The Cuban chess wizard Jose Capablanca played a gorgeous combination against the music professor Marc Fonaroff, apparently at an evening party in New York City, in June of 1918. Three years later, Capablanca became the World Chess Champion.
Here’s a record of the game:
- White: Jose R. Capablanca
- Black: Marc (or Mark) Fonaroff
1) e4 e5
2) Nf3 Nc6
3) Bb5 Nf6
4) O-O d3
5) d4 Bd7
6) Nc3 Be7
7) Re1 exd4
8) Nxd4 Nxd4
9) Qxd4 Bxb5
10) Nxb5 O-O
11) Qc3 c6
12) Nd4 Nd7
13) Nf5 . . . .
Capablanca was surely not expecting a quick mate here, for Professor Fonaroff was hardly a chess beginner.
Diagram-1 after White’s Nf5
Capablanca was probably thinking about two black pawns: on d6 and g7.
13) . . . . Bf6
14) Qg3 Ne5
15) Bf4 Qc7
16) Ra1d1 Ra8d8
Diagram-2 after Black moved Ra8d8
17) Rxd6!! . . . . On the surface, this may look like an obvious sacrifice, but it’s far deeper
17) . . . . Rxd6
18) Bxe5 . . . . Now it looks like Black will be down a piece
Diagram-3 after White’s Bxe5
If Professor Fonaroff had now captured the white bishop of e5, Capablanca could have recaptured with his queen: 19) Qxe5, remaining a knight ahead, for Black would have to move f6* to defend against the threat of Qxg7# (mate). White would then capture the rook at d6, winning the game *(Black moving the rook to f6 or g6 would lose the black queen).
Fonaroff now made a surprising move . . . well, maybe surprising to everybody watching the game at the party that night, but Capablanca was prepared for it.
18) . . . . Rd1 forcing White to capture that rook, to prevent mate (Rxe1#)
19) Rxd1 Bxe5
Diagram-4 after Black’s Bxe5
It appears Black is not so badly off, only a pawn behind, after giving back the exchange. In fact, it looks like Black will soon gain back a pawn, with no problem apparent.
But the grandmaster had looked into this more deeply. Do you see how White can win the game now? Try to find the winning combination in Diagram-4, then see the answer at the bottom of this post. Few non-masters would see this if they had not already been shown how the combination works.
Jose Raul Capablanca
20) Nh6+! Kh8
21) Qxe5! Qxe5
22) Nxf7+ Black resigns
Diagram-5 after White’s Nxf7+!
Do you see, in Diagram-5, why Black does not capture that knight? After Rxf7, White will get a quick checkmate after 23) Rd8+, so Fonaroff resigned. What a lovely combination by the Cuban grandmaster who would soon be the World Chess Champion!
Two average players compete in Lakewood, California
A New Chess Book That Uses a New Method [Beat That Kid in Chess, by Jonathan Whitcomb]
It’s for the beginner who knows the rules but not much else. Children, teenagers, and adults can benefit . . .