Wednesday, February 5

Capablanca defeats Bernstein with brilliant final move; Queen sacrifice decides game immediately

We begin to run short of superlatives with which to describe the play of José R. Capablanca. The Cuban wizard yesterday won the first game of his exhibition match vs. Dr. Ossip Bernstein at Moscow, scoring the contest to his credit via a brilliant Queen sacrifice. The winning blow, based on the threat of checkmate on the first rank, represents as beautiful and pure an exposition of that venerable theme as we can recall ever having seen, and is likely to appear as an anthology piece for years to come. Dr. Bernstein has now twice fallen victim to the genius of Capablanca, the first occasion coming in the opening round of the tournament at San Sebastián, 1911, a game honored with the brilliancy prize. We suspect that the fame of yesterday's encounter will in time equal or even exceed that of the earlier contest.

The game, which the reader will find below, followed well-known paths in the Queen's Gambit Declined until Dr. Bernstein at his 12th move selected 12.Bxf6, varying from 12.0-0, as used successfully by Duras vs. Marshall and von Balla at Breslau two years ago. Capablanca at his 15th turn played 15...c4, a double-edged move yielding the d4-square to the White pieces, but at the same time opening prospects for the Black Bishop. The sequence from the 18th to 20th move left Black in possession of a passed c-pawn, toward which Dr. Bernstein immediately turned his attention. With 27.Nxc3? White eliminated that pawn, apparently having in mind the transaction 27.Nxc3 Nxc3 28.Rxc3 Rxc3 29.Rxc3 Qb1+ 30.Qf1 Qxa2, but overlooking - as is surely understandable - Capablanca's brilliant riposte 29...Qb2!, which forced immediate resignation. We urge inexperienced players to examine the final position in order to work out for themselves how Black would achieve victory against White's various defensive attempts - of which there are several - and only them to consult the notes. The attendant variations, all of which needed to be foreseen by Capablanca, are short, instructive, and most pleasing indeed.

Herewith the game:

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