New York 1924, Round 5: Capablanca loses against Reti!

by Johannes Fischer
5/9/2020 – World Champion José Raúl Capablanca is often called a "Chess Machine" because his games seem to be so smooth and flawless. In fact, since his defeat against Oscar Chajes on January 21 , 1916 Capablanca has not lost a single game in the last eight years. But now, in round 5 of the tournament in New York, he suffered a sensational defeat against Richard Reti (pictured). | Photo: Ernst & Cesanek (Archive)

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Reti defeats Capablanca!

In 1923 Reti published his famous book Modern Ideas in Chess, in which he discussed the new openings and the new strategic approaches of the "Hypermoderns" and explained why he likes to play 1.Sf3. However, responses to the book were divided.

Grünfeld called the opening with 1.Nf3 a "terrific weapon", Teichmann thought the move was an "opening of the dull" while Nimzowitsch saw it as an "opening of the future". For Tarrasch 1.Nf3 was the "introduction to a profound, but in my opinion also completely mistaken system".

But despite all criticism Reti stuck to his guns and tried 1.Nf3 against Capablanca. With success. Though Capablanca equalised without much trouble in the opening, he lost the thread in the middlegame and Reti won convincingly.


Reti's scoresheet of this sensational game

In the last eight years Capablanca has not lost a single game, and when he resigned the audience and the other players at first seemed unable to believe that the World Champion had actually resigned.

Capablanca still struggles to find his form in New York. In the first five games he scored just two points (four draws and one defeat) and is now below the 50% mark, an unusually poor start to the tournament for the World Champion.

But Efim Bogoljubow seems to be in good shape. After winning against Reti in round 4, he defeated Geza Maroczy in round 5. Bogoljubow had no trouble to refute the impetuous attack of the Hungarian.


After this win Bogoljubow has 3½/5 and shares the lead with Savielly Tartakower who played an unspectacular draw against Emanuel Lasker.

The third win of the round went to Dawid Janowsky, who won with black against Edward Lasker, but needed more than a little help of his opponent to do so.


With his 45th move Edward Lasker had reached the second time control and now had more than one way to win the game. White can take the bishop on e5 with 46.fxe5, but even easier is 46.Qe7+ which forces the exchange of queens after which White's f-pawn decides.

But Lasker who had been much better throughout the game seemed to have forgotten that Black still has a threat. He played 46.Qg6?? after which 46...Bxf4+ was an unpleasant surprise. Black sacrifices the bishop to mate White's king. The game continued 47.Rxf4 Qb2+ 48.Ke3 Qxb3+ 49.Kf2 Qc2+ 50.Kg3 Rg1+ 51.Kh3 Rh1+ 52.Kg3 Rg1+ 53.Kh3 Rxg6 54.fxg6 Qxg6 55.Kh4 Kb7 56.Kh3 Qe8 57.Kh4 Kc6 58.Rg4 Qe2 59.Kg3 Qd3+ 60.Kh4 Qc2 61.Ne7+ Kd7 62.Nd5 Qh2#.

A bitter defeat. "I would probably have taken cyanide that night, had I been a few years younger," the 38-year-old Edward Lasker later said.

Frank Marshall and Frederick Yates shared the point. However, Yates had good chances for more: after the opening the English master soon won a pawn for which Marshall did not have the slightest compensation. But as the game progressed, Yates played too timid and allowed Marshall to escape.


Results of round 5

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

Bye: Alexander Alekhine

Standings after five rounds

Rk. Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Pts.
1 Efim Bogoljubow   0         1   1 ½ 1 3.5
2 Savielly Tartakower 1   ½         1 ½   ½ 3.5
3 Emanuel Lasker   ½   1 1 ½           3.0
4 Alexander Alekhine     0     ½   1     1 2.5
5 Dawid Markelowicz Janowski     0     ½   ½   1   2.0
6 Jose Raul Capablanca     ½ ½ ½   0     ½   2.0
7 Richard Reti 0         1     ½   ½ 2.0
8 Frederick Dewhurst Yates   0   0 ½       ½ 1   2.0
9 Frank James Marshall 0 ½         ½ ½       1.5
10 Edward Lasker ½       0 ½   0     ½ 1.5
11 Geza Maroczy 0 ½   0     ½     ½   1.5





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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