Slowly, but surely

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Henry Ernest Atkins - Jose Raul Capablanca

London London ENG 14.08.1922

The game we're discussing today is about maneuvering and generating ideas in seemingly closed positions, we'll see how the great Capa instructively gradually improves his position and putting immense pressure on his opponent only by simple but powerful moves. To view the game in Chessbase format or in pgn format you can do it from this link: Both of the players of this game are of a very high caliber. Atkins was one of the great talents of Britain winning an unparalleled record of 9 British Chess Championships,The great Capa doesn't need any introduction,The Cuban legend is one of the best players in the history of chess and considered by many to the best endgame player of all time

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 the theory of the Caro-Kann started to grow with people playing other lines other than the exchange variation,unlike the other two games we've seen previously

3...Bf5 4.Bd3 now in the modern day many other moves have been played,such as

4.Nf3; 4.Nc3; 4.h4; and 4.g4

4...Bxd3 5.Qxd3 e6 6.Ne2 Qb6 now black starts his idea rather early in the game,black wants to exchange queens and enter an endgame,also wants to play c5,Nc6 putting pressure on white's centre

7.0–0 Qa6 8.Qd1 of course white knew black's endgame mastery so he didn't want to exchange

entering an endgame with 8.Qxa6 Nxa6 9.c3 Ne7 gives black immediate equality with an easy position to play with an obvious plan on the centre and queenside

8...c5 9.c3 Nc6 10.Nd2?! the move isn't bad theoretically but it forces white to exchange queens in the following sequence,which is what white wanted to refrain from in the first place

10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Qd3 now white has to exchange queens or lose the d4 pawn

12.Nb3 Qxd1 13.Rxd1 now the position is equal but black has some slight advantages: white has a weak pawn on d4 that needs protection,also black's bishop is on the opposite color to his pawns unlike white's bishop which is stuck on the same color of the pawns therefore limiting it's movement,so in general black's position is much easier to play

13...Nge7 14.Bd2 a5 a prophylactic move preventing Na5,and at the same time threatening a4 in the future kicking the knight away

[14...Nf5 15.Rac1 Be7 16.Na5]

15.Rac1 b6 16.a4 Kd7 black has consolidated on the queenside and fixed his pawn structure,now black will start developing his pieces and bring the rooks to the important file (c&b files)

17.Nc3 Na7 preventing Nb5

18.Kf1 Nec6 finally leaving space for the bishop

18...Rc8 followed by Nf5 was more natural

19.Ke2 Rc8 20.Be1 Be7 now both sides have developed their pieces,white's plans are not so obvious while black has a clear plans hitting white's weaknesses mainly the d4,a4 pawns

21.Nb1 black set a small trap which white immediately fell into


21...g5!? was a very interesting take on the position,black wants to attack white's centre with f6 without white playing f4,if white played 22.g3 planning to play f4 anyway,it'll open lines for the black rook after 22...f6 23.f4 gxf4 24.gxf4 Rhg8 which tells that if you have a more comfortable position you have more options

22.exf6? white let the black bishop attack on the d4 and now defending it will prove to be a tough task

22...Bxf6 23.Bc3 Nb4 letting the other knight get into play,while also threatening the annoying Na2

24.Bd2 Nac6 25.Be3 Na2 black didn't play Na2 just to distract his opponent,it's main idea is to indirectly prevent Nc3 and bring the other knight to b4

25...Rc7 wasn't good due to 26.Nc3 Rhc8 27.Nb5

26.Rc2 Rc7 black wants to double on the file to take control over it

also a good alternative was 26...Ncb4 27.Rxc8 Rxc8 taking control of the c-file,which was probably a better option than what was played]

27.Na3 now 27.Nc3?? is met by 27...Ncb4! 28.Rcd2 Nxc3+ 29.bxc3 Rxc3

27...Rhc8 28.Rcd2 28.Nb5 falls into the nice tactic 28...Nxd4+!; 28.Bf4! was best,now 28...Nxd4+ doesn't work 29.Nxd4 Rxc2+ 30.Ndxc2 Bxb2 31.Bd2 and black has no sufficient compensation for the piece

28...Na7 now black has the c-file,white's getting squeezed more and more over time

28...Ne7 intending Nf5 was also good

29.Rd3 Nb4 30.R3d2 now black uses a method that's very useful when there's no obvious plan,which is looking for a piece and putting it into it's ideal square. now Capablanca being an endgame maestro understands that concept and transfers his bishop into d6,the d4 pawn is well protected now and there's no point in attacking it

30...Rc6 31.Rb1 Be7 32.Ra1 Bd6 33.h3 now that black has transferred his bishop,white's position feels quite cramped

33...R6c7 34.Rad1 Na2 35.Ra1 Bxa3! an excellent strategical choice,white's knight doesn't look that active on a3 but it defended key squares on c4 and c2

36.Rxa2 Bb4 37.Rd1 Rc4 now black takes advantage of that last decision,white's weaknesses are getting more apparent

38.Rc1 Nc6 39.Rxc4 white wants to relieve the pressure,but enters a much more inferior position

39.Raa1 was a decent alternative,though after 39...Ne7 white will have to exchange rooks eventually

39...dxc4 40.Nd2 40.Nc1 white's pieces are very passive and uncoordinated

40...Bxd2 41.Kxd2 now white enters a rook+bishop vs rook+knight,black's knight is way more powerful than white's bishop considering black has a strong outpost on d5

41...Kd6 42.Kc3 Kd5 black wants to open the b file and put pressure on d4 through his king

42...Nb4 43.Ra1 Nd5+ was also available

43.Ra1 g6 43...Rb8 right away was more active,both sides were likely low on time in this stage

44.f3 Rb8 45.Ra3 b5 46.axb5 Rxb5 black has made great progress over the past few moves,white's position is getting more and more difficult as time goes on

47.Bf2 Nb4 black wants to play Nd3 targeting the b2 pawn

48.b3 cxb3 49.Kxb3 Nc6+? even the great capa makes mistakes,black misses a winning move

49...Nd3+! wins immediately after the forced line 50.Ka4 Rb2 51.Rxd3 Rxf2 52.g3 (52.g4 Kc4 53.Ra3 Kxd4–+) 52...Ra2+ 53.Kb3 Rg2 (see diagram) and black will take material very soon,you can study this endgame if you want to know more

50.Kc3 Rb1 engines claim that this position is equal,though it's very clear who has the upper hand

51.Ra4 Rc1+ 52.Kd2 now pressure took it's toll on white,leaving black the c4 square

52.Kd3 was the only move in the position 52...Nb4+ 53.Ke3 black can exchange rooks after 53...Nc2+ (53...Rc3+ 54.Kf4 Nd3+ 55.Kg3) 54.Kd2 Ra1 55.Rxa1 Nxa1 56.Kc3 but white can hold,though he still has a long way to go

52...Rc4 53.Ra1 a4 now the a pawn is going to tell

54.Ra3 Na7 black is just puttting his pieces to support the advance of the passed pawn

55.Ra1 Nb5 56.Rb1 Kc6 57.Kd3 Rc3+ 58.Kd2 Rb3 now the road for the a pawn has been cleared, the rest doesn't need commentary

59.Rc1+ Kb7 60.Rc2 a3 61.Bg3 Nxd4 62.Rc7+ Kb6 63.Rc4 Kb5 64.Rc8 64.Rxd4 a2

64...Nc6 65.Ra8 Rb2+ 66.Ke3 Rxg2 67.Bf2 Nb4 The lessons we learned from this game: -The art of slow maneuvering -Importance of the open file -putting the pieces into ideal squares


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