A Chess Princess: Olga Capablanca

Olga Capablanca

A MEMORY REDISCOVERED: OLGA, A CHESS PRINCESS

I used to write a chess column for two spanish newspapers in New York City back in 1990-91.

One of the articles that I wanted to write, was about Jose Raul Capablanca, who was a World Chess Champion from 1921-27.

Capablanca was originally from Cuba, but he lived in the USA for many years.

As I was researching the article, the manager of the Manhattan Chess Club told me that Capablanca’s ex wife lived in New York City and gave me her phone number.

Her name, at the time, was Olga Clark.

I contacted Olga and we spent about 20 minutes talking over the phone. She was kind enough to invite me to visit her so that we could continue our conversation and she could show me some photographs.

Our conversation was lively, and Olga’s energy and enthusiasm was not indicative of a woman over 90 years old.

Unfortunately, conflicting schedules prevented our meeting.

I think of our conversation every now and then, which prompted me to bring her here, to this blog today.

Here is a brief biographical note about Olga Capablanca, which is quite interesting:

OLGA CAPABLANCA – BIOGRAPHY

Olga Evgenyevna Choubaroff or Chubarova was born on September 23, 1898 in the Caucasus region of the Republic of Georgia. She was reared in Tiflis, now known as Tbilisi, the largest city and capital of Georgia.

Russia annexed Georgia in 1801, and connected it to the southern end of the Georgian Military Road. The conquest of the Caucasus by Russia began in the same year, and ended in June of 1859 with the surrender of Imam Shamil or Shamyl to Russian troops under the command of General Beriatinsky, the Muscovy Devil.

Olgas great-grandfather Evdokimov or Ermolov was an officer in the Russian Army, and hero in the conquest of the Caucasus and subjugation of Shamil.

In November of 1920 the Russian Civil War came to an abrupt end.

The Red Army crushed the White Army, commanded by General Pyotr Wrangel, forcing 150,000 civilians and White Army troops to flee Russia from the Crimean Peninsula by the Black Sea to Constantinople. The Civil War caused an estimated one to two million middle and upper class Russians to emigrate.

Olga Choubaroff met and married her first husband, a White Army officer with the surname Chagodaeva, in the summer or late fall of 1920 in Constantinople. They may have emigrated before the final evacuation in November, or with those who fled from the Crimean Peninsula. Chagodaeva had been a cavalryman, and was a pilot, at the end of the war. Olga related the story that Chagodaeva was a descendent of Genghis Khan and a prince, who left her his title.

Olga Chagodaeva met her second husband, Jose Raoul Capablanca, in the spring of 1934 at a function given at the Cuban Consul in New York.

At the time of their meeting, Capablanca was an employee of the Cuban Foreign Office. He had been given a post in 1913, with the title Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary General from the Government of Cuba to the World at Large, which allowed him to travel the world playing tournament chess.

He was married to Dona Gloria Simoni Beautucourt, and was one of the worlds premier chess players. He had been world champion from 1921 to 1927.

Capablanca was born on November 19, 1888 in Havana, Cuba. His father was an army officer and chess aficionado, and Capablanca was a child prodigy, who defeated the Cuban National Chess Champion, Juan Corzo, in an informal match at the age of 12.

In 1937 Capablanca divorced Gloria, and her family had him demoted to the post of Commercial Attach.

On October 20, 1938 Olga Chagodaeva and Jose Raoul Capablanca were married in New York.

On March 7, 1942 Capablanca suffered a stroke at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York while analyzing a chess game. He was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he died on March 8, 1942, at the age of 53.

Olga relates the story of gazing into the night sky, her eyes focused on a bright star that suddenly disappeared at the moment of Capablancas death.

General Batista, President of Cuba, took charge of the funeral arrangements, and Capablanca was buried with full honors in Havana.

Olga Capablanca married a third time to a much younger man, who was an Olympic rowing champion.

In 1967 Olga married her fourth husband, retired Admiral Joseph James Jocko Clark.

At about the same time, her sister, Marie Blackton, became the second wife of Hamilton Fish III.

Clark and Fish purchased a residence on the seventh floor of a large building at 655 Park Avenue in Manhattan. It consisted of two apartments joined by a long corridor.

Hamilton Fish was a former Congressman from New York, and a member of an old and wealthy New York family. He had graduated Harvard in 1910, and captained the Harvard football team of 1909. He was an All-American tackle for the Crimson in 1908 and 1909, and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.

Clark retired from the U.S. Navy as a full admiral on December 1, 1953, and was employed as chairman of Hegeman-Harris Company Inc, a New York construction and investment firm.

Clark died July 13, 1971 at the Naval Hospital, St. Albans, Queens, at the age of 77, and was survived by his widow, the former Olga Choubaroff. Clark was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Marie Fish, sister of Olga Clark, and second wife of Hamilton Fish III, died in 1974.

Olga Clark christened the USS CLARK (FFG-11), the namesake of her late husband, Admiral J. J. Clark. The frigate was launched on March 24, 1979.

Olga continued to live in Manhattan at 655 Park Avenue down the corridor from Hamilton Fish and his third wife Alice Desmond and fourth Lydia Ambrogio. Fish died January 18, 1991, at the age of 102, and was survived by his widow, the former Lydia Ambrogio.

Although she did not play chess, Olga was a regular at the Manhattan Chess Club basking in the attention she received as the widow of Capablanca.

Olga Choubaroff Clark was very beautiful. She was regal in manner, spoke fluent Russian, French and English, and was intelligent and resourceful.

On April 24, 1994 Olga died in Manhattan, at the age of 95. She bequeathed the entire archives of Jose Raoul Capablanca to the Manhattan Chess Club.

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