28 August 2006

Endgame: Capablanca - Janowsky, San Sebastian 1911

This game, the third in a series on Capablanca's games 'to be studied', was also annotated by Garry Kasparov as game 77 of 'My Great Predecessors, Part I'. Capablanca called the endgame 'a masterpiece, which should be very carefully studied'.

As Capablanca pointed out, Janowsky had played very well up to the diagrammed position, and the Cuban was dead lost. After the next move 53.Bxe5, Black should have played 53...Qh1+ 54.Ka2 Nxe5, with an easy win. Instead he played 53...Qe1+ 54.Ka2 Nxe5. Capablanca offered a long explanation as to why Janowsky suffered this sudden attack of chess blindness, which goes beyond the aim of this post.

San Sebastian 1911
Janowsky, David

Capablanca, Jose Raul
(After 52...Qg6-e4)
[FEN "6k1/2B3p1/1P6/p3p3/N1p1q3/P2n3p/2Q5/1K6 w - - 0 53"]

Commenting on Black's last move, Capablanca wrote,

Janowsky, like the other masters watching the game, never thought that it would be possible to obtain more than a draw out of the game, hence his not taking the last chance afforded him to draw by perpetual check with 54...Nc1+. Before continuing I should add that the end-game coming is the finest of its kind ever played over the board, and that for some reason it has not been properly appreciated. It is a masterpiece, one of which I am very proud, and which should be very carefully studied. As I said, nobody thought at the time that the ending could be won.

The game continued 55.b7 Nd7 (both moves are forced) 56.Nc5. Capablanca:

An all-important move. At first sight it looks as though 56.Nb6 would be better. A profound study will show that this is not the case.

According to Kasparov's analysis, which appears to be correct, Capablanca's move shouldn't have won either. After a further 56...Nb8 57.Qxc4+ Kh8 58.Ne4. Capablanca noted,

The beauty of White's 56th move is now seen. Black has no check with his Queen, nor can the Pawn advance, because through a combination of checks I am threatening to win the Queen or obtain a similar position to the one I finally obtained in the game.

Now Black played 58...Kh7. Kasparov gave this move a '?', and explained, 'Only this is the decisive mistake! Two Queen moves would have left Janowski with every chance of saving the game.' First he analyzed 58...Qh4; his analysis is not entirely convincing, because there are several unexplored branch points and because the main line steers into a position with four Queens on the board.

His analysis of 58...Qe3, where the straightforward main line ends in perpetual check for Black, is more convincing. Janowsky's 58...Kh7 lost quickly to 59.Qd3. Kasparov wrote, 'For Janowsky the undeserved defeat became the drama of his entire life'. To play through the complete game see...

Jose Raul Capablanca vs David Janowski, San Sebastian 1911

...on Chessgames.com.

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