The Capablanca v Price/Baca-Arús Mystery

Edward Winter

Page 365 of Best Play by Alexander Shashin (Newton Highlands, 2013) has a position headed ‘Capablanca-Baca, La Habana (blindfold), 1912’.  The game-score is well known from its inclusion in, for instance, Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Réti (London, 1923), Meet the Masters by Max Euwe (London, 1940) and The Immortal Games of Capablanca by Fred Reinfeld (New York, 1942). From page 102 of the Euwe book:

‘Such an achievement in the realm of combinative chess can only be described as superb.’

However, the game requires careful handling in view of the complications set out by David Hooper and Dale Brandreth on pages 111-112 of The Unknown Capablanca. Below is the relevant section from the second, revised edition of their book (New York, 1993):



The game’s appearance on page 9 of Capablanca-Magazine, 25 April 1912, under the heading ‘Blindfold Chess’:


The game-score has not been found in either of the two Cuban newspapers of the time which were notable for their chess content, Diario de la Marina and La Discusión. Page 46 of our book on Capablanca briefly referred to the game, mentioning that when Brian Harley published it on pages 16-18 of Chess and Its Stars (Leeds, 1936) he wrote: ‘Capablanca’s comment to me is: “I can’t play games like that now!”’

Baca-Arús was not named when the game was given in the Euwe, Harley, Reinfeld and Réti books or, for example, in Homenaje a José Raúl Capablanca (Havana, 1943). Nor did the word ‘blindfold’ appear. The same applies with regard to the full page (page 232) which the tactical play received in Combinations The Heart of Chess by Irving Chernev (New York, 1960). With the exception of Harley’s book, all these works broke off the game after White’s 22nd move. Harley continued to move 25 but with a different finish from that given in Capablanca-Magazine and The Unknown Capablanca: 22...Nd8 23 Qh8+ Kf7 24 Qg7+ Ke6 25 Nf8+ Resigns.

baca arus

Jaime Baca-Arús (American Chess Bulletin, May 1912, page 106 and June 1912, page 136)

The Capablanca v Price game (Birmingham, 24 November 1911) referred to in The Unknown Capablanca appeared quite widely at the time, e.g. on page 19 of the Cheltenham Looker-On of 2 December 1911, which reproduced the notes of the Birmingham Daily Post:


An especially interesting column is Gunsberg’s on page 5 of the Manchester Guardian, 5 December 1911 because it pointed out the possibility of 19 Rd7, the spectacular move that occurred in Havana the following spring in the game against Baca-Arús:


The report on the Birmingham display on pages 23-24 of the January 1912 BCM included the following:

‘Mr H.J. Whitlock, a member of the club, and head of one of the leading photographic firms in the city, secured an excellent series of portraits prior to the Señor’s early departure for London the following day.’


From page 106 of the May 1912 American Chess Bulletin:


The photograph was not in our feature article on Juan Corzo because it is a case of mistaken identity, as was pointed out on page 136 of the June 1912 edition of the Bulletin:


The above scans have been provided by the Cleveland Public Library.

Olimpiu G. Urcan (Singapore) has restored the Jaime Baca-Arús photograph:

baca arus


As mentioned in C.N. 7572, a particularly scarce book is Rubinstein: 100 de sus mejores partidas recopiladas y una nota biográfica by Jaime Baca-Arús and José Ricardo López (Havana, 1922). In C.N. 8452 a correspondent, Christian Sánchez (Rosario, Argentina), referred to Notas ajedrecísticas by Amador Guerra and Jaime Baca Arús (Havana, 1937).

Yandy Rojas Barrios (Cárdenas, Cuba) has been looking for games played by Jaime Baca-Arús, and he offers the following:

Jaime Baca-Arús – René Portela
Casual game, Havana, 1912 (?)
Danish Gambit

1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 c3 dxc3 4 Bc4 cxb2 5 Bxb2 Qe7 6 Nc3 Nf6 7 Nge2 Nxe4 8 O-O Nxc3 9 Nxc3 Qc5 10 Re1+ Be7 11 Nd5 Nc6 12 Nxc7+ Kd8 13 Nxa8 Qxc4 14 Rc1 Qb4 15 Qc2 Bf6 16 Bxf6+ gxf6 17 Qf5 Qd4 18 Rcd1 Qc3 19 Rc1 Ne7 20 Qf4 Nd5 21 Qd6 Qd4 22 Qb8 Ne7 23 Rxc8+ Resigns.

Source: El Fígaro, 10 March 1912, page 138.

Jaime Baca-Arús – E.C. de Villaverde
Casual game, Havana, 28 March 1912
Philidor’s Defence

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Nc3 Be7 4 d4 exd4 5 Nxd4 Nf6 6 f4 c5 7 Nf3 O-O 8 Bd3 a6 9 O-O b5 10 b3 Bb7 11 Ng5 h6 12 Kh1 b4 13 Nd5 Nxd5 14 exd5 hxg5 15 Qh5 g6 16 Bxg6 fxg6 17 Qxg6+ Kh8 18 Bb2+ Bf6 19 Rf3 g4 20 Qh5+ Kg8 21 Qxg4+ Bg5 22 Qe6+ Rf7 23 fxg5 Qe7 24 Qg6+ Kf8 25 Raf1 Bxd5 26 Rxf7+ Bxf7 27 Qf5 Kg8 28 g6 Be6 29 Qh5 Resigns.

Source: El Fígaro, 21 April 1912, page 238.

Jaime Baca-Arús – René Portela
Round 1, Havana Chess Club Championship, 1912
Queen’s Gambit Declined

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 g3 Nf6 7 Bg2 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Qb6 9 Nxc6 bxc6 10 O-O Ba6 11 Qa4 Bb5 12 Nxb5 cxb5 13 Qb3 Rd8 14 Bg5 Be7 15 Bxf6 Bxf6 16 a4 O-O 17 axb5 Rfe8 18 Bxd5 Rxe2 19 Bxf7+ Kh8 20 Rad1 Rxb2 21 Rxd8+ Qxd8 22 Rd1 Qb6 23 Qe3 Qxe3 24 fxe3 Rxb5 25 Rd7 a5 26 Rd5 Rxd5 27 Bxd5 a4 28 Kg2 g6 29 Kf3 Kg7 30 h4 Kf8 31 Kf4 Ke7 32 Ke4 Kd6 33 Ba2 Kc5 34 Kd3 Kb4 35 Kc2 a3 36 Kd3 h5 37 Kc2 Be5 38 Bf7 Drawn.

Source: Capablanca Magazine, 31 July 1912, page 108.

Jaime Baca-Arús – Gustavo Fernández
Casual game, Havana, 8 March 1914
Danish Gambit

1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 c3 dxc3 4 Bc4 cxb2 5 Bxb2 Qe7 6 Nc3 c6 7 Nge2 b5 8 Bxb5 cxb5 9 Nxb5 Qb4+ 10 Nec3 Qc5 11 Qd5 Qxd5 12 Nxd5 Na6 13 O-O Rb8 14 a4 Bb7 15 Rfe1 Bc6 16 Bd4 Nf6 17 Bxa7 Rb7 18 Bd4 Bb4 19 Reb1 Bxd5 20 exd5 O-O 21 d6 Ne4 22 f3 Nd2 23 Rxb4 Nxb4 24 Bc3 Nb3 25 Rb1 Nd5 26 Rxb3 Nxc3 27 Rxc3 g6 28 Rc7 Rb6 29 Rxd7 Ra8 30 Rc7 Kf8 31 d7 Ke7 32 Na7 Rab8 33 Nc6+ Kd6 34 Rc8 Kxd7 35 Rxb8 Rxc6 36 Rb7+ Rc7 37 Rxc7+ Kxc7 38 Kf2 Kb6 39 Ke3 Ka5 40 Kf4 Kxa4 41 Ke5 f5 42 g4 Resigns.

Source: El Fígaro (Ajedrez Local, Juan Corzo), 19 April 1914, unnumbered page.

Jaime Baca-Arús – M.A. Carbonell
Round 1, II Intersocial Tournament, Havana, 1931
Caro-Kann Defence

1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6+ exf6 6 Nf3 Bd6 7 Bd3 Bg4 8 O-O O-O 9 c3 Qc7 10 h3 Bh5 11 c4 Rd8 12 c5 Bh2+ 13 Kh1 Bf4 14 Be3 g5 15 g4 Bg6 16 Bxg6 hxg6 17 Qd3 Nd7 18 b4 Kg7 19 Rad1 Rh8 20 Kg2 Rad8 21 Rh1 b6 22 Bxf4 Qxf4 23 Qe3 Qb8 24 d5 Rhe8 25 Qc3 cxd5 26 Rxd5 bxc5 27 bxc5 Qc7 28 Rhd1 Nb8 29 Rxd8 Rxd8 30 Rxd8 Qxd8 31 Nxg5 Qd5+ 32 Nf3 Nc6 33 g5 Ne5 34 gxf6+ Kxf6 35 c6 Ke6 36 Qxe5+ Resigns.

Source: Diario de la Marina, 13 December 1931, page 18.


Latest update: 13 February 2024.

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