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Geza Maroczy vs Frank Marshall
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 17, Jun-19
Russian Game: Modern Attack. Center Variation (C43)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
May-15-06  paladin at large: Coming out of the opening, Maróczy opens up the position for his whirling bishop pair. The pretty 15. e6 wins a piece but, Maróczy has already drawn his guns anyway.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This final-round game determined 2nd through 4th places. Going into the final round, Marshall (12-3) was in second place (two points behind Lasker). Pillsbury was in third with 11.5-3.5, and Maroczy was fourth at 11-4. By defeating Marshall in this game, Maroczy tied with Marshall for third, while Pillsbury (who defeated Rosen in his final game) took second.

Paris 1900 was still a fantastic debut for Marshall in a major tournament. He defeated both Lasker (Lasker's only loss of the tournament) and Pillsbury.

The game itself may at first blush appear to be of little intrinsic interest. Marshall gets the worst of the opening, and then blunders away a piece on move 14. Maroczy did not always finds the fastest way to victory after that, but never gave Marshall a chance to recover.

The above being said, the game reduced to Maroczy's Rook and two Bishops against Marshall's two Rooks. The position was a theoretical win for Maroczy, but with the clock ticking and facing a tactically astute and eager young opponent, Maroczy had to put in a long day at the office. Tactics abound when two Rooks square off against Two Bishops and a Rook on a nearly open board, and--unless you happen to be a computer--the win is anything but routine.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

The Petroff, one of Marshall's favorite openings at this stage of his career.

3. d4

Sharper and potentially less drawish than the more usual (and perhaps theoretically better) 3. Nxe5

3... Nxe4
4. Bd3 d5
5. Nxe5 Bd6
6. 0-0 0-0
7. c4

The text seems best, though Tahl played 7. Nc3 against Benko at Hastings 1973-1974. 7. Nd2 is another good alternative.

7... c6

Playable, but 7...BxN and 7...Nf6 were somewhat better.

8. Nc3

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book criticized this move and suggested 8. Qc2, but the text--though it initiatives a series of exchanges-- looks most natural and best.

8... NxN
9. bxN BxN

9...Nd7 was a reasonable alternative, though White there too would retain some advantage.

10. dxB

10. Qh5 is cute, but the text is probably best.

10... dxc4

10...Nd7 may be somewhat better, since White has a definite advantage in the endgame that now results.

11. Bxc4 QxQ

Marshall--of all people--might have tried to avoid the endgame and retain some tactical chances with 11...Qe7. In fairness, however, he probably should have been able to hold the ending which--under the rules extant at Paris 1900 would have earned him a replay with White.

12. RxQ

After the numerous exchanges, the position was:

click for larger view

MCO-13--correctly in my view--says that Maroczy enjoyed a "distinct" advantage in this endgame. Maroczy had two Bishops and much better development. Marshall, however, had much the sounder pawn formation.

All in all, Marshall should probably have been able to hold the position. Instead, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, he blundered away a piece on move 14.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Marshall's position in the endgame after 12. RxQ quickly went from inferior to lost:

12... Bf5

12...Re8 immediately was perhaps a little better.

13. Ba3

Maroczy had numerous plans at his disposal here. The text is one of many ideas, which included 13. Be3, 13. h3, and 13. f4.

13... Re8
14. f4

The position was now:

click for larger view

In this position, Rosenthal in the Tournament Book recommends 14...b5. But this looks very bad for Black after 15. Be2 (with Bf3 to follow).

Best for Marshall here was the awkward looking 14...Na6. But instead Marshall carelessly played:

14... Nd7?

This left:

click for larger view

White to play and win:

15. e6!

The always alert Maroczy, noting that Black's Knight on d7 is essentially hanging, found this crusher. Marshall can not avoid loss of a piece.

15... Bxe6
16. BxB Nf6

16...RxB 17. RxN would have been even worse for Marshall.

17. Bb3 Re4?

Desperately searching for a means of counterplay, Marshall makes matters even worse for himself. For better or worse, he had to try 17...a5 or 17...b6.

18. Bd6 Rae8
19. Be5 Nd5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Maroczy now appeared to have a clear path to victory with 20. BxN cxB 21. Rxd5. But--as I will discuss in my next post on this game-- Maroczy, perhaps seeing ghosts or fearing the tactical prowess of his brilliant young opponent (conqueror of both Lasker and Pillsbury earlier in the tournament) here needlessly sacrificed the exchange. This still left him with a theoretical win, but required him to battle on for another 40 moves before he could bring the game to a successful close.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

In the diagrammed position with which I ended my last post, Maroczy opted not to play the seemingly obvious simplifying 20. BxN cxB 21. Rxd5 and instead tried:

20. RxN?!

This does not blow the win for White, but was this sacrifice necessary?

Yes said Rosenthal in the Tournament Book, who claimed that after 20. BxN cxB 21. Rxd5 Marshall could have "defended the position" with 21...f6 [better but insufficient would be 21. Ra4 or 21...Re2] 22. Bd6 [good enough, though better still would be 22. Bd4] Rd8. But this would leave (with White to move):

click for larger view

Unless I'm missing something, this is a very clear win for White after 23. Rad1. Did Rosenthal (and Maroczy) forget that White is up a full Bishop here? In a few moves, Maroczy could have consolidated his position and Marshall would have had little to play for.

After Maroczy's actual move (to return to the game), things were a bit more complicated:

20... cxR
21. Bxd5 Re2

Let us now take stock. After 21...Re2, the position was:

click for larger view

Is this really so much better for Maroczy than the position he would have had after 20. BxN? I think not. Marshall now has two Rooks against Marcozy's Rook and two Bishops. Not an easy win by any means for a human (though it would be no problem for Fritz as I discovered to my chagrin when I tried to play it out against my demonic laptop friend).

But wait, can't Maroczy just snatch the b7 pawn after 21...Re2? Maroczy didn't think so, since he played 22. Rd1.

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book said that 22. Bxb7 would have "prolong[ed] the game." Given that the actual contest dragged on for nearly 40 more moves, it is hard to fathom what Rosenthal was saying..

In fact, the simple 22. Bxb7 was best and the fastest way to victory. Let's examine Rosenthal's line: 22. Bxb7 f6 (22...Rb2 seems better, but since that is hopeless, let's stick with Rosenthal's line) 23. Bd4 [23. Bd5+ is more accurate, but--again--let's stick with Rosenthal's line] Re1+ 24. RxR RxR+ 25. Kf2 Rd1 This would leave:

click for larger view

Is this really a more difficult win for White than the line Maroczy pursued (and Rosenthal extolled)? Hardly.

Anyway, back to the actual game after 21...Re2, where Maroczy played:

22. Rd1

From here play continued:

22... g5
23. g3

Maroczy could have taken the b7 pawn here as well, but now with less decisive impact than on his previous turn. It is perhaps churlish to criticize Maroczy's play here, since it preserved the win and gave Marshall no real chances [though--as will be seen--Marshall does eventually ratchet up tricky chances later on with a sneaky Rook sacrifice]. But dragging out a position in which all sorts of tactical chances lurk can be a risky strategy--even for so careful a player as Maroczy.

23... gxf4
24. gxf4 Kf8

This left:

click for larger view

Was this position still a theoretical win for Maroczy. Of course! But he had a long trudge ahead of him as I will at least begin to discuss in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

25. Bc4

25. Bxb7 Rxa2 looks better and simpler for Maroczy here. But there is nothing all that much wrong with the text.

25... Re4
26. Bb5

This left:

click for larger view

Marshall here had the chance to play 26...R(either) xB 27. fxR Rxe5 which would reduce to:

click for larger view

Is this still a clear theoretical win for White? of course. But a difficult trek for White. Capablanca might have tried this and made Maroczy prove he could win this king of endgame. But Marshall, not unreasonably, elected to keep both of his Rooks on the board, hoping that tactical opportunities would present themselves. Thus, Marshall played:

26... Rc8
27. Bd7 Rd8

27...Rcc4 was another possibility, though--like the text--holding few theoretical chances of saving the game.

28. Bf6

He should surely have locked up the d8 Rook with 28. Bc7! After this, even Marshall's spirits might have waned. The text--though still maintaining his advantage and also forcing Black's Rook into the corner--was less decisive.

28... Ra8
29. f5

29. Be5 was a good alternative, but Maroczy's super-cautious play continued to give Marshall no chances.

29... Rb8

29...Re2 might have given Marshall better practical chances.

30. Bd4

Slow and steady, but 30. Kf2 (the King is a fighting piece in the endgame) or perhaps 30. a4 might have made Maroczy's task simpler.

30... Ke7

30...Rd8 or 30...Re2 were other ways to try to hang on for dear life.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Here, Maroczy--who had been declining the chance to snatch a Queen-side pawn--finally bit the bullet and played:

31. Bxa7

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book preferred 31. Bb5, but after 31...Rg4+ 32. Kh1 a6 Maroczy would have made little progress. The text (or perhaps 31. Bc5+ and then 32. Bxa7) was best.

31... Rg8+
32. Kf2 Rf4+

Pointless. 32...Rc4 was the best chance of offering resistance.

33. Ke3 Rc4
34. f6+

Preferring the loss of the f-pawn to that of the c-pawn. A doubtful choice. 34. Bb5 Rxc3+ 35. Kf4 was simpler and a quicker road to victory. But Maroczy's line yet again has the virtue of giving Marshall no chances.

34... Kxf6
35. Bd4+ Ke7
36. Bb5 Rcc8
37. Kf3 Rg6

Marshall should probably have tried 37...Rg5.

38. Bd3 Rd6?

This was perhaps Marshall's last real chance to remain even remotely competitive (with 38...Rh6). The position was now:

click for larger view

From here on, the path to victory was considerably simpler for Maroczy, who now wins a pawn (and later a second) by force. Marshall perhaps thought that he could avoid loss of a pawn based on 39. Bxh7 Rh8. As I will discuss in my next post on this game, any such hope by Marshall overlooked the skewer Maroczy would then have had available, not to mention the even nastier skewer Maroczy cooked up with his next couple of moves.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

Maroczy had been slowly marching to victory, but after Marshall's poor 38th move, Maroczy now began to overwhelm his talented young adversary.

39. Re1+ Re6

39...Kd8 or 39...Kf8 were somewhat better, but the die is now cast.

40. Rb1!

Marshall had no real response to this very strong move.

40... Rc7

As good (or bad) as anything). If 40...Rb8 41. Bxh7 and Marshall cannot play 41...Rh6 and 42...Rxh2 because of 43. Re1+ and 44. Be5!

41. Bxh7 Rh6
42. Bf5

The position was now:

click for larger view

Perhaps it was only here that Marshall realized that the h2 pawn was immune because if 42...Rxh2 43. Be5 [or 43. Re1+ and then 44. Be5].

42... Rh5
43. Bg4 Ra5
44. Rb2

Maroczy could also have begun to march his h-pawn with 44. h4 since 44...Rxa2 would run into 45. Be5 and Black's b-pawn falls.

44... f5?!

This is disastrous in the long run, but Marshall probably decided he had to try something.

45. Bh3 Kd6
46. Rb6+

The first sign of impatience by Maroczy. 46. Kf4 or the sneaky 46. Bg2 were better. The text, however, also leads to victory.

46. Ke7
47. Rh6

The position was now:

click for larger view

Another unhappy surprise for Marshall. If 47...Rxa2 48. Rh7+ Kd8 (or 48...Kd6) 49. Bf6+ Kc8 50. Bxf5+ Kb8 51. Be5 spells fini.

47... Rc8

47...Rc4 or 47...Rc6 were slightly better, but the game by now was basically over.

48. Kf4 b6?!

Marshall is dead lost here, and--as will be seen--is playing for his last desperate chance (stalemate). To accomplish this, Marshall has to give up both of his remaining pawns. 48...Ra4 was theoretically best, but would lead to certain defeat. So why not swing for the rafters.

49. Rxb6

Maroczy is happy to pick up more material. He could also have played 49. Bxf5 here.

49... Ra4
50. Kxf5 Rxa2

This left:

click for larger view

Though it certainly looks as if the game is over, Marshall still has his little plan--which involves a Rook sacrifice. How this all played out will be the subject of my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

Marshall was lost, but still had one trick up his sleeve.

51. Bf6+ Ke8!

Walking into a mating net--for a very good reason that will soon become apparent.

52. Kg6 Rca8
53. Rb7 Ra1

Seemingly suicidal (53...R2a7 was the only objective way to prolong the game) but the text is probably Marshall's only practical chance to get Maroczy to err.

54. Re7+

54. Be6 would be faster.

54... Kf8
55. Rf7+ Kg8
56. Be6

The end certainly looks near:

click for larger view

57. Kh6

57. Bg5 would lead to an even quicker checkmate with best play.

57... Re8

Deliberately walking into a mating net (57...Ra6 would allow him to hold on a bit longer).

58. Bb3 Re6!?!

Here is Marshall's idea, the position now being:

click for larger view

Marshall was obviously hoping for 59. BxR [OK in theory but allowing Marshall's plan to develop] Rg6+!! and now 60. KxR? is stalemate! Maroczy could still have won with 60. Kh5! Rh6+ 61. Kg4 (or 61. Kg5, but not 61. KxR? stalemate) 61...Rg6+ 62. Kf5 and mates in 4 moves.

But Maroczy avoided the entire line with:

59. Rc7!

Now the stalemate possibilities are lost, as is Marshall's pinned Rook:

click for larger view

59... Rge1
60. BxR+

60. Re7 was a faster road to checkmate, but the text also wins immediately.

60... RxB
61. Kg6

click for larger view

Now at last, game over!


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