By Bill Wall
Jose Raul Capablanca y Graupera was born on November 19, 1888 in Havana, Cuba in the Castillo del Principe in Havana, Cuba. His father, Jose Maria Capablanca (1863-1923), was a Spanish army officer. He was a lieutenant (later major) in the cavalry division stationed in Morro Castle, Havana. His mother was Matilde Maria Graupera y Marin,a housewife. Jose M. Capablanca and Marin had 11 children. The oldest son (1885-1940)) was Salvador. Jose Raul was their second son. Alicia (born in 1890) was their first daughter. Other brothers included Ramiro (who died in 1944) , Aquiles, and Carlos. Other sisters included Graciela, Aida, Zenaida, Clemencia, and Hilda.
Capablanca’s early ancestors were Italians. The name was originally Cappa Bianca (White Cloak). They settled in Spain during the reign of Charles IV, and the name became Capablanca.
Both his father and grandfather, played chess, but poorly.
According to Jose Capablanca, he learned the rules of chess in the summer of 1893 at the age of four by watching his father play other opponents. After observing the game for three days, he was able to point out an illegal move that his father played against another Spanish officer (General Lono) during one of their games. His father had moved a knight from one white square to another white square and his opponent did not notice the illegal move. In another game, Jose pointed out to his father that a mate in five had been overlooked against his opponent.
Jose defeated his father, a weak player, the first time they played.
According to Capablanca, his father’s friends persuaded him to take Jose to a brain specialist in Havana after witnessing Capablanca’s mental powers in chess. The doctor examined Jose and said that he possessed mental powers unusual for a boy of his age, and that Jose should be prohibited from playing chess. Jose was keenly disappointed, as chess soon became a passion for him. It wasn’t until Capablanca was 8 years old that his father took him to the Havana Chess Club. Capablanca did not take any chess lessons.
Capablanca explained later that he had an abnormally developed memory. He said he could read seven pages of history and recite them verbatim. He also mentioned that in chess, memory may be an aid, but it is not indispensable. One had to understand the basic principles.
On September 17, 1893, Capablanca’s first surviving game was played on September 17, 1893, at the Havana Chess Club at age 4 years and 10 months. He played it against Ramon Iglesias, who played without a Queen. Capablanca won.
The first game that Capablanca played with an opponent of world-wide reputation was the Polish born-French chess master, Jean Taubenhaus (1850-1919), who was visiting Havana in 1894. Taubenhaus was able to spot 5-year old Capablanca a queen when playing two games against him. Neither one seems to remember who won during those games.
Between 1898 and 1904, Capablanca went to school at the Instituto de Matanzas, 60 miles east of Havana.
In March 1900, Harry Pillsbury (1872-1906), visited the Havana Chess Club and gave a simultaneous and blindfold exhibition. There is no indication that Pillsbury and Capablanca met, but Pillsbury’s play inspired Capablanca to play more chess.
In the summer of 1901, his father took him to the Havana Chess Club to meet stronger players. Jose Capablanca was, by far, the youngest member of the Havana Chess Club at age 12. Capablanca did not take any chess lessons. Don Celso Golmayo (1879-1924), the strongest player at the club, gave Capablanca rook odds, but soon was unable to do that.
On September 19, 1901 and October 21, 1901, Capablanca played a series of games against some of the leading players of the Havana Chess Club. He played Juan Corzo (losing 2), J. Antonio Blanco (winning 2), Marquez Sterling (one draw and one loss), Enrique Corzo (one win and one loss), and Dr. Mateo Fiol (one win and one draw).
On October 26, 1901, Capablanca gave his first simultaneous exhibition, winning seven games and losing one (to Rafael Blanco) in Havana. Twenty opponents were invited, but only eight showed up.
In November 1901, Capablanca was given several chess books for the first time. One of the books was on chess endings, which Capablanca liked and studied.
Between November and December 1901, Jose, age 12-13, played an informal match (the match was not intended as a contest for any title) with Cuban national champion Juan Corzo y Principe (1873-1941) and won, scoring 4 wins, 6 draws, and 3 losses. At the time, Corzo was the Havana Chess Club champion. Corzo won the Cuban Chess Championship five times (1898, 1902, 1907, 1912, and 1918). Some sources say this match was for the chess championship of Cuba. In My Chess Career, Capablanca wrote. “The victory made me, morally at least, the champion of Cuba.” He had just turned 13 years old. Capablanca's only preparation was reading a chess book on chess endings that someone had given him.
In April 1902, Jose, age 13, played in the first Cuban National Championship (won by Juan Corzo) and took 4th place out of six. He lost both his games against J. Corzo. He also lost a game to E. Corzo, G. Fernandez, and A. Fiol.
In 1903, Capablanca devoted his time to high school courses.
In April 1903, Capablanca participated on the Havana chess team (Sterling, Fiol, Enrique Corzo, Juan Corzo, Blanco, and Capablanca) in one cable match between the Havana Chess Club and the Manhattan Chess Club. The Manhattan Chess Club team won the game. (source: The New York Times, April 26, 1903, p. 3)
In the summer of 1904, Jose went to a private school (Woodycliff Preparatory School) in South Orange, New Jersey to learn English and to prepare himself to enter Columbia University. The tuition was paid by Ramon San Pelayo, a Cuban businessman in the sugar trade.
He first visited the Manhattan Chess Club, located in the Carnegie Hall Building, in January, 1905. He was introduced to the club by Alfred Ettlinger, who visited Capablanca in Havana in 1901. One of his first games at the Manhattan Chess Club was with Joseph Redding, a lawyer. Capablanca won in 29 moves on January 5, 1905.
In January 1905, Capablanca was experimenting with the Rice Gambit and played several off-hand games with Professor Isaac Rice (1850-1915) and Dr. Hermann Keidanz (1865-1938).
In 1905, he passed with ease the entrance examinations for Columbia University in New York City. He obtained the high mark of 99% in algebra and also had high marks in other scientific projects. He enrolled in Columbia’s School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry.
In 1906, Capablanca attended Groff School in Manhattan, New York.
In April 1906, Capablanca attended the opening of the Rice Chess Club where he met world champion Emanuel Lasker.
Capablanca entered Columbia University in September 1906 (Class of 1910) to study chemical engineering (and perhaps play professional baseball). He was selected as shortstop on the freshman team, and later played second base, where he was varsity team captain.
Capablanca spent much of his time at the Manhattan Chess Club and played many games with the current world champion, Emanuel Lasker. Fifteen years later, Capablanca would defeat Lasker for the world championship.
In November 1906, he joined the Manhattan Chess Club. His first game was with Albert Fox (1881-1964), the current champion of the Manhattan Chess Club. Capablanca defeated him easily. Capablanca was soon regarded as the club’s strongest player. In quick and lightning chess, he was easily the best player at the club.
In November 1906, Capablanca had just joined the Columbia University chess club.
In 1906, Capablanca gave his first simultaneous exhibition in the USA at the Manhattan Chess Club. World champion Emanuel Lasker, who was a spectator, said it was the quickest-ever display he had ever seen.
In December 1906, Capablanca came ahead of Emanuel Lasker in a rapid-transit (20 seconds a move) knock-out tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York with 32 players. Capablanca and Lasker met in the final round in which Capablanca won. He had just turned 18.
In December 1906, Jose Capablanca played board 1 for Columbia University in an intercollegiate chess championship between Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale University. Columbia won the intercollegiate championship and Capablanca won all 3 games of his. (source: The New York Times, Dec 22 and 23, 1906).
From 1907 until the mid 1930s, Capablanca was considered the fastest chess player in the world.
In 1907, Capablanca played for the Columbia University Chess Club which won the intercollegiate championship by a score of 11.5 out of 12. He was Captain of the Columbia University Chess Team.
In March 1907, Capablanca, representing Columbia University, played for the American intercollegiate team against the British intercollegiate team consisting of Oxford and Cambridge. This was the 7th Anglo-American intercollegiate cable match between colleges in the USA and England for the I.L. Rice international trophy. Capablanca, as board 1, drew his game with H. J. Rose of Oxford. The cable chess match was drawn. (source: The New York Times, March 24, 1907, p. 15)
In 1907, Capablanca gave a 22-board simultaneous exhibition at the Manhattan Chess Club and won all his games in two hours.
In January 1908, Capablanca, the best chess player at Columbia University, arranged a match with Julius Finn, the New York State chess champion. However, the match does not appear to have been played. (source: The New York Times, January 26, 1908, p. 31).
In 1908 Capablanca's patron, Ramon San Pelayo, withdrew his financial support because Capablanca was giving too much time to chess and not enough time to studies. Capablanca then attempted to live by means of chess and devote himself to chess full-time. Capablanca writes that after two years at Columbia University, of which he did a great deal of physical sport (baseball), he left the University to dedicated most of his time to chess. Capablanca left Columbia University after one semester.
The September 1908 issue of Lasker’s Chess Magazine published the only chess problem Capablanca composed.
In November 1908, Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition at the New York Athletic Club. (source: The New York Times, Nov 29, 1908, p. 24)
The December 1908 American Chess Bulletin (ACB) announced that it was organizing a simultaneous exhibition chess tour for Capablanca. The American Chess Bulletin (Hartwig Cassel and Hermann Helms) arranged for Capablanca’s first chess tour. Later on, Capablanca did not get along with Cassel and Helms, accusing them of mismanagement and publishing the Marshall-Capablanca’s games. Capablanca maintained that he and Marshall retained rights to the games. Capablanca’s tours only brought in four new ACB subscribers.
In January 1909 through February, 1909, Capablanca made a tour of the United States. In 10 exhibitions he won 168 games in a row before losing a game in Minneapolis. He played 602 games in 27 cities, scoring 96.4%. He visited Troy, Schenectady, Utica, Rochester, Buffalo, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Lincoln, Humboldt, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Memphis, and New Orleans.
In January 1909, Capablanca gave a 25 board simul at the Rice Chess Club, winning 20, losing 1, and drawing 4 games. (source: The New York Times, Jan 7, 1909, p. 7) He then gave a 24 board simul in Washington DC. There, he won 19, lost 4, and drew 1 game. (source: The New York Times, Jan 10, 1909, p. 95) In Troy, New York, he gave a 25 board simul and won all his games. In Schenectady, New York, Capablanca gave a 30 board simul and won all 30 games. (source: The New York Times, Jan 17, 1909, p. 34) At Utica, he won all 11 of his simul games. In Rochester, he won all 13 of his simul games. In Buffalo, he won all 30 of his simul games. In Toronto, he won all 23 of his simul games. In Cleveland, he won 20 games and lost 1 game (to A.H. Lane). In Detroit, he won all 15 of his simul games. His record for these cities was 167 wins and 1 loss. (source: The New York Times, Jan 24, 1909, p. 35) By March, 1909, he visited 27 cities and played 657 exhibition games, winning 621, losing 14, and drawing 22. At his last city in New Orleans, he played 49 boards simultaneously, winning 42, losing 2, and drawing 5 games. (source: The New York Times, March 7, 1909, p. 36) Another source says he played 734 games on the road, winning 703, drawing 19, and losing 12. This performance helped him get sponsorship for an exhibition match that year with US champion Frank Marshall.
In March 1909, Capablanca entered the Manhattan Chess Club handicap tournament, and won with 11 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss
In 1909 U.S. Champion Frank Marshall agreed to an unofficial chess match with Capablanca, age 20, which began on April 19, 1909 and ended on June 23. The winner would be the one who first scored 8 wins, draws not counting. After 23 games, Capablanca won with 8 wins, 14 draws, and 1 loss. (source: The New York Times, June 24, 1909, p. 8) Capablanca was being called the Pan American chess champion. Capablanca then went on a simultaneous tour and played 720 games, 686 wins, 20 draws, and 14 losses.
On March 31, 1909, Capablanca defeated J. Rosenthal in a rapid-transit tournament held at the Rice Chess Club, scoring 5 wins and 4 losses. They played again on April 5, 1909 and Capablanca won 5-0, with 2 draws.
On April 7, 1909, Capablanca won a marathon rapid transit handicap tournament at the Rice Chess Club in Manhattan. He won 18 and lost 1.
In April, 1909, Capablanca won the annual handicap tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club with a score of 12 out of 14.
In April-May 1909, the match between Marshall and Capablanca was played. Capablanca easily won the match with the score of 15-8 (8 wins, 14 draws, and 1 loss). After the match, Capablanca said that he had never opened a book on chess openings.
In July 1909, Capablanca lodged a protest with the New York State Chess Association, saying that he must be considered in any contest involving the title of champion of the Unites States, in view that he defeated U.S. champion Frank Marshall in a recent match. Capablanca was expected to sail to his home in Havana and would be gone for 6 weeks. Due to the protest, the 1909 US chess championship match was cancelled. (source: The New York Times, July 11, 1909, p. 30).
In July 1909, Capablanca returned to Havana after an absence of nearly five years. He wrote that he nearly forgotten Spanish – his mother tongue. He gave exhibition matches during his stay in Cuba. He also defeated Juan Corzo in 3 games.
In September 1909, Capablanca had accepted a challenge to play the Mexican champion, Rudolf Pokorny, in a match of 15 games at $500 a side. The planned match was later cancelled when officials of the Club Internacional de Ajedrez Mexico denied that Pokorny was the Mexican champion. (source: The New York Times, Sep 5, 1909, p. 38)
In the fall of 1909, Capablanca went on another USA simultaneous tour and played 720 games (686 wins, 20 draws, and 14 losses).
In January 1910, Capablanca was editor-in-chief of The Chess Weekly. The magazine, owned by W. Napier and Magnus Smith, disappeared with its March 12, 1910 issue. Capablanca had contributed a few articles and game annotations.
In 1910, Capablanca played at least four occasions on board 1 for the Manhattan Chess Club against other chess clubs
In February-March 1910, Capablanca won the 32nd New York State championship with 6 wins and 1 draw. He defeated Frank Marshall in the 2nd round. Capablanca and Charles Jaffe tied for 1st place, but Capablanca defeated Jaffe in a play-off, with 2 wins and 1 draw.
In the summer of 1910, Capablanca was invited to take part in the International Tournament at Hamburg. He accepted the invitation, and was ready to start when his physical condition prevented him from making the trip.
Capablanca charged $25 for 25 boards in his exhibitions, plus railroad fare.
In November 1910 through January 1911, Capablanca made another tour of the US. He then rode on a train for 23 hours straight to get back to New York to play in the New York State championship. At the end of November in Detroit, he gave a 17 board simul, winning 16 and losing 1. It was his first loss after winning 49 games and drawing 1 game up to that time. (source: The New York Times, Nov 30, 1910, p. 13). By December 10, he had played 131 games, winning 121, losing 6, and drawing 4. (source: The New York Times, Dec 10, 1910, p. 13)
In January-February 1911, Capablanca took 2nd place (1/2 point behind Frank Marshall) in the New York Masters tournament, with 8 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss. The event was played at the Café Boulevard. (source: The New York Times, Feb 4, 1911, p. 14) After this event, Frank Marshall was invited to play in an international tournament in San Sebastian. Marshall insisted that Capablanca also be allowed to play.
In February 1911, Capablanca was invited to San Sebastian, Spain (the strongest tournament since Nuremberg in 1896). He sailed for Europe on the Lusitania. San Sebastian was to be one of the strongest tournaments ever held, with all the world’s leading chess players competing except for world champion Lasker. Capablanca’s entry was originally reserved for Emanuel Lasker. If Lasker had shown up, Capablanca would not be invited to play. Capablanca won a major international tournament at his first attempt (the last person to do that was Pillsbury when he won Hastings 1895). He won 6, drew 7, and lost 1 (to Rubinstein) ahead of Rubinstein and Schlechter. (source: The New York Times, March 17, 1911, p. 10) Before the tournament, Ossip Bernstein (and Aron Nimzowitsch) protested that such an unknown player should play in this event. The entry condition was that a master had to win at least 3rd prize in two master tournaments. An exception was made for Capablanca because of his victory over Marshall. Capablanca then proceeded to beat Bernstein in the first round (winning the Rothschild prize for the most brilliant game of the tournament). He later beat Nimzowitsch as well. At age 23, Capablanca was now the 2nd strongest player in the world, after Emanuel Lasker.
During the course of the tournament, Nimzowitsch was playing blitz chess and told Capablanca not to interfere, as he was not a reputed master yet. Capablanca then challenged Nimzowitsch and anyone else in blitz chess for a side bet. Capablanca won all his games with ease. All the masters finally agreed that Capablanca had no equal in quick chess.
In March and April, 1911 Capablanca made his first European tour. He gave exhibitions in France, the Netherlands, and Germany. The Dutch gathered their strongest players to play against Capablanca in the simultaneous exhibitions, but in 6 exhibitions, Capablanca won 134 games, drew 10, and lost 6.
In 1911, Capablanca went into business with Frederick Rosebault (died in 1945), who was involved with trying to secure a world championship match with Lasker.
In 1911, Capablanca challenged Emanuel Lasker for the world championship. Lasker accepted the challenge, provided that 17 conditions are met for the match. Among the conditions, Lasker wanted the match limited to 30 games; first person winning 6 games would be world champion. Capablanca objected to the limits of 30 games and other conditions, so Lasker broke off the negotiations. It would be 10 more years before the two of them agreed to the conditions of a match.
In May 1911, Capablanca travelled to Buenos Aires and played a series of simultaneous exhibitions.
In November 1911, Capablanca gave his first simultaneous exhibition in England when he took on the City of London Chess Club, considered the strongest chess club in the world at the time. The London club won 9 games from Capablanca.
In April 1912, Capablanca published a Spanish language chess magazine, Capablanca-Magazine, in Havana. It lasted until 1914. Juan Corzo was the editor and administrator.
In 1912, Capablanca gave chess exhibitions throughout the Unites States, managed by F. D. Rosebault. In April 1912, Capablanca started his US exhibition in New Orleans at the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club. In his first exhibition, he played a 23-board simul, winning 21, losing 1, and drawing 1. In his second exhibition in New Orleans, he played a 17-board simul, winning all his games. (source: The New York Times, April 28, 1912, p. 50)
In September 1912, Capablanca announced that he was going to be editor-in-chief of a new chess magazine in English, called The Chess Forum. The magazine never appeared.
In 1912, Capablanca went on tour of the major chess clubs in Europe, playing 305 games, winning 254, drawing 32, and losing 19.
Around 1912, Capablanca met Miss Eleanor Young and lived with her for six years, but did not marry.
In February 1913, Capablanca won the 2nd annual American National Masters chess tournament, played in New York. He won 10, drew 2, and lost 2. He scored ½ point ahead of Marshall. (source: The New York Times, Feb 6, 1913, p. 9) Capablanca called Marshall the Champion of the United States and himself the Champion of all the Americas.
In 1913 Capablanca took second (after Marshall) in a Havana tournament. According to Reuben Fine, Capablanca had the mayor of Havana clear the tournament room of all spectators so that Capablanca could resign his game to Marshall without anyone seeing him admit defeat. Newspaper accounts do not support this. The newspaper covering the event said there were over 600 people present, and when Capablanca resigned, the crowd gave Marshall a thunderous applause. The final round had attracted about 1,200 people, creating a lot of noise during the chess tournament. Capablanca scored 10 out of 14.
Capablanca later wrote a book on the Havana 1913 tournament, called Torneo Internacional de Ajedrez. It was the only tournament book he wrote. Edward Winter wrote an English translation, Havana 1913, in 1976.
In June 1913, Capablanca returned to New York and in July-August 1913, he went 13-0 in the masters tournament of the Rice Chess Club in New York. (source: The New York Times, Aug 4, 1913, p. 5)
In September, 1913 Capablanca obtained a post in the Cuban Foreign Office. He was expected to be an ambassador-at-large for Cuba. His official title was "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary General from the Government of Cuba to the World at Large." His first instructions were to go the Saint Petersburg and participate in a major chess tournament.
In October 1913 to March 1914 Capablanca, age 23, traveled to Europe on his way to the Consulate at St Petersburg to play matches or exhibition games against their leading masters. In serious games, he scored 19 wins, 4 draws, and 1 loss during that period. He gave simultaneous exhibitions in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Riga, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Kiev, and Moscow. He defeated Richard Teichmann and Jacques Mieses in matches, winning all his games. Capablanca took on all masters 1 minute to 5 minutes in blitz chess and won every game.
On February 7, 1914, Capablanca won a consultation game against Alexei Alekhine (brother of Alexander Alekhine) and L.I. Estrin.
In April 1914, after arriving in Saint Petersburg, Capablanca defeated Alexander Alekhine, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, and Fyodor Duz-Chotimirsky in matches. He only lost one game against these Russians (a loss to Znosko-Borovsky).
In May 1914 Capablanca took 2nd in the St Petersburg tournament behind Lasker, losing their individual game. Czar Nicholas II conferred the title "Grandmaster of Chess" on Capablanca and four others for the top five finishers (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall). The Czar also contributed 1,000 rubles.
Capablanca was negotiating for a shot at the world championship title with Lasker when World War I broke out on July 28, 1914.
In July 1914, Capablanca left Europe on a German steamer for a second trip to South America. World War I broke out (July 28, 1914) while Capablanca was in mid-ocean from Cherbourg to Buenos Aires, but he reached his destination safely in August after his German ship pulled into the nearest port and Capablanca continued to Buenos Aires on a British ship. The Czar also contributed 1,000 rubles.
Capablanca visited Argentina twice, where in each occasion he fulfilled a six-week engagement at the Club Argentino de Ajedrez. On each visit, he won every game. On his second visit, Capablanca played and won ten exhibition games and six consultation games.
Capablanca was unable to return to the USA after his South American engagement as German raiders were doing heavy damage on ships. Finally, through the courtesy of the Argentine Ministers for Foreign Affairs, he was allowed to board one of the Argentine transports going to Philadelphia. He arrived in Philadelphia on January 16, 1915.
On February 12, 1915, Capablanca played 65 boards and 84 opponents at the Eagle auditorium in Brooklyn. He won 48, lost 5, and drew 12 in 6 ¾ hours. There were approximately 500 spectators at the event.
In March 1915, Capablanca began a tour of the USA with his simultaneous exhibitions.
In May 1915, Capablanca played in the New York masters tournament, held at the Hotel Grenoble.
On November 19, 1915 (Capablanca’s 27th birthday), Capablanca participated in a Good Companion problem-solving tournament in Philadelphia. He solved ten two-movers in 21 minutes.
Late in 1915, Capablanca made his 5th US tour scoring a record 97.7% for 400 games.
During World War I Capablanca stayed in New York, winning events there in 1915, 1916, and 1918. He only lost one game during these years. He also gave many simultaneous exhibitions throughout the USA.
In January-February 1916, Capablanca won the Rice Memorial, held in New York, held in honor of Professor Isaac Rice, who had died in November, 1915. He won 12 games and drew 4 games, losing 1. (source: The New York Times, Feb 14, 1916, p. 10) In the Rice Memorial event, Capablanca lost one game, to New York State chess champion Oscar Chajes, on Feb 8, 1916. He would not lose another chess game for 8 years, losing at New York 1924 to Richard Reti on March 22, 1924. He played at least 136 games between 1914 and 1924, only losing one game. He did not lose at New York 1918, Hastings 1919, or the 1921 world championship with Lasker.
In late February 1916, Frank Marshall challenged Capablanca to a match to decide the title “Pan-American Champion.” No match was ever played.
The October 1916 issue of Munsey’s Magazine carried an article by Capablanca entitled, “How I Learned to Play Chess.”
In January 1917, Capablanca went to Cuba and did not return to New York for 17 months. He gave many chess exhibitions and lectures while in Cuba. He said he used that time to study the chess openings for the first time.
In May 1918, Capablanca gave a 38-board simul at the Manhattan Chess Club, winning 33 and drawing 5 games. (source: The New York Times, May 12, 1918, p. 30)
The 1918 New York masters tournament, played in October-November, saw the introduction of the famous Marshall Attack of the Ruy Lopez that Frank Marshall prepared against Capablanca. Capablanca won that game in Round 1. Capablanca won the event scoring 8 wins and 3 draws. 2nd place went to Boris Kostic.
In March-April 1919, Capablanca beat the Serbian master Boris Kostic of Hungary 5-0 in a match held in Havana. Kostic had earlier won the Western Chess Association championship. The match was for $2,500 and supported by General M. G. Menocal, President of Cuba. The match was supposed to go to the first person to win 8 games, but Kostic resigned the match after he lost the first five games.
At the Victory Tournament at Hastings in August 1919, Capablanca won with 10 wins and 1 draw (to Kostic). Emanuel Lasker was barred from the tournament because he was German. (source: The New York Times, Aug 24, 1919, p. 19) This was the first international chess competition on Allied soil since 1914. It was also the first attempt in England to hold an international tournament in 20 years.
From September 1919 to March 1920, Capablanca gave chess exhibitions all over Europe, which included Great Britain, France, Spain, and Holland. He played close to 1,700 games, losing 30, drawing about 75, and winning the rest. (source: The New York Times, Mar 15, 1920, p. 18)
In October 1919, Capablanca toured England and gave large simultaneous exhibitions. In that month, he played 656 games.
In November 1919, Capablanca received a letter from the Dutch Chess Federation, asking him whether he would be willing to play a match with Dr. Lasker and under what conditions. Capablanca replied by return mail that he was willing to play, but did not list any conditions until he had a chance to meet with Lasker to discuss it.
On December 2, 1919, Capablanca gave a 38-board simul against members of the British House of Commons at the House. He won 36 and drew 2. (source: The New York Times, Dec 3, 1919, p. 16) Capablanca is the only chess master to have given a chess exhibition in the Palace of Westminster.
On January 23, 1920, Capablanca and Lasker met at The Hague and signed an agreement to play a World Championship match in 1921. Capablanca’s record before the world championship match was nine 1st places and three 2nd places in 12 tournaments.
In February 1920, Lasker and Capablanca agreed to play for the world chess championship while both were at The Hague at the invitation of the Netherlands Chess Association. They drew up and signed an agreement covering all the salient points of the match. Lasker would receive 60% of the purse, no matter what the result was, and have the privilege of deciding where the match would occur. (source: The New York Times, Feb 15, 1920, p. 19 and June 27, 1920, p. 90)
In 1920, Capablanca completed his longest-ever tour, giving 45 displays in England, France, and Spain. He played 1,645 games during these exhibitions and was paid $50 (later he increased it to $100) for each display, plus expenses.
In March 1920, Capablanca wrote My Chess Career, which was published by Macmillan Company. In it, he described a hopeful world championship match with Lasker. He wrote, “I hope the match will come. The sooner the better, as I don’t want to play an old man, but a master in the plenitude of his powers.”
In June, 1920 a dispatch to The London Times from Amsterdam stated that Lasker resigned the title to Capablanca, but the public wanted a match. The record prize fund was $25,000. Even if he lost, Lasker would get $13,000 of the prize fund. (source: The New York Times, June 26, 1920, p. 17) In August 1920, Lasker re-considered after Cuban enthusiasts raised $20,000 and agreed on a match with Capablanca. However, Capablanca was now considered the world champion and Lasker was the challenger.
In February 1921, the American consulate in Berlin refused to give a visa to Lasker and his wife for his proposed trip to the United States and Cuba to meet Capablanca. Lasker planned on going to Cuba via New York, but the State Department refused to give Lasker a visa for any American port city. Lasker then made arrangements to travel via Amsterdam direct to Havana. (source: The New York Times, Feb 2, 1921, p. 19)
The world championship match began on March 15, 1921, in the large hall of the Union Club in Havana. Judge Alberto Ponce was the referee. The game was played on the same table that was used by Steinitz and Chigorin in their world championship match in Havana. Capablanca won the match against Lasker with 4 wins and 10 draws. The match was scheduled for 30 games. On April 27, Lasker officially resigned the match on the grounds of ill-health in a letter of resignation. Capablanca became the official 3rd world champion (1921-1927) in the history of chess. Lasker had been world champion since 1894, when he defeated William Steinitz. The prize fund was $25,000. (source: The New York Times, Apr 28, 1921, p. 20)
After the 1921 world championship match, Capablanca was given the nickname “human chess machine.”
After the world championship match, a bill was introduces in the Cuban House of Representatives to provide Capablanca a pension of $4,500 per year for his accomplishment in the winning of the world’s championship.
In 1921 Capablanca wrote Chess Fundamentals and he wrote The World’s Championship Chess Match between Jose Raul Capablanca and Dr. Emanuel Lasker.
In September 1921, Capablanca accepted a challenge, through a letter of acceptance, from Akiba Rubinstein for a match for the world chess championship. Capablanca proposed that a world chess championship match should be defended yearly and he was willing to do that. The first player with 6 victories would be the world chess champion. (source: The New York Times, Sep 8, 1921, p. 20)
In November 1921, Alexander Alekhine challenged Capablanca for the world chess championship. (source: The New York Times, Dec 1, 1921, p. 25)
Capablanca got married in Havana on December 29, 1921. He married Gloria Simoni Betancourt (born in 1893), a member of one of the oldest Cuban families, with an estate at Camaguey. They had a son, Jose Raul Capablanca, Jr. in 1923, and a daughter, Gloria in 1925.
On February 4, 1922, Capablanca played 103 opponents in Cleveland, winning 102 games and drawing 1 (to Erik Anderson) game in seven hours. This was the largest chess simultaneous exhibition in history up to that time. It set the record for the best winning percentage ever in a large simultaneous exhibition.
In August-September 1922, Capablanca took 1st place in the London International Chess Masters tournament with 11 wins and 4 draws, 1 1/2 points ahead of Alekhine. During this event, Capablanca proposed the “London Rules” to regulate future World Championship negotiations. In accordance with the new rules drawn up by most of the masters (Capablanca, Alekhine, Bogoljubow, Maroczy, Reti, Rubinstein, Tartakower, and Vidmar) at the London tournament, the challenger had to post $500 as a guarantee of good faith, and another $500 three months before the beginning of the match.
In 1922, Capablanca said that in his best year of chess, he had only made slightly more than $10,000. (source: The New York Times, Sep 10, 1922, p. 124)
On January 2, 1923, Jose Raul Capablanca, Junior was born. He later became a lawyer. He died in Havana on January 31, 1984.
On June 28, 1923, Jose Capablanca’s father died in Havana, aged 61. He had fallen from his horse and developed a tumor from a hip injury.
In March-April 1924, the New York International Chess Masters’ Tournament was held in New York (1st prize was $1,500 – worth about $20,000 in 2015). Capablanca took second (won by Lasker) with 10 wins, 9 draws, and 1 loss, earning $1,000. (source: The New York Times, April 20, 1924, p. 1) The loss was to Richard Reti in round 5 on March 21. It was his first serious loss of a game in 8 years (last losing to Chajes in New York in February, 1916). From 1916 to 1924, Capablanca had played 63 serious tournament games, winning 40 games and drawing 23 before losing his next game.
After the New York 1924 tournament, Capablanca wrote that it was extremely doubtful that he would participate in any more international tournaments, and that he was retiring from hard chess competition. He would play only occasionally in public exhibitions.
In 1924, the USSR published Russian translations of two Capablanca books, My Chess Career and Chess Fundamentals. These editions helped the popularity of chess in the Soviet Union.
On June 23, 1925, Capablanca’s daughter, Gloria de los Angeles Capablanca Simoni Betencourt was born in Havana.
In November 1925, Capablanca proposed a new chess variant, played on a 10x10 board or a 10x8 board. He introduced two new pieces. The chancellor had the combined moves of a rook and knight (the piece could move like a rook or a knight). The other piece was the archbishop that had the combined moves of a bishop and knight. Capablanca argued that chess was becoming too stereotyped and mechanical. (source: The New York Times, Nov 9, 1925, p. 16)
On November 20, 1925, Capablanca gave a 30-board simultaneous exhibition at the Leningrad Conservatorium. The play lasted for 7 hours without a break. He won 18 games, drew 8, and lost 4 games. One of his losses was to 14-year old Mikhail Botvinnik. Capablanca said of Botvinnik, “This youngster plays with the confidence of a master. He will go far.”
In November-December 1925, at the Moscow International, Capablanca took 3rd place behind Bogoljubov (1st) and Lasker (2nd), with 9 wins, 9 draws, and 2 losses (losing to Ilyin-Genevsky and Verlinksy). While in Moscow, Capablanca took part in a movie film called Chess Fever. This was the first international chess tournament in Russia since 1914. (source: The New York Times, Dec 10, 1925, p. 32)
One unconfirmed report is that Capablanca entered the Kremlin in 1925 while he was in Moscow and played against Soviet leaders.
In July 1926, Capablanca won the Pan American chess tournament at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, with 4 wins and 4 draws. (source: The New York Times, Jul 21, 1926, p. 14)
In 1926, a group of Argentine businessmen, backed by a guarantee from the president of Argentina, promised the funds for a World Championship to be held in Buenos Aires. Nimzowitsch first challenged Capablanca and Capablanca gave Nimzowitsch until January 1, 1927 to deposit a forfeit in order to arrange a match. When this did not materialize, a Capablanca-Alekhine match was agreed, to begin in September 1927, after Alekhine deposited the forfeit money of $1,000.
On December 7, 1926, Jose Capablanca’s mother died in Havana.
In 1927 Capablanca was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary at Large of the Cuban Republic.
In February-March, 1927 Capablanca won the New York International, 2 1/2 points ahead of Alekhine. Up to this time, Capablanca had only lost 4 games of the 158 match and tournament games he had played since 1914.
Before the 1927 world championship match, not a single commentator considered the possibility that Capablanca could lose the match. Most speculated that Alekhine would win a game or two, but that would be it.
On September 16, 1927 Capablanca faced Alexander Alekhine in game one for the world championship match in Buenos Aires. Capablanca had never lost a game against Alekhine before this match (Capablanca scoring three wins and seven draws in tournaments, and two wins in exhibitions). The stake money was $10,000 in gold. Capablanca, as White in game one, lost in 43 moves. When it was over in November, Capablanca lost, winning 3 games, drawing 25 games, and losing 6 games. The entire match took place behind closed doors and lasted 73 days. There were no spectators or photographs. The opening of 32 of the 34 games were Queen's Gambit Declined.
In 1928, Capablanca wrote Games Played in the World’s Championship match between Jose Raul Capablanca and Alexander Alekhin.
Capablanca settled in Paris after the match, trying to get a return match. Capablanca won Berlin 1928, 2nd at Bad Kissingen 1928 (behind Bogoljubov), 1st at Budapest 1928, 2nd at Carlsbad 1929 (behind Nimzowitsch), 1st at Barcelona 1929, 1st at Ramsgate 1929, and 2nd at Hastings 1930-1 (behind Euwe).
From 1928 through 1931, Capablanca took 1st prize in six tournaments, finished 2nd in two tournaments, and one joint second. However, Capablanca and Alekhine never played in the same tournament during this period.
Alekhine avoided Capablanca's challenge of a re-match and played the much weaker Efim Bogoljubov in 1929. Alekhine further avoided Capablanca by insisting that Capablanca had to put up $10,000 in gold. After the stock market crash, there were no backers for Capablanca.
In 1930-31 Capablanca took 2nd at Hastings. His only loss was to an illiterate player named Sultan Khan.
On February 12, 1931, Capablanca gave a simul at the 7th Regiment Armory in New York. He played 50 boards with 4 players each (200 players) and won 28 games, drew 16, and lost 6 in 8 ½ hours, having walked seven miles around the tables.
In 1931 Capablanca played Max Euwe in a match and won with 2 wins and 8 draws.
Capablanca won the New York 1931 tournament with 9 wins and 2 draws.
In the spring of 1933, Capablanca visited Los Angeles and Hollywood. He engaged in a display of living chess and gave a few exhibitions.
In December 1933, Capablanca won all 9 of his games in a Manhattan Chess Club weekly rapid chess tournament, finishing two points ahead of Reshevsky and Fine.
In the spring of 1934, Capablanca met his future second wife, Olga Chagodalf (nee Choubaroff), a Russian princess, at a party in New York
Capablanca took 4th place at Hastings 1934-5, and 4th place at Moscow 1935.
In 1935 he took 2nd at Margate (behind Reshevsky).
In 1935, Capablanca wrote, A Primer of Chess.
In 1936 he took 2nd at Margate (behind Flohr).
In May-June 1936, Capablanca won at Moscow 1936 with 8 wins and 10 draws, one point ahead of Botvinnik. The international tournament was sponsored by the Russian Chess Federation and held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
In August, 1936 he tied for first place at Nottingham with Botvinnik. This was also the only meeting with Alekhine since their world championship match in 1927. Capablanca won in 38 moves.
In 1936, Capablanca began to suffer symptoms of high blood pressure. His doctor put him on a diet of milk, fruit, and vegetables.
In 1937 he obtained a divorce from his first wife, whose family succeeded in having Capablanca demoted to the post of commercial attaché.
In 1937 Capablanca tied for 3rd-4th at Semmering (won by Paul Keres).
In 1938, Capablanca had his portrait done by T. E. Valdenama.
On October 20, 1938, Capablanca married Olga Chagodayev in Elkton, Maryland. He was 49 and she was 37.
In 1938 Capablanca took 7th out of 8 places at AVRO in Amsterdam. He won 2 games, drew 8, and lost 4. He had suffered a slight stroke halfway through the event and was suffering from high blood pressure.
In Margate 1939 Capablanca tied for 2nd-3rd (won by Keres).
His last serious games were at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939, where he played first board for the Cuban team. He had the best score for board one, with 7 wins and 9 draws (6 wins and 5 draws in the finals). He won the gold medal for the best performance on the top board, scoring 77%. When Cuba played France, Capablanca decided not to play, so missed a chance at playing against Alekhine.
On March 19, 1941, Capablanca inaugurated the “Club de Ajedrez Capablanca” at Pinar del Rio, Cuba.
In May 1941, Capablanca moved to New York from Cuba. Capablanca came to the USA to interest the U.S. Chess Federation in sponsoring a world championship title match between him and Alekhine to be played in America. An attempt was then made to bring Alekhine to New York, but he was unable to obtain passports.
On November 6, 1941, Capablanca gave his last simultaneous exhibition at the Marshall Chess Club in New York. He won 19, lost 2, and drew 1.
In January 1942, Capablanca gave a series of chess lectures in Spanish and broadcasted to Latin American listeners. Before the lectures, he had to go out and buy a chess set. He had no chess set in his house. He had to buy the chess set to prepare his lectures for the radio, which he had written in Spanish.
In Capablanca’s Last Chess Lectures, he wrote, “I received a great number of chess sets as gifts. I especially remember a very handsome and rare set which I tried to hold on to, but which has gone with the others. The result is that today (1942) I do not possess a single set. My travels, my changes of residence, and my children did away with every single one.”
At 10:30 pm on Sunday evening, March 7, 1942, Jose Capablanca suffered a stroke at the Manhattan Chess Club (130 Central Park South) while watching a skittles game. His last words were, “Help me with my cape,” in Spanish. He fell to the floor and lapsed into a coma before the arrival of medical help. He died at 6 a.m. on March 8, 1942 at Mount Sinai hospital, the same hospital that Emanuel Lasker died a year earlier. The cause of death was given as “a cerebral hemorrhage provoked by hypertension.”
He was the shortest lived world champion, dying at age 53 years, 109 days.
At the time of his death, Capablanca was still the commercial attaché of the Cuban Embassy.
At the time of his death, he left a widow, Olga, a son and a daughter, Jose R. Jr. and Gloria Capablanca de Palaius, and a younger brother.
He was buried with full honors in Havana. General Batista, President of Cuba, took personal charge of the funeral arrangements. On March 15, 1942, Capablanca’s body was given a public funeral in Havana’s Colon Cemetery.
Capablanca won 7, drew 35, and lost 6 world championship games, for a total score of 24 1/2 points out of 48 games played. He was world champion for 6 years and was never given a chance for a re-match. His historical Elo rating has been calculated to be 2725.
His record against Frank Marshall was 20 wins, 2 losses, and 28 draws. His record against Lasker was 6 wins, 2 losses, and 16 draws. His record against Alekhine was 9 wins, 7 losses, and 33 draws.
Capablanca played 485 tournament games in 37 tournaments, winning 271, losing 26, and drawing 188 games.
He played 16 matches, winning 42 games, losing 11 games, and drawing 66 games.
Capablanca played a total of 604 official match and tournament games. He won 313, drew 254, and only lost 37 serious games in his entire life.
He played 41 exhibition games, winning 37 and drawing 4.
He played 30 consultation games, winning 21 and drawing 9.
He gave 25 simultaneous displays with clocks, winning 80 games, losing 13 games, and drawing 22 games.
Capablanca played over 1,200 games that have been recorded. His ratio of losses, 5.7%, is the best achievement by any master in the history of chess.
He took 1st place in 20 times and 2nd place in 10 times.
In 491 known simultaneous exhibitions, Capablanca played 13,545 games, winning 11,912 games, drawing 1,063 games, and losing 570 games, for a winning percentage of 92%.
Capablanca played 30 consultation games, scoring 21 wins and 9 draws.
Capablanca did not like blindfold chess, saying, “why should I kill myself.” He was known to have played a one or two blindfold games, but never game large multi-board blindfold exhibitions. In an interview, he said that he did not care much for blindfolded chess, that it was too much like charlatanism.
Capablanca was considered the greatest simultaneous player of his time.
There are no surviving games of correspondence chess with Capablanca, although he advertised that he was willing to play a correspondence game for $5 a game.
On November 1, 1951, Cuba issued a series of chess stamps honoring Capablanca. The one cent regular postage and the 25 cents air-mail stamp had a portrait of Capablanca on it. It was the first stamp issued which portrayed a chess master. Another stamp showed Capablanca’s winning position against Lasker in 1921. These stamps, in seven denominations and four designs, commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Capablanca-Lasker match.
In 1962, the first Capablanca Memorial was held in Cuba.
On January 31, 1984, Jose Raul Capablanca, Junior died of heart disease in Havana. He was 61.