It is Checkmate Monday once again and today we present three of Capablanca’s checkmates.
José Raúl Capablanca, the third official World Champion of chess, beat the previous incumbent, Emanuel Lasker, in a famous match in 1921.
Although we tend to associate Capablanca more with his extraordinary endgame skill than with checkmating attacks, he was still more than willing to wind up a game with a direct attack on the opponent’s king.
Top of the World
The first example is from the big title match of 1921.
José Raúl Capablanca – Emanuel Lasker
World Championship Match, 1921
Lasker’s position is hanging by a thread. He moved his queen out of the attack of the rook into a more central place.
Perhaps he will be able to prolong the game with 47 …Qd5+ if Capablanca fails to find the best move?
This queen sacrifice cuts the thread and ensures the victory.
Lasker resigned here (1-0), as 48 …Qxf8 is met by 49 Rxh7 checkmate. 48 …Kh5 lasts just one move longer: 49 Rxh7+ Kg4 50 f3 checkmate.
The next example is far away from the rarified atmosphere of a title match. Capablanca’s attack here his more reminiscent of the games of Mikhail Tal, the eighth champion of the world.
José Raúl Capablanca – T.A. Carter
Saint Louis (Casual Game) 1909
A queen sacrifice on an empty square. Checkmate is now forced.
28 …Bxg7 29 hxg7 is double check and mate.
29 hxg7+ Kg8
30 Rh8 checkmate.
Tough at the Top
Back to the big matches. Capablanca lost his title to Alexander Alekhine in 1927 after a titanic struggle over 34 games. Unfortunately for the defending champion, his best game was the third one of the match. He underestimated Alekhine (as did many others, as strange as it seems in hindsight).
However, Capablanca must have enjoyed this game, which was the first of his three wins in the match (Alekhine won six games).
José Raúl Capablanca – Alexander Alekhine
World Championship Match, 1927
Alekhine’s connected passed pawns on the queenside are not dangerous as they have a long way to go before the threat of promotion becomes a cause for concern.
Meanwhile, Capablanca’s extra knight (and pawn) on the kingside represent a winning advantage.
What is the most accurate move now? The chess player’s brain will immediately begin examining the discovered checks following a knight move. Capablanca, however, left the knight where it was as he had worked out a checkmate in three moves.
As tempting as the discovered checks may be, this queen check is much better. The knight is perfectly positioned to assist with the checkmate.
Alekhine resigned here (1-0). 42 …Ke8 43 Qe7 checkmate; 42 …Kg8 43 Qg7 checkmate and 42 …Kf8 43 Qe7+ Kg8 44 Qg7 checkmate (or 43 Qg7+ Ke8 44 Qe7 checkmate) all show what is in store for Black.
There are many more beautiful checkmating patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf. This course won third place in our Chessable Awards for 2020.
There is a shortened, free version of the course here.