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Jackson Whipps Showalter vs Frank Marshall
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 12, Jun-08
Russian Game: Modern Attack. Center Variation (C43)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: Marshall instead of cutting his K off on the a file had an instructive drawing resource with:

<105...Kc6!> Kc8 Rd3 107.Rb7 h2 108.Rc7+ Kb5 109.Rc1 <Rc3+!> 110.Rxc3 h1Q 111.d8Q Qa8+ 112.Kd7 Qd5+ 113.Kc7 Qe5+ 114.Qd6 Qxc3+

Apr-21-09  rookhouse: Incredible persistance by Showalter!! I'm sure that Marshall had to suggest a draw at some point here.

Players of today's era would have conceded a draw around move 60, if not sooner.

This is the kind of fighting spirit missing from today's grandmasters.

Premium Chessgames Member
  wwall: 79...Rg3? is a losing move. Black can draw after 79...Rd3 or 79...Ka7 or 79...Kb7.

81.Rh4? draws. White wins after 81.Rc4.

106...Ka8? is the losing move. Black can draw after 106...Ka6 107.Kc7 Rc3+ or 106...Re1 107.Kc7 Rc1.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OhioChessFan: Yes, Ka8 is a blunder probably due to fatigue. It's still surprising Black let his King be cut off. Ka6 seems a pretty simply human choice there.
Feb-12-15  poorthylacine: Maybe Showalter was annoyed by the resistance of this "beginner"... Maybe too he felt that Marshall later would surpass him like Pillsbury did?

Or maybe he was nervous because he had lost a winning opportunity two times, at the 48th move (48. f4 instead of 48. Kh3, then again at the 81th move (81.Rc4 instead of 81.Rh4?), maybe also he expected Marhall was still to youg for always avoid any blunder in endgame?

Even Spassky was aware with the perfection of Keres' endgame knowledge during their match in 1965 and so played always in order to avoid exchanges as much as possible without inconvenient...

Who knows? Anyway the expectations of Showalter were rewarded in this game!

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Whether through carelessness or exhaustion, Marshall on move 106 (!) blundered and lost a Rook and Pawn versus Rook and Pawn ending he should have drawn. Both sides seem to have worn themselves out, Marshall having erred back on move 79 in this ending (as wwall noted on this site over four years ago) and Showalter having missed a win on move 81 (also spotted by wwall).

The game took a dramatic turn when Showalter sacrificed a piece back on move 28. This does not look sound, but Marshall allowed Showalter to obtain serious compensation when he erred on move 30, and ultimately reduced the game to an ending he should not have lost.

This loss by Marshall pretty much ended his chances of catching Lasker for first place and ultimately cost him a chance to get second place. Had he drawn the ending as he might have, Marshall would have gotten (under the rules of this tournament) a rematch against Showalter as White).

The big mystery of the game for me is why Marshall didn't claim a draw by triple repetition as he might have down a number of times. He obviously had no winning chances.

On the other hand, Showalter deserves at least some credit for keeping Marshall under pressure for a long time (Marshall had been forced to find at least 16 saving moves in this long ending before finally erring at the end).

But as poorthylacine noted three years ago, Showalter could have won back on move 48 as well as on move 81.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

The Petroff, used by both Pillsbury and Marshall. Marshall had defeated Pillsbury using this opening in the prior round.

3. d4

The most aggressive response, and the very move Pillsbury had played the day before against Marshall.

3... Nxe4

Better than 3...d5, as Marshall had used against Pillsbury.

4. d3 d5
5. Nxe5 Nc6

A strange choice for an attacking player such as Marshall. As Rosenthal noted in the Tournament book, 5...Bd6 was better. Better still is 5...Nd7 as given in MCO-13.

6. NxN bxN
7. Qe2 Qe7

7...Be7 was better both because it prevents White from getting far the better game and also--and especially from Marshall's perspective--it avoids the less ambitious route chosen by Showalter of trading Queens and reducing to an early endgame.

8. 0-0 Nd6
9. Re1

9. Qd1 was the best way for Showalter to play for an advantageous middle-game. But--after Marshall's demolition of Pillsbury in the previous round--one can understand Showalter's desire to trade off pieces and try his fortune in an endgame against his brilliant but less experienced opponent.

9... QxQ
10. RxQ+

So Showalter's got his endgame, and poses a problem for Marshall immediately, the position now being:

click for larger view

10... Kd8!

Well-played by Marshall. 10...Be7 would have gotten him an inferior (but not necessarily losing) position after Rosenthal's proposed 11. Bg5 [even stronger would be 11. Bf4] f6 12. Bf4 (even better would be 12. Nd2!! since 12...fxB would run into 13. Rae1. Also inferior to Marshall's move was 10...Be6 because of 11. Nc3 [but not Rosenthal's inferior 11. f4 g6 (even better was 11...Kd7) 12. Nd2]

After Marshall's fine move, Showalter is unable to obtain any real advantage.

11. Nd2

11. Bf4 was better, but likewise does not give White much of an edge.

11... Bf5
12. Nb3

12. BxB also does not lead to much after 12...NxB 13. c3 (Rosenthal's move, 13. Nf3 is slightly better but also insufficient if White has any real ambitions here) Kd7 or 13...Bd6 (but not Rosenthal's awful 13...c5? which loses after 14. Re5).

12... BxB
13. cxB

Showalter correctly (in my view) decides to accept doubled d-pawns in order to be able to attack on the c-file. This attack quickly becomes the theme of this game.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Chances seem about even here, and both sides have opportunities. No reason whatsoever at this stage to expect an easy draw. Indeed, Showalter pushes hard to outplay his young opponent in this ending, as will be discussed in upcoming posts on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

After 13. cxB, Showaltermade titanic effort to exploit the open c-file, and Marshall defended carefully and often creatively to prevent his opponent from making much of this.

13... Nb7

Allowing the Black Bishop to join the fray and the defense of the doubled c-pawns.

14. Bf4 Kd7

Another idea was 14...a5, but Marshall's move, that allows his Rooks more scope and mutual protection is also good.

15. Rc1

Pursuing his c-file plan immediately.

15... Bd6
16. Be3

Showalter rightly has no interest in trading Bishops.

16... Rhe8
17. Rec2 Re6

The always tactically alert Marshall finds a clever alternative to 17...Nd8 to protect his c6 pawn. Obviously, 18. Rxc6 would lose the exchange after 18...Bxh2+ (or after 18...RxR 19. RxR Bxh2+).

18. g3

Eliminating Marshall's tactical retort and forcing Marshall to retreat one of his minor pieces.

18... Bf8

The most flexible defense.

19. Nd2

There is nothing inherently wrong with this move, but it is the beginning of a bad plan by Showalter (i.e., advancing the b-pawn).

19... f6

Eliminating e5 as a possible perch for White's Knight.

20. Nf1

The tricky 20. Ne4!? was an interesting alternative (if 20...dxe4 21. d5!)

20... a6
21. b4

A bad idea that could have presented problems for Showalter with best play by Black.

21... Rae8

The text is safe, but 21...a5 was stronger way to try to punish Showalter's last move.

As Rosenthal correctly pointed out in the Tournament Book, 21...Bxb4 would have been a mistake, since White would have excellent chances (but not necessarily a won game as Rosenthal claims) after 22. Rb1 a5 23. a3 (after which Marshall's best chance would be to sacrifice his Knight with 23...Bxa3 RxN a4.

22. Bd2 Rb8
23. Ne3 Nd8
24. a3 Rb6

Marshall has defended very well to this point, but here 24...g6 or 24...Rb7 or even 24...Bd6 were sturdier options.

25. Nd1

The start of another bad plan by Showalter involving sacrificing his Knight on d5. Showalter has been unable to break through against Marshall's tenacious defense, and apparently lost patience. 25. f4 was much better.

25... Rb8

Tacitly admitting that his last move was not best.

26. Kf1 Nf7

26...a5 was better, putting the question to Showalter's advanced b-pawn. Marshall's plan to re-position the Knight to d6 is OK but probably not best.

27. Nc3 Nd6

The position was now:

click for larger view

As is apparent, Showalter has gotten nowhere with his attempts to exploit his doubled Rooks on the c-file, and Marshall has defended correctly if not always in the most enterprising manner. It was here that Showalter sallied forth with his doubtful plan to sacrifice his Knight. This plan could have come to grief--or at least landed Showalter in hot water--had Marshall defended properly.

How this all unfolded with be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

In the diagrammed position with which I ended my last post, Showalter decided to embark on a wild attack involving the sacrifice of his Knight, perhaps thinking it better to test Marshall's defensive powers rather than wait for the young tactical wizard to obtain counterplay and go on the attack.

28. Nxd5?!

More prudent, at least theoretically, was 28. Ne2. Rosenthal's claim that Showalter would have had the better game after 28. Na4 Nb5 seems plainly wrong. If anything, Marshall would have been better in that line.

Rosenthal calls this move "...a premature sacrifice which should lose the game for White." As we will see, this is an overstatement.

28... cxN
29. Rxc7+ Kd8

The position was now:

click for larger view

Let us take stock: Showalter has pressure (including a Rook on the 7th) plus two pawns for his sacrificed piece. So was the sacrifice justifiable? Probably not. Marshall has sufficient defensive resources. Is Showalter lost here? Probably not. Much of the Black position is en prise, and Showalter's threats seem sufficient to keep White in business. But Showalter may have put too much stock in his next move.

30. Bf4 Nb5?

Perhaps as Showalter expected, Marshall lashes out instead of playing tight defense, thus justifying Showalter's rash play. Much better was 30...Ra8 or 30...Be7. With the text, Showalter wins another pawn.

31. Rf7

Marshall should not have permitted this. All of a sudden, Showalter's attack has new life.

31... Bd6
32. BxB NxB
33. Rxg7 Rb7
34. Rg8+ Re8

The position was now:

click for larger view

Showalter could (and probably should) now trade Rooks and with three pawns for the sacrificed piece have about equal chances. But he decides to try for more.

35. Rg4 Kd7
36. Rh4 Re7
37. Rc5 Rb5
38. Rh5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Marshall now faced a key decision. Should he trade Rooks? How that played out will be covered in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

In the last diagrammed position from my previous post, Marshall played:

38... RxR

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book called this "weak," and claimed that the "right move" was 38...f5. But then after 39. f4 (or even 39. Kg2) White looks fine. The text is logical, and yields about equal chances for Marshall. Also reasonable would have been 38...K36 or 38...Rb6.

39. dxR Nb5
40. Rxd5+ Kc6
41. Rd8 Nxa3
42. Rd6+

The position was now:

click for larger view

Marshall here played:

42... Kb7

Rosenthal thought this best and claimed that 42...Kb5 (which is in fact best for Black here) would lose to 43. Rb6+ (43. Rxf6 would be better here for White) Ka4 44. Rxa6+. Rosenthal suggests that Black is lost here, but that is nonsense. After 44...Kxb4 45. Rxf6 Kxc5 the position would have been:

click for larger view

How and why Rosenthal thought Black is lost here is beyond me. Given the problems of winning Rook and Knight versus Rook endings, I doubt Black has much prospect of victory. But with his extra Knight Black should have no fear of losing.

Back to the game after Marshall's poor 42...Kb7

43. Rxf6 Nc2
44. Rb6+ Ka7
47. b5 axb5
46. Rxb5 Re1+

The beginning of a bad plan that should have cost Marshall the game. 46. Ka6 was much better.

47. Kg2 Re5?

As apparently only poorthylacie on this site has noticed, Showalter now had a win with 48. f4. The position after 47...Re5? was:

click for larger view

Showalter, however, missed his chance here and played:

48. Kh3?

He now had to play on for more than 60 moves before winning (although he did have a chance to win again on his 81st turn).

48... Rh5+
49. Kg4 Rxh2
50. f4

Two moves too late!

50... Nd4
51. Rb6 h5+
52. Kg5 Rc2
53. Rd6 Rxc5+
54. Kg6 Nf5
55. Rd7+ Kb6

The position was now:

click for larger view

A draw here certainly seems likely. In fact, the game was only a little more than half-way over, and the struggle was to have a gaggle of twists and turns before Showalter eked out a surprising win. I will try at least to begin an analysis of the ensuing endgame marathon in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

I begin this post with an apology to poorthylacine, whose name I misspelled in my last post. It was poorthylacine who found the win for Showalter on move 48. BRAVO!

In the last diagrammed position in my previous post, Showalter had a fairly clear road to a draw with 56. Kxh5. Instead, he courted trouble with his next two moves.

56. d4 Ra5
57. d5

Once again, Kxh5 was best. Remarkably, the Black h-pawn is destined to survive until the bitter end of this game 54 moves later, and will be a thorn in Showalter's plans from here on.

57... Nxg3
58. f5 Ne4?

With 58...Kc5, Marshall would have had no risk of losing and perhaps a chance to try for a win in the always problematic Rook and Knight versus ending. With the text, Showalter has threats again, and chances are again about even.

59. f6 Nxf6

Marshall, not unreasonably, decides to return the piece to reduce to an endgame he must have assumed would be an easy draw.

60. KxN h4

The position was now:

click for larger view

From here, contrary to what Marshall might have expected, Showalter hunkered down and played on (and on) for a win, hoping to find weaknesses in his young opponent's endgame technique. Much of the remainder of the game is tedious, but Showalter's persistence was rewarded at least twice: once when Marshall erred on move 79 (an opportunity Showalter failed to exploit) and again when Marshall fell asleep at the switch on moves 105 and 106.

61. Ke6 h3

This pawn is destined to remain on this square for the rest of the game.

62. Rh7 Ra3
63. Rh8 Rg3

63...Re3+ or 63...Kc5 seem simpler, though Marshall's move did not hurt his chances to draw.

64. d6 Re3+
65. Kd7 Kb7
66. Kd8 Rd3
67. d7 Re3
68. Rh4 Rb3
69. Rh8

The position was now:

click for larger view

In what follows, Marshall repeatedly declined to claim a draw by triple repetition (which was available to him many times). Meanwhile, he faced constant threats, and had to find "only" moves on his 69th, 73rd, 75th, 82nd, 84th, 85th, 87th, 91st, 92nd, 95th, 97th, 98th, and 103rd turns. Why and how Marshall didn't spare himself the trouble eludes me.

69... Re3
70. Rh4 Rb3
71. Rh8 Re3

The first of many times Marshall could have claimed a draw by triple repetition.

72. Rh4 Rb3
73. Ke7 Re3+
74. Kd6 Rd3+
75. Ke7 Re3+
76. Kd8 Rb3
77. Rh7 Re3
78. Rh8 Kb8
79. Rh4

The position was now:

click for larger view

It was in this position that Marshall first faltered in this Rook and Pawn versus Rook and Pawn ending, as will be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

In the last diagrammed position in my previous post, Marshall played:

79... Rg3?

As wwall pointed out on this site more than four years ago, this move loses. poorthylacine also noted this in his excellent post on this game. Marshall had several ways to keep the draw in hand here (e.g., 79...Kb7 or 79...Rd3 or 79...Ka7, as pointed out by wwall). All of these alternatives look like losers (and Fritz15 mistakenly gives the game as a win for White [1.59] after these moves). But after playing out these lines, none led to a win for White. The text, however...

80. Rb4+!

Showalter seems to see here what he in fact only fully discovered on move 105--that the road to victory in this endgame is to confine Marshall's King to the a-file. However, he did not follow the excellent text move up properly.

80... Ka7

The position was now:

click for larger view

As Showalter (and Rosenthal in the Tournament Book) overlooked, and as was spotted by users wwall and poorthylacine on this site, Showalter has a win here with 81. Rc4! (81...Kb8 82. Rc8+ Kb7 83. Ke7 Re3+ 84. Kf6 Rf3+ 85. Ke6 Re3+ 86. Kf5 since if 86...h2 87. d8(Q) h1(Q) 88. Rb8+ Kc6 (anything else is mate in 1) 89. Qb6+ and White can choose between grabbing Black's Rook or marching the Black King into an airtight mating net (89. Qb6+ Kd5 90. Rd8+Kc4 91. Rd4+ Kc3 92. Qb4+ Kc2 93. Rd2+ and mate next move).

BRAVO wwall and poorthylacine!

But Showalter missed this and went back to his misguided plan of seeking victory via the h-file.

81. Rh4? Kb7
82. Rh8 Re3
83. Rh7 Kb8
84. Rh6 Kb7
85. Rh8 Kb8
86. Rh5 Kb7
87. Rb5+

This looks like the beginning of a plan that actually had some real chance of success. Indeed, this same position was repeated on move 105. But...

87... Kc6!

Unlike what happened on move 105, Marshall here found the way to safety. As Chessical has shown--and as I will discuss when we get to move 105, the text draws in a fascinating line involving a Rook sacrifice by Black. Somehow, Marshall saw this here, but--perhaps because of weariness--lost his way when this position was repeated 18 moves later.

88. Rb2

As will be discussed when we review Chessical's remarkable line on move 105, Showalter's best chance to win here would be 88. Kc8, the line that would require Marshall to sacrifice his Rook to save the game.

88... Rd3
89. Rc2+ Kd6
90. Re2 Kc6
91. Re6+ Kb7
92. Re2 Kc6
93. Rc2+ Kd6
94. Re2 Kc6
95. Re6+ Kb7
96. Rh6

Back to his hopeless h-file strategy.

97. Rh8 Re3
98. Rh6 Rb3
99. Rh8 Re3
100. Rh4 Rb3
101. Rh5 Rd3
102. Rh6 Re3

I am still baffled as to why Marshall didn't claim a draw by triple repetition here (and at many other junctures in this ending).

103. Rh8 Kb8
104. Rh5 Kb7
105. Rb5+

So here we are, back where the game stood after Showalter's 87th move:

click for larger view

As will be recalled, Marshall played 87...Kc6! when this position was reached earlier. Now, however, and as will be shown in my next post on this game, he went on a wrong course, thus justifying Showalter's persistence. Marshall had defended heroically and precisely since his mistake on move 79 (apart from his mysterious failure to claim a draw by triple repetition). But now, whether because he was exhausted or otherwise, everything came apart for him on his next two moves and Showalter wrapped up an unexpected victory.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

After 105. Rb5+ Marshall, rather than playing 105...Kc6 mirroring what he had done on his 87th move in an identical position, played:

105... Ka7

As will be seen, this move need not have been fatal. But Marshall nonetheless deserved to get his knuckles rapped, since he should not have allowed Showalter to lock his King on the a-file. The best move here--and sufficient to draw as Chessical demonstrated on this site over 13 years ago--was to play 105...Kc6! Had Showalter then played 106. Kc8 Marshall could have kept the draw in hand with 106...Rd3 (forced) 107. Rb7 h2 (forced) 108. Rc7+ Kb5 (forced) 109. Rc1 leaving the position as follows:

click for larger view

Things look bad for Black here, but Chessical found a brilliant way for Black to draw here: 109...Rc3 check!! And after 110. RxR h1(Q) 111. d8(Q) Black draws with 111...Qa8+ 112. Kc7 Qa5+ [or 112. Kd7+ Qd5+] regaining the sacrificed Rook.

BRAVO Chessical!!

Remarkably, however, even after missing this line and playing 105...Ka7, Marshall could still have saved the game.

Showalter here certainly made things dicey for Marshall by playing the nasty:

106. Rb2!

The position was now

click for larger view

Showalter's move is excellent because: (i) it keeps the Black King locked on the a-file; (ii) it guards against h2 by Black; and (iii) it gives White the option to seize move his Rook to the c-file or the e-file as need be depending on Black's move.

Nice as this move is, Marshall--as Rosenthal correctly stated in the Tournament Book and as wwall has explained in detail on this site--could still have saved the game with 106...Ka6 or 106...Re1 [Rosenthal's move]. After 106...Ka6 107. Kc7 Black draws [Fritz 15 notwithstanding--which rates the position 1.55 for White] with wwall's brilliant 107...Rc3+ White now cannot escape the Rook checks and thus cannot win.

But Marshall's actual move was an unfortunate blunder that landed him in a mating net:

106... Ka8??

Showalter now had a clear road to victory, which he seized with alacrity,

107. Kc7 Rc3+
108. Kb6 Rd3
109. Rc2!

The position was now:

click for larger view

Threatened as he is with mate in one, Marshall had no time to capture the White d-pawn and had to play:

109... Rb3+
110. Kc7 Rb7+
111. Kc6!

The position was now:

click for larger view

Now Marshall can only stop the d-pawn from Queening by playing 111...Rb8 which would allow 112. Ra2 mate.

So Marshall resigned. A sad and shocking ending for the young Marshall in his first major international test. As a result of this loss and his final round loss to Maroczy, Marshall--despite defeating the top two finishers (Lasker and Pillsbury)--had to settle for a tie for third place.


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