Capablanca's Chess + Billiards match

4/1/2012 – We all know chess boxing – where two players engage in alternating rounds of chess and pugilism. It was introduced eight years ago, and some people still profess to like it. But did you know about an earlier, less crude, attempt to combine chess with a disparate sport? It was tried by the great J.R. Capablanca, who played a chess-billiards match in 1922. It unsurprisingly ended 1-1.

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An interesting article in the October 1982 issue of the Yugoslav magazine Šahovski Glasnik (pages 363-364) reported that after the London Rules for world championship challenges had been agreed in 1922, Capablanca went to Monte Carlo ‘to relax’.

Also there at that time was Erich Hagenlocher, a German from Stuttgart who in the 1920s was the unchallenged billiards champion of all cafés and casinos in Europe. Since each of the champions could play the other’s game, somebody had the idea of a contest between them. Billiards came first, with a match for the first to reach 100 ‘Karambols’ with Capa given a start of 75 and the right to play first. The Cuban in fact reached 94, but then Hagenlocher struck back with a run of 23, thereby gaining victory by 100 to 94.

So on to chess. One game was played, with Capa giving the odds of his queen’s rook:

[Event "Chess-Billiards match"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1922.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Capablanca, JR."]
[Black "Hagenlocher, Erich"]
[Result "1-0"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/1NBQKBNR w Kkq - 0 1"]
[PlyCount "35"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Bc5 3. f4 exf4 4. d4 Bb4 5. Bxf4 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 d5 7. e5 Be6 8.
Bd3 Ne7 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 O-O 11. Qh5 c6 12. Nf3 Qd7 13. h3 Nf5 14. g4 g6 {Now
comes the appealing finish:} 15. gxf5 gxh5 16. Rg1+ Kh8 17. Bf6+ Kh7 18. fxe6#
1-0

And so it was that the first chess-billiards double-bill ended in a 1-1 draw.

The game Capablanca-Hagenlocher appeared in a collection of Hans Klüver’s columns that was published under the title Faschingsschach der Welt (Siegfried Engelhardt Verlag, Berlin-Frohnau, 1963). This book (pages 14-15) indicates that the original game appeared in Die Welt on 30 December 1950.


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