This is a game between Jose Raul Capablanca and Viacheslav Ragozin, Moscow 1935:

[FEN ""]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 d6 6.Qc2 O-O 7.e4 e5 8.Bd3 c5 9.Ne2 Nc6 10.d5 Ne7? 11.f3 Nd7 12.h4! Nb6 13.g4 f6? 14.Ng3 Kf7 15.g5! Ng8 16.f4! Ke8 17.f5 Qe7 18.Qg2 Kd8 19.Nh5 Kc7 20.gxf6 gxf6 21.Ng7 Bd7 22.h5 Rac8 23.h6 Kb8 24.Rg1 Rf7 25.Rb1 Qf8 26.Be2! Ka8 27.Bh5 Re7 28.Qa2 Qd8 29.Bd2 Na4 30.Qb3 Nb6 31.a4! Rb8 32.a5 Nc8 33.Qa2 Qf8 34.Be3 b6 35.a6 Qd8 36.Kd2 Qf8 37.Rb2 Qd8 38.Qb1 b5 39.cxb5 Nb6 40.Qa2 c4 41.Qa3 Qc7 42.Kc1 Rf8 43.Rbg2 Qb8 44.Qb4 Rd8 45.Rg3 Rf8 46.Ne6! Bxe6 47.dxe6 Rc7 48.Qxd6 Ne7 49.Rd1  1-0

I understand that Black is in a bad spot, being two pawns down and almost the epitome of cramped (not to mention the promotion possibilities for White), but the game doesn't look obviously lost to me yet. My suggestion would be 49... Nbc8 forcing the White queen back and then 50... Rg8 countering the sting of White's g-rook. I've played several variations from this point and all of them end up with White keeping the two-pawn advantage, but not a quick win. Am I missing a certain move by White to refute anything Black could do here? How did Ragozin know that there was no chance of a draw?

Edit: It has been shown that after 49... Nbc8 50. Qd2 Rg8? 51. Rxg8 Nxg8 White wins at least the Black queen with 52. Qd5+. However, if White plays 50. Qd2, Black has 50... Qxb5 winning a Pawn and considerably uncramping himself (or so it seems to me):

[FEN "k1n2r2/p1r1n2p/P3Pp1P/1q2pP1B/2p1P3/2P1B3/3Q4/2KR2R1 w - - 0 50"]
  • 1
    Maybe the black player noticed who was sitting across the board from him. An endgame which is bad against an ordinary chess player would be quite hopeless against Capablanca. Perhaps the real question is why Black didn't resign sooner. Sep 2, 2019 at 17:50

5 Answers 5


Black is down 2 pawns, pieces completely passive, the pawn on e6 is impossible to get rid of, pawn on h6 is also important, creating potential outpost on g7 for rook. White also has two bishops and controls both open files. There is no need for White to prove anything by concrete analysis. Unless Black has some immediate way to get material back - he might as well resign and save energy for next round.

  • I agree with your assessment that black's position is dismal. But having a dismal position is not a good reason to resign a game. (Of course the definition of a 'resignable game' depends upon the level of the players involved.) To satisfy the OP's question, we should demonstrate the win.
    – Tony Ennis
    Dec 14, 2012 at 19:47
  • if someone is up a piece - is there "the win"? or just an observation that any moves by the weaker side would lead them to a loss - through many various paths, with both sides having choices that don't change the outcome ...
    – Joe
    Dec 14, 2012 at 20:24
  • I believe winning a piece signifies a won game as long as there's no balancing compensation. But, there's a big difference between having a won game, and winning the game. How many won games have been lost to blunders, swindles, and perpetual checks?
    – Tony Ennis
    Dec 14, 2012 at 20:45
  • The OP question of "Why" is a subjective and rhetorical one anyway. When to resign - is a matter of threshold that depends on many things - including respect for the former world champion and his ability to convert the position in question.
    – Joe
    Dec 14, 2012 at 21:47
  • haven't you seen GM games, they resign many times what we would say way too early, some times even with equal material they resign because positionally they are crushed
    – relipse
    Feb 11, 2013 at 5:39

I can understand fresh eyes still wanna fight this, but after 50 moves of despair, once the main diagonal and the d file are so open, I can't help but support his resignation. Just flip the board, take the black pieces, and search for moves. Almost none are playable, as every piece already defends various threats, white still having 2 pieces with which to pile on more threats.

This looks like a reasonable analysis. Basically, Black has no moves, while White roams around e6.

[FEN "kqn2r2/p1r1n2p/P2QPp1P/1P2pP1B/2p1P3/2P1B3/8/2KR2R1 w - - 0 50"]

1. Qb4 Rg8 2. Rxg8 (2. Rg7 and Black has no good moves) Nxg8 3. Rd7 (3... Rxd7 4. exd7 Nce7 5. Qxc4  $18) Nge7 4. Bc5 Ng8  $7 5. Bd6 Nxd6 6. Qxd6 Rxd7 7. Qxd7 Qb6 8. Qe8+ Qb8 9. Qc6+ Qb7 10. Qxb7#
  • So, basically, after 49... Nbc8 50. Qd2 {so he can play 52 Qd5+}, then 50... Rg8 would be a mistake. It's actually worse than the loss of a rook, it's either the queen or checkmate. (52 Qd5+ Rc6 53. Qxc6+ Qb7 54. Qxb7# or else simply 52... Qb7 53. axb7+ Rxb7). I almost want to challenge this into an analysis of whether Black has another move to save himself (instead of 50... Rg8), but I take your point: it's not that White has any brilliant moves I'm missing, it's just that Black has no tenable moves.
    – Daniel
    Dec 12, 2012 at 16:33
  • Exactly, Black can probably hold it a few moves more, but he excessively lacks mobility, and counterplay of any kind. Rg8 is indeed what looks like the only sparkle of hope, but it completely fails (precisely because Black's pieces are completely overloaded). Dec 12, 2012 at 19:37
  • But I still see an apparent loophole: 49... Nbc8 50. Qd2 Qxb5 Doesn't this mean that 50. Qd2 is unfeasible and hence 50. Qb4 is necessary? What can white do after 50. Qd2 Qxb5? And if 50. Qb4, then 50... Rg8 becomes possible again, since white cannot answer with the crushing 51. Qd5+.
    – Daniel
    Dec 12, 2012 at 21:53
  • Ok, you're right, 50. Qb4. Still, all is just too easy for White. Do the new lines please you ? :·) Qxc7 looks like a way to make this game interesting again, but I guess Capablanca would've just gone for the win. Dec 13, 2012 at 5:28
  • @Nikana, Minor pedantry, but did you mean 57. Qe8+? 57. Qd8+ is replied to by 57. . .Qxd8. I must be missing something, but what? Dec 13, 2012 at 15:29

Stockfish says Black is crushed after 49. ... Nbc8 even though this is black's best move. White is up by 17 points.

[FEN "kq3r2/p1r1n2p/Pn1QPp1P/1P2pP1B/2p1P3/2P1B1R1/8/2KR4 b - - 2 49 "]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1...Nbc8 2. Qb4 Rh8 3. Rg7 Nc6 4. bxc6 Qxb4 5. cxb4 Rxc6 1-0

A variation. After black's 50th move the wheels come off the wagon.

[FEN "kq3r2/p1r1n2p/Pn1QPp1P/1P2pP1B/2p1P3/2P1B1R1/8/2KR4 b - - 2 49 "]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1...Nbc8 2. Qb4 Rg8? 3. Rxg8 Nxg8 4. Rd8 Nge7 5. Bf3 Rb7 6. axb7+ Qxb7 7. Rd7 Kb8 8. Rxb7+

Why 5. Rb7? Black is in zugzwang. Black is down by 100 pts.

Another variation:

[FEN "kq3r2/p1r1n2p/Pn1QPp1P/1P2pP1B/2p1P3/2P1B1R1/8/2KR4 b - - 2 49 "]
[StartFlipped "0"]

1...Nbc8 2. Qb4 Nb6? 3. Rg7 Nbc8 4. Bc5 Rh8 5. Rd7 Nb6 6. Rxc7 Qxc7 7. Bxe7 Na4 8. Bxf6 Qb6 9. Qxa4 Qe3+ 10. Kb2 Qc5 11. e7 Rb8 12. e8=Q Rxe8 13. Bxe8 

and black is down 30 points.

  • The current implementation of the replayer on the site will always display from the POV of the side to move first (here Black). The replayer does have a (currently dormant as far as this site goes) option to force it to display from a particular POV. I inserted the code [StartFlipped "0"] here, so if a site rebuild implements that option, the above will display from White's POV. (So remove that line if you don't want it to behave that way down the road.)
    – ETD
    Dec 13, 2012 at 2:56
  • Thanks Ed. What did you do to make the moves playable? Everything I did just broke the replayer.
    – Tony Ennis
    Dec 13, 2012 at 2:57
  • Ah yes, well, you'll notice that even though we're talking about a game where ...Nbc8 would be move 49, it's listed above as 1...Nbc8. At the moment at least, we have to start numbering moves at 1 for the replayer to display correctly (even though you indicated move 49 in the FEN string). If you want to voice support for the kind of behavior you tried for, the matter was raised in a meta post: meta.chess.stackexchange.com/q/181/167
    – ETD
    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:06
  • Thanks. I just tried to fix it, lol. Now I'll go post on that meta...
    – Tony Ennis
    Dec 13, 2012 at 3:07
  • 1
    Yup yup. To Stockfish, all Black's moves are probably equivalent, as he is completely lost, but Rh8 really is the kind of moves you'd rather resign already than play. I suggest 50... Nb6 or 50... Rg8 Dec 13, 2012 at 13:28

You can see that Black is not down materially. The reason why Black resigned is because he was down positionally. There was no point in playing on in a dead position.


Lost is relative to the skill levels of the players.

That game is clearly lost for black. Black was good enough to realize it and not a glutton enough for punishment to play it out and hope for a blunder. Especially if white was a world class GM.

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