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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Capablanca Gets Ugly At Havana 1913

     Cuba is known for Fidel Castro, cigars, antique cars cars and chess. Chess because Cuba produced one of the greatest chess players of all time...Jose Raul Capablanca, who influenced generations of Cuban players. 
     Even Fidel Castro, the country’s longtime leader, played chess and promoted it along with his nationwide literacy programs. Castro and Che Guevara organized the Chess Olympiads in 1966 and the world’s largest simultaneous in 2002. 
     In Cuba, chess is synonymous with Capablanca, but few know that Christopher Columbus brought chess to the island in the 15th century and that it is Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the man most famous for starting a war when he declared Cuban independence in 1868, who is considered to be the father chess in Cuba because he translated its rules and regulations. But when in 1921, Capablanca won the World Championship in Havana he became a national hero and solidified the game’s reputation on the island. 
     After Capablanca died in 1942, chess aficionados created the Capablanca Memorial chess tournament in his honor. The first tournament after the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power was in 1962 at the Habana Libre Hotel, the finest in Havana. It was funded by Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary and director of the National Bank. 
     This was not the last time the government promoted chess. When Cuba sponsored the 1966 Chess Olympiad, the authorities worked to attract the world’s attention. Cuba provided each of the 58 participating countries’ teams with a chauffeur, car and paid air travel, and spent an estimated $5 million on the event. 
     Before Capablanca was absolute king in Cuba, there was Havana, 1913. One interesting aspect of the tournament was that all of the players except Blanco and Corzo came straight from the American National tournament to Havana. 
     The American National was one of three prominent tournaments held in New York that year, the others being the Rice Chess Club Tournament and a Quadrangular (1-Marshall 2-Duras 3-Chajes 4-Jaffe). 
     In the American National Chess Congress the top six players qualified for spots in the upcoming tournament in Havana. There was a tie for 5th-6th places between Oscar Chajes and James H. Stapfer, but for unknown reasons Stapfer did not go to Havana. 
     The unheralded Stapfer was born February 8, 1877 in Switzerland and at some point moved to the United States where he died at the age of 82 in 1959.
     In rhe ANCC event Capablanca won his first ten in a row before losing to Jaffe in round 11 and then a round 12 draw Chajes meant Marshall was only 1/2-point behind for their last round showdown which was drawn. As a result Capablanca, Marsahll, Jaffe, Janowski, Chajes and Kupchik headed for Havana.
     It had been hoped that Lasker would play, but in a letter to the organizers he stated there were two conditions. First, he refused to play in any tournament in which Capablanca was playing unless Capa first made a public retraction of a letter he wrote to Lasker in the course of the negotiations for the world's championship match. In that letter, Capablanca, through his attorney, made a reference to an "obvious unfairness" concerning one of the conditions laid down by Lasker. 
     The second problem was Lasker, like Fischer was to do later, maintained that a first prize of $1,500 plus about another $1,000 that he had been offered, aside from travel and living expenses for himself and wife, was not sufficiently attractive enough to induce him to abandon the literary work that he was engaged in at the time. In today’s dollars, $2,500 is roughly the equivalent of $65,000. 
     Further, Lasker suggested that half the tournament be played in Havana and half in New York and New York should raise another $10,000 (about $260,000 today), duplicating the amount Havana would contribute. Lasker's demands weren't met so he didn’t play. 
     According to Reuben Fine there was an ugly incident at Havana when Capablanca was losing to Marshall after having had a better position.  Supposedly Capa demanded Havana’s mayor evict all the spectators so that they would not witness him lose. 
     However, historian Edward Winter documents that the story is not true. According to Winter’s documentation, and corroborated by Marshall, the 600 spectators present, who naturally supported Capablanca, actually gave Marshall a strong ovation and Capa had asked for a security escort to his hotel. 
     In Havana Capablanca was regarded as the clear favorite not only because of his impressive results, but he was also the hometown hero. The tournament had a controversial incident that caused Capablanca to get testy. At the American National, Jaffe had defeated Capablanca, but Capa got his revenge in Havana by scoring a win and a draw against Jaffe. 
     What got Capa's dander up was the round 8 game between Jaffe and Marshall where Jaffe made a gross blunder in a better position and lost. Capablanca stated to the press that Jaffe had came to Havana for the sole purpose of helping Marshall win and as a result he would never again play in an event that included Jaffe. 
     It happened that teo very influential organizers in the U.S., Hartwig Cassel and Hermann Helms, successfully kept Jaffe out of all the American tournaments in which they had any influence. It seemed to have escaped everybody’s attention that Jaffe was in Havana because he had qualified in the New York event. 
     In the tournament book he wrote Capablanca stated, “As with the first game between these two masters, no annotations are required because it is obvious that Jaffe did not make any attempt at winning, and his blunder on the twentieth move is best concealed and the game passed over." 
     Interestingly, Nigel Short didn’t see anything in the games that suggested Jaffe and Marshall were in cahoots and opined that it was sour grapes on the part of Capablanca. Here is the position from their 8th round game. 


     Jaffe (white) is to move: He has two good moves that keep the advantage: 20.Qd3 or 20.c4. 
     Instead Jaffe committed a gross blunder with 20.Qxd5 which lost the Q after 20...Re1+ If Jaffe were going to throw the game it seems like he could have a less obvious way to accomplish the task. In any case, GMs have been know to make some gross oversights and this is probably one of them. As for their other game, Marshall was clearly the better player, so why wouldn't Jaffe be happy with a draw?
     Havana quickly turned into a three-player race for first, but the eventual outcome would only be decided in the last round. Janowsky’s hopes for first went down the drain in round 11 when he lost to Chajes. 
     In the last round Capa needed a win against Kupchik which seemed more than doable given their relative strengths. But, he could only draw.
     Generally in these tournaments the games by the great players or the winners get all the publicity, but I always liked to look at the games by the also-rans and the tailenders. 
     In the following game the winner is the virtually unknown Rafael Blanco. Blanco (1890-1955) won the Cuban Championship in 1914, 1920, and 1937. He was also an innovative artist of his period who got his start as a cartoonist. His drawings were characterized by the economy of lines and were supposed to “say something.” 

     Blanco studied painting at the San Alejandro Academy and was a regular contributor to the press of the time with his satirical cartoons and humorous political drawings. 
     In 1918 he received financial assistance from the government to study in New York; and he also spent time in Mexico. 
     In 1912, in El Figaro he published the following drawing titled "A game of chess between Paredes and Corzo". Leon Paredes served for many years as the president of the Havana Chess Club. He was also Capa’s representative in making arrangements for his match with Lasker. 


      His opponent, Juan Corzo y Principe (1873 – 1941), the Spanish–Cuban master and five-time champion of Cuba (1898, 1902, 1907, 1912, and 1918) is most known for losing to Capablanca (+4 -3 =6) in 1901 when Capablanca had just turned 13. 
     Born in Madrid, Corzo emigrated to Cuba in 1887 and became champion of the Havana Chess Club in 1898. Corzo was a force in Cuban chess who along with Capablanca founded the National Chess Federation of Cuba and was a longtime editor of Capablanca's Chess Magazine. 
     If you have ever read anything by C.J.S. Purdy then you know that when it came to deciding on a move he constantly beat it into his readers’ heads that before you even bother with evaluating your position you should reconnoiter it for tactical shots because they take precedence over any positional considerations. That is exactly what Corzo failed to do and the result was an instant loss in a won position!

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