.Rxc6 Rxa2 22.Rc5 a5 23. Rxe5 a4 24. Ra5 a3>, my oponent would first see Kg3, f3, h3 (unless I already saw Ra1), and Kf4 from me. The Kf3 plan, and especially the e5!? looks strong, but my technique preferences would led me as indicated.

To this, Black seems to have these fundamental strategiec plans: (III.1) to bring the Black king up on a counter-attack to the SW corner of the board and try to make something positive happen of the a-pawn, or (III.2) retain Black king in the NE corner for defense of the f- and h pawns and free Black rook by arranging a trade of the a pawn for one of the white pawns, probably c. Black can also kind of combine both plans (III.3), but if there other good strategies, I do not see them.

(III.1) In its crystaline form, the play here may look something like this: 25.Kg3 Kf8 26.Ra7 Kg7 27.Ra6 Kf8 28.f3 Ke7 29.h3 Kd7 30.Kf4 Kc7 31.Ke5 Kb7 32.Ra4 Kb6 33.c4 (frustrates king's progress) Rh2 34.Rxa3 Rxh3 35.Kd5 Rg3 36.c5+ ... with, it would seem, an easy win.

(III.2) 25.Kg3 Ra1 26.f3 a2 27.Kf4 Rc1 28.Rxa2 Rxc3 29.Rg2+ Kf8 (29...Kh8 is a principal fork here) 30.h4 Rc5 31.Rg5 Rc6 32.Kg4 ... I do not know what is the theory here. But it appears that Black is realy hurt by the split of his pawns, and his practical prospects are none too rosy. Capablanca extracted wins against such split pawns against Duras and Yates, Duras vs Capablanca, 1913 and Capablanca vs Yates, 1930, and only a strange case of chess blidness prevented his win against Fine in Capablanca vs Fine, 1938.

(III.3) These variations converge to either (III.1) or (III.2) type of positions. In some (III.1) positions, however, an attack against f7 replaces the march of the c-pawn.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <keypusher> Thanks for the ecouraging words!
Sep-06-05  aragorn69: Thx a bunch <beatgiant>, u are a true <endgame enthusiast>, as <Gypsy> so aptly said.

The techniques I missed were the bishop obstruction (84.Bc2) and the rook waiting move (e.g. 85.-Re2). I keep stuck with variations like 83.-Bd3 84.Rc1 Bc2 85.Ka2! Ba4+? 86.Kb1 Kb3 87.Ka1 Bb5 88.Rb1+ Rb2 89.Rd1 Ra2+ 90.Kb1 Rf2 91.Ka1 etc., where Black gets his king to b3 but can't make any further progress (it seems to me) because of the continous stalemate threats.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Gypsy>
Your line III.1: It is against the spirit of Black's defense to trade the a-pawn so lightly. He should at least accomplish the trade of another pair of pawns. So you're probably right that Black can get in trouble this way (I haven't spent the time to be able to say anything more specific).

Line III.2: This looks a little less bad for Black as the Capablanca examples you cited, because White's pawns are split too. So I suspect it is drawn, but I can't say at a glance how hard it is.

My idea in suggesting the line was to leverage the a-pawn as much as possible; for example, use it to trade off several pawns. To illustrate:

(Diverging from the actual game with 14.Rxd6 Bxf3 15.Rxf6 gxf6 16.Bxe5 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 fxe5 18.Rb1 Rd8 19.Rb7 Rd2 20.Rxc7 Rxc2 21.Rxc6 Rxa2 22.Rc5 a5 23. Rxe5 a4 24. Ra5 a3)

<25.Kg3 Kf8 26.Ra7 Kg7 27.Ra6 Kf8 28.f3 Ke7 29.h3> and now 29...Ra1 30. Kf4 a2 31. Ke5 f6+ 32. Kf4 Kf7 33. c5 Ke7 and here both sides are jockeying for the right moment to trade down the pawns. One try is 34. Ra7+ Ke6 35. c6 h5 36. c7 Kd7 37. h4 Kc8 (a kind of zugzwang) 38. Kf5 Rf1 39. Rxa2 Rxf3+ 40. Ke6 Kxc7 41. Ra5 Rf4 42. Rxh5 Rxe4+ and the resulting ending after 43. Kxf6 is drawn, so again we'd be discussing how hard it is.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <beatgiant> I think you foud an answer to the Black prayer: the timely f6!, after the Ra1 and a2, traps the White king at f4. And if Black counts the moves right, he can not be forced into a zugzwang.

To assess in general: most of White chances are connected with the pair of pawns f and e. To defend, Black should either trade of block the e4 pawn; that seems sufficient to hold the draw.

As for the fight in pawn configuration e4,f3,h2 against f7,h7. While I would hardly prefer the h2 pawn to a g2 pawn, a sustainable rook control of the g-file seems almost as good as having all three pawns connected. Black defensive task is very difficult (perhaps impossible?).

Feb-18-06  Whitehat1963: A lot of people think Capa was behind in this game very early. Yet he still makes a difficult fight of it for Tarrasch, lasting 83 moves.
Feb-18-06  CapablancaFan: <Whitehat1963> In actuality Capa could have resigned around move 60. You have to remember towards the end Capa wasn't fighting for a win, he was fighting for a draw. He had hoped (maybe naively) that if he could eliminate blacks a pawn then somehow exchange rooks then it's an automatic draw. I know, that was hoping beyond hope, but you have to give it to Capa for trying.
Feb-18-06  Whitehat1963: Exactly my point. Capa is often called lazy, but he was willing to fight to the death over the chessboard.
Jan-06-07  Dr. Siggy: Three interesting quotes from two of Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch's greatest books about this game:

I. [About the circumstances of the round:] From "St. Petersburg 1914 International Chess Tournament", english transl., Yorklyn 1993, p. 244:

"A misfortune seldom comes alone. This proverb proves true for the Cuban, who gets his second lost game in a Four Knights Game against Tarrasch and thereby remains a whole point behind Tarrasch."

II. [About the opening:] From "The Game of Chess", english transl., London 1934, p. 297:

"After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 the defence advocated by Dr. Svenonius, viz. 6... Bxc3 7.bxc3 d5 (the characteristic move of the line of play) is not to be recommended. There follows 8.Bxc6! bxc6 9.Nxe5 Dd6 10.Bf4 Re8 11.exd5 (11.Qf3 dxe4 12.dxe5 Rxe5 13.Tad1! Bg4! 14.Rxd6 Bxf3 15.Rxf6 gxf6 leads to approximate equality) Rxe5 12.d4 and, although Black has at his disposal the brilliant resource of 12...Re1!, after the continuation 13.Bxd6 Rxd1 14.Rfxd1 cxd6 15.dxc6 the endgame is somewhat in White's favour, e.g. 15...Be6 16.Rab1 Rc8 17.d5 Bxd5 18.c7 and the advanced passed pawn is very dangerous."

III. [About the endgame:] From "St. Petersburg 1914" quoted, p. 247:

"81. Kg1. - The position now obtained is typical. The bishop must be brought to the diagonal b1-h7 and the King must advance to b3, then threaten mate on a2, which can only be prevented by a rook sacrifice. The bishop canno, however, occupy any square to its liking on the diagonal, but only the one on the third rank, in order to guard the King from a flank check. If it goes there immediately, however, it will be attacked by the rook. Accordingly, this attack must be prevented by Rd2 and better still with win of tempo. Naturally, one must be on guard for stalemate. - 81...Ra2+ 82.Kb1 Rd2 83.Ka1. - White resigned here; there could still follow: - 83...Bd3. - Now Kb3 threatens. Upon Rg4+ the King does not go to b3 on account of Rb4+, but to c3. - 84.Rc1 Ka4! - If the rook now moves on the c-file, mate follows in a few moves by Rd1+, Bb1+, Bc1+ (or else Bg6, f5+) and a bishop's check on b3 (or else f7, e6). And if the rook moves on the first rank, Kb3 follows."

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: So it looks like THIS is the last game Capa lost, before starting a string of 8 straight years without a loss, until the Reti game in New York 1924!??
May-22-08  Karpova: <Joshka: So it looks like THIS is the last game Capa lost, before starting a string of 8 straight years without a loss, until the Reti game in New York 1924!??>

No, it's this one
O Chajes vs Capablanca, 1916

Btw, this game is from 1914 so it would have been 10 years until 1924.

Jun-16-09  stanleys: 13.Rad1 was correct - in this case black don't have the shot 15...Qd2! (there is no mate)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: <beatgiant: <Gypsy> I actually thought that your line (I) is not worthy of consideration because Black's king is cut off, so White's mobile king is as good as an extra piece. However, at the moment I don't have enough time to publish a high-quality in-depth analysis of this, so I'll just show a rough sample.

Varying from the actual game with 14.Rxd6 Bxf3 15.Rxf6 gxf6 16.Bxe5 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 fxe5 18.Rb1 Rd8 19.Rb7 Rd2 20.Rxc7 Rxc2 21.Rxc6 Rxa2 22.Rc5:

<22...f6?!> 23. Rc7 a5 24. Kf3 a4 25. h4 h5 26. Ke3 Rc2 27. Kd3 Rxf2 28. Kc4 Rf4 29. Kd5 Rxh5 30. Ra7, and White is ready to run the c-pawn.>

But black can run the h pawn it still seems to be a draw with best play.

Dec-18-11  fetonzio: wow terrible opening by capa
Dec-18-11  King Death: If I remember right, Capa was supposed to have showed up for this game by coming straight from the bed of the mistress of the Grand Duke. Can anybody confirm this?
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <King Death> Sorry, I'm not quite old enough to remember that. As stanleys said previously, Capablanca should have played 13.Rad1! when Capablanca would not have had the shot 15...Qd2! (threatening mate) that he had in the game continuation. Capablanca was probably still in shock, having been annihilated the round before. Lasker vs Capablanca, 1914 His loss in the present game completed the miracle - Lasker, having been 1.5 points behind Capablanca before their game, ended up winning the tournament by half a point.

Lasker also finished ahead of Capablanca at New York 1924, Moscow 1925, and Moscow 1935. But Capablanca did finally finish ahead of him at Moscow 1936 and Nottingham 1936, when Lasker was 67 years old. Bravo, Capablanca, you're the greatest! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Dec-19-11  King Death: <FSR> You don't remember? What good are you then?

What <stanleys> said looks like a case of The Wrong Rook. Capa's mind was still fogged from his long nightmare of Lasker followed by trying to forget about it.

Dec-19-11  AnalyzeThis: A rare Capablanca loss.
Aug-19-16  zanzibar: From <CSM 1914-06-15 p16> coverage of the match:

<The keen interest of the last fortnight centered in t h e race between Lasker and
Capablanca. The latter started on the
final with a lead of 1% points—would he
keep it to the finish? His game with
Lasker in the preliminary had been a
draw, so was his first game with Lasker
in the final. Lasker picked up half a
point by beating Alechin, and when the
remaining games numbered but four,
Capablanca had s t i l l a point in hand.
Lasker Won in Seventh Round
In the seventh round they met again,
and, for the first time, Lasker had the
move. Somehow, the experts are still
trying to find out how it was, but none
of them can point to the losing move—
somehow Lasker got his opponent in an
iron grip wThich never relaxed, move after
move remorselessly tightened the pressure,
until the Cuban saw no further
hope and resigned. Scores were equal,
w i t h three games to play. Then came
the tragi-comedy of the tournament.
Playing Tarrasch, with position superior
and material gain in sight, Capablanca
moved the wrong Rook! Instead
of winning a Pawn, by that unfortunate
incident he lost a piece, and though he
struggled against odds for 83 moves, the
burden was too great, and the game
was scored against him. But for that,
Lasker would have been, not first, but
second, for winning his remaining games
while Lasker drew one, Capablanca made
up still another half point of his deficit.
But the moral needs no pointing; m
the public eye, these two great experts
come out of the long ordeal on the same
high pinnacle, and the question of priori
t y ought to be settled once for all.>

Yeah, I could spend some time typing in all the corrections, and better format it. But I'm not in the mood at the moment, tant pis.

Nov-21-16  Fanacas: This must have ben quite shattering for Capablanca losing two games after each other and not getting first in the tournament.
Nov-22-16  RookFile: Great game by a past his prime Tarrasch. Brave middle game play, and he hung on doggedly in the endgame against Capa giving out of this world resistance.
Aug-08-19  estrick: The chess engine says that Capa's mistake was not moving the wrong rook on his 13th move, but the blunder he made on move 14. Instead of 14. Qg3?

He should have played
14. Rd6 Bxf3
15. Rxf6 gxf6
16. Bxe5 Bxe4
17. Bd4 Bxc2
18. f3
which would have given White a small advantage.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: <stanleys (+ FSR)> "13.♖ad1 was correct"

A lot of annotators have said that, but computer analysis just doesn't support it. Sure, it rules out that 15... ♕d2 trick as in the game, but Black doesn't have to play the same way. After 13.♖ad1 ♗g4 14.♕g3, Black doesn't need to play 14... ♗xd1 but just plays 14...♕e6! 15.♗xe5 ♘xe4 16.♕f4 ♗xd1 17.♖xd1 f5 18.♗xc7 ♘xc3, and Black has whatever tiny advantage is there (-0.3). And even 14... ♗xd1 would not be that terrible for Black despite the lack of the 14... Qd2 trick, hardly winning for White, e.g. 14...♗xd1 15.♗xe5 ♘h5 16.♗xd6 ♘xg3 17.♗xg3 ♗xc2 ⩲ (+0.5).

As <estrick> says, there was nothing wrong with 13.♖fd1, just with combining it with 14.♕g3.

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