Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Remembering the Great – Jose Raul Capablanca

The achievements of Cuban legend Jose Raul Capablanca are honored in the World Chess Hall of Fame in Miami, Florida. He is known as the “Babe Ruth” of Cuba in Cuba.

In 2001, Capablanca, Bobby Fischer, Paul Morphy, Emanuel Lasker and William Steinitz became the charter members of the World Chess Hall of Fame. Capablanca was the World Chess Champion from 1921 to 1927. Due to his achievements in the chess world, mastery over the board and his relatively simple style of play he was nicknamed the "Human Chess Machine.”

Capablanca lost to Alexander Alekine in Buenos Aires in 1927 [ 3 – 6 = 25] Statistical ranking systems place Capablanca 5th highest among the greatest players of all time. In Divinsky and Keene’s book, “Warriors of the Mind” ranks him behind Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Botvinnik, and just ahead of Emanuel Lasker.

A lifetime Cuban citizen, Capablanca never lived in Florida, preferring New York and Paris, but many of his relatives do. They moved to Miami in the years following the Fidel Castro Cuban Revolution in 1959.

In Cuba, Capablanca is still honored as a national hero. His gravesite is a must see stopping point for tourists. “Everybody knows Capablanca in Latin America,” said Fernando Capablanca, “Everybody.”

Born in 1888, Jose Raul Capablanca is regarded as one of Cuba’s greatest sporting figures ever and one of the greatest chess players of all time.

According to legend, he was first noticed as a chess genius at the age of 4 when he correctly analyzed a match between his father and a commander in the Spanish Army. By the time he was 12, he was the Cuban Chess Champion.

Capablanca captured the imagination of the world as much with his social grace and presence as with his skill on the chessboard. He served as an ambassador-at-large for Cuba and became a bit of a globe-trotter.

Pictures show Capablanca to always be a well-dressed man, impeccably groomed at nearly six feet tall with brown hair. He enjoyed the “good life” and the ladies swooned over him reports say. Capablanca also had a flair for the dramatic. During his match against Lasker, he often got up between moves and danced.

Capablanca’s chess style was very influential in the games of two world champions: Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. Botvinnik also wrote how much he learned from Capablanca, and pointed out that Alekhine had received much schooling from him in positional play, before their fight for the world title made them bitter enemies.

As a chess writer, Capablanca did not present large amounts of detailed analysis, instead focusing on the critical moments in a game. His writing style was plain and easy to understand. Botvinnik regarded Capablanca's book Chess Fundamentals as the best chess book ever written.

There are two copies available; an untouched version and an updated one by Nick de Firmian.

Capablanca died in March, 1942 while watching a game at the Manhattan Chess Club.

Hat tip to Chess Life, Robert Silk and Wikipedia.

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