(Possibly better suited on the Skeptics SE, but the claim is completely related to chess)

In 1922, she exceeded all expectations. Maria Theresa became the only woman to ever to have competed with men in the Cuban championship and won. After that, the only World competitions she entered were women only — first in Buenos Aires 1939 (coming in 7th), and in Moscow 1950 (winning 4 and drawing 4). She entered the Cuban Women’s Chess Championship which she dominated as winner from 1938 to 1960, when she retired. In 1950, Maria Theresa was named the first Latin American woman to be given the Women’s International Master title. When Capablanca and Maria Theresa finally competed against each other, it was a three game series. She won twice and had a draw for the third game. Nobody could have imagined the pupil would beat the teacher. In typical early 1900's fashion, she was remembered to have said “¡Ay qué pena, le he ganado!” (“oh how embarrassing, I’ve won”).


Considering that Maria Teresa finished well behind Vera Menchik in Buenos Aires 1939, and that Vera Menchik's record against Capablanca is 0-9, I find it hard to believe that Maria Teresa actually did beat Capablanca 2.5-0.5. There certainly is no record of these games in the Chessgames database.

Still, it's possible that the Chessgames database is incomplete, so I would like to confirm if the claim is indeed true (or untrue).

Edit: if the claim is true, I would very much like to see the moves in the games.

Edit #2: it seems the author of the source cannot verify the claim either, and has added a disclaimer to the bottom of the article.

  • 3
    While going to the top notch well of chess knowledge, Chess Notes, provides nothing on this topic in particular (Or so I think: please double check me on this!), but it does prove that she and Capablanlca for sure knew each other: chesshistory.com/winter/winter02.html#CN_3468 Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 3:24
  • 4
    Checked Caissabase- nothing.
    – pulsar512b
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 4:09
  • 5
    It is annoying that the source doesn't give a date or a venue for those games, nor a source for the quote that "she was remembered to have said".
    – Evargalo
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 10:10

4 Answers 4


I have looked at sources in Spanish (mainly Cuban) and most of them purport the same story (similar to that presented in the question) copied and pasted. However, a couple of sources present a somewhat different story.

An article in the journal Tribuna de La Habana says (my translation):

With humility and pride she always kept in her memory the two victories and one draw she obtained against her virtuous teacher, José Raúl Capablanca. They say that, when asked about it, with shiny eyes she accepted to acknowledge those meritorious results, although she then explained to the inquirers that they had been possible during simultaneous games.

Another article, in the cultural magazine La Jiribilla, mentions the story of the comment "Such a pity, I won!" But according to it, this didn't occur after wining Capablanca, but during a team tournament in 1960. I translated the relevant part of the article. The story was told by GM Silvino García:

"I remember the First National Championship between State Organisms —Silvino said,— a team tournament that was played in 1960, when I was making my first steps.

"María Teresa defended the first board of the Ministry of Education, where she worked, and had in front of her one of the strongest chess players in the country at the moment.

"She played a brilliant game, till she obtained the victory.

"Her opponent blushed, a bit because of tension, a bit for having lost against a woman. In accordance to the tradition, he congratulated her and then María Teresa, with that simplicity of hers, said to him in a low voice: Oh, such a pity, how I won you!"


One of the games was won by María Teresa during an exhibition given by Capablanca against 28 players at the Institute of secondary Education of La Habana on May 3rd 1941.

[FEN ""]
[Event "Simultánea Havana, Cuba"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1941.05.03"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Capablanca, Jose Raul"]
[Black "Mora, María Teresa"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C25"]
[PlyCount "88"]
[WhiteElo ""]
[BlackElo ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 exf4 4. Nf3 d6 5. d4 g5 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. O-O Bg7 8. d5
Ne5 9. Bxd7+ Nxd7 10. Nd4 Ne7 11. g3 Ng6 12. Nf5 Be5 13. Qh5 Nc5 14. Bd2 Qf6 15.
Rae1 O-O-O 16. Nh6 Kb8 17. h4 gxh4 18. gxf4 Bd4+ 19. Kh2 Rde8 20. f5 Qe5+ 21.
Kh1 Qg3 22. Rf3 Nf4 23. Qg4 Qxg4 24. Nxg4 Nh5 25. Kg2 Ng3 26. Rf4 Rhg8 27. Kh3
Bxc3 28. Bxc3 Rxe4 29. Rexe4 Ngxe4 30. Kxh4 Nxc3 31. bxc3 Kc8 32. Kh5 Kd8 33. c4
Nd7 34. Nh6 Rg7 35. Rf3 Ke7 36. a4 Nf6+ 37. Kh4 Rg2 38. a5 Rh2+ 39. Kg5 Rh5+ 40.
Kf4 Rxh6 41. Re3+ Kf8 42. Kg5 Kg7 43. Re7 Rh5+ 44. Kf4 Rh4+ 0-1
  • Do you know where to find the moves of the games?
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 10:01
  • 2
    Hmm, this reminds me of how I like to claim that I beat one of the former chess champions of my country several times when we were both in high school. All of the games I won were 10 min to 30 sec. He always beat be on 10 to 1 :)
    – cyco130
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 12:04
  • @Allure I've added one of the games. Not sure it is possible to find the others though.
    – lodebari
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 17:57

I have found a source in Spanish that is like the cuban enciclopedia and tells that those games were played in simultaneous games. https://www.ecured.cu/Mar%C3%ADa_Teresa_Mora_Iturralde

  • Do you know where to find the moves of the games?
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 5:25

The databases are going to be entirely incomplete. She became the Cuban Champion early in the early 20's but there isn't a single game recorded anywhere.

The only documented game I can find of her is against Capablanca. This isn't overly surprising as she was privately tutored by him. So there is absolutely no doubt that they were known to each other or that they played games against each other. A remarkably dull game to be honest.

[Event "Capablanca Simul"]
[Site "Buenos Aires"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Capablanca"]
[Black "Iturralde"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C62"]
[PlyCount "61"]
[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. Bxc6+ bxc6 5. d4 Bg4 6. dxe5 dxe5 7. Qxd8+ Rxd8 8. Nfd2 Nf6 9. f3 Be6 10. b3 Bc5 11. Bb2 Nd7 12. Nc3 O-O 13. Nd1 f5 14. Ke2 Rf6 15. Ne3 f4 16. Nec4 Rg6 17. Kf1 Rh6 18. h4 Rh5 19. Ke2 Bf7 20. Na5 Rh6 21. Ndc4 Re8 22. Rad1 Bxc4+ 23. Nxc4 Bd6 24. Ba3 c5 25. Rd2 Rg6 26. Kf2 h5 27. Rhd1 Ree6 28. Na5 Kh7 29. c4 Rg3 30. Nb7 Reg6 31. Kf1  1-0

Regarding the following paragraph;

Considering that Maria Teresa finished well behind Vera Menchik in Buenos Aires 1939, and that Vera Menchik's record against Capablanca is 0-9, I find it hard to believe that Maria Teresa actually did beat Capablanca 2.5-0.5.

I think that assessment is more than reasonable and probably accurate. I find it extremely unlikely however if she was taught by Capablanca she would be familiar with his play style which would provide some competitive edge.

The Queens Gambit is a fantastic show; however it has drummed up a mountain of hack journalism I have seen articles that the show is based on Judit Polgárs life...instead of the book that came out in 1983 when she would have been 5 or 6? More likely the article is just capitalising on this wave and she is probably the most notable female chess player from Cuba (going to get in trouble for that comment). Strongly suggest re-reading the article through an objective lens. There is little fact or evidence to support any claims and seems to pushing an agenda.

  • 2
    Given that it would have been Capablanca's responsibility as her tutor to analyze her playstyle and its weaknesses, the "competitive advantage" you mention cuts both ways, making the claim even more unlikely.
    – chaosflaws
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 0:12

I see that some participants have posted here two of the games played vs Capablanca in simultaneous. I found other of her games in chesgames.com but against other people, these were official games, some of them at World Women championships. https://www.chessgames.com/player/maria_teresa_mora_iturralde.html

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