New York 1924, Round 14: Capablanca wins against Dr. Lasker!

by Johannes Fischer
5/18/2020 – Capablanca against Lasker, that was the top encounter of the 14th round of the tournament in New York 1924. The game was exciting, but the circumstances were even more dramatic. Lasker lost and afterwards claimed that the clock had a defect. However, tournament director Norbert Lederer said that the clock was fine but Lasker had forgotten to press the button to stop his clock from running. A bitter controversy ensued. | Photo: Capablanca (left) and Lasker at a previous occasion (Photo: media2-web.britannica)

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New York 1924, Round 14: Capablanca and Lasker quarrel

Lasker and Capablanca have been rivals for many years and the relationship between them is tense, not least because of protracted negotiations in the run-up to their World Championship match in Havana in 1921. Lasker lost this match 0-4 with 10 draws, and after 27 years as World Champion he had to give his title to Capablanca.

In their game in the 14th round of the tournament in New York, the conflict between the old and the new World Champions escalated further. What happened?

Lasker suffered a bitter defeat in this prestigious and important game and after the game, he blamed the clock:

"The public anxiously looked forward to the game between the two of us, a game in which my opponent was White. We were excited by an emotion which the creative master has to sense within himself to achieve something truly special. A passionate struggle developed. Suddenly, I noticed that the clock which regulated my time for reflection was not right.  [The tournament director] Mr. Lederer had the control of and responsibility for this clock. Upon closer inspection it appeared that I had lost fifteen minutes of my time in consequence of a defect in the clock. For me this was a serious disadvantage which became even worse because I lost twenty minutes during the repair of the clock. ... As a result of the excitement about this intermezzo, the loss of time for reflection and my exhaustion, I made a gross blunder in a fine and clear position, and lost the game." (Cp. Edward Winter, Capablanca, p. 196)

But chess historian Miguel Sanchez, an expert on Capablanca, tells things differently:

"According to Lasker, his clock had a malfunction and scored more time against him. According to Lederer, the clock had no problems, but Lasker simply forgot to press the button that stopped the working mechanism. Lederer, without Lasker being present, stopped the clock in moments that both Capablanca's and Lasker's were running at the same time. Then he restored eight minutes to the former champion, although Lasker said the difference was 15, plus another 23 minutes by the delay of repairing the clock. To Lasker's complaint that this clock controversy left him pressed for time, Lederer said that the Cuban was the only one pressed by time, as the chess notation sheet of the tournament showed. ... The tournament was played at the rate of 30 moves in two hours. Lasker submitted a similar complaint during the first game of his match against Capablanca in 1921, in which he also failed to press the button that stopped his clock." (cp. Miguel A. Sánchez, José Raúl Capablanca, p. 282-283)

It may never be possible to clarify exactly what happened, but the tensions between Capablanca and Lasker and the tensions between Lasker and the tournament director Norbert Lederer have certainly been exacerbated by the incident. Thus Capablanca accused Lasker of looking for excuses for his defeats against him:

"It seems that Dr. Lasker tries to find an alibi every time he loses a game against me. In Havana it was a heat unheard of even in that climate, to say nothing of the food and even the sun, although we played at night. In New York his alibi is the clock. I have no doubt that if we played elsewhere he would find the climate too cold for him." (Cp. Edward Winter, Capablanca, p. 197)

The game itself was complicated, but for a long time it was roughly even. But then Lasker provoked an exchange in the centre, after which he was suddenly in danger. After an inaccuracy by Capablanca, Lasker then missed the chance to counterattack and lost quickly.


But despite this loss, Lasker still leads with 9½/13 and is one full point ahead of Capablanca, who now is sole second with 8½/13.

The game between Capablanca and Lasker naturally caused the most excitement during and after the round, but the other games were also interesting.

Savielly Tartakower won against Frank Marshall with a modern opening and fine positional play.


Efim Bogolyubov also played a fine positional game against Edward Lasker, which he crowned with a nice exchange sacrifice.


After strong play Alexander Alekhine was close to victory against Geza Maroczy but then squandered his advantage and allowed Maroczy to escape with a perpetual.


Frederick Yates, who played with Black against Dawid Janowsky, had a good position after the opening, but failed to make the most of his chances and lost in the end.


Results of round 14

S. Tartakower 1-0 F. Marshall
A. Alekhine ½-½ G. Maroczy
D. Janowsky 1-0 F. Yates
Efim Bogoljubow 1-0 Ed. Lasker
J.R. Capablanca 1-0 Em. Lasker

Bye: Richard Reti

Standings after 14 rounds

Rk. Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Pts.
1 Emanuel Lasker   ½0 ½  11 ½  ½  ½  11 9.5
2 Jose Raul Capablanca ½1   ½½ ½1 ½  ½  ½  8.5
3 Richard Reti   01 01 ½  ½  8.0
4 Alexander Alekhine ½½ 10   ½  ½  ½  ½  7.5
5 Savielly Tartakower ½  ½    ½½ ½1 ½0 ½  6.5
6 Efim Bogoljubow 00 10 ½    ½1 6.0
7 Geza Maroczy ½0 ½  ½½   ½  6.0
8 Frank James Marshall ½  ½  ½  ½  ½0   ½  11 6.0
9 Frederick Dewhurst Yates ½  ½    11 ½1 4.5
10 Edward Lasker ½  ½  ½  ½1 ½0 ½  00   4.0
11 Dawid Markelowicz Janowsky 00 ½  ½  00 ½0   3.5




Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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