Magazine article The Spectator

Capa the Great

Magazine article The Spectator

Capa the Great

Article excerpt

JOSE RAOUL Capablanca was world champion from 1921 to 1927, and was widely regarded as the most perfect genius of chess, a natural player, whose style on the chessboard mirrored that of Mozart in music. No other player has been quite so difficult to defeat. Fifty years ago his greatest acolyte, Harry Golombek, published a tribute to him: 100 of Capablanca's games, deeply annotated. This volume has now been reissued by Batsford, re-edited by Dr John Nunn and with the moves converted from cumbersome English descriptive notation to the simplified modern version I use in this column.

In his appreciation of Capablanca, Golombek wrote:

`The games of Capablanca breathe a serenity, a lucid crystal clarity, a type of model perfection present in no other master. This splendidior vitro quality of Capablanca's style has led some critics to assume falsely that he erred on the side of over-safety and that in his preference for the simple line rather than the richly complicated he was inclined to concede too many draws. Nothing could be further from the truth. This simplicity of perfection was the product of supreme art.'

Having digested this encomium, imagine my surprise at reading a totally contradictory opinion to the author's expressed by John Nunn in his new introduction:

`But to succeed at the very top, it is necessary to defeat players of almost one's own calibre, and this is where Capablanca was lacking. Skill in simplified positions is all very well, but against first-rank opposition the strategy of simply waiting for a mistake will not work. …

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