CHESS

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The Independent Culture
Start the year with a bit of Capablanca, and your pawns will ever prosper. With that old Cuban proverb in mind, here's one of the Master's ineffable victories.

White: Vladimir Alatortzev

Black: Jose Raul Capablanca

Moscow 1935

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5

A lesser player might have adopted the Nimzo-Indian with 3...Bb4 - only real men decline the Queen's Gambit.

4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.cxd5

This pawn should be taken at move three or not at all. Here it leads only to exchanges and must be interpreted as a sign of pure funk.

6...Nxd5 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Nf3 Nxc3 9.bxc3 b6 10.Be2

Palpable cowardice! The bishop belongs on d3 to support an e4 advance.

10...Bb7 11.0-0 c5 12.Ne5 Nc6 13.Nxc6

White's strategy is clear: chop all the wood and take home half a point.

13...Bxc6 14.Bf3 Rac8 15.a4 cxd4 16.cxd4 g6 17.Bxc6 Rxc6 18.Qd3 Qb7

Keeping White's queen out of a6 and ensuring that 19.a5 may be met by 19...b5.

19.Rfb1 Rfc8 20.h3

20.a5 would still have been met by b5! Taking the pawn leads to White's being mated on the back rank.

20...a6 21.Qa3 Rc2 22.Qd6 (see diagram)

Not relishing the endgame after 22.Rc1 Rxc1+ 23.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 24.Qxc1 b5, White seeks counterplay, only to fall victim to a cunningly set trap.

22...Rxf2!

A splendid surprise. 23.Kxf2 Rc2+ leaves White the invidious choice between 24.Kg3 Qxg2+ 25.Kh4 (Kf4 loses the queen to Qh2+) g5+ 26.Kh5 Qxh3+ 27.Kxg5 Rg2+ with a quick win for Black, or 24.Ke1 Qxg2 25.Qd8+ Kg7 26.Qe5+ Kf8 27.Qd6+ Ke8 28.Qb8+ Ke7 29.Qa7+ Kf6 and the checks have run out.

23. Qg3 Re2 White resigned.

He must have felt that after 24.Rc1 (essential to prevent Rcc2) 24...Rcc2 25.Rxc2 Rxc2, his position was too miserable to be worth playing.

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