Friday, July 31, 2009

Capablanca-Bernstein, San Sebastian 1911

The young Capablanca gained entry to this event, intended for those who had taken at least two third prizes in international tournaments, only at the insistence of Frank Marshall, who had lost to Capa in a match two years before. The Cuban won the event convincingly, losing only one game (to Rubinstein). Ossip Bernstein had been one of the most vocal opponents of Capablanca’s admission, and it befell that they met in the first round.

Capablanca - Bernstein
San Sebastian, 1911

C65 RUY LOPEZ, Steinitz Defense

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. 0-0 Be7 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bxc6+ bxc6 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4 Bd7

Black has adopted the Steinitz Deense to the Ruy Lopez, in which he obtains a cramped but solid position. The doubled c-pawns deny White the use of the d5 square, and Black may hope for counterplay on the b-file. Overall, White stands slightly better.

9. Bg5 0-0 10. Re1 h6 11. Bh4 Nh7 12. Bxe7 Qxe7

In a cramped position, it is usually wise to exchange a few pieces for greater freedom of movement.

13. Qd3 Rab8 14. b3 Ng5

In the days when this defense was popular, it was more common for Black to regroup with ... Rfe8 and Nh7-f8-g6.

15. Rad1 Qe5 16. Qe3 Ne6 17. Nce2 Qa5 18. Nf5 Nc5

The threat against the a2-pawn proves illusory, for after 18. ... Qxa2 19. Qc3 (threatening to trap the Queen with 20. Ra1) Qa6, White would obtain a strong attack with 20. Nf4 f6 21. Qg3 g5 22. Ng6 Rf7 23. Nxh6+ Kg7 24. Nxf7 Kxg6 25. Nxd6 cxd6 26. Rxd6 Rb7 27. e5.

19. Ned4 Kh7

To meet the threat of 20. Nxc6 Bxc6 21. Ne7+ and 22. Nxc8. The a2 pawn still cannot be captured, in view of 19. ... Qxa2 20. Ra1 Qb7 21. Reb1.

20. g4 Rbe8 21. f3 Ne6 22. Ne2 Qxa2

Seeing no direct threat, Black thinks that it is time to capture the a-pawn, but 22. ... Qb6 would have minimized White’s advantage.
23. Neg3 Qxc2?


The only chance of defense was 23. ... f6, to defend the g7 pawn with ... Rf7.

24. Rc1 Qb2 25. Nh5 Rh8

Other moves are no better. Two variations given by Capablanca are 25. ... g5 26. e5 f6 27. Qd3, and 25. ... g6 26. Qxh6+ Kg8 27. e5 gxh5 28. gxh5, and there is no answer to the threat of Re1-e2-g2+.

26. Re2 Qe5 27. f4 Qb5 28. Nfxg7 Nc5

Losing quickly. Capablanca expected 28. ... Nxh7, though White is still winning after 29. Nf6+ Kg6 30. Nxd7 f6 31. e5 Kf7 32. Nxf6 Re7 33. Ne4.

29. Nxe8 Bxe8 30. Qc3 f6 31. Nxf6+ Kg6 32. Nh5 Rg8 33. f5+ Kg5 34. Qe3+ Kh4 35. Qg3+ Kg5 36. h4 mate

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