José Raúl Capablanca - Assessment - Personality

Personality

Early in his chess career, Capablanca had received some criticism, mainly in Britain, for the allegedly conceited description of his accomplishments in his first book, My Chess Career. He therefore took the unprecedented step of including virtually all of his tournament and match defeats up to that time in Chess Fundamentals, together with an instructive group of his victories. Nevertheless his preface to the 1934 edition of Chess Fundamentals is confident that the "reader may therefore go over the contents of the book with the assurance that there is in it everything he needs." However Julius du Mont wrote that he knew Capablanca well and could vouch that he was not conceited. In du Mont's opinion critics should understand the difference between the merely gifted and the towering genius of Capablanca, and the contrast between the British tendency towards false modesty and the Latin and American tendency to say "I played this game as well as it could be played" if he honestly thought that it was correct. Capablanca himself said, in his author's note prefacing My Chess Career: "Conceit I consider a foolish thing, but more foolish still is the false modesty that vainly attempts to conceal which all facts tend to prove." Fischer also admired this frankness. Du Mont also said that Capablanca was rather sensitive to criticism, and chess historian Edward Winter documented a number of examples of self-criticism in My Chess Career.

Despite his achievements Capablanca appeared more interested in baseball than in chess, which he described as "not a difficult game to learn and it is an enjoyable game to play." His second wife, Olga, thought he resented the way in which chess had dominated his life, and wished he could have studied music or medicine.

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