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    "THE ... Marshall Immortal?"   


During the period from 1904 to 1909, Marshall won like four or five International Chess Tournaments. He was obviously one of the best players in the world, and also one of the most brilliant. The game that follows could very well be the finest game that Marshall ever created during his long and storied career. 

This tournament was one of the very strongest of that period. With the exception of Pillsbury, who was already ill, and World Champion Emanuel Lasker ... all the world's leading masters showed up for this exciting  tournament. Geza Maroczy won ... a full point-and-a-half ahead of David Janowski and Siegbert Tarrasch, who were tied for second. (Schlechter, Marco, Teichmann, and Burn all finished ahead of Marshall. Click  here  to see a cross-table of this extremely important and historic event - you may have to scroll down a bit.) I also have studied many of the games of this tournament, some really great chess was played here. (You can get a lot of these games in just about any chess database.)  

While Marshall did not do too well, he played some great chess. (One of his games against Burn won the second brilliancy prize.) But this game was probably his best effort.  (I think so!)  


  Was there something in the water?  

Friday;  April 30th, 2004:  Just an aside - I received an e-mail from a good friend ... who asked that I not use his name. (Wassup with this?) But he is a fairly well-regarded chess historian, and while not a really strong player, knows a great deal about the lore and history of our royal game. (His library is much bigger than mine!) 

He told me that Ostende, 1905; (and 1907 - for that matter); was a VERY rare tournament in terms of the high-quality games that were played. When I started to dispute this, he simply pointed to a few books that he knew I had (and respected) in my library, like Soltis's book, "The 100 Best." (He has an ORIGINAL copy {or copies} of the tournament books for Ostende.) These games are truly magnificent. 

When just one game from a tournament makes into several anthologies as a really great game ... well this is good, but nothing to cheer about. But when 10-15 games are recognized as being really outstanding games ... and have made their way into several books ... you begin to wonder. (Was there a special prize for best play?) 


White's play here is brilliant. Many historians consider this one of Marshall's best games. And I recently (March, 2004) got some new information about this game ... and I wanted to share it with Marshall fan's everywhere. So I finally forced myself to annotate this game. 

This is mostly a text-based game ... with one or two diagrams. You will definitely want a chess board. 

 Click  HERE  to see an explanation of some of the symbols that I use when annotating a chess game.   

 Click  HERE  to see this game in java-script replay format.   (Not one of my pages!)  


  Frank J. Marshall (2675) - Mikhail Tchigorin (2650)   
[A80]
ICT / Masters / Ostende Invitational
Ostende Resort, Belgium,  NED;  (Rd. # 7),  1905

[A.J. Goldsby I]

This game is in most databases  ...  but usually just the game score ...  
and not much else. (No indication of what kind of game this really is!) 

***

The son of an Eastern European Master recently (March, 2004); told me a story. (And it was one that I had never heard before.)  And it was truly a most fascinating one. It seems that many years ago that the one and only Vassily Smyslov came to town to play in a chess tournament. Smyslov had already lost his title back to Botvinnik, but his stature in this town was not diminished a bit. 

Smyslov was invited to give a lecture at the local TV station, which would be taped and re-transmitted later. The lecture was attended by many of the town's best players. The talk was on chess tactics, and this game was one of those that was covered in the lecture. 

{This game can be found in many chess books and game collections as well.} 


The game starts off as:  "A Dutch Defense."  
 1.d4 f5;  2.e4!?,   {Diagram?}    
The Staunton Gambit ... ... ... 
one of the sharpest lines that a player of the White pieces could possibly meet the Dutch with.  
(Marshall said he loved to play this line ... and used it whenever possible.)  

     [  The main line of the Dutch usually goes something like:  
         2.Nf3 Nf63.g3! e6!?{Diagram?}   The "Classical Dutch."  

            (Also heavily played today is: 3...g6!?; {Diagram?} which is known as:    
             "The Leningrad Dutch Defense." )         

        4.Bg2 d5{Diagram?}   
        These are the more popular lines of this opening, which today is called:  
        "The Dutch Stonewall."  

            ( Also played is: 4...Be7!? )    

        5.c4 c66.0-0 Bd67.b3 Qe78.Bb2 0-09.Ne5 Nbd7   
        10.Nd2,  "+/="  {Diagram?}   White has a slight advantage in this position - 
        currently on the board.  (White won a nice game in only 41 moves.)  

        A. Kalinin - A. KripiavinCity Championship Tournament    
        Moscow, Russia, 2001.  (White won a nice game.) ]     

 

 2...fxe4;  3.Nc3 Nf6;  4.Bg5 c6!?;  {Diagram?}     
Black intends to play ...d5.  
(...Nc6; is the most reliable move here, according to opening theory.)  

 

     [  Black should NOT play:  </=  4...d5?5.Bxf6 exf6;  
         6.Qh5+ g67.Qxd5, "+/="  ('')  {Diagram?}     
         with a clear advantage for White here.  

       ****************************************************  

        Maybe the best line for Black is:  
        >/=  4...Nc6!?5.d5 Ne56.Qd4 Nf77.Bxf6 exf6;    
        8.Nxe4 Be7{Diagram?}  
        The end of the column here.  

        9.0-0-0 0-010.Ng3!? d611.f4 c5; "~"  ("=")  {Diagram?}  
         ...  "with at least even chances for Black in a very sharp game."  
        - GM Nick de Firmian  

        S. Kravtsov - A. Vyzhmanavin ICT / Masters / RUS. Cup # 9   
        Novgorod, Russia; 1997.  

        [ See MCO-14, page # 489;  column # 20, and also note # (f.). ]  ]   

 

 5.Bxf6!?,  {Diagram?}    
White gets rid of the Knight so as to be able to recapture the e-pawn. 
But modern opening theory suggests a much better and sharper way for White 
to proceed (from) here.  

     [ Much better is the ultra-sharp move of f3! here. For example:  
       >/=  5.f3! exf36.Nxf3 e67.Bd3 Be78.Ne5, "~"  ('+/=')  {D?}      
       with great play for White.  

      Emanuel Lasker - H.N. Pillsbury;   ICT / Super-Master Invitational   
      DRR / Paris, France; 1900. (1-0, 85m.) ]    

 

 5...exf6;  6.Nxe4 Qb6!?;  7.Rb1 d5;  8.Ng3 Be6!?;  {Diagram?}     
Both sides have developed the best they could given the current Pawn structure ... 
although the Queen move to b6 by Black struck me as a tad too speculative.  

 

*************************

   The position just after Black played 8...Be6. (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos1.gif, 30 KB)

**************************

 

This is a rather bizarre position that we currently have on the chess board. 

     [ 8...Qa5+!?9.c3 Qxa210.Bd3,  "~" ]    

 

 9.Bd3 Nd7!?;   {Diagram?}    
"Black tries to do without ...g6; or castling." - GM Andy Soltis.  

     [  Possible was:  9...Bd6!?; "~"  ]  

Both sides continue to mobilize for the middlegame.  
 10.Qe2 Kf7;  11.Nf3 Re8;  12.0-0 Bd6;  13.c3!,      
 13...Nf8!?;  14.Nh4!,
(hmmm)   {See the diagram ... just below.}    

It is not even clear why White made his last move ... 
or just what the point of this Knight sally was. 

 

*************************

   The position immediately following White's Knight move on his fourteenth turn. (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos2.gif, 29 KB)

**************************

 

I went over this game - briefly - one night on ICC, a popular chess server.
One strong player commented that:  
"White seems to be walking into an upper-cut in this position!"  

     [ One program likes: 14.Rbe1!?, "~" ]   

 

 14...Bf5!?;  (Tempting fate?)    {See the diagram, just below.}     
This seems like an obvious and a fairly playable move, Tchigorin expects something like: 
15.Qc2, Bxd3; 16.Qxd3, Ng6;  when Black has an excellent position. 
(Note that White's Queen - now - is in a discovered attack.) 

 

*************************

   Black just played 14...Bf5!?  What should White play in this position? (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos3.gif, 29 KB)

**************************

 

But the great Tchigorin is in for a very big (and rude) surprise!  

(Probably the best move in this position - for Black - was ...a6; or ...g6.)  

 

     [  The move of:  >/=  14...g6!?;  "~"  {Diagram?}  
         seems to blunt White's attack.  (A little, anyway.) 

       *******************************************************

        GM A Soltis recommends that Black play  ...Bxg3;  in this position,  
        but that is clearly bogus:   </=  14...Bxg3?!; ('?')  15.fxg3! Nd7;  
        16.Nf3 Kg817.Rbe1, ''  {Diagram?}  with an extremely large edge 
        for White in this position. ]     

 

 15.Nhxf5!!,  (Maybe - '!!!')   {Shocked?}   {D?}    
Thus begins one of the more amazing combinations of that period in chess.
(Smyslov referred to it as the very best that Marshall ever played!)  

GM Andy Soltis  calls this ...  "much prettier"  than any of Marshall's other better 
known combinations, and  ...  "more impressive than the famous ...Qg3!!;  game 
with  Stepan Livitsky at Breslau, 1912."  (In his book, "The 100 Best.") 

     [ Possible was: 15.Qc2!? ]   

 

 15...Rxe2;  16.Nxd6+ Ke6[];  {Diagram?}    
All the pundits agree that this is completely forced for Black.   

     [  After the inferior continuation:   </=  16...Kg8?17.Bxe2! g6!?18.Rfe1! 
         18...Qc719.Ne8 Qf720.Bd3 h521.h4 f522.Re2,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   
         White has a Knight, a Bishop, and a whole Rook for the Queen.   
         (Material advantage AND the much better position here.)  ]    

 

 17.Nc8!!,  (WOW!!)  [Piece play!]   {See the diagram ... just below.}     
Odds are that Tchigorin had seen this far ahead, but had missed this shot completely.  

 

*************************

   White just played his Knight to the c8-square ... apparently leaving this piece to its own devices. (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos4.gif, 29 KB)

**************************

 

Surely White's lone Knight on c8 will soon be isolated from the rest of its neighbors ... 
and easily won?   

     [ Perhaps the great Tchigorin had expected (a continuation) something like:   
        17.Ngf5!?, "+/="  {Diagram?}  when maybe Black can hang on? ]   

 

After the nearly forced Q-B2 by Black, many of my students want to capture the Rook 
on e2 with the White Knight. But this would be missing the point completely ...  
 17...Qc7;  18.Bxe2! Kf7; ('!')   {Diagram?}    
Black avoids the obvious stuff.  

     [  After the moves:   </=  18...Qxc8??19.Bg4+ f520.Bxf5+ 
         20...Kd621.Bxc8, "+/-"  {Diagram?}   
         Black should (possibly) consider resignation in this position.  

      ***************************************************   

        Not so obvious was the following:   18...g6!?;  ('!?') 19.Rfe1 f5 
        20.Bf3+ Kf621.Re8!{Diagram?}  Definitely the best.    

            ( A GM offers a blatantly inferior continuation here:      
              </=  21.Ne7!? Ne6?;  22.Bxd5!, "+/-"  {Diag?}      
              - GM Andrew Soltis. )      

        21...h5!?22.h4 a623.Rbe1,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}      
        White's position is dominating.  (And overwhelmingly so!)  ]   

 

 19.Nf5!!,   {Diagram?}    
"Another neat move that connects both of White's Knight's."  
 - GM Andrew Soltis.  
(And according to the book of the tournament, a move that literally "floored" all 
 the spectators of this game. And I would bet that it was  NOT  the move that 
 poor Tchigorin was expecting in this position.)  

  '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.  '!!' - GM Salo Flohr.   

     [ Possible was:  19.Nxa7!?, ''  (Maybe "+/-")   ]   

 

 19...Ne6;  {Diagram?}        
Of course Black could  not  capture the  "free"  Knight on c8. 

     [ After the moves:  </=  19...Qxc8???20.Nd6+ Ke621.Nxc8 Nd722.Bg4+  
       
22...f523.Rfe1+ Kf624.Bxf5! Kxf525.Nd6+ Kf627.Nxb7,  "+/-"  {D?}   
        White is a Rook and two Pawns ahead ... with a very easy win.
]   

 

 20.Nfd6+! Kg6;   {See the diagram ... just below.}     
Apparently this was (also) forced.  

 

  *************************  

   No choice ...... Black is forced to play his King to the g6-square here. (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos5.gif, 29 KB)

  **************************  

 

Black looks like he might be getting away,  ... 
and White's Knights look very alone and stranded in this position.  

     [ Worse is: </=  20...Kf8?21.Rfe1, "+/-" ]    

 

 21.Bd3+ Kh5[];  {Diagram?}     
Amazingly ... this is also forced.
(This is very hard for some of my students to believe here, but even a strong 
 chess engine like CM9000 confirms this to be true.) 

     [ Black can lose more horribly ...  (and much more quickly); 
       than in the game. For example:  
       </=  21...Kg5?22.Rbe1 Rxc8!?{Diagram?}     
       This might not be forced here, but there were darned few 
       really viable alternatives for Black.   

           ( Or </= 22...Nf4!?; 23.Re7!, "/\" {Diagram?} just as in the game. )     

       23.Rxe6! Rd824.Nf5 Rd7!?25.f4+ Kg626.Nd6+ Kh6 
       27.Rf3! g6{Box?}  {Diagram?}     
       This also looks forced.  

           ( 27...g5?!;  28.Rh3+ Kg7;  29.Rxh7+ Kf8;  30.Re8#. )      

       28.Ne8 Qd8!?29.Rh3#.  {Diagram?}  
       ---> Black could have given up his Queen in this line ...   
       but it would have still been a lost game for the second party here. ]   

 

 22.Rbe1! Nf4!?;  23.Re7! Qa5!?;   {Diagram?}    
This is actually not the most accurate move for Black in this position. 
(The box says that the second player must immediately begin returning massive  
 amounts of material, but I think that Tchigorin would have almost certainly 
 resigned rather than play in such a lame fashion.)  

     [   >/=  23...Rxc824.Rxc7 Rxc725.Bf5, "+/-"  ]  

 

 24.Bb1,  ('!?')  (hmmm)   {See the diagram - just below.}     
GM Andy Soltis calls this,  "A surprising situation."   
(He also notes that Bc2 might have retained the possibility of a later Bd1+ by Marshall. 
 Note that after Bb1, Black's Queen has been shut completely out of the game.)  

 

  *************************  

   White just played his Bishop all the way back to b1 ... what in the world is going on here? (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos6.gif, 29 KB)

  **************************  

 

Now Black must meet the threat of RxP/g7. 
(Tchigorin does not care about the loss of the Pawn, this capture of the Black infantry 
  (on g7) by White's Rook would put his King in a terrible bind.)  

*******

     [ White could have also played:  (>/=)  24.Rxg7!?, ('!!')  24...Nxd3?;  
        25.Nf5!{Diagram?}   with an inescapable mating web. ]   

 

 24...g6[];  {Diagram?}   
According to several books, this move is completely forced here.  

     [ Better is:  24...Rxc8;  (Fritz)  {Diagram?}  
       {White is still winning easily.} ]    

 

 25.g3!, (challenge)  {Diagram?}   
Putting the question to Black's Knight on f4 which lacks a bevy of  
 good squares to retreat to.  

     [ Interesting was:  25.Rxb7!?, "+/-"  {Diagram?}    
        and just grab ALL of Black's Pawns on the 7th rank here. ]   

 

 25...Nh3+;  26.Kg2 Ng5;  27.Bd3!!,   {See the diagram just below.}      
An almost magical re-activation of this piece, White now threatens 28.h4!, 
(and if) 28...Ne4; then 29.Nf7, and 20.Be2#.  

 

*************************

   Okay, so the Bishop has gone BACK to the d3-square ... now I am really confused. (mar_m-v-t_ost05_pos7.gif, 29 KB)

  **************************  

 

  '!' - GM Andrew Soltis.    

     [ Also good was:  27.f3!?, "+/-"  ]   

 

Now Black is in really dire straights  ...  and feels compelled to start returning  
a little of his booty ... in a vain effort to save the leader of the dark armies.  
 27...Rxc8;  28.Nxc8 Qd8;  29.h4! Qxc8;  {Diagram?}    
Not pleasant ... but few of the variations here are.  

     [ Or  29...Nf7!?30.Rxf7 Qxc8?{Diagram?}  
        Grabbing material, but ...  

          ( >/= Or  30...Kh6;  31.Nxa7, "+/-" )     

        31.Rxh7+ Kg432.f3#.  ]     

 

 30.hxg5,  ("+/-")   {Diagram?}      
 
(Black Resigned here.)  

White has an overwhelming material advantage here  ... ... ...   
and it is a mate in five or six more moves from this position anyway.
[Apparently this game was submitted for the top brilliancy prize(s).]  

"This is a real Fourth of July fireworks show from beginning to end."  
  - GM Frank J. Marshall,  in his book:   "My Fifty Years of Chess."  

GM Andrew Soltis  picked this game as one of the very best ('Top 100')  
of the whole of the 20th Century.  

GM Vassily Smyslov  called this  ...  
"simply the finest combination that Marshall ever conceived!"  

GM Mikhail Botvinnik  and  GM Salo Flohr  wrote a series of articles on great chess games. 
These articles were published in Soviet chess magazines from the late 1930's  ...  
all the way through the 1950's. 
(Most westerners have never heard of or even seen these articles.)
But this very distinguished pair called this combination:  
"The finest of its kind and one of the best of that whole period of chess." 

Emanuel Lasker - in his [then] new chess magazine - praised this contest as, 
"a spirited and inspired attacking game, one of the best of its type."  

  Is this Frank J. Marshall's greatest and best chessic achievement?   
   It is entirely possible that this is so!  (04/14/2004)  

*********************************************************

    Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2004.  All rights reserved.   

*********************************************************

 

  All games - HTML code initially generated with the program,  ChessBase 8.0.  

    My diagrams on this page were generated with the program   Chess Captor 2.25.    

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This is one of the greatest games Marshall ever played. Please feel free to send me a note and tell me what you think. I enjoyed working on this game. It is my sincere hope and desire that you found it a pleasant experience. 


  This (web) page was created in (mid) March,  2004.    (Final format and posting completed on:  Thursday; April 15th, 2004.) 
 
This page was last updated on:  Wednesday, April 02, 2014 04/02/2014 08:29 AM .    

***

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***

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  ***

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      Copyright ()  A.J. Goldsby,  1985 - 2014.  All rights reserved.    


  "A counter"

  (This game was previewed many times - by at least 20-30 people - over a two month period.)