José Raúl Capablanca, chess genius

José Raúl Capablanca, chess genius

Heritage & Traditions


Chess is not exactly the sport in which Cuba stands out in the world, but one of her sons, the great teacher José Raúl Capablanca, made history in the so-called science game.

Born in Havana on November 19, 1888, he already defeated his father at the age of four. Because of his precocity, he was nicknamed the Mozart of chess, and because of his victories, the chess machine, earned other epithets that acknowledge his genius in the world of chess.

Capablanca was crowned world champion in 1921 by defeating the German Emmanuel Lasker, but lost his title in 1927 to the Russian-born grandmaster Alexander Alekhine, in a meeting that lasted three months.

In his hometown, when the 1921 World Championship was held, he achieved an unrivaled record by winning four games, drawing 10 and staying undefeated against his opponent, the great Lasker, the defending starter, who left the competition, agreed to 24 games without playing 10.

According to scholars of this discipline, the Cuban participated in twenty-nine high-level tournaments, of which he won fifteen and in another nine he finished second. In total, he had 318 wins, 249 draws and 34 losses.

Chess arrived in Cuba with the first Spanish conquerors who settled in the founding villages, and had great and skilled fans among the Creoles. The patriots Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, considered the Father of the Nation, and José Martí, the Cuban National Hero, acquired fame as experts.

Doctor Carlos Juan Finlay, discoverer of the insect transmitter of yellow fever, with whom Capablanca, just a child, played games, stood out as a chess player with good analytical judgment. The last official competition of the outstanding player was in 1939 at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the first board of the Cuban delegation.

Capablanca died in New York City on March 8, 1942. In the Havana necropolis of Colón, a National Monument, his grave, much visited, stands out with a white king chess piece.