Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Back Rank Mate: Bernstein - Capablanca, Moscow 1914

The Cuban world champion José Raúl Capablanca is one of the best players for beginners to study.  His play is clear and logical, and although the games from the early part of his playing career are more than one hundred years old, they don't feel old fashioned.

Here's a position from his game as Black against Ossip Bernstein (Moscow, 1914):

Black to move played 24...Rc6-c7

Capablanca's 24...Rc7! looks like a mistake after Bernstein's reply 25.Nb5: the red arrows in the following diagram indicate attacks against pieces and the green arrows indicates defenses of a piece.

 After 26.Nb5: Black to move
Now the poor Black pawn on c3 is directly attacked twice, and indirectly attacked once by the rook on c1 supporting the rook on c2.  The knight on b5 is also threatening to win the Exchange (that is, win a rook for a knight or a bishop: an advantage worth somewhere between one and two pawns). 

Capablanca decided to save the Exchange with 26...Rc5, and White grabbed the c3 pawn with 27.Nxc3 Nxc3 28.Rxc3 Rxc3 29.Rxc3, reaching this position:

Black to play: find Capa's amazing move


Frederick said...

1...Qb2!! and poor White is defenseless: (a) 2.Qxb2 Rd1#; (b) 2.Rc2 Qb1+ 3.Qf1 Qxc2; (c) 2.Qc4 Rd1+ 3.Qf1 Rxf1+ 4.Kxf1 Qxc3; (d) 2.Qe1 Qxc3 3.Qxc3 Rd1+ 4.Qe1 Rxe1#; (e) 2.Qc2 Qxc2 3.Rxc2 Rd1#; (f) 2.Qd3 (hoping for 2...Rxd3?? 3.Rc8+ and mates) Qa1+! 3.Qf1 Qxc3 (3...Rd1?? 4.Rc8+); (g) 2.Rd3 Qb1+ wins.

Bill Brock said...

what about (h) 2.Rc8?

Josh Flores said...

(h) 2. Rc8 answered by

2... Qb1 +


Bill Brock said...

Yup! It's always amazed me how much content there is in this "simple" position.