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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Capablanca – Kostic Match

     This match, played in Havana in 1919, was supposed to go to the first to score 8 wins, draws not counting. Despite some success in earlier games against Capa, Kostic was expected to lose, but the consensus of opinion was that he would make Capa work hard to win and maybe even notch a couple of wins during the process. 
  The games were played from 2pm to 8pm. Adjournments would be played off on Mondays and Sundays would be a rest day. 
     It turned out that Capa won +5 -0 =0. Clearly Kostic was outclassed, but the excuse for his poor showing was that the climate and change of diet proved to be a combination he couldn't overcome. Upon arriving in Havana Kostic had been advised to wait until the following week to start play, but he declined. Play started on March 25th and ended on April 5th. 
     In the first game Kostic played the Petrov Defense and a long game was adjourned after 51 moves in a position that looked to be drawn, but Capa managed to win it in 86 moves. 
     In the second game Kostic played the Giuoco Piano listlessly, lost a P, and that was all Capa needed. Capa secured the win in 46 moves. 
     The third game, another Petrov Defense, followed Lasker–Pillsbury, St. Petersburg, 1909 and Capa found an improvement. Even so, things were fairly equal; Kostic maybe even stood a little better but he got overconfident and made some hasty moves. He overlooked a winning move and made a few more slips and eventually got outplayed by Capa in 48 moves.
     Kostic, with the score 3-0 against him and upset over the outcome of the third game, played 1.d4 in the fourth game and Capa displayed a waiting policy; he waited for Kostic to make a mistake and, failing to capitalize on any chances he may have had, that's exactly what Kostic did, even missing a draw at one point. The game went 53 moves. Score: Capa 4, Kostich 0. 
     The last game lasted only 15 moves when Kostisch resigned in a position that in reality was hardly lost.
     The Havana newspaper El Mundo reported that Kostic had not recovered from his recent illness and the rapid climate change which appeared to have much to do with his discomfiture. El Mundo also noted that Kostic seemed to have been the victim of a “psychological phenomenon, by virtue of which he contributes somewhat to his own defeat by regarding his opponent as invincible.” The paper also added that because Capa was at the height of his powers, a match with Lasker was proper. 
     The paper said that despite his defeat, Kostic was not disheartened and was well-liked by the Cuban people. Apparently not everybody felt that way though because the paper also added that there was considerable disappointment among the folks who footed the bill and put up a liberal prize fund. They had hoped for a better showing!!
     As for his defeat, a letter from Kostic appeared in the New York Evening Post that described how he had worried himself sick over the prospects of having to encounter one of the best players in the world under unfavorable conditions and playing Capa had been contrary to his own best judgment. 
     His conscience would not permit him to postpone the match after his arrival in Havana owing to the high cost of hotel bills and physician fees. He stated that he left New York without any real ambition to play Capa and realized that the odds were all against him. But, he had given his word that he would play and would not go back on it. 
     The climate, especially the air in the center of Havana, had an adverse affect and he suffered severe headaches upon arrival. He saw a doctor who gave him injections, but they did little good and the fees increased his nervousness. 
     The first game, during which he sat at the board for six hours trying not to jeopardize his position, took its toll and left him exhausted to the point that the next day after a sleepless night he forgot his right to take off a couple of days for rest. As for the second game, he meant to play the Ruy Lopez but realized he had accidentally played the Giuoco Piano, an opening he had never played before, instead! After that, the rest of the match was all downhill as he was completely demoralized. For the record you can view all five games of the match HERE.

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