New Riddle: Lasker-Capablanca

by Karsten Müller
6/30/2024 – In 1921 World Champion Emanuel Lasker played a match against challenger José Raúl Capablanca. Game 10 saw the Cuban gain an advantage with the black pieces, but with limited material on the board Lasker had chances of survival. The game is particularly interesting from move 39 to 43, where there are several interesting riddles we want to solve. Can you help us do this?

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Jose Raúl Capablanca (1888-1941, World Champion from 1921 to 1927) is certainly one of the most beloved champions. His elegance and kindness captivated and are now captivating our great chess family. His chess intuition is legendary, and his deep strategic ideas are still learned from his games today.

One of his most famous encounters is the game 10 from his match against Emanuel Lasker, played in Havana in 1921. It has been published and analysed very often. It is rare that a book on strategy and pawn structure does not include this game as an example of Capablanca's excellent in the endgame.

In the game, Capablanca's advantage consisted in a better pawn structure, while Lasker had chances for salvation due to limited material. The game is interesting from start to end, but for the purposes of this text, we will talk about the part between moves 39 and 43, where there are several interesting riddles.

In the following notation you can click on a move or a diagram to analyse, with engine support (fan button). Don't forget to download the game with your variations before you close the browser. You can also download the game as a PGN and analyse it in ChessBase or Fritz. 

Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.
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Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/2/2024 10:03
Michael Taktikos gives:
Riddle 1

The played move leads to a draw:

39... Rc2? 40.Nb5 Kf8 41.g4 Nh4 42.Kf1 g5 43.Rc3 Rxc3 44.Nxc3 Nf3 45.Nb5 Nd2+ 46.Kf2 Nxb3 Kg3=

The best line suggested by my best analyse engines, ShashChess, Hypnos, CorChess, Lc0 and Crystal, leads to a win:

39... Ra3! 40.Nb5 Ra5 41. Nc3 g5 42.Kf2 Nd6 43.Na4 (43. g4 Ra3 44.Na4 Kf8 45.Ke2 Ke8 46.Kd2 Ne4 -+)

43... Kf8 44.Ke2 Ra8 45.Nc5 Ke7 46.Kf3 Ra2 47.b4 f5 -+
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/2/2024 10:03
Michael Taktikos gives:
Riddle 2

The move 40.Nd1? loses, instead of this, 40.Nb5 can hold draw.

Lasker,E - Capablanca,J, 90: World Championship Match, Havana 1921

Analysis by ShashChess 35.3winfinder:

1. -/+ (-0.74): 40.Nb5 Kf8 41.g4 Nh4 42.Kf1 g5 43.Rc3 Rxc3 44.Nxc3 Nf3

45.Nb5 Nd2+ 46.Kg2 Nxb3 47.h4 Kg7 48.hxg5 Kg6 49.Kg3 Kxg5 50.Nd6 Kf6

51.Nb5 Kg6 52.Kf4 Na1 53.Na3 Kh6 54.Ke5 Kg7 55.Kf4 Kg6 56.Ke5 Nb3 57.Nb5


2. -+ (-2.02): 40.Kf1 Nd6 41.Ke1 Kf8 42.Kd1 Rb2 43.Ne2 Ne4 44.Re3 Ra2

45.h4 Ke8 46.Rf3 Rd2+ 47.Ke1 Rb2 48.Nc1 Kf8 49.g4 Kg7 50.h5 gxh5 51.gxh5

f6 52.Nd3 Rxb3 53.Ke2 Kh6 54.Nf4 Rb6 55.Rh3 Rb2+ 56.Ke1 Ng5 57.Re3 Rb6

58.Ke2 Ra6 59.Rc3 Ne4 60.Rh3 Rb6 61.Nd3 Rb3 62.Rf3 Kg5

3. -+ (-2.33): 40.Nd1 g5 41.Kf1 Kf8 42.Nf2 Ke7 43.Ke1 f6 44.Ng4 Rc1+

45.Kf2 Rb1 46.Kg2 Kf7 47.Nf2 Kg6 48.Kh2 Nd6 49.Re3 Rb2 50.Kg1 Kf7 51.Rc3

Nb5 52.Rd3 f5 53.Kf1 Rb1+ 54.Kg2 Kf6 55.Nd1 Rc1 56.Kf3 Nd6 57.g4 Ne4

58.gxf5 exf5 59.Ne3 Ke6 60.b4 f4 61.Ng4
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/2/2024 10:02
Michael Taktikos gives:
Riddle 3

42... Nc6? throws the win away, 42...Nc8! is a win

6553: Lasker,E - Capablanca,J, World Championship 12th 1921

Analysis by ShashChess 35.3winfinder:

1. -+ (-1.96): 42...Nc8 43.Ng4 Nd6 44.Kg2 Kg7 45.Ne5 Rc2+ 46.Kg1 f6

47.Nd7 Kf7 48.Nc5 Nb5 49.Na6 g5 50.Nb4 Rc8 51.Kg2 Rc1 52.Rd2 Rb1 53.Rd3

Nd6 54.h4 Rb2+ 55.Kg1 g4 56.h5 Nb5 57.Kh1 Re2 58.Kg1 Re1+ 59.Kg2 Rb1

60.Na6 Rb2+ 61.Kg1 Rc2 62.Rd1 Rc3 63.Kh2 Rxb3

2. -/+ (-0.83): 42...Kg7 43.Rd1 Rc3 44.Rb1 Nc8 45.b4 Nd6 46.b5 Ne4+

47.Ke2 Nxg3+ 48.Kd1 Rc7 49.b6 Rb7 50.Ke1 g5 51.Ng4 Nf5 52.Ne5 Nxd4

53.Kf2 Nf5 54.Nc6 Nd6 55.Na5 Rb8 56.Nc6 Rc8 57.Na5 e5 58.Ke2 d4 59.b7

Nxb7 60.Nxb7 Rc3 61.Nd6 Kg6 62.Rb6 Rxh3 63.Ne8+ Kh5 64.Rf6 e4 65.Rxf7

d3+ 66.Kd2 Rh2+ 67.Kd1 Kg4 68.Re7 Kf3 69.Nf6

3. -/+ (-1.08): 42...Nc6 43.Ng4
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/2/2024 10:01
Michael Taktikos gives:
Riddle 4

43.Ng4! would be draw, 43.Nd1? is suicide:

6553: Lasker,E - Capablanca,J, World Championship 12th 1921

Analysis by ShashChess 35.3winfinder:

1. =/+ (-0.57): 43.Ng4 Kg7 44.h4 Rb1 45.Kg2 Rb2+ 46.Kh3 Na5 47.Nh2 Nxb3

48.Nf3 Nc1 49.Rd2 Rxd2 50.Nxd2 Nd3 51.g4 Nf4+ 52.Kh2 Kh6 53.Nf3 f5

54.gxf5 exf5 55.Ng1 Kh5 56.Kg3 Ne6 57.Ne2 f4+ 58.Kh3 f3 59.Ng3+ Kh6

60.Nf1 Nxd4 61.Ne3 Nf5 62.Nxd5 Nxh4 63.Kxh4 f2 64.Ne3 g5+ 65.Kg3 f1Q

66.Nxf1 Kg6 67.Kg4 Kf6 68.Ne3 Ke5 69.Nf1 Ke4 70.Ne3

2. -/+ (-1.37): 43.h4 Nb4 44.Rd1 Rc3 45.Ng4 Nd3+ 46.Ke2 Nc1+ 47.Kf2

Nxb3 48.Ne5 Rc2+ 49.Ke1 Na5 50.Ra1 Nc4 51.Ra8+ Kg7 52.Nf3 Rg2 53.Ng5

Rxg3 54.Ra7 Nd6 55.Nxe6+ Kh6 56.Nd8 f5 57.Ra6 Ne4 58.Ne6 Rg4 59.Ra8

3. -+ (-1.62): 43.Ng2 Nb4 44.Rd2 g5 45.Ne1 Rb1 46.Re2 Nc6 47.Nf3 Rxb3

48.Re3 Rb2+ 49.Kf1 Rb4 50.Nxg5 Nxd4 51.g4 Kg7 52.Kf2 Nb5 53.Kg3 d4

54.Re1 Nc3 55.Kf3 Rb2 56.Ne4 Rb3 57.Nc5 Ra3 58.Kf4

4. -+ (-1.71): 43.Kg2 Nb4 44.Rd2 Rc3 45.Ng4 Rxb3 46.h4 Nc6 47.Nh2 Re3

48.Nf3 Re4 49.Kh3 f6 50.g4 Kh7 51.g5 f5 52.Kh2 Kg7 53.Rd3 Kf8 54.Rd2 Ke7

55.Rd1 Kd6 56.Kh3 e5 57.h5 gxh5 58.dxe5+ Nxe5

5. -+ (-2.11): 43.Ke2 Nb4 44.Rd1 Rc3 45.Rb1 f5 46.Kf2 Rd3 47.Rd1 Rxb3

48.Ng2 Kf7 49.Ne1 g5 50.Nf3 Kf6 51.h4 g4 52.Ne5 Kg7 53.Rd2 Rc3 54.Rd1 Nc6

6. -+ (-2.39): 43.Nf1 Nb4 44.Rd2 g5 45.Kg2 Rc3 46.Rb2 Kg7 47.Nd2 Nd3

48.Ra2 Kg6 49.Kf1 Nb4 50.Ra4 Nc2 51.Kf2 Kf5 52.Nf3 f6 53.Ra6 Rxb3 54.Nd2

Rb2 55.g4+ Kg6 56.Rxe6 Nxd4

7. -+ (-2.48): 43.Nd1 Nb4 44.Rd2 Rb1 45.Nb2 g5 46.Nd3 Rxb3 47.Ne1 Nc6

48.Nf3 f6 49.Ke2 Ne7 50.Ra2 Nf5 51.Kf2 Rb4 52.Rd2 Nd6 53.Ra2 Ne4+ 54.Kg2
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/1/2024 05:52
By the way: Zoran Petronijevic has taken a deep look at the question, if 41.Ne3 or 41.Nc3 was played in the game.
The sources Megabase, 1, 2, 3, and 9 give 41.Nc3. "However, it is not true. All older sources, as well as the comments of Capablanca and Lasker (8, 10, 11), state that it was played as in the text."
1. Kasparov, G. Moi velikie predsestveniki, 1st edition, Moscow 2003.
2. Kasparov,G. Moi velikie predsestveniki, 2nd edition, Moscow 2020.
3. Lakdawala, C. Capablanca: move by move, London 2012.
4. Soloviov,S, Emanuil Lasker Partii 1904-1940, T II, Moscow 2009.
5. Shereshevsky, M. S molodezju v endspilj, T II, Moscow 2021.
6. Shereshevsky, M, Associativnoe mislenie v sahmatah, Moscow 2024.
7. Shereshevsky, M. Moja metodika, Moscow 2017.
8. Kapablanka, H.R, Avroportret genija I (all Capablanca’s games annotated by him), Moscow 2006.
9. Mueller, K, Endspielkunst, Band 1, Joachim Beyer verlag 2023.
10. Pickard,Sid Capablanca, Lasker-Capablanca, 1921 comments by Capablanca.
11. Lasker, Emanuil, Moj matc s Kapablankoj, Leningrad 1925.
12. Masterclass: Capablanca, DVD by Chessbase, Hamburg 2015.
13. Masterclass: Lasker, DVD by Chessbase, Hamburg 2015.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/1/2024 01:02
Phishmaster, arzi: OK good. But more details would be good, as matters are deep...
thirteen thirteen 7/1/2024 01:00
You are absolutely correct Sir. Whatever amateur chess player we have been, are right now, and will be in our future, we can all enjoy a more or less superbly accurate robot assessment of the chess work involved today, unlike in the past, with limited but valued books. Whilst not all software, nor hardware is as high as we can afford, much is still plenty to have fun with and indeed progress with. One life-time is not enough for chess!
PhishMaster PhishMaster 7/1/2024 12:21
thirteen, with a stronger computer, you would find that Ra3 is even better than Ra1+.

This is not a criticism of your machine, as mine is also not that strong either. I saw this while analyzing with ChessBase, and an online Stockfish 16.1 with a depth of 57 had it as -1.58.
arzi arzi 7/1/2024 09:14
1...Ra3 was a better one but 1...Rc2 was also ok.
2. Nd1 was bad one, much better was Nb5.
3. Nc8 was better one. From there to ... Nd6 and after that maybe ... Ne4.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/1/2024 08:27
thirteen: OK good. Many thanks! I basically agree with everything. And yes Stockfish + endgame stick are very good and it a way "ultimate sources" at the moment.
thirteen thirteen 7/1/2024 12:46
My dearest KM.
My analysis work is only from a 12 core Ryzen, along with a lengthy, latest Stockfish running, plus an endgame stick, none showing a specific winning line, just some clear, if deep advantage. In fact several possible ways show to play, like a 39.Ra3 briefly. Deeper, you said.
39...Ra1 check however prevails. 40.Kf2...Nd6. 41.h4...Kg7. 42Kf3... Rc1.43.Ke2...Rg1.44.Kf3...Nf5.45.Kg4...Re1. 46.Kf3...Rf1 check.47.Ke2...Rg1.48.Kf2...Rc1.49.Ne2...Rb1.50.Nf4...Kf8.51.Nh3...Rb2 check.52.Kf1...Ke7.53.Nf2...Ra2.
54.Nh3...Rc2 just keeps improving. Tons more if wanted. I presume these endgame sticks are the ultimate source?
40.Nb5 is pretty much drawing...g5.41.g4...Nh4.42.Kf1...Kf8.43.Rc3...Rxc3.44.Nxc3...Nf3.45.Nb5...Nd2 check.
Does 43. Ng4 defend? Black still has an edge, but humans and robots, are two different things, present company aside.
Thank you for your reply. Hope this software analysis source proves helpful. By the way, the 41. Ne3 shows as best.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 6/30/2024 12:53
thirteen: OK good. But please dig deeper:
1) Give more details to 39...Ra1+!
2) Please more details on 40.Nb5!!
3) Please give a winning prove, if possible.
4) OK, but does 43.Ng4! defend ?
Sources are also welcome of course - the older the better. Many give the game continuation as 41.Nc3 by the way.
thirteen thirteen 6/30/2024 12:45
39...Ra1 check, shows my engine best
40.Nb5 but still slightly worse for white
42...Nc8 is better, but is still better for black
43. Ng4 is still superior for black
High strength human play in this game, never the less. And from 1921 too!