Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (78)

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2/11/2012 – In 1987 Olga Capablanca Clark mentioned to the Editor of Chess Notes an unknown game played by Capablanca and Tartakower in Paris in the late 1930s. She offered it for sale, but the reserve price was not reached. The game remained unpublished until this month, when its owner, David DeLucia, made it available for publication in Chess Notes. A wonderful episode.

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Chess Explorations (78)

By Edward Winter

In C.N. 1383, nearly 25 years ago, we published the following letter received from Capablanca’s widow, Olga Capablanca Clark in New York:

‘28 April 1987

Dear Chess Friends,

Among the multitude of games played by my late husband, Jose Raúl Capablanca, there is one that has never been published nor even seen by anyone except the three of us: Capablanca, Tartakower and myself.

In the years that I had known Capa he had never played in private, he had never practised, nor even had a chess set at home. Ever so different from the chess masters all over the world!

This was, however, a very special occasion. It happened in Paris. I believe the year was 1938. We stayed in the Hotel Regina, Place Jeanne D’Arc, quite near the Louvre Museum. I had one of my frequent bad colds and stayed in bed to recuperate, when Savielly Tartakower, one of our good friends, came over for a visit. He stayed quite a while. Then suddenly he said to Capa: “I have a chess set with me. Why not play a game?”

Much to my astonishment, Capa smiled. “Why not? We are in good company.” He grabbed some of the hotel stationery, a small table was moved close to my bed and the two masters sat down to play. How long the game lasted I couldn’t quite tell, as here and there I slept a little. I remember Capa woke me up by gently touching my shoulder, to give me a few folded sheets of Regina stationery, on which he had written the score of Capa v Tartakower. Of course he won.

“Here is a present for you, chérie.”

Gingerly I took the folded stationery. “But you know I don’t understand a thing about chess.”

Both he and Tartakower laughed good naturedly.

“Take it and hide it well. Some day in years to come it will buy you a beautiful bijou”, Capa said. “Ever since I was a child everything I did was written down. And this is the only chess game that is only yours.”

Anyone wishing to buy the Capablanca jewel, as he referred to it, should write as soon as possible to: Mr Edward Winter [...]. 30 September would be the appropriate time limit, as I have authorized him to receive the bids on my behalf. In view of the exceptional nature of the game and surrounding circumstances, no offer under $US 10,000 will be accepted.

With sincerest good wishes to all chess players in all lands.


Olga Capablanca Clark’

Olga Capablanca and José Raúl Capablanca

The reserve price was not met. Olga Capablanca Clark died in 1994, and for some years the whereabouts of the score-sheet were unknown. Subsequently (see C.N.s 5323 and 6687) we learned that it had been acquired by Mr David DeLucia (Darien, CT, USA). In February 2012 he kindly made the game available for publication by us, in C.N. 7497, prior to its appearance in his forthcoming two-volume work entitled In Memoriam:


[Event "Paris, circa 1938"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Capablanca, José Raúl"] [Black "Tartakower, Savielly"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A50"] [PlyCount "99"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 b6 3. Nc3 Bb7 4. f3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 e6 8. Be3 Nd7 9. Bc4 Bd6 10. Ne2 O-O 11. O-O c5 12. e5 cxd4 13. cxd4 Be7 14. f4 g6 15. Ng3 Kh8 16. Qd3 Rg8 17. Rfd1 Rc8 18. Rac1 Nb8 19. d5 Bxd5 20. Bxd5 Qxd5 21. Qxd5 exd5 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. Rxd5 Rd8 24. Rxd8+ Bxd8 25. Kf2 Nc6 26. Kf3 f5 27. Ne2 Kg7 28. g4 fxg4+ 29. Kxg4 Kf7 30. Kf3 Ke6 31. Ke4 b5 32. Nc3 a6 33. Bc5 Be7 34. Bb6 Kd7 35. Nd5 a5 36. Nc3 b4 37. Na4 Bd8 38. Bxd8 Kxd8 39. Kd5 Na7 40. Kc5 Kd7 41. Kb6 Nc8+ 42. Kxa5 Ke6 43. Nb6 Ne7 44. Kxb4 g5 45. fxg5 Kxe5 46. Kc5 Nf5 47. a4 Nd4 48. Nd7+ Ke4 49. Nf6+ Ke5 50. Nxh7 1-0

See also our feature article The Genius and the Princess and the Russian version Гений и княгиня.

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All ChessBase articles by Edward Winter

Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then, over 7,500 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989). In 2011 a paperback edition was issued.

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.

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