Raul Capablanca was born in Havana, Cuba on the 19th of November
1888. He learned chess at the age of four by watching his father
play and in 1901, at the age of 12, he beat Juan Corzo, the Cuban
champion. Capablanca was regarded as the most naturally talented
chess player anyone had ever seen. He was educated in America,
studied engineering at Columbia University and spent much of his
free time playing masters at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York
City, where he achieved a sensational win in a match against US
Champion Frank Marshall crushing him by 8 wins to 1 with 14 draws
in 1909 when he was 20 years old. Frank Marshall had unsuccessfully
played Lasker in a World Championship match only two years earlier.
1911, on the insistence of Marshall, Capablanca played in San
Sebastian, Spain at one of the strongest tournaments in the world
at that time. He astounded everyone by taking first place at this
tournament with a score of 6 wins, 7 draws and 1 loss ahead of
Rubinstein, Schlechter and Nimzovitsch. This was his first major
tournament, an achievement he shares only with Pillsbury.
1911 Capablanca challenged Lasker for the world championship.
Lasker agreed to the challenge but imposed 17 conditions for a
future match. Capablanca disagreed with these conditions and the
match did not take place.
September 1913 Capablanca secured a job in the Cuban Foreign Office.
He had no specific duties but to play chess.
1914 at a tournament in St. Petersburg Capablanca met Lasker over
the chessboard for the first time. Capablanca took the lead by
one and a half points in the preliminaries but lost to Lasker
in the finals. Capablanca finished second to Lasker with a score
of 13 points to Lasker's 13.5.
the ten years after this tournament (from 1914 to 1924) he lost
only one game and the chess world was beginning to think he was
invincible. However, Capablanca had to wait another seven years
until he could prove he was the world champion.
war interrupted European chess for four years. After the war Lasker's
heart was not really in chess. His efforts to secure proper financial
rewards for chess masters had failed and great players were still
dying in poverty. He agreed to defend his title against Capablanca
in 1920 but resigned his title in favour of the challenger as
he no longer felt like struggling. He told Capablanca, "You
have earned the title not by the formality of a challenge, but
by your brilliant mastery." However, there was pressure from
the chess world for Lasker to play Capablanca and when Capablanca
found sponsors in Cuba who were prepared to finance the match
for twenty-five thousand dollars of which half would go to Lasker
whether he won or lost he decided to go ahead with the match.
However, Lasker maintained that as he had resigned the title already
it was he who was challenger to Capablanca.
Havana in 1921 the match went ahead but it was a great disappointment
to chess fans. Although thirty games had been planned the match
lasted for only fourteen after which Lasker was losing by four
games to none with ten draws. He resigned the match on grounds
of ill health. Capablanca was now the new World Champion.
December 1921 he married Gloria Simoni Beautucourt. They had a
son, Jose Raul in 1923 and a daughter, Gloria in 1925.
this time in the history of chess there was an increasing number
of strong chess players and it was felt that the world champion
should not be able to evade challenges to his title as had been
done in the past. In London in 1922 the greatest players of the
time including Alekhine, Bogolyubov, Maroczy, Reti, Rubinstein,
Tartakower and Vidmar, met to discuss rules for the conduct of
future world championships. Amongst other things, one of the conditions,
which was imposed by Capablanca, was that the challenger would
have to raise at least ten thousand dollars for the prize money.
the following years, Rubinstein and Nimzowitsch challenged Capablanca
but were unable to raise the necessary ten thousand dollars. Then
came Alekhine's challenge backed by a group of Argentinean businessmen
and the president of Argentina who guaranteed the funds. However,
Capablanca imposed another condition. He replied that if Alekhine
wanted to be considered as a challenger then he would have to
play in a tournament in New York. The winner of this tournament
would play Capablanca in the next world championship. This outraged
Alekhine who had gone to a lot of trouble to find sponsors to
back him. Capablanca had put another hurdle in his way. Beside
this, it seemed that Capablanca had selected players for the tournament
who had never before beaten him in even one game. They were Nimzowitsch,
Vidmar, Spielmann and Marshall. Capablanca easily won this tournament
and Alekhine came second. Alekhine had qualified to challenge
the world champion.
because Capablanca had won this tournament so easily he had became
dangerously complacent. The World Champion match was held in Buenos
Aires in 1927. The first to win six games would be the new World
Champion. This match was the longest World Champion match there
had ever been. It lasted thirty-four games and seventy-three days
but eventually Alekhine achieved a score of six wins to three
to secure the title of World Champion.
personal feud had grown between Alekhine and Capablanca with Alekhine
refusing to play in the same tournaments as his old rival. At
the Nottingham tournament in 1936 when the two men did meet they
were never seen seated together at the board for more than a few
seconds. Each man made his move and then got up and walked round.
Capablanca died of a stroke in New York in 1942. Upon Alekhine's
death four years later it was discovered that he had been working
on a collection of Capablanca's best games and in the introduction
he had written, "With his death, we have lost a very great
chess genius whose like we shall never see again."