Winter on Capablanca – a milestone in chess literature

4/23/2011 – It has been hailed as a masterpiece of scholarship. Nigel Short says it is "undoubtedly one of the best chess books I have read", and Yasser Seirawan describes it as "a magnificently researched work by the world’s most renowned chess historian". Capablanca's widow loved it too. Now, Edward Winter’s volume on the Cuban genius is available for the first time in paperback. Simply unmissable.

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Edward Winter's Capablanca

At the end of 1989 McFarland & Company Inc. published Edward Winter’s 349-page volume Capablanca A Compendium of Games, Notes, Articles, Correspondence, Illustrations and Other Rare Archival Materials on the Cuban Chess Genius José Raúl Capablanca, 1888-1942. The reviewers had no doubts as to its qualities. Here, for instance, is part of what Hanon Russell wrote in Chess Life, June 1990, in a review headed "The Quintessential Capablanca":

"... there are very few chess books published which have become ‘classics’ – recognized for capturing, in some way, the essence of the game. Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games comes to mind. Others may include Masters of the Chessboard by Richard Réti, The Book of the New York International Tournament 1924 by Alexander Alekhine and My System by Aron Nimzovich. Whatever your own list includes, be prepared to add to it Capablanca by Edward Winter ...

Chess Notes [is] devoted to chess history and investigative reporting, all with the highest standards of journalistic integrity. He has taken these lofty standards, applied them to his own endeavor, and, in the end, produced a masterpiece ...

Through the use of Capablanca’s own writings, articles and interviews, along with source material from private correspondence, chess journals and other like documentation, Winter weaves a scrupulously detailed historical accounting of Capablanca from his days as a boy prodigy, through his rise in the chess world to master, then to challenger, champion and finally fallen hero ...

This is not a book which you may skim. It should be read first as enjoyable chess history tracing the development, rise and fall of one of the game’s legends. It should then be re-read, playing through all the games with their marvelous annotations by Capa. You will then replace the book on the shelf, marvel at its excellence and then take it down again with a sense of affection, attraction and respect for one of the great champions of all time. The book is simply wonderful."

The McFarland website quotes appreciations by two great modern masters:

  • Nigel Short: "undoubtedly one of the best chess books I have read."
  • Yasser Seirawan: "a magnificently researched work by the world’s most renowned chess historian."

Another leading grandmaster who has written enthusiastically about Winter is Jan Timman, in his Foreword to A Chess Omnibus. Winter’s standing is also referred to in the new bestselling book on Bobby Fischer, Endgame, where Frank Brady describes him as "the world’s most eminent chess historian".

José Raúl Capablanca (frontispiece to Winter’s monograph)

The McFarland webpage has many other admiring quotes about the book, such as this one from Capablanca’s widow:

"A gem. I think Capablanca would have chosen it as the best of all the books on him. It represents a tremendous amount of work. A wealth of material has been amassed with the precision and care of a devotee. It is also a beautifully produced tome, with that sober elegance so characteristic of Capablanca himself."

Back cover of Edward Winter's Capablanca book (2011 paperback edition)

Capablanca is a book simply not to be missed. The paperback edition has just been published and can be bought now from McFarland. In addition, signed copies can be ordered direct from the author.

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