04 April 2011

A Capablanca Brilliancy Dissected

The second game in my series titled More Capablanca, which is the second and last series on Capablanca's Games 'To be studied very carefully', is Corzo - Capablanca, Havana 1913, an eight player, double round robin. The game is mentioned in the book World Chess Champions (Pergamon 1981), where E.G.Winter both served as editor and wrote the chapter on Capablanca.

For the first time in his life [Capablanca] lost two games in the same event (to Janowsky and Marshall). He was placed second, half a point behind the United States champion, but won the brilliancy prize for his magnificent first-round victory over his old rival Corzo. He then wrote Torneo Internacional de la Habana 1913, annotating all fifty-six games played. (p.56)

Of his 10th move, Capablanca wrote, 'With this move Black obtains the attack [...] From now on there are a series of brilliant moves which should be very carefully studied.' As with many brilliancies, it took some cooperation from the opponent. To illustrate this, I'll use a double diagram starting with White's 15th move. White played 15.Bd4, and Capablanca commented, 'Excellent, for eight moves at least, White plays perfectly in a most difficult position.' He answered 15...g5, awarded himself a '!', and mentioned that the move was 'The only way to keep up the attack and obtain the upper hand'.

The engine, for its part, calculates that instead of 15.Bd4, both 15.Bc1 and 15.Bd3 are stronger. The move 15.Bc1 pins the Knight on the e-file, protects the b-Pawn, and stops ...g5. A sample variation is 15...c6 16.Bd3 cxd5 17.cxd5 Rc8 18.h3, where both White and Black have trouble activating the Kingside Rook, and Black has no attack on the e-file. After 15.Bd4, the game continued 15...g5!, bringing the Rook into the attack, then 16.Bxg7+ Rxg7 17.Nd4 Bd7 18.f5 Qe5 19.Qd3 Re8 20.Ne6+ fxe6 21.fxe6 Rxe6! 22.dxe6 Bc6, reached the second diagram.

In the position from the lower diagram, White played 23.Qf3+, and found himself in trouble after 23...Qf4!. Here the engine diverges again, suggesting 23.b4. With that move, White protects the b-Pawn and threatens b4-b5, winning the Knight. Black avoids the worst with 23...Qf4 24.Qd4 Nf6 25.Qb2 Be4 26.g3 Qe5 27.Qxe5 dxe5 28.Bg2 Bxg2 29.Kxg2 e4, but ends up with only one Pawn for the exchange and a struggle for a draw.

When Capablanca advised us that his moves should be 'be studied very carefully', little did he imagine that we would one day have mechanical GMs capable of understanding and improving the moves of both players. To play through the complete game, see...

Juan Corzo vs Jose Raul Capablanca; Havana 1913

...on Chessgames.com.

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