Saturday, 7 April 2007

Capablanca's Chess Fundamentals

Jose Raoul Capablanca
At his peak Cuban world chess champion Jose Raoul Capablanca was close to unbeatable. His play seemingly effortlessly smooth and his handling of endings was legendary. At the same time though he was considered as 'lazy' and spent little time learning opening theory.

His famous book, "Chess Fundamentals", is an oddity. A mish-mash that has parts for absolute beginners coupled with sections that the strongest player could learn from. He covers chess basics, advanced principles, particularly on the endings, a few complex tactical positions, and a handful of annotated games. Often, Capablanca leaves variations for the reader to find out ('to save space!').

Capablanca Chess Ending

This 'simple' endgame position is typical. Capablanca points out that White can win by f4-f5, and that Black's best defensive try would then be g7-g6. So, answers to me by Monday on roger AT 21thoughts DOT com: how does White win after 1. f5 g6 ? (I admit I resorted to a board to work it out).


Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

Nice diagram! Whatcha make 'em with? Oh, and if i were you, i would turn on word verification. On the other hand, if you like spam commenting (which you will undoubtedly get) you should leave it off. Just thought i would mention.

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the puzzle. Capablanca is my favourite player, but I've never read Chess Fundamentals.

I tried (after 1.f5 g6) 2. f6 Ke6 3.g5 when White should win because Black's King has to stay in the 'square' of the past pawn at f6.

However, I can see after checking this line with Fritz that there is a big hole in that analysis! It's fascinating how so few pieces on the board can still produce such subtle play.

Your blog looks really good. I've added it to the links on my blog. Keep up the good work - I'll be a regular reader in the future!

Roger Coathup said...

Hi Ryan,

thanks for the positive feedback and the link, I'll check out your blog shortly.

Yes, 2. f6 is met by 2 ... g5 drawing.

I take it Fritz and you were able to find the solution, giving up the advanced g-pawn to gain the opposition and queen the second pawn:

2. fg Ke6 3. g5! Ke7 4. Ke5 Kf8 5. Kf6 Kg8 6. g7 Kh7 7. g8=Q+! Kxg8 8. Kg6 Kh8 9. Kf7 etc.

I was getting frustrated trying to solve it just by looking at the starting position in the book.

Chess Fundamentals has few subtle positions like that in it and is definitely worth a read; I'm a fairly decent player, and I learn things from it.

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

to all of us chess aficionados,

Sorry but i beg to disagree to this. In the diagram, white cannot win bcoz if 1.f5,Ke7 (not g6) wud b d right answer of Black to draw d game. White can do nothing to win the game. game cont. 2.Ke5 Kf7 3.g5 g6 4.f6 Kf8 5.Ke6 Ke8 6.f7 Kf8 7.Kf6 draw.-jasper abit...

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger,
In your original post you say that
Capablanca claims that white "can"
win playing 1.f5 g6 etc...
However in my copy of the book
Chess Fundamentals (Mckay Chess
Library Random House 1988)
Capablanca claims on page 14 Example 8 that white "can't win" by
1 P-B5. Blacks best answer would be
P-Kt3 nor by(1.Pkt-5 PKt3) draws.
I don't know if this is what Edwin
'dutchdefense' meant by turning on word verification getting spam commenting,but I would like to know
if my copy of Chess Fundamentals has a typo.

Roger Coathup said...

@jasper .. White is still winning after 1... Ke7. On move 5, we play f7 giving up the pawn, but gaining the key square. We then win the Black g pawn with the opposition and queen our g pawn.

Roger Coathup said...

Must be a typo .. White is winning after 1 f5 g6... See line above


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