From Capa’s ”My Chess Career”
Capablanca’s Final Advice
Capablanca’s ”My Chess Career” was written in English and published shortly before the Cuban won the world title against Lasker in (1921). I read the book while in high school back in Montreal. Capablanca intended the book as a sort of manual on chess and its fundamental principles.
Those were the good old days when there were no computer engines and every chess player had to rely on his own brain to do his own thinking…those were the days when a bit of sound advice could go a long way.
I took a brief look at the book just the other day, especially the ‘CONCLUSION’. ”At the beginning of this book it was stated that, space permitting, I would give some points useful for beginners, but which also might be found of value to more experienced players. With that object I now give the substance of a part of a lecutre, delivered by me at the Hampstead Chess Club on Saturday, November 15th, 1919.”
SOME KEY POINTS
On whether it is better to be aggressive or passive: ”…if you have to be one of the two, it is much better to be very aggressive….It is quite an advantage to have the initiative. If your opponent has it, and relinquishes it through some accident or other, you must take it. It may be a good quality for a strong player to be passive and let the other player attack him, thinking he will at some time or other make a bad move, but it is fatal to the beginner or médium player –such players must be aggressive. He must attack, because only in that way can he develop his imagination, which is a very important thing.”
On attack and defence: ”…You must always try and defend your King with as few pieces as you can, and it is only when attacking your opponent’s King that you must bring forward all the pieces you can. When attacking other pieces use just sufficient force to attain your object.”
On general play: ”The answer is ‘Play what you might call the common-sense move.’ You may not make the best move by doing this, but it will be a lesson for the next game. The main thing is to move out your pieces as quickly as possible…you must also have the courage of your convinctions. If you think your move is good , make it. Experience is the best teacher. Most people during a game have an idea that a certain manoeuvre is good, but they are afraid to make it. That is wrong; you must go on and play what you think is good without hestitation.”
On losing: ”…most people do not like to lose games, and take defeat badly. This is not right. People who want to improve should take their defeats as lessons.”
(This article was originally published on September 21, 2013)
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