Breyer’s comments on Capablanca–Lasker WCC (1921) G10

Jump to Breyer newspaper clips: link

Another side project while researching, this time involving Edward Winter and <FSR>, one of CG’s own:

6153. Lasker v Capablanca tenth match-game

Frederick S. Rhine (Park Ridge, IL, USA) notes that on page 61 of our Capablanca chapter in World Chess Champions (Oxford, 1981) we wrote regarding the 1921 match for the world crown:

‘Despite the valiant efforts of the man who had held the title for 27 years, the Cuban could, and did, claim that, far from losing a game in the whole match, not once had he actually been in a markedly inferior position.’

However, Capablanca’s notes to the tenth game, given on pages 59-60, included an observation that in this position (after his 16th move, …Nb6-d5) …


… the line 17 Bxf6 Bxf6 18 Bxd5 exd5 19 Qf5 would have left him ‘with a very hard game to defend’.

Some sematic discussion follows, turning on Capablanca’s claim that “not once did he [i.e. Lasker] have a won game”. Of course, what constitutes a “won game” is very much subjective – e.g. in blitz most players blithely play on down a minor piece. Position matters a great deal, and sometimes trumps even engine evals, but consider the guidance offered by Informant and SCID (at least, my versions of values for SCID):

SCID’s Informant Configuration Window

(Found in Options -> Game Information -> Configure informant values)

This suggests that eval = 3.0 or better translates into a won game (if decisive is considered just as good as “won”, which makes for a good practical working definition). But for GM-level play one might also consider a moderate advantage a win, as GM technique is usually sufficient to shepherd even small, but definitive advantages into a win.

However, I would be hard-pressed to accept that only a “slight advantage” translates into a win. Certainly, the defender would often have the less pleasant role in the game, but unless you’re sitting across from AlphaZero not even a strong GM will be able to convert such a slim advantage against a peer (I might be speculating a little here, not being a GM, but I have played though many GM games with an engine, and seen some evidence to support this conjecture – moreover, use an engine to probe many well-accepted openings, and you can sometimes see evals approaching this fine-tuned difference).

I mention all this with the idea of returning to the original topic, Lasker–Capablanca G10, where Breyer rather famously found an improvement on Lasker’s 16th move, suggesting 16.Bh4xNf6 rather than the game’s 16.Bb3xNd5. Winter outlines the various contemporaneous, and not so contemporaneous subsequent, analysis of the game at this point – including Breyer’s, and how Capablanca’s comments evolved between 1921 (no comment) and 1935 (where he notes that 16.Bxf6 would have left him with a very hard game to defend). Winter quotes Chernev:

Breyer proposed the illogical-looking 17 Bxf6 as offering White winning chances, but Bogoljubow’s analysis showed that Black had a draw in all variations, and vindicated Capablanca’s claim of never having been in a losing position in his match with Lasker.

And does include a screenshot of Bojo’s analysis (sans translation). Winter finishes the note with this plead:

We hope that a master analyst will go into the matter in depth, so that it can be established exactly how strong Lasker’s winning chances would have been after 17 Bxf6.

Of course, anyone with SF8 has a “master analyst” sitting on their desk, and can see that 17.Bxf6 can be defended, at least in terms of eval. But Black will be hard-pressed to find the right moves, and White has several inspiring attacking variations – as first mentioned by Breyer. It does put into question Capablanca’s sweeping claim about all the match games, at least to the final detail. And it’s fun to realize how quickly Black could enter into swift waters in what looked to be a fairly placid position.

Finally, we move to the real reason for this post. Winter, in his CN, fails to find the original sources from Breyer, and instead quotes secondary sources:

G. Breyer: chess column in Bécsi Magyar Újság, 11 May and 18 June 1921. We have not seen the original columns, but the analysis was reproduced, in Hungarian, on pages 276-277 of volume three of Magyar Sakktörténet (Budapest, 1989). A German version appeared on pages 140-142 of Gyula Breyer Sein Leben, Werk und Schaffen für die Erneuerung des Schachs by Iván Bottlik (Unterhaching, 1999).

During my researches I found the original newspaper articles in the Austrian Anno archives. Seeing how Winter shows Lasker and Bojo original copy, I thought it only fitting to do the same for the originator of the entire discussion, Breyer. Winter’s info above made finding the copy easy, much easier than preparing the pitiful google translations below (this is difficult because the Hungarian OCR must be laboriously corrected by hand)

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)

The newspaper clippings have been slightly “edited”, e.g. to get the title line info in 2-column display form, etc.

Here is a translation of the first article, and the relevant part of the second article:


Becsi Hungarian Ujsag (Wiener Ungarische Zeitung) - 19210511 - Seite 7 c1-2


 Tutor: Gyula Breyer

  XXII. game

They played for the  World Cup in contention
April 1921 on 12th [sic, was April 8th] in Havana.

Match X Match.

Lasker-Capablanca. Queen's Gambit

	   1.	d4    	d5    
	   2.	c4    	e6    
	   3.	Nc3   	Nf6   
	   4.	Bg5   	Be7   
	   5.	e3    	O-O   
	   6.	Nf3   	Nbd7  
	   7.	Qc2

Better Ra1-c1. The  leader or the attacker
for example,  a4-en, b3, or in  general on

	   7.	...   	c5    

Bold move;  it's fun to be  the best. Dark
the leader  is so ill that  he is troubled
good advice.

	   8.	Rd1

The    dark   leader    is   uncomfortable
immediately  positioning  step.  It  might
have been  better to  put the castle  on c
line.    The    honey   not    necessarily
necessary. The later you  can see that the
bastions are  all over they would  be well
on d-e-lines, - if  Lasker made a definite
plan would be.

	   8.	...   	Qa5   
	   9.	Bd3?
After dark  hit c4, this is  the move loss
of pace.  We were  better 9)  a2-a3, which
step a little more It means.

	   9.	...   	h6    

The purpose of this  step is h7 pedestrian

	  10.	Bh4
This step  is dark in isolating  the light
d4.     This    is     left    to    clear
disadvantage.  But  darkness has  not  yet
unfolded  out   of  the   difficulties  of
opening and can be a clear advantage, even
before that  the disadvantage  will indeed
be a burden.

	  10.	...   	cxd4!
	  11.	exd4

He  is  forced   to  hit  the  pedestrian,
because Nxd4 is 11...Bb4 is unpleasant

	   8.	Rd1   	Qa5   
	   9.	Bd3   	h6    
	  10.	Bh4   	cxd4  
	  11.	exd4  	dxc4  
	  12.	Bxc4  	Nb6   
	  13.	Bb3   	Bd7   
	  14.	O-O   	Rac8  
	  15.	Ne5

The  compiler  should   have  known,  that
darkness   is   still   lacking   in   the
difficulties of development.  Dark figures
do not stop in  the right places, but just
right where  to go out of  the eighth line
they took  them. A vigorous  action proves
he would  have had the worthlessness  of a
dark place.   15.Qc2-e2 (threatened d4-d5)
...Rf8-e8,  16.Nf3-e5! The  d7 runner  can
not  go to  Nxf7  for  threats. d5  points
clear!    f2-f4-f5   and   anyway   Bh4-e1
threatens  the  dark leader  uncomfortable

	  15.	...   	Bb5   
	  16.	Rfe1  	Nbd5  
	  17.	Bxd5??

This game  is wonderful stuff  happen. The
last Lasker has a decisive advantage it is
a sign of the  dirty indisposition of that
it fails. 17.Bxf6! Nxf6 -(Bxf6 18.Bxd5 ed5  
19.Qf5! the Nxf7 or Ng4 is a strong threat
and a good job at least he gets a penny) -
18.Ne5-g6 Re8 -(...f7xg6 18.Bxe6) 19.Nxe7+
Rxe7  20.d5!!  e5  21.d6  Re8 22.Bf7+  Kf7
23.Qb3+ Bc4 24.Qb7+ etc and clear wins.

	  17.	...   	Nxd5  
	  18.	Bxe7  	Nxe7  
	  19.	Qb3   	Bc6   
	  20.	Nxc6  	bxc6  
	  21.	Re5   	Qb6   
	  22.	Qc2

Dark  now  has  a strong  advantage.   The
light leader  is forced to  flee replacing
it   and  thus   gradually  getting   down
pressing the light camp.

	  22.	...   	Rfd8
	  23.	Ne2   	Rd5   
	  24.	Rxd5  	cxd5  
	  25.	Qd2   	Nf5   
	  26.	b3    	h5    
	  27.	h3    	h4    
	  28.	Qd3   	Rc6   
	  29.	Kf1   	g6    
	  30.	Qb1   	Qb4   
	  31.	Kg1   	a5    
	  32.	Qb2   	a4    
	  33.	Qd2   	Qxd2  
	  34.	Rxd2  	axb3  
	  35.	axb3  	Rb6   
	  36.	Rd3   	Ra6   
	  37.	g4    	hxg3  
	  38.	fxg3  	Ra2   
	  39.	Nc3   	Rc2   
	  40.	Nd1   	Ne7   
	  41.	Nc3   	Rc1+  
	  42.	Kf2   	Nc6   
	  43.	Nd1   	Rb1   
	  44.	Ke2   	Rxb3  

The pedestrian was in any case lost Kf2-e3
was obtained by Nb4.

	  45.	Ke3   	Rb4   
	  46.	Nc3   	Ne7   
	  47.	Ne2   	Nf5+  
	  48.	Kf2   	g5    
	  49.	g4    	Nd6   
	  50.	Ng1   	Ne4+  
	  51.	Kf1   	Rb1+  
	  52.	Kg2   	Rb2+  
	  53.	Kf1   	Rf2+  
	  54.	Ke1   	Ra2   
	  55.	Kf1   	Kg7   
	  56.	Re3   	Kg6   
	  57.	Rd3   	f6    
	  58.	Re3   	Kf7   
	  59.	Rd3   	Ke7   
	  60.	Re3   	Kd6   
	  61.	Rd3   	Rf2+  
	  62.	Ke1   	Rg2   
	  63.	Kf1   	Ra2   
	  64.	Re3   	e5    
	  65.	Rd3   	exd4  
	  66.	Rxd4  	Kc5   
	  67.	Rd1   	d4    
	  68.	Rc1+  	Kd5   

Clearly gave up.


[Becsi Magyar Ujsag (Wiener Ungarische Zeitung) - 19210618 - Seite 7]

1921 June 18.


Tutor: Gyula Breyer


We  read  in  the days  that  the  English
Football Association  boycotted the Swedes
because they  were not making  troops with

The chess players did not know and did not
know   the    boycott.   Their   spiritual
relationship  was strong  during the  war,
stronger  than any  other rope.  The chess
pieces of  neutral countries have  come to
the hostile  world. So they  learned about
the  fate of  their "hostile"  friends and
their  cheating.   There  is   no  boycott
either!  America  is  pleased to  see  the
chaos of the countryside; the sensation of
the  German  chess   is  the  presence  of
Bogoljubov  and  Alechin in  Germany.  The
Sakkin   International  is   divided  into
countries  and  the development  of  chess
culture   by   country    is   a   foreign
affair.  Russia  is  the  leading  player,
followed   by   Germany,   Czechoslovakia,
Sweden.   Netherlands,   Hungary,   United
States,   England,   Italy,  France.   The
self-contained Slavic  thief's thinking is
the   best   thing    to   do   with   the
chessboard. The  polyhistoric German chess
is also a discipline among many. In Sweden
and  the  Netherlands,   a  card  game  is
forbidden to  be replaced by  chess. Early
Master  Masters did  not develop  in these
two countries.  They have the  severity of
the chess, but  the spiritual dispensation
is  missing.   The  choreography   of  the
Hungarians   is  praisingly   high.  Chess
narcissism,  many  of which  escape  until
chess  is prohibited,  just like  65 years
ago,  because  kings' lives  are  breaking

America  can not  play chess.  In England,
there     are    a     lot    of     chess
competitors. Quartet,  wisth, bridge often
substitute chess. The hot Italian does not
sit beside the board. The French are lured
by muziers from Caissa's chickens.

If the chess player goes abroad, he always
knows  about  it.   Or,  by  common  chess
friends,  "my  boyfriend friend"  welcomes
any  member  of  the World  Federation  of
Chess players.

Bismarck  says  chess   players  are  good
people     because     they     do     not
politicize.     Nowadays,     when     the
"international"  spread is  a policy,  the
truth  of  the chancellor's  rejection  is
over.  Chess players  also have  their own
policy:  the community  of their  thoughts
and human solidarity.


Brno. The Czechoslovak Chess Festival will
begin on July 25th. The program includes a
master  course with  12 participants  (for
Czech masters). In addition,  he is a fad,
whose   winner  is   the  winner   of  the
"Czechoslovak chess federation".

Sign up for Julius 2 until Rud. Procházka,
Brno-Královo Pole, Kollárova 8th floor.

Berlin.  Teichman and  Alechin started  to
pair.   The  first   game  is   a  15-step
draw. Teichman is once again active and it
is possible that the next games are played
without remorse.

Lasker-Capablanca is designed for labeling
chess  players. For  this purpose  100,000
brands have come together. Pity for money!

Rubinstein   also  challenged   Capablanca
through Kagan.

Capablanca declares.  Capablanca in London
Observer says  he is willing to  work with
anyone;   acceptance   of  the   challenge
depends  only on  the  fulfillment of  the
material conditions. Only! He also said he
was proud  of Lasker's defeat in  a single
game. It will show this in the analysis of
the games to  be released. Capablanca does
not yet  know the analyst who  has come to
the   world   press  from   the   Viennese
Hungarian  Unity. Interesting  analysis is
recalled by our readers.

[2r2rk1 / pp2bpp1 / 4pn1p / qb1nN3 / 3P3B / 1B2N3 / PPQ2PPP / 3RR1K1 w - - 0 17]

After the  16th match of the  tenth match,
the  Puppy Striker  came to  play. Lasker:
Kg1 Qc2, Rd1  and e1. Bb3 and  h4, Nc3 and
e5, g a2, b2, d4, f2, g2 and h2.


Capablanca: Kg8, Qa5, Rc8  and f8, Bb5 and
e7, Nd5 and f6, a7, b7, e6, f7, g7 and h6.
Lasker  was   a  step  and   17)  Bb3xd5?.
Instead,  he  wins  the game  17)  Bh4xf6!
Nd5xf6 (if  ...Bxf6 18)  Bxd5 ed5  19) Ng4
with  Q1f5 threats  the important  d5 foot
and this game.) 18) Ne5-g6!  Rf8 [Rf7] -e8
19) Re1xe6  !!  and f7xe6 can  not come up
20) Bb3xe6  + Kg8-h7  21)  Ng6f8++  Kh7-h8
22) Qc2-h7 +! Nf6Xh7 23) Nf8-g6 + mat

Bratsklava sakklub  will be  formed, which
will call  the town's  chess players  in a

Postscript: Winter, quoting FSR, states

Given that ‘a markedly inferior position’ is more or less synonymous with ‘a very hard game to defend’,

I disagree with the assertion here. Over the chess board, one can be clearly winning but have a difficult game to defend. Perhaps we’re spoiled by engines, but I’ve enjoyed some otb games where my opponent has a blistering attack that I know (intuitively, maybe, but somehow) can be defended.  The defense can involve navigating some very narrow pathways on sheer cliffs (i.e. sharp positions), but oh how satisfying it is to survive the onslaught and then launch the final winning attack! Really, leaving the flourish behind, I think it wrong to equate defending with an inferior position which is what the above statement seems to imply.



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