Saturday, December 26, 2009

Capablanca on Moscow 1925

The following interview with J.R. Capablanca was conducted by a Berlin newspaper in 1925. The World Champion had stopped while en route from the recently-concluded Moscow tournament.

...We were received in the capital of the Soviet Union with genuine Russian hospitality, straight from the heart, and the Soviet Government did everything to make the participants' visit to their country as pleasant as possible. During our entire stay in Moscow we were the guests of the government, and were at all times treated with great courtesy. For example, we were freed from all hotel expenses, even the most trifling ones, and accommodation in Moscow as well as the train trip to Russia and back was paid for by the Soviet Government on behalf of all the players.

All of the tournament participants were pleasantly surprised by the extraordinary enthusiasm for chess displayed by all levels of the Russian population. As is well-known, the competition was held in the magnificent Hotel Меtropol, and with such a weight of spectators that the enormous tournament hall appeared to be too small. It was constantly overflowing, and was made to contain three and even four times its capacity, while the tickets for each round were were sold out days in advance. For me this is an indicator of the Russians' genuine enthusiasm for chess, which one could even describe as a passion.

The Soviet Government gives chess a important place in its system. By way of illustration, a formal reception for the players was arranged by Mr Krylenko, the general public prosecutor of the USSR. Mr Krylenko, along with fulfilling his important duties in the field of justice, is also the head of the Chess Section for the entire Soviet Union.

Bogoljubow's victory was met with the greatest enthusiasm by his fellow countrymen. A crowd followed him through the streets, and everywhere he went he was met with deafening applause.

As to the techniques and methods of the Moscow tournament, I will refrain for the time being from making any judgements in this respect. I can only express the view that this tournament has confirmed once again the old assertion that in an international competition there can be no absolute, mathematical certainty as to its outcome. Even where the greatest players are taking part, there is still the possibility that a third party will overtake them. This is what happened in Moscow. In general, the strength of all the participants was well-known to everyone, and everyone had a full opportunity to display their abilities. In my case, I had already had the chance to cross swords with Bogoljubow, in London [1922] and New York [1924].

In any case, the young chessplayers of the USSR survived their baptism of fire in Moscow in excellent fashion, and showed that they are worthy of the hopes placed upon them for the future.

Torre, the youngest participant in Moscow, is improving from tournament to tournament right before one's eyes.

It is still not clear whether I will be able to play in the Semmering International Tournament, which is set to take place in March, 1926. But this tournament also promises to be very interesting, with such players as Alekhine and Tartakover in the lists...

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.