A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 24, 2013
“If you could beat me, I would know you” (chess saying)

A popular chess story involves chess champion José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1943). A player asked Capablanca to play a game, and Capablance was about to give him queen odds. “Hey! You don’t know me! I could beat you!” the player said. “If you could beat me, I would know you,” Capablanca replied.

The story has been cited in print since at least 1996, but it’s not known if it was in print during Capablanca’s lifetime. On September 20, 2013, former chess champion Garry Kasparov wrote on Twitter:

“To everyone tweeting chess moves at me, I’m retired! And to quote an old joke punch line, ‘if you could beat me, I’d know who you are.’”


Wikipedia: José Raúl Capablanca
José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (19 November 1888 – 8 March 1942) was a Cuban chess player who was world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. One of the greatest players of all time, he was renowned for his exceptional endgame skill and speed of play. Due to his achievements in the chess world, mastery over the board and his relatively simple style of play he was nicknamed the “Human Chess Machine”.

Capablanca became the World Chess Champion in 1921 by beating Emanuel Lasker. He lost the title in 1927 to Alexander Alekhine.

3 November 1996, South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), “Champions seldom modest about skills” by Bill Cornwall, Arts & Leisure, pg. 12F:
A particular rendition of a famous story caught my eye. According to the writer, Art Burke, “After Alekhine had taken the championship title from Capablanca, Capa apparently spent quite a bit of his spare time hanging out in a specific cafe in Paris. Friends, acquaintances, and others would often drop by, participating in games and libations with the former charismatic champion.

One day, while Capa was having coffee and reading a newspaper, a stranger stopped at his table, motioned at the chess set and indicated he would like to play if Capa was interested. Capa’s face lit up, he folded the newspaper away, reached for the board and proceeded to pocket his own queen. The opponent (who apparently had no idea who Capablanca was) reacted with slight anger. “Hey! You don’t know me! I might beat you!,” he said. Capablanca, smiling gently, said quietly, “Sir, if you could beat me, I would know you.“‘

Google Books
Writing For Radio
By Vincent McInerney
Manchester: Manchester University Press
2001
Pg. 263:
Capablanca was sitting in a chess cafe when a stranger came over and sat opposite him.
“You don’t know me,” said the stranger. “But I can beat you.”
“If you could beat me,’ said Capablanca, “I would know you.”
Anon.

Jeremy’s Status Message
SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2007
Because It’s Fun To Say Capablanca…
From the archives:


After losing the chess championship, Jose Capablanca apparently spent quite a bit of his spare time hanging out in a specific cafe in Paris. Friends, acquaintances, and others would often drop by, participating in games and libations with the former, charismatic, champion. One day, while he was having coffee and reading a newspaper, a stranger stopped at his table, motioned at the chess set and indicated he would like to play if Capablanca was interested. Capablanca’s face lit up, he folded the newspaper away, reached for the board and proceeded to pocket his own queen. The opponent (who apparently had no idea who Capablanca was) reacted with slight anger. “Hey! You don’t know me! I might beat you!”, he said. Capablanca, smiling gently, said quietly, “Sir, if you could beat me, I would know you.”

Explanation: When you’re a world class player, you’re allowed to talk smack.

Chess Forums
CookieMonster
01-31-2012, 06:02 AM
The Capablanca Urban Legend
Jose Raoul Capablanca (World chess champion from 1921-1927 one of the greatest players who ever lived, and who’s speed of play was amazing) was sitting at a Paris café reading the paper and sipping his coffee, he had a small chess set beside him on the table.

A passer-by (who doesn’t know Capa from Adam) notices the chess set and said to Capablanca how about a game ?.

Capablanca folds up his paper and sets up the pieces on the board, but takes off his Queen, in other words without asking him he’s going to give his new chess partner Queen odds ( Roughly the equivalent of a hundred metre start in a two hundred metre race)

The man looks indignant and embarrassed and says hey why are you taking of your Queen ? You don’t even know me ? I might beat you ?.

Capablanca said...Sir, if you could beat me, I would know you.

Twitter
Garry Kasparov
‏@Kasparov63
To everyone tweeting chess moves at me, I’m retired! And to quote an old joke punch line, “if you could beat me, I’d know who you are.”
9:15 AM - 20 Sep 13

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Tuesday, September 24, 2013 • Permalink