The Immortal Suffocation Game

7/29/2008 – An exaggeration? Maybe, but if it is, it's not much of one. In his Wednesday night Playchess lecture Dennis Monokroussos looks at an unusual game by the great Cuban world champion José Raúl Capablanca, played in Karlsbad against Czech master Karel Treybal, in which locking up the board was the key to success. Come watch this impressive game unfold.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

The year is 1929, the place is Karlsbad, and our protagonists are José Raúl Capablanca, the third and then-recently deposed world chess champion; and Karel Treybal (1885-1941), a strong Czech master whose resume includes a tournament win over Alexander Alekhine.


José Raúl Capablanca

Treybal had an affection for Dutch Stonewall type positions (it was with such an opening that he defeated Alekhine), and that's what he used against Capablanca. Although it left him with left space and one of the worst light-squared bishops in recorded human history, the seriously locked pawn structure probably left Treybal relatively optimistic about holding the game. One would expect Capa to look for some way of blasting the position open: in the center, the kingside, the queenside – somewhere.

Instead, the great Cuban kept locking up the board. Early on, he eliminated the realistic possibility of breaking in the center, and then he locked up the whole kingside and almost everything on the queenside. Almost. Only the a-file was open, and although White was able to achieve absolute ownership over it, it was far from obvious that he could achieve anything there. That Capablanca knew that he could break through in due course, despite Black's ability to shift his cramped pieces to the danger zone, shows his legendary ability to think schematically.

It's an impressive game, and one that's extremely picturesque. I first saw the game as a young child, and the strong impression it made on me then has stuck with me to the present day. I think you'll enjoy it too, so please join me tonight – Wednesday night – at 9 p.m. ET (that's Thursday at 3 a.m. CET) on the Playchess.com server. The show is free, and you can find full directions here.

Hope to see you on the server!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).



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Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and occasionally works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.



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