Jose Capablanca

by Bill Wall


Jose Raul Capablanca y Graupera was born on November 19, 1888 in the Castillo del Principe in Havana, Cuba. His father, Jose Maria Capablanca (1863-1923), was an army officer in the Spanish Army.  He was a lieutenant (later major) in the cavalry division stationed in Morro Castle, Havana.  His mother was Matilde Maria Graupera y Marina 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 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.   Tabenhaus 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.

In 1895, at the age of 8, his father regularly took him to the Havana Chess Club to meet stronger players. Capablanca did not take any chess lessons.

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 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.

In April 1902, Jose, age 13, played in the 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 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.  (source: New York Tribune, Jan 8, 1905, p. 12)

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, Capablanca passed with ease the entrance examinations and entered Columbia University in 1906 to study chemical engineering (and perhaps play professional baseball).

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.


In September 1906, Jose entered Columbia University (Class of 1910) to study chemical engineering (and perhaps plays professional baseball).  Capablanca was soon selected as shortstop for the Columbia University freshman team, and later played second base, where he was varsity team captain.  


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.  Capablanca played board 1 and defeated other top boards at other chess clubs around New York, including the Brooklyn Chess Club, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.


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.  Hermann Helms said that Capablanca was the best impromptu player of the day bar none.  (source: Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan 20, 1907, p. 4)

In December 1906, Capablanca played board 1 for Columbia University, which helped win the intercollegiate championship between Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard.

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 played on the American team in the 7th annual Anglo-American universities (Columbia, Yale and Harvard) cable match against Oxford and Cambridge for the I.L. Rice international trophy.  Capablanca drew his game with H. J. Rose of Oxford at Board No. 1.


Capablanca spent much of his time at the Manhattan Chess Club and played many games with the current world champion, Emanuel Lasker. Capablanca won a rapids chess tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club, ahead of Lasker.


In 1907, Capablanca gave a 22-board simultaneous exhibition at the Manhattan Chess Club and won all his games in two hours.


The September 1908 issue of Lasker’s Chess Magazine published the only chess problem Capablanca composed.


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 to become a chemical engineer. Capablanca then attempted to live by means of chess.  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.


According to Columbia University, Capablanca enrolled at Columbia’s School of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry to study chemical engineering.  Later, his financial support was withdrawn because he preferred playing chess to studying engineering.  


In November 1908, Capablanca dropped out of Columbia University and decided to tour the country and give simultaneous chess exhibitions.  He said it was due to a desire to see more of the United States and Canada.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 15, 1908, p. 16)  Capablanca also coached the Columbia chess team.

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.

From January through March, 1909, Capablanca made a tour of the United States and played in 27 cities. In 10 exhibitions he won 168 games in a row before losing a game in Minneapolis.  He gave exhibitions in New York City (20 wins, 1 loss, 4 draws) and Washington DC (18 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw).  He then started on his tour and went to Troy (25-0), Schenectady (30-0), Utica (11-0), Rochester (13-0), Buffalo (20-0 and 10-0), Toronto (23-0), Cleveland (20 wins and 1 draw – to H. Lane), Detroit (15-0), Milwaukee (15 wins, 1 draw), Minneapolis (19 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss), St. Paul (6-0), Forest City (25-0), Sioux City (16-0), Lincoln (won 13, lost 4, then 25-0, the 15 wins and 1 draw),  Des Moines (25-0), Newton (17-0), Kansas City,  (15 wins, 4 losses), Humboldt (28-0), St. Louis (16 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss, then 17 wins, 1 draw), Memphis (13 wins, 4 draws), New Orleans  (16 wins and 1 draw), Indianola (10 wins and 1 loss) Indianapolis (12-0), Cincinnati (14 wins and 1 draw), Lexington (23-0), Gambier (23-0) and Pittsburgh (41 wins, 2 losses and 5 draws).  On his tour, Capablanca played 602 games.  He won 571 games, lost 13, and drew 18 (source: Brandreth & Hooper, The Unknown Capablanca, p. 181).  Other sources say that Capablanca played 657 games, winning 621, losing 14, and drawing 19.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar 8, 1909, p. 12).  This performance gained him sponsorship for an exhibition match that year with Frank Marshall.  

Before Capablanca lost his first game in Minneapolis during his simul tour, he had won 234 games and drew 4 games. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan 31, 1909, p 14)

Capablanca charged $25 for 25 boards in his exhibitions, plus railroad fare.

In 1909, Capablanca writes that he played 28 games in Hoboken in 1 hour and 40 minutes, losing only one after having refused a draw.


In March 1909, Capablanca entered the Manhattan Chess Club handicap tournament, and won with 11 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss.


On March 9, 1909, U.S. Champion Frank Marshall (and one of the top 10 players in the world) agreed to an unofficial match with Capablanca and signed a contract.  The match would be played in April-May.  The winner would be the one who first scored 8 wins, draws not counting.


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 1, 1909, Capablanca gave a simul in New York, winning 25 and drawing 4.  The next day, he went to Philadelphia, where he won 16, lost 2, and drew 4.


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 –June 1909, U.S. Champion Frank Marshall played his match with Capablanca for $600 a side.  Capablanca won with 8 wins, 14 draws, and 1 loss.  After the match, Capablanca said that he had never opened a book on chess openings.  In print, Capablanca was called the Cuban champion and the Pan-American chess champion.  After the Marshall match, Akiba Rubinstein, champion of Russia, challenged Capablanca.  Capablanca was also challenged by Rudolf Pokorny (1880- ?), who claimed he was champion of Mexico.

After the Marshall match, Capablanca went to Montreal on June 29-30, 1909, where he won 12 and drew 3 in his first simul.  The next day, he won 15, lost 1, and drew 2. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 4, 1909, p. 46)

In July 1909, the New York State Chess Association eliminated the match for the U.S. chess championship after a protest from Capablanca.  Capablanca wanted to return to his home in Havana, Cuba for 6 weeks.  He took the stand that in view of his decisive defeat of U.S. chess champion Frank Marshall, Capablanca must be considered in any contest involving the title of the champion of the United States.  (source: 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.


Capablanca returned to New York in September, 1909, and said the following, “By my victory over Marshall, I have taken the position as the strongest representative on this side of the Atlantic.  Therefore, I consider myself the ‘champion of America,’ and stand ready to defend my title within a year against any American of the USA or anywhere else., for a side bet of at least $1,000.”  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sep 26, 1909, p. 35)


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.


In October 1909, Capablanca gave a simul in Hackensack, New Jersey, and won 25 and drew 5.  He then gave a simul in Washington, DC, winning 13. drawing 1, and losing 1.  He also gave simuls at the Manhattan Chess Club, Hoboken, New Jersey, the Rice Chess Club, and at Hartford, Connecticut.    He played 138 games, winning 117, losing 8, and drawing 13. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 13, 1909, p. 8)

From November 1909 to January 1910, Capablanca went on another USA simultaneous tour and won 469, lost 17, and drew 23 in 25 exhibitions around the country. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 27, 1909, p. 24)

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, held at the Rice Chess Club in the Café Boulevard in New York, with 6 wins and 1 draw (to Charles Jaffe).   In round 2, he defeated U.S. chess champion Frank Marshall again.  Capablanca beat Jaffe in the play-offs.  Marshall had to miss a game because of jury duty.

In April 1910, Capablanca beat George Beihoff in a match where Capablanca gave pawn and move odds.  Capablanca won 5, drew 1 and lost 1.  Beihoff took 3rd place in the Manhattan Chess Club championship, behind Marshall and Johner, and, later, won the New York State championship.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr 3, 1910, p. 19)

In 1910, Capablanca was captain of the Collegiate Baseball Team and their home games were played at Park Ridge, New Jersey.

In the summer of 1910, Capablanca was invited to take part in the International Tournament at Hamburg on recommendation from world champion Emanuel Lasker.  He accepted the invitation, and was ready to start when health problems prevented him from making the trip.  Carl Schlechter won at Hamburg, followed by Duras, Nimzowitsch, Spielmann, Teichmann, Marshall, Duz-Khotimirsky, Alekhine, Tarrasch, Forgacs, Leonhardt, Tartakower, Salwe, Kohnlein, Speijer, John, Yates, and Jacob.

In 1910, Frank Marshall was invited to play in a chess tournament at San Sebastian, Spain.  Marshall insisted that Capablanca also be allowed to play.  It was to be one of the strongest tournaments ever held, with all the world’s leading chess players competing except for world champion Lasker.  Casablanca’s entry was originally reserved for Emanuel Lasker.  If Lasker had shown up, Capablanca would not be invited to play.  San Sebastian would be the strongest chess tournament since Nuremberg in 1896.

In November 1910 through January 1911, he 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.   In his 3rd tour, he gave 15 exhibitions.  He won 234, lost 8, and drew 12.

In January-February 1911, Capablanca took 2nd place (behind Frank Marshall who scored 10-2) in the National Masters’ tournament in New York, with 8 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss (to Roy Black).  

After the New York Masters’ tournament in February 1911, Capablanca sailed for Europe on the Lusitania.

In March 1911, Capablanca won at San Sebastian (which began on Feb 20), an international masters’ tournament in Spain, on his first attempt (the last person to do that was Pillsbury when he won Hastings 1895). He won 6, drew 7, and lost 1 ahead of Rubinstein and Schlechter. Before the tournament, both Aron Nimzowitsch and Dr. Ossip Bernstein protested that such an unknown player should not play in this event. The entry condition was that each player has to have won at least 3rd place 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 and 500 extra francs) and Nimzowitsch in a later round.   First place was 5,000 francs (over $25,000 in today’s currency).

Following Capablanca were Rubinstein, Vidmar, Marshall, Tarrasch, Schlechter, Nimzowitsch, Bernstein, Spielmann, Teichmann, Maroczy, Janowski, Burn, Duras, and Leonhardt.  The event was organized by Jacques Mieses.

At age 22, Capablanca was now considered 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 print, Capablanca was being called “a second Morphy.”  However, a New York Times article disagreed.  The author wrote, “Capablanca shows no such superiority to his rivals as did Morphy, and he has been content to contend with them for the gaining and holding of small advantages – the savings-bank game, as it has been derisively called by those who resent the recent criticism of Morphy.  And chess, after all, is only a game – a magnificent game, to be sure, but mastery of it is not a particularly enviable achievement, since it leads to nothing in itself beyond a scanty and not very dignified livelihood, and from it only few and dubious inferences can be drawn as to the mental equipment of its possessors.  Strangely few of the best players have been able to do anything else notably well, and the common belief that chess supplies mental training applicable in other directions is not borne out by the history of the game.” (source: New York Times, March 21, 1911, p. 10).

After Capablanca’s success at San Sebastian, President Gomez of Cuba headed a subscription to buy Capablanca a house and lot in Cuba.  (source: New York Tribune, Sep 10, 1911, p. 9)

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. Overall, in his European tour, he gave 10 exhibitions, winning 234, losing 19, and drawing 33.

In 1911, after San Sebastian, Capablanca went into business with Frederick D. Rosebault (1888-1945), who was involved with trying to secure a world championship match with Lasker.  Rosebault had a mail order firm in Westfield, New Jersey, that dealt in chess goods, periodicals, books, and stationary.  Rosebault also used the pseudonym Dana Welles.

In November 1911, Capablanca challenged Emanuel Lasker for the world championship. Lasker made 17 demands.  Among them, Lasker wanted the match limited to 30 games; first person winning 6 games would be world champion, draws not counting.  The challenger also had to win by 2 games to claim the world championship title.  Lasker also wanted Capablanca to put of $2,000 in forfeit money (over $194,000 in today’s currency).  In former matches, the amount was $500 in forfeit money.  Lasker also wanted the time control to be 12 moves an hour and an adjournment after 5 hours of play.  Lasker also stipulated that all the games would be the property of Lasker.   (source: New York Tribune, Nov 23, 1911, p. 8)  Capablanca objected to the time limit of 12 moves and hour (too slow) and other conditions.  Lasker resented the tone of Capablanca’s letter about the conditions, so Lasker broke off the negotiations. Lasker wote to Mr. Shipley, “By his [Capablanca] letter to me, Capablanca has aimed a deliberate blow against my professional honor.  I therefore broke off all direct negotiations with him.”  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar 12, 1912, p. 20)  The two were not on speaking terms for two years, and it would be 10 more years before the two of them agreed to the conditions of a match and play for the world championship in 1921.  Lasker then accepted a challenge from Akiba Rubinstein, but Rubinstein was unable to raise enough money to meet Lasker’s financial demands.

In May 1911, Capablanca travelled to Buenos Aires and played a series of simultaneous exhibitions.  He toured South America and gave exhibitions from May through August.


Capablanca started his 2nd European tour in September 1911, which continued through November, 1911.  He won 532 games, lost 54, and drew 66 games.


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, drawing 3, and losing 16.  It was the most he ever lost in simul exhibitions.

On March 31, 1912, Capablanca began a chess column in the Cuban newspaper Diario de la Marina.  It lasted until June 8, 1913.

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 April 1912, Capablanca began his third annual chess tour of the United States.  He started in New Orleans where he won 21, lost 1, and drew 1 in his first exhibition, then won 17-0 in the next exhibition at the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club.

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 August 1912, the newspapers announced that Capablanca married a member of a prominent Western family and that the wedding took place at Summit, New Jersey. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug 29, 1912, p. 21)

In September 1912, Capablanca resigned from the Manhattan Chess Club over an argument of a readmission of a certain former member.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sep 6, 1912).

In December 1912, Capablanca had a falling out of his former business partner, F. D. Rosebault.  Capablanca had to go to court to answer a summons that Rosebault accused Capablanca of taking personal effects from the office which they formerly occupied in Westfield, New Jersey.  Capablanca took some of Rosebault’s papers, letters, cigars, and liquor bottles from the office and said he would return them in after Rosebault returned Capablanca’s gold medals given to him by the city of Havana.  (source: Virginia Gazetter, Jan 2, 1913, p. 7)

In January-February 1913, Capablanca returned to New York and won the second American National Chess Masters’ Tournament with 11/13 (losing to Jaffe), half a point ahead of Marshall.  He called Marshall the Champion of the United States and himself the Champion of all the Americas.

In February 1913, Capablanca almost missed the ship to take him to Havana for another chess tournament.  Just as the ship was about to leave New York, Capablanca dashed down the pier in a taxicab just in time to be taken aboard.  As he reached the gangplank, he said, “I have never lost a game on time limit yet.” (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 9, 1913, p. 15).  On the return voyage from Havana to New York, he did miss the boat.

In February-March 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 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 July 1913, Capablanca returned to New York and went 13-0 in a New York tournament held at the Rice Chess Club’s masters’ tournament.

In July, 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.  A Cuban consulate was established in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Capablanca was appointed vice-consul at the new consulate. (source: New York Tribune, Jul 4, 1913, p. 3)

In October 1913 to March 1914 Capablanca 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 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 April-May 1914, Capablanca took 2nd in the St Petersburg tournament (10 wins, 2 losses, 6 draws), ½ point behind Lasker. Czar Nicholas II conferred the title "Grandmaster of Chess" on Capablanca and four others (Lasker, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall) for the top five finishers. The Czar also contributed 1,000 rubles.  


Capablanca was transferred from the Cuban Embassy at St. Petersburg to the one in Berlin, then World War I broke out.  Chess matches and tournaments were cancelled in most of Europe and Lasker found it difficult to leave Germany.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug 23, 1914, p. 49)


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.  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 an Argentine battleship, the Moreno,  going to Philadelphia.  He arrived in Philadelphia on January 16, 1915.

On February 12, 1915, Capablanca played 65 boards and 84 opponents (150 if you add the kibitzers and consultants) in Brooklyn.  He won 48, lost 5, and drew 12 in 6 ¾ hours.  There were approximately 500 spectators at the event.  At the time, it was a record for the most simultaneous games played, breaking Marshall’s record of 57 games (46 wins and 11 draws) in April, 1913.  Before the exhibition started, 12 chess sets were missing to make up the 65 boards.  A messenger went to the Brooklyn Chess Club and borrowed 12 chess sets.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 13, 1915)


In March-April 1915, Capablanca went on his 5th US tour, giving 16 exhibitions.  Of 404 games, he won 388 games, lost 2, and drew 14, a record for consistent winning. (source Pittsburgh Post, Jun 6, 1915, p. 44)


In April-May 1915, Capablanca won the National Masters’s tournament in New York with 12 wins and 2 draws.


On November 19, 1915 (Capablanca’s 27th birthday), Capablanca participated in a Good Companion problem-solving tournament at the Franklin Chess Club in Philadelphia.  He solved ten two-movers in 21 minutes.  He then gave a simultaneous exhibition, winning15, drawing 1, and losing 1.  (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov 20, 1915).


Late in 1915, Capablanca made his 6th US tour, winning 209, losing 8, and drawing 5.

During World War I Capablanca stayed in New York, winning events there in 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1918.  He only lost one game during these years.

In January 1916, Capablanca gave a 33-board simul at the Manhattan Chess Club.  He won 30 games, drew 2, and lost only one – to a woman.  Lupe Requena, daughter of a well known Mexican amateur chess player, beat Capablanca in 37 moves as Black. (source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jan 12, 1916, p. 21)

In January-February 1916, Capablanca won the Rice Memorial Masters Tournament, held in honor of Professor Isaac Rice, who had died in November, 1915.


On February 10, 1916, in the New York 1916 event, Capablanca lost his only game, to Oscar Chajes. He would not lose another tournament chess game for 8 years.


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.”  He was playing his father at age 4.

Practically all of 1917 was spent by Capablanca in Cuba.  He said he used that time to study the chess openings for the first time.

In October 1918, the Manhattan Chess Club sponsored a master’s tournament.  The event 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 and won the tournament.

In March-April 1919, Capablanca beat the Serbian master Boris Kostic of Hungary 5-0 in a match held in Havana.   The match was to be one of 8 games, draws not counting.

At Hastings, England in August 1919, he won with 10 wins and 1 draw.   The Victory Tournament at Hastings was the first international competition on Allied soil since 1914.  It was also the first attempt in England to hold an international tournament in 20 years.

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 played a team of 38 members of the British House of Commons.  We won 36 and drew 2.  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 1920 Capablanca wrote My Chess Career.  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.”

On June 27, 1920, Lasker wrote a letter to Capablanca resigning his title to Capablanca, but the public (and Capablanca) wanted a match and Cuban enthusiasts raised $20,000 (later risen to $25,000) to fund the match provided it was played in Havana.   The record prize fund was $25,000. Even if he lost, Lasker would get $13,000 of the prize fund.  When Capablanca was asked what he would do if Lasker refused to play, Capablanca replied that he would then be justified in claiming the title and that he would be willing to accept a challenge from Akiba Rubinstein.

In August 1920, Capablanca visited Lasker again at The Hague and Lasker agreed to play the match in Havana, but demanded an advance payment of his share of the purse before leaving Europe, and another payment before starting play.  Lasker had lost all his savings during World War I (investing in German war bonds), and agreed to the match primarily to recoup his losses.

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 1920, Capablanca wrote My Chess Career and Chess Fundamentals.  They were published in late 1921.

In February 1921, the American consulate in Berlin refused to give a visa to Lasker to travel to the United States.  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.

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. 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.

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 The World’s Championship Chess Match between Jose Raul Capablanca and Dr. Emanuel Lasker.

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.  Prior to this event, Capablanca had not played chess of any kind for 14 months.

In August 1922, Capablanca took at 1st place in the British Chess Federation championship in London 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.

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 9th International Chess Master Tournament was held in New York (1st prize was $1,500 – worth about $18,000 in 2010). Capablanca took second (won by Lasker) with 10 wins, 9 draws, and 1 loss. 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.

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 Moscow 1925 Capablanca took 3rd place behind Bogoljubov and Lasker, 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.

One unconfirmed report is that Capablanca entered the Kremlin in 1925 while he was in Moscow and played against Soviet leaders.

In 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 won Lake Hopatcong, New York 1926 with 4 wins, 4 draws.

In 1926, a group of Argentinean businessmen, backed by a guarantee from the president of Argentina, promised the funds for a World Championship to be held in Buenos Aires.  Nimzovich first challenged Capablanca and Capablanca gave Nimzovich 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 Nimzovich), 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, a Russian princess, 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 correspondence games 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.

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.



Bjelica, Capablanca, 1993

Brandreth & Hooper, The Unknown Capablanca, 1975

Capablanca, A Primer of chess, 1935

Capablanca, Capablanca’s Last Chess Lectures, 1967

Capablanca, Chess Fundamentals, 1921

Capablanca, My Chess Career, 1926 and 1966

Capablanca, “How I Learned to Play Chess,” Munsey’s Magazine, October 1916, pp. 94-96

Caparros, The Games of Jose Capablanca, 1991

Chernev, Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings, 1978

Chernev, Jose Raul Capablanca Championship Matches 1921 and 1927, 1977

Del Rosario, Capablanca – A Primer of Checkmate, 2010

Euwe & Prins, Capablanca, 1990

Golombek, Capablanca’s 100 Best Games of Chess, 1947

Khalifman, Jose Raul Capablanca Games, 1901-1924, 2004

Lakdawala, Capablanca Move by Move, 2012

Linder, Capablanca, 2011

Long, Capablanca the Mouthpiece, 2011

Panov, Capablanca, 1960

Reinfeld, Immortal Games of Capablanca, 1990

Siwek, Jose Raul Capablanca

Varnusz, Capablanca, Vol 1 and 2, 1997

Voronkova, Capablanca, Self Portrait of a Genius, 2006

Winter, Capablanca: A Compendium, 1989