Jos Ra l Capablanca y Graupera was born on November 19, 1888. He was a Cuban world-class chess player in the early to mid-twentieth century. He held the title of world chess champion from 1921 to 1927.
Referred to by many chess historians as the Mozart of chess, Capablanca was a chess prodigy whose brilliance was noted at an early age. According to Capablanca, he learned the rules of the game at the age of four by watching his father play. He said he noticed his father make an illegal move with his knight, accused him of cheating, and then demonstrated what he had done. It may be unlikely that he learned all the subtleties of en passant pawn capture, castling rules, and underpromotion by observation alone, since some of the positions which demonstrate the rules are uncommon. Capablanca was taken to the Havana Chess Club when he was five, where the leading players found it impossible to beat the young boy when giving him the handicap of a queen. At the age of 13, he defeated Cuban national champion Juan Corzo by the score of 4 wins, 2 losses, and 6 draws.
In 1909, at age 20, Capablanca won a match against US champion Frank Marshall. Marshall insisted that Capablanca be allowed to play in a tournament at San Sebastin, Spain in 1911. It was one of the strongest tournaments of the time. All of the world's leading players except world champion Emmanuel Lasker were in attendance. At the beginning of the tournament Ossip Bernstein and Aaron Nimzowitsch objected to Capablanca's presence because he had not won a major tournament. But after Capablanca won his first round game against Bernstein, with an effort which was to win the tournament's brilliancy prize, Bernstein quickly acknowleged Capablanca's talent and said that he wouldn't be surprised if Capablanca won the tournament. Nimzowitsch took offense when Capablanca made a comment while watching one of his blitz games, and remarked that unproven players should hold their tongue in the presence of their betters. Capablanca quickly challenged Nimzowitsch to a series of fast games, which he won easily.