"Oh Capablanca", the song

by Macauley Peterson
9/25/2018 – From musician and chess fan Juga, comes a ballad inspired by, and about, chess. "Oh Capablanca" has been making the rounds on social media in recent weeks to high acclaim. Today she has released a new acoustic version in a video recorded at the Marshall Chess Club in New York. Juga appears playing chess with a member of the Marshall and the video includes shots of historic photographs from the club of Capablanca, Marshall, and more. | Photos: Jugamusica.com

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"My rook was a knife"

Chess has inspired music and other arts for centuries, but there are relatively few examples of pop music with a significant chess focus. Singer/songwriter Juga di Prima (or just Juga for short) is out to change that, promising a series of chess-themed songs, starting with her first ballad "Oh Capablanca". The original version has racked up nearly 35,000 views in its first three weeks on YouTube. She's been invited to perform the song at Judit Polgar's Global Chess Festival next month, and before that at the Closing Ceremony of the Chess Olympiad in Batumi on October 5th.

video frame

The song, inspired by a painful loss in the Exchange Variation of the Caro-Kann, tells the story of the game and also helped the artist cope and get over a feeling that she didn't understand chess at all. We've all been there. 

Incidentally, if you want to learn and practice the Exchange Caro-Kann, we've just published a "30-minute-training" for you.

Now, Juga is out with a brand new acoustic version of the song, and ChessBase got a sneak peak: 

"He played Caro-Kann
His rating was higher
But from move 17 the kingside was mine
Took my chances fast
My rook was a knife
and my almighty queen, a beast on h6
My bishop was gold, his bishop was small
With no time pressure, I'd crush him once and for all

JugaI gave up my good knight, but that
don't mean a thing
He has more experience but I won't lose again
Oh, my dear Capablanca
wishful eyes deceive me
Got nowhere to go, got nowhere to go

Shook his hand, signed the scores, politely as I could
I can't analyse, can't look
in his eyes
A lonely hotel room
I cried my despair
Did I allow any counterplay?
His pieces were dead

I gave up my good knight, but that
don't mean a thing.
He has more experience, but I won't lose again
Oh, my dear Capablanca
Where did my attack go?
I was clearly winning
2 minutes ago, 2 minutes ago, 2 minutes ago

Now according to stockfish, I got it all wrong
After slightly advantage, I had nothing
But my dear Capablanca, you tell me we learn more from our defeats
Who needs victories, right?"

The game was played in the B Open of the 2nd International Chess Festival Rome City, 2017, but Juga would prefer that listeners use their imagination than play through the moves in full, telling ChessBase, "the song is a fantasy about it and I believe that the actual game is far less interesting than what people can imagine listening to the song".

Juga appeared prominently in a chess-context at this year's Altibox Norway Chess tournament, in one of the best photos of 2018:

(L to R) Juga (singer, songwriter); Anemone (chief arbiter); Benedicte (main organiser); Maria (photographer); Anna (commentator); Anastasia (press officer) | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The song has been widely praised by chess pros and fans alike:

Update October 10 — Juga's performance of the song at the closing ceremony of the Chess Olympiad in Batumi:


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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