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Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Rèti

26. Capablanca

We have learnt to know beauty of a new kind in the latest years of the age of chess technique. We appreciate now not only beauty that lies in magnificent modern technical undertakings. We see also attraction in things, which would formerly have seem to us ugly, for example, in steam locomotives, in smoking furnaces, and in soot begrimed workmen. We have to-day a world-wide art of efficiency and practicability. Americanism is doubtless beginning to penetrate triumphantly into the realms of art. Of course it is a type of charm that we marvel at rather than feel the glow of. For behind the old works of art we could always trace the artist and recognise the human countenance of their creators. Beauty of to-day is magnificent and overpowering, but it means the death of individualism. Through the world war the old Europe has lost its lead in the world, not only politically, but in culture. Americanism has forced itself into Europe, perhaps transiently, perhaps permanently: Who knows?

Capablanca is the chess master in whose games is incorporated the spirit of modern times. We see in his games the same magnificence, the same intensity of effect and the same precision as in the marvellous works of modern technique, and therefore Capablanca is the representative master of to-day and it is no accident that he has become world-champion.

When in the early part of 1914 Capablanca was the guest of the Vienna Chess Club, amongst other things a consultation game was arranged. It proceeded as follows:


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With this game began a revolution in my conviction as to the wisdom of the old principle, according to which in the opening every move should develop another piece. I studied Capablanca’s games and recognised that contrary to all the masters of that period he had for some time ceased to adhere to that principle.


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From a careful study of Capablanca’s games, I learnt in the end that instead of applying Morphy’s principle of developing all the pieces as quickly as possible he was guided in his plan by some plan based as much as possible on positional considerations. According to that method every move not demanded by that plan amounts to loss of time. Yet we must not run away with the idea that Capablanca’s openings entirely differ from those of the older masters. For, obviously, to carry out a plan you must develop your pieces. But there is a difference and it is by those particular and unusual moves wherein such difference lies, that Capablanca’s method of opening is superior. Let us in that connection again consider the scheme of the game Tarrasch - Lasker (see § 16) from the point of view of the modern critic.

To avoid digression I shall not give an analysis of the first 10 moves which are so often made in this opening.


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This game should illustrate what is new in Capablanca’s technique. The two following games afford us a still better insight.