Capa’s dilemma (An example of using Fritz/Rybka/etc. as a sparring partner)

I was all set to offer another ChessBase 11 tip today, but I’ve decided to hold off on it until next week, as I’ve found an interesting chess position for you to practice against, using your computer chessplaying program.

This morning, as I was perusing J.R. Capablanca’s classic book Chess Fundamentals, I came across a really interesting annotation by Capa. In his 1916 game against Oscar Chajes in the Rice Memorial Tournament, Capa had a lost position with the Black pieces. (And, while I’m thinking about it, you have to admire Capablanca for having the courage to offer a bunch of his losses as example games in his own book.)

After Black’s fiftieth move, the position looked like this:

Capa says in his annotations, “Most players will be wondering, as the spectators did, why I did not resign. The reason is that while I knew the game to be lost, I was hoping for White to play Qxg4+, which Chajes came very near playing.”

Capa goes on to say that he was hoping for the following variation:

51.Qxg4+ Kh7 52.Qh5 Rxf6 53.Bg5+ Kg7 54.Bxf6+ Nxf6

…after which the position would look like this:

I don’t think anyone would argue that Black is losing here. But Capa goes on to issue a very interesting challenge concerning this position:

“…while White has a won game it is by no means easy. If the reader does not believe it, let him take the White pieces against a master and see what happens.”

Now most of us don’t happen to have a chess master living down the street. So how do we experiment with this position to see how tough it is for White?

This, friends, is exactly the type of thing at which Fritz, Rybka, Hiarcs, etc. positively excel. You can enter any legal chess position and then play it out against the computer.

So here’s the challenge. Fire up the ChessBase chess engine of your choice (Fritz, Rybka, Hiarcs, Junior, Shredder), go to the Insert menu and click the Position setup button, then click “Clear board”:

Set up the second board position above (the one with the White Queen vs. Black’s two minors) and make sure the radio button next to “White” (under “Side to move” is checked). Click “OK” and you’ll see the position appear on the main chessboard.

Now go to the Home menu and click the “Levels” button, then select “Fixed time”.

Set the time to a decent number (45 to 60 seconds should do); which should allow your chess engine to play at least at master level.

Now make a move as White. Your chess engine will begin chewing on the position and it should make a move within a minute or two. After it moves, analyse the position and make a reply. Play out the game and see how tough it is to win this position against a master-level Black player.

Was Capa right in saying that the position “is by no means easy” for White?

Have fun! – Steve Lopez

Chessplayers who have purchased their ChessBase brand software from USCFSales can receive free technical support and advice on their purchases straight from me; just shoot me an e-mail (, but please remember to include the USCFSales order number from your ChessBase software purchase. – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


Leave a comment

Filed under chess, Chess playing software, Chess software, ChessBase, Fritz, Hiarcs, Junior, Rybka, Shredder

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s