Capablanca’s Checkmates


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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.

Capablanca's Checkmates

José Raúl Capablanca – Emanuel Lasker
Game 11
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.

47 …Qd6

Perhaps he will be able to prolong the game with 47 …Qd5+ if Capablanca fails to find the best move?

48 Qxf8+

This queen sacrifice cuts the thread and ensures the victory.

Capablanca Sacrifice the Queen for Checkmate

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.

Casual Play

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.

Capablanca Queen Sacrifice

José Raúl Capablanca – T.A. Carter
Saint Louis (Casual Game) 1909

28 Qg7+!

A queen sacrifice on an empty square. Checkmate is now forced.

28 …Rxg7

28 …Bxg7 29 hxg7 is double check and mate.

29 hxg7+ Kg8

Capablanca's Checkmates

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).

Attacking Alekhine

José Raúl Capablanca – Alexander Alekhine
Game Three
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.

42 Qc7+!

As tempting as the discovered checks may be, this queen check is much better. The knight is perfectly positioned to assist with the checkmate.

Mate in Three Moves

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.

Chessable Course

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.

The Checkmate Patterns Manual

There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

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