- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

Games in which the winner was at one point dead lost rarely make it into the anthologies. The victor typically makes a hash of the opening and has to rely on weak play from his opponent or an outright blunder to escape defeat.

Still, in this Easter week, we have two games of resurrection and redemption, with two of the greatest players who ever lived showing how to (figuratively) rise from the dead.

Cuban Jose Raul Capablanca, world champ from 1921 to 1927, may have been the purest chess genius of all time. He combined a smooth, harmonious positional style with awe-inspiring calculating abilities and was perhaps the hardest man to beat in the history of the game.

But in his game from the 1913 Berlin tournament against German master Jacques Mieses, Capablanca found himself down the exchange with no compensation after just 15 moves. But when White failed to consolidate his advantage, the Cuban whipped up a beautiful attack of his own to steal the point.

White’s sharp Center Game backfires when he loses his e-pawn after 8. Qg3 (f3 d5! is very strong) Nxe4 9. Nxe4 Rxe4. But in a rare lapse, Capablanca misplays the ensuing complex tactical skirmish: 11. Nh3 d6 12. Bd3 Nd4! 13. Be3 (Bxe4?? Ne2+, while 13. c3 Ne2+ 14. Bxe2 Rxe2 15. Qd3 [cxb4?? Qxb2 mate] Bxh3! 16. Qxe2 Qxf4+ 17. Kb1 Bf5+ wins material) Bg4? 14. Ng5! (Black may have banked on 14. Bxd4? [c3 Nf5 15. Bg5 Qe6 16. Nf4 Nxg3 17. Nxe6 Nxh1 18. Bxe4 Bxd1 and Black comes out ahead] Rxd4 15. c3 Bxd1 16. Rxd1 Rxd3 17. Qxd3 Bc5, winning a pawn) Rxe3 15. Qxg4! Ne2+ (Re7 16. Bxh7+ Kf8 17. Rxd4 wins a piece) 16. Bxe2 Rxe2 17. Ne4 Rxe4 18. Qxe4.

After 20. c3 Bc5, Black has no compensation for the lost exchange and should be struggling for a draw. But the overeager Mieses declines to simplify in a misguided frontal attack on the Black king, and slowly but surely, Capablanca turns the tables.

Black goes on the attack after 27. Qh5 h6! 28. g4 Kh7!, when White’s intended follow-up 29. h4?? traps his own queen after 29…g6 30. fxg6 fxg6. With Black’s queen rampaging on the queenside and his bishop patrolling the long diagonal, White already has to sidestep traps such as 35. Rxd5?? Qxd1+! 36. Rxd1 Rxd1 mate.

Mieses should already have been settling for a likely draw with 36. c4! b3 37. axb3 Qxb3 38. Rxd5 Rxd5 39. Rxd5 Qxc4, because his 36. cxb4? Qxb4 37. a3 Qa4 38. Rxd5 Rb8! walks into a crushing attack from Black.

The finale is Capablanca at his most dominating: 39. R5d2 c4!? (in keeping with the Cuban’s preference for clarity, but the brutal 39…Rxb2+! 40. Rxb2 Qxd1+ 41. Ka2 Bxb2 42. Kxb2 c4 is equally crushing) 40. Qg3 Rb3 41. Qd6 c3! 42. Rc2 cxb2 43. Rd3 Qe4! 44. Rd1 (Rxb3 Qe1+ 45. Ka2 Qa1 mate; or 44. Rcd2 Be5 45. Qa6 Rb6 46. Qc8 Rc6) Rc3!, when it’s mate after both 45. Qd2 Rxa3 and 45. Rdd2 Rxc2 46. Rxc2 Qe1+ 47. Ka2 b1=Q. White resigned.

• • •

Whatever his qualities away from the board, American world champion Bobby Fischer was devoid of ego or pretense in evaluating his own play. His classic “My 60 Memorable Games” included three of his losses (almost unheard of among top players) as well as today’s second game, a miraculous saved draw against Swiss master Edgar Walther in one of Fischer’s first international tournaments.

Again, Black botches a promising opening, and after 15. g5 Nb6? 16. f5! e5 (Bxg5 17. Bxb5+! Ke7 18. fxe6 fxe6 19. Nxe6! Kxe6 20. Qf5+ Ke7 21. Nd5+ Nxd5 22. exd5+ Kd8 23. Qxg5+ and mate next) 17. f6! gxf6 (Fischer says he overlooked that 17…exd4 18. Nd5! is deadly) 18. gxf6 Bf8 19. Nd5, Fischer’s succinct evaluation is: “Black’s busted.”

Saving his stranded king leaves Black’s position in tatters, and Fischer admits that after 32. Qxe5! (“Any resemblance to chess is purely accidental”) dxe5 33. Rxd8+ Ka7 34. R1d7 h5 35. Rxb7+ Kxb7 36. c3 Kc7, he was ready to resign if White played the simple 37. Re8!, cutting off the Black king and dooming the Black e-pawn.

But Walther misses his chance, and Black concocts an amazing drawing idea exploiting the opposite-colored bishops.

White throws away his last chance for the win on 53. Kb5 Kd7 (see diagram), when the careful 54. b4! Kc7 55. Ka5! Kb8 56. b5 Ba3 57. b6 Kc8 58. Ka6 Kb8 59. Bg2! puts Black in zugzwang, as he can’t hold White’s a-pawn back for long.

Instead, Black sets up a position where he can give up his bishop for the two White passed pawns, then run his king to h8, where White’s bishop can’t evict him. After 62. Ka4 Kc6 63. Bb5+ Kc5, “White’s pawns are stymied,” Fischer wrote.

Black holds on 64. b7 Bf4 65. a6 Kb6, and Walther had to agree to the draw. An amazing escape.

Berlin 1913


1. e4e523. f5c6

2. d4exd424. Rd2d5

3. Qxd4Nc625. Qf3Be7

4. Qe3Nf626. Rde2Bf6

5. Nc3Bb427. Qh5h6

6. Bd20-028. g4Kh7

7. 0-0-0Re829. Kb1Rd8

8. Qg3Nxe430. Rd1c5

9. Nxe4Rxe431. Qh3Qa4

10. Bf4Qf632. Red2Qe4+

11. Nh3d633. Ka1b5

12. Bd3Nd434. Qg2Qa4

13. Be3Bg435. Kb1b4

14. Ng5Rxe336. cxb4Qxb4

15. Qxg4Ne2+37. a3Qa4

16. Bxe2Rxe238. Rxd5Rb8

17. Ne4Rxe439. R5d2c4

18. Qxe4Qg5+40. Qg3Rb3

19. f4Qb541. Qd6c3

20. c3Bc542. Rc2cxb2

21. Rhe1Qc643. Rd3Qe4

22. Rd5Qd744. Rd1Rc3

White resigns

Zurich 1959


1. e4c533. Rxd8+Ka7

2. Nf3d634. R1d7h5

3. d4cxd435. Rxb7+Kxb7

4. Nxd4Nf636. c3Kc7

5. Nc3a637. Ra8Kd6

6. Bg5e638. Rxa6+Ke7

7. f4Be739. Re6+Kxf7

8. Qf3Nbd740. Rxe5b4

9. 0-0-0Qc741. cxb4Bxb4

10. Bd3b542. h3Kf6

11. Bxf6Nxf643. Rb5Bd6

12. Rhe1Bb744. Be4Re8

13. Kb1Rc845. Rf5+Kg7

14. g4Nd746. Bf3Re1+

15. g5Nb647. Kc2Rf1

16. f5e548. Rd5Rf2+

17. f6gxf649. Rd2Rxd2+

18. gxf6Bf850. Kxd2h4

19. Nd5Nxd551. Kd3Kf6

20. exd5Kd852. Kc4Ke7

21. Nc6+Bxc653. Kb5Kd7

22. dxc6Qxc654. a4Kc7

23. Be4Qb655. b4Kb8

24. Qh5Kc756. a5Ka7

25. Bf5Rd857. Kc4Bg3

26. Qxf7+Kb858. b5Bf2

27. Qe6Qc759. Be2Be3

28. Re3Bh660. Kb3Bd2

29. Rc3Qb761. b6+Kb7

30. f7Bg762. Ka4Kc6

31. Rcd3Bf863. Bb5+Kc5

32. Qxe5dxe5Draw agreed

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected] times.com.

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