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Friday
Oct242008

The Invincible and The Beast

Chess Player: Jose Raoul Capablanca, The Invincible (1888-1942)

If there were ever a player who played to win, it was Capablanca. Throughout his career he refused to study chess books or openings, which would ordinarily not be considered the attitude of a champion, but Capablanca was no ordinary player.

At the age of seventeen, he was one of many players to play simultaneous games against the World Champion Dr. Lasker in an exhibition. Capablanca won his individual lightning game. Three years later, he went on a tour of the United States where he broke records on both speed and results in simultaneous play. He played a whopping 168 games in ten consecutive sessions before losing his first game! His final score was 703 wins, 19 draws, and 12 losses. In 1909, he soundly defeated the American Champion Frank Marshall with a score of 8-1 with 14 draws.

He went on to thoroughly dominate chess with a record of losing only 36 games out of 567 during his entire career. He went ten years without losing a single game!!

By all accounts, Capablanca’s style was direct and flawless. He treated every move as a puzzle with an optimal solution. Content with gaining a small advantage of space or material in the beginning and middle game, he would convert that advantage into a decisive win in the endgame, his known specialty.

I always play carefully and try to avoid unnecessary risks. I consider my method to be right, as any superfluous ‘daring’ runs counter to the essential character of chess, which is not a gamble but a purely intellectual combat conducted in accordance with the exact rules of logic.
—Jose R. Capablanca
Poor Capablanca! Thou wert a brilliant technician, but no philosopher. Thou wert not capable of believing that in chess, another style could be victorious than the absolutely correct one.
—Max Euwe, 5th World Chess Champion
I have not given any drawn or lost games, because I thought them inadequate to the purpose of the book.
—Jose R. Capablanca, on his own book about chess
It’s entirely possible that Capa could not imagine that there could be a better move than one he thought was good and he was usually right.
—Mike Franett,
Chess Master and editor of Inside Chess magazine
Capablanca was possibly the greatest player in the entire history of chess.
—Bobby Fischer, 11th World Chess Champion and
youngest chess champion ever.

Street Fighter Player: Daigo Umehara, The Beast

The Japanese call him “Ume,” the Americans call him “Daigo,” and everyone calls him “The Beast!” Daigo is the best overall fighting game player on planet Earth. He is sort of like a Choi raised to the 3rd power, minus all emotion. When it comes to technical dexterity and deep knowledge of a game’s nuances, Daigo is outclassed by many of his Japanese contemporaries, but when it comes to winning, there is no other. Daigo does not merely win; he utterly destroys. I watched Daigo completely humiliate an American player in a tournament match, just moments before I would face him in the exact same character matchup. Though I was armed with the knowledge of exactly what not to do, Daigo completely rolled over me in a virtual instant replay.

More than any other fighting game player in the entire world, Daigo has the power of yomi: the power to know the mind of the opponent. There is no need to execute difficult combos, or to have deep knowledge of the nuances of a game when you know exactly what the opponent will do next. Daigo throws out “risky moves” left and right, and lands virtually every one, because again, there is no risk when you know what the opponent will do. Going into my match with Daigo, I vowed not to attack at the “correct times” so as to be harder to read, but I found that it is nearly impossible not to attack at the correct times. I have ten years of experience telling me to do so. As soon as you feel the presence of Daigo inside your mind, you have that split-second of second guessing yourself, which is the exact moment he finishes you off. Daigo (and Choi) are both great examples that there is a skill to competitive games more fundamental than the language of the particular game at hand. Daigo doesn’t even need to be particularly “good” at a game to dominate it, he simply is Daigo and wins.

I never thought a player was actually, literally psychic before . . . in the supernatural sense . . . but honestly . . . Daigo scares me. I think he might be.
—Romel “Chaotic Blue” Shaheed,
member of US National Guilty Gear XX team
“. . .”         
—Daigo