José Raúl Capablanca spoke about chess on rare occasions. His cultural knowledge was so vast that he could talk about the most diverse topics at length, and intelligently engage in any type of conversation with interlocutors, no matter how difficult the subject of conversation might have been.
As a chess-player, he was not disciplined and his lifestyle was completely out of the ordinary: he used to go to bed when most people were about to wake up and he would have breakfast at lunch time. He was paid up to $25,000 a year, an amount that no other chess player ever received at the time.
Capablanca did not have to make any huge efforts to become the great chess player that he was; that is why he is considered the greatest chess players of all times. In fact, Master Mijail Botvinnik, once said that the world of chess cannot be understood without seeing it through Capablanca’s eyes.
In 1909, Capablanca was already enjoying great popularity in the United States, which he proved again when he defeated Frank J. Marshall, the U.S. chess champion at the time and one of the best and most complete players on record. It was an amazing game: eight wins, 14 draws and one loss.
The U.S. master had thought that competing against Capablanca would be a piece of cake. The possibility –well paid indeed- of “putting up an easy and brief objective demonstration of the difference between a great master and a good amateur” proved him wrong.
Marshall was very upset by the defeat. He said that a Cuban could not be considered a champion of the United States. Capablanca replied: “The United States is nothing other than a part of the continent. I’m the Champion of the Americas.” That title did not exist at the time but the Cuban master’s intention was to advocate a culture and an identity.
In 1921 in Havana, Capablanca competed for the world title against Enmanuel Lasker. He had a resounding victory: four wins, ten draws and no losses.
In 1927 however, he lost against Russian Alekhine. Stories came up about his play showing signs of decline, but he proved them wrong, tournament after tournament. But Alekhine never wanted to play a return game with him and chess rules at the time did not compel him to ratify his title, which could have been for life. Capablanca had received no title when he died but is regarded as the greatest chess player ever.
By the time the champion was preparing the edition of his book Jugadas fundamentales, a famous player helped him check the printed draft. He visited Capablanca every afternoon and they analyzed the position and movements of the pieces drawn by Capablanca.
They never used a chessboard for that. But one day, Capablanca’s colleague failed to understand one of the master’s proposed moves and he had no other alternative but to look for a chess set and show him the move.
Capablanca’s assistant was excited. After so many visits, he would finally see the chessboard and pieces used by the Cuban to study and conceive all his sensational moves. He was so excited that he even imagined them to be made out of ivory and diamonds…
When Capablanca came back to him, he was holding a piece of frayed grid fabric that had been cut carelessly. The pieces were even more disappointing, of different types and styles, as though they were from different sets, except for the white rooks, which were almost identical because the master had replaced them with lumps of sugar.Share on FB Share on TT