16 January 2008

The Capablanca Variation

The diagram shows the position after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 O-O 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 Ne4 (Lasker Defense) 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.Rc1 c6 10.Bd3 Nxc3 11.Rxc3 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Nd7 13.O-O. It is from game 8 of Karpov - Yusupov, semifinal candidate's match, London 1989. Karpov played 13...e5, and wrote, 'From the Lasker Defense, the game has transposed to lines of the less weighty Capablanca System, and moreover the position of the Pawn on h6 (instead of h7) is favorable for White, as it gives him an additional object of attack.' (Anatoly Karpov's Best Games, no.36)

This is the sort of comment that I always find a little irritating. Across different chess cultures, there can be large differences in the names of openings. Capablanca played the QGD so often that it is not immediately obvious which line would bear his name, especially for someone like me who has played the QGD only a handful of times.

Using Google, I set out to discover which Capablanca variation Karpov meant. I quickly located a few pages which all contained similar expositions of the names of chess opening. On top of two D30 lines with the name 'Capablanca', I found the following:

  • D51 QGD : Capablanca Anti-Cambridge Springs Variation; 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 c6
  • D52 QGD : Cambridge Springs Defense, Capablanca Variation; 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Nf3 Qa5 7.Bxf6
  • D63 QGD : Orthodox Defense, Capablanca Variation; 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 O-O 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 b6 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bb5
  • D67 QGD : Orthodox defense, Bd3 line, Capablanca Freeing Maneuver; 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 O-O 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 c6 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Nd5

After studying the four lines with software, I established that Karpov was referring to the D67 line. The continuation 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.O-O Nxc3 12.Rxc3, is the same position after 13.O-O in Karpov - Yusupov game 8. The numbering is one move greater because Black has played the extra move ...h6, and White has lost a tempo with 7.Bh4 and 8.Bxe7. Note how the Black Knight passes through e4 in one line and d5 in the other.

While I'm on the subject, here are a few other opening lines bearing Capablanca's name:-

  • A12 English : Capablanca Variation; 1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.b3 Nf6 4.Bb2 Bg4
  • A28 English : Four Knights, Capablanca Variation; 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.d3
  • C10 French : Rubinstein, Capablanca line; 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Ne5
  • C49 Four Knights : Symmetrical, Capablanca Variation; 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.O-O O-O 6.d3 d6 7.Bg5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Qe7 9.Re1 Nd8 10.d4 Bg4
  • D83 Gruenfeld : Gruenfeld Gambit, Capablanca Variation; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 O-O 6.Rc1
  • E16 Queen's Indian : Capablanca Variation; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Bb4+
  • E29 Nimzo-Indian : Saemisch, Capablanca Variation; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 O-O 6.e3 c5 7.Bd3 Nc68.Ne2 b6 9.e4 Ne8

This makes a good example why I always encourage people to give the moves when they mention a lesser known opening by name.

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