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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Capa's Brilliant Maneuver

     I have posted on this game before after seeing it in Yermolinsky's The Road to Chess Improvement, but the other day I stumbled on a fragment of the game in Purdy's The Search for Chess Perfection and as a result have re-annotated it because it was worth a second look.
     Marovic and Purdy praised Capa's maneuver with his c8B as brilliant.  Yermolinsky didn't, but he may have been somewhat prejudiced against the game because he tells how as a 15-year old kid, he discovered the game and was impressed with Capa's handling of the confrontation of Q's on b3 and b6 and came to the conclusion that all black has to do is let white capture Qxb6 then play ...b5 and place his N on c4. It turned out things weren't quite so simple and he lost badly on his first attempt at duplicating Capa's strategy.
     In 1915 Isaac Rice began planning the Rice Jubilee Tournament to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his discovery of the Rice Gambit but he died on November 2nd before he could complete the plans. Fortunately for chess his widow donated the money so the tournament could be held.
     Rice originally had planned to invite US masters and European players who might be able to compete despite the war. Invitations were sent to Alekhine, Capablanca, Marshall, Showalter, Kostic, Edward Lasker, Chajes, Kupchik, and Norman T. Whitaker. No reply was received from Alekhine and Marshall refused to compete after a dispute over his appearance fee and both Lasker and Whitaker declined their invitations.
     The result was a disappointing turnout as the only foreigners in the event were Capablanca, then of Havana, Borislav Kostic from Budapest and Janowsky from France. The others were all from the US: Albert Fox (Washington DC), Newell Banks (a chess master, but primarily a champion checker player from Detroit), Albert B. Hodges (Staten Island, NY), Abraham Kupchik and Jacob Rosenthal (Manhattan Chess Club), Oscar Chajes, Jacob Bernsteinn and Edward Tennewurzel (all representing the Isaac L. Rice Progressive Chess Club), Roy T. Black, Frank Perkins and Alfred Schroeder (all from the Brooklyn Chess Club). There was a round robin preliminary with a 5-player final in which the preliminary scores carried over (Capablanca, Janowski, Chajes, Kostic and Kupchik). It was as no surprise that Capa won. For complete details see chessgamesdot com HERE.
     In this game, which was critical in the final standings, on his 10th move Capa made a move that seems to make no sense. On move 4 he played his c8 Bishop to f5 in order to develop it outside the P-chain, then on move 10 he retreats it to d7 and follows that up by playing 11...e6, blocking the B behind the P-chain.
     According to some annotators the odd maneuvering was all part of a brilliant plan. What's a plan? Purdy described it as the visualization of a future position of some or all your pieces. You then try to play for that position; you do not worry much about your opponent's replies except to make sure that your plan is feasible and that you are not leaving yourself open to any combination, or missing one for yourself. 
     Who is right?  Was Capa's plan a brilliant one or was it an admission that his 4th move was a poor choice?  One can understand Yermo's comments because if Capa played 4...Bf5 then a few moves later was compelled to move it back to d7 does that not indicate that 4...Bf5 was not a good idea? Perhaps Yermolinsky is right...most annotations of this game have been based on Capa's reputation and the result.  Actually, Janowsky was doing OK until he played 21.e5? after which he was lost. Maybe that's why 4...Bf5 is rarely seen these days. In my database in games with both players rated over 2400 white scored +7 -0 =9 against 4...Bf4.

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