1921 World Chess Championship Jose Capablanca y Graupera (Cuba) vs. Emanuel Lasker (Germany) Havana, Cuba March 15 - April 28, 1921 Conditions: Best of 24 Games OR 8 wins. Champion retains title in the event of a 12-12 tie.* Most sources list this as the final title defense for Emanuel Lasker. In actuality, Lasker resigned the World Title in 1920, in a dispute over match conditions. Convinced to play the match by one of the biggest prize funds in history, he agreed to do so only on condition that his resignation be accepted, and he be regarded as the Challenger in the match. Most people don't take this seriously, which may be just as well, and regard this as the match in which Capablanca became champion.
Result: Lasker resigned the match prematurely.
Cuba, 1921 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Score Capablanca ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 9 Lasker ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 5
Jose Capablanca retains the World Championship*
|Capablanca's compatriots have a desire to see him contest the world's championship. Today (February 28th) I received a letter from Senor Paredes of the Habana Chess Club, asking me to play with Capablanca in the Cuban city a match of ten games up, draws not to count. This proposition is not acceptable. In the present period of draw-making, such a match might last half a year and longer. I am, of course, deliberating upon my reply, but I do not think that I shall care to play in a semi-tropical climate more than a few games.|
(For those following the negotiations to the 1975 Championship Match, it's interesting to see how far back a fear of Pure Wins systems really goes. See Steinitz's notes to the 1889 match for another example.)
6 Wins OR Best of 30 Match to be considered drawn in the event of a tie match OR if one player were to lead by one point only. Champion decides the match venue and stakes. Challenger must deposit $2000 forfeit money. Time limit to be 12 moves per hour. The Champion has an exclusive right to publish the games. Play conducted no more than 5 days per week, no more than two 2½ hour sections per day.
December 20, 1911
Dr. Emanuel Lasker:
Dear Sir - I am in receipt of your communication of November 21, enclosing conditions for a match with me, and asking whether I maintain my challenge. In reply I will say that I do maintain my challenge, but that I take exception to some of the conditions that you have seen fit to impose.
Frankly, these conditions came as a great surprise to me. I expected that you might ask for somewhat higher stakes, and I was prepared to meet that demand. I also thought you might stipulate that fewer wins would be required. But I took it for granted that the fundamental conditions of the match would be similar to, if not identical with those that have prevailed in practically all the important matches of the past. I had even hoped that your conditions might be such that I would be able to accept them in every detail without comment or objection, and I very much regret to observe that you have made that impossible.
In preparing my answer I have endeavored to state my case and make plain my objections without being offensive; nor do I mean to jockey you for minor advantages. All I ask is a square deal and an even chance - that the best many may win.
Accompanying this letter was a more detailed critique of the match conditions, with this being said about the proposed 2-point clause:
|I cannot agree to your provision that should the match be won by a score of 1 to 0, 2 to 1, 3 to 2, it would be declared drawn, and you retain your title. For, in chess, as in all other sports and contests, a win is always a win, and must be so considered, no matter how slight the margin. And should the match end with one of these scores, it would be looked upon by the chess public as a match won and lost, regardless of what we might agree to call it. Moreover, such a match would not be an even match, but would be more in the nature of a handicap contest, wherein I, as the challenger, would be compelled to give you a handicap of one game. I do not presume to be able to do that, nor do I believe that you will insist on my doing it. And to consider this question from the opposite standpoint, what have I to gain by such an agreement? Should you beat me by a score of 3 to 2, for example, I would be beaten, would consider myself beaten, and would be so considered by all the world. Nor would I, in such a case, gain anything whatever, in money, in title or in reputation by your agreeing to call the match drawn, for the fact that I had been beaten would still remain.|
(See also the controversy over the Lasker-Schlecter Match and the 1975 Match again for other disputes involving a requirement for the challenger to win by 2 or more points in order to win the title. In addition, the Schlecter-Tarrasch match of 1911, had a similar requirement, though no title was at stake in that match.)
Offended by the tone of Capablanca's reply, and particularly by the claim that one of the conditions was obviously unfair, Lasker turned to... a friend of his. Do you want to take a guess who it was? Give up? Well, who else? It was Walter Penn Shipley again, the man who had played such an instrumental part in the US Championship controversies of 1904 and 1909. (This Shipley guy was really the Judge Wapner of his time, wasn't he?)
Shipley offered the following 2 cents worth:
From the published correspondence, I do not see that Capablanca intended to
charge you with being unfair, or to strike a blow against your professional
honor. In fact, it is my belief that he had no such intention, and while
the language used in portions of Capablanca's reply may be somewhat
undiplomatic, I think such portions are capable of a reasonable and not
There are many important points where you and Capablanca naturally differ as to the terms of a match, and I can readily understand it will be extremely difficult to draw up a set of resolutions governing a championship match that will be perfectly fair to you both. It is not necessary for me to go further into this matter at this time.
I will state, as I have stated before, thta while I am not anxious to assume the position of arbitrator in this matter, nevertheless if it is the desire of you and Capablanca that I should so act, and you are willing to leave the matter in my hands, I will do the best I can to draw up a set of rules and regulations to cover the match. If, therefore, you wish that I should so act, I will prepare an agreement to be signed by you both, setting forth the points at issue, as I understand them, that are to be placed before me for my decision. This agreement will provide that my decision on all points will be accepted by you both, with, however, the privilege that any of the rules and regulations named by me may be changed, amended, altered, by the unanimous consent of both you and Capablanca.
I have forwarded a copy of this letter to Capablanca.
Lasker was not satisfied with Shipley's reply and used the dispute to end the negotiations, writing:
|Capablanca has not protested in the proper manner, and I therefore have the formal right to end these negotiations. Of that right, I make use. Capablanca's way of writing may in general have been merely undiplomatic, but in one point it was more than that. He has charged me with having put an obviously unfair condition. Obviously unfair is the same as deliberately unfair. In future I shall consider Capablanca as one who has challenged me with the purpose of raising a quarrel.|
The champion must defend at yearly intervals. Time limit to be 15 moves per hour. Match should be to either 6 Wins or 8 Wins (champion chooses). The Stake should be not less than a thousand pounds.
|From various facts I must infer that the chess world does not like the conditions of our agreement. I cannot play the match, knowing that its rules are widely unpopular. I therefore resign the title of the world's champion in your favor. You have earned the title, not by the formality of a challenge, but by your brilliant mastery. In your further career, I wish you much success.|
|The question now arises as to whether a holder of the world's championship has the right, upon resigning, to transfer it to any nominee at all. The consensus of opinion is undoubtedly in favor of Capablanca's being the ex-champion's greatest rival, but when we divest the Cuban's chess reputation of the glamor which attaches to it and examine his actual record in international tournaments, we find it not only not superior to those of a number of other masters, but in some cases actually inferior, notably so when compared with those of Dr. Tarrasch, Rubinstein and Maroczy. We would therefore suggest that the title of world's champion be for the present left in abeyance, and that it be decided at an early date by a double-round tournament between, say, six of the world's leading masters. most of the best European masters, among them Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Maroczy, Teichmann and Duras, will compete in the international tournament commencing at Gothenburg on August 1; and it might be agreed that the first three prize winners in that contest should be included among the six, one of whom would, of course, be Capablanca, to be selected from the few first-class masters, such as Bernstein, Vidmar and Marshall, the American champion, who have not been able to compete at Gothenburg.|
|"In case the match with Dr. Lasker is played and I remain [my italics] the champion, I shall insist in all future championship matches that there be only one session of play a day of either five or six hours, preferably six." - Capablanca, August 20, 1920.|
"Have you made any preparations for the match?"
Senor Alberto Ponce
Havana Chess Club
Dear Sir - In your capacity as referee of the match I beg to address this letter to you, proposing thereby to resign the match. Please advise me if this determination is acceptable to my adversary, the committee and yourself.
Esteemed Dr. Lasker:
Replying to your letter, proposing to resign the match you were engaged in with Mr. Capablanca, I am pleased to inform you that, after informing Mr. Capablanca and the comittee of your intention, and inasmuch as neither the committee nor Mr. Capablanca had any objections thereto, I have no hesitation in also accepting your proposition. I remain, sincerely yours,
# White - Black Locale Date ECO Result 1 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 03-15-1921 D63 ½-½ 2 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 03-17-1921 D37 ½-½ 3 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 03-19-1921 C66 ½-½ 4 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 03-23-1921 D60 ½-½ 5 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 03-29-1921 D63 1-0 6 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 03-30-1921 C66 ½-½ 7 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 04-02-1921 D61 ½-½ 8 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 04-03-1921 D12 ½-½ 9 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 04-06-1921 D34 ½-½ 10 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 04-08-1921 D61 0-1 11 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 04-13-1921 D64 1-0 12 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 04-16-1921 C66 ½-½ 13 Capablanca - Lasker Havana 04-19-1921 D63 ½-½ 14 Lasker - Capablanca Havana 04-20-1921 C66 0-1