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Isidor Gunsberg vs Frank Marshall
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 3, Feb-16
Russian Game: Nimzowitsch Attack (C42)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: 42.♖e1 stopping the Queen check on c1 seems forced.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Marshall was having a miserable tournament at Monte Carlo 1901 (through 8 rounds he was only one of three players who had yet to win a game). His loss in this replay of his 3rd round game with Gunsberg only exacerbated his misery.

Marshall was clearly rattled by the time this game was played. He lost one pawn, and then another. When Gunsberg sloppily gave him chance to battle his way back into the contest, Marshall seemed oblivious. He blundered away a Rook on move 39, and then sulked his way to move 45 and then resigned once Gunsberg had made the second time control.

A game that does not reflect the talents of either of these players:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

Like his compatriot Pillsbury, Marshall used the Petroff not to draw (as was later the fashion) but with every hope of winning.

3. Nxe5 d6
4. Nf3 Nxe4
5. Nc3

5. d4 is more usual and probably best, but the text is also sound. The text can also transpose into more customary lines.

5... Nf6

5...NxN was simpler and yielded approximate equality, but Marshall was playing for a win here from the very start.

6. d4 Be7
7. Bd3 0-0
8. 0-0

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8... Bg4?!

8...d5 would have given Marshall a decent opening position.

9. Ne2

Never played before or after so far as I can find. 9. Re1 or 9. h3 were both much better. The text gave Marshall a fairly obvious way to get the better game:

9... Nc6

9...BxN immediately was plainly best.

10. c3 BxN

Better late than never.

11. gxB d5
12. Ng3

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Gunsberg had the two Bishops and an open g-file on which to operate, but his King-side pawn structure was a mess. On balance, the game was about even. But from here, Marshall went berserk and had a lost position in just a few moves.

12... Ne8

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"Black's idea is that, with the [Black] Queen's Bishop off the board, f5 is possible. In no other sense does the move make sense." (Tournament Book).

I understand Marshall's desire to play f5, but the text--while hardly a losing move--was rotten. There's not much Black can do here on the f-file, and his Rook belongs either on e8 (or perhaps on g8 to counter the attack that was sure to come on the g-file). 12...Re8 was best.

13. f4 Bd6

Wasting time in a pointless attack on the White pawn on f4. Marshall should have admitted his last move was bad by playing either 13...Nf6 or 13...Kh8.

14. Qf3 Nf6

Belatedly returning the Knight from the square it should have never left.

15. Kh1

Talk about telegraphing one's punches. But Marshall still seemed oblivious.

15... Ne7

15...Kh8 was indicated.

16. Rg1

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The dangers for Black were pretty obvious here, but Marshall ignored the risks and was quickly dead lost, as will be seen. The game was prolonged only because of the sloppiness of Gunsberg.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

16... Ng6?

This only fueled Gunsberg's attack and hobbled the defense. Marshall should have played 16...Kh8 (or maybe 16...Qd7).

17. f5!

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Marshall was probably already busted now. But he soon made things worse for himself.

17... Nh4

"17...Ne7 us met by 18. Bg5 with a preferable game for White." (Tournament Book).

A major understatement. Black would be hopelessly lost on this line (e.g., 18...Nd7 19. f6! Ng6 (19...gxf6 20. Bxh7+ KxB 21. Qh5+ Kg8 22. Nf5 and Black cannot avoid mate) 20. fxg7.

The text is hardly pleasant for Black, but it's the best Marshall had after his poor 16th move.

18. Qd1 Be7
19. Bg5

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19... Ne4

19...Ne8 is even worse, as the Tournament Book correctly pointed out. Its analysis of this move, however, was flawed: 19...Ne8 20. f6 [20. BxB followed by 21. Qg4 also wins--KEG] Bxf6 21. Bxh7+ [this has the right idea but the timing is off so it blows the win which was there with 21. BxN BxB 22. Bxh7+ Kh8 23. Nf5--KEG] KxB 22. Qh5+ Kg8 23. BxN so Black must give up a Pawn." [The final position in this variation by the Tournament Book is no win for White after 23...g6--KEG]

The Tournament Book was, however, right in saying that Marshall now had to lose a pawn.

20. NxN dxN
21. BxB QxB
22. Qg4

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22... g6?

Marshall may have been punch-drunk by this stage of this miserable (for him) Tournament. 22...Qf6 was his only real chance.

23. Rae1 Qf6
24. Rxe4 Nxf5
25. Rf4

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White's various pins means that Black must lose a pawn.

25... Kh8

Marshall had nothing better.

26. BxN gxB
27. Rxf5 Qh6

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Gunsberg had handled the attack well, and was on the cusp of finishing off the game. But from here he got sloppy (perhaps because of the approaching move 30 time control--although his biggest slip was to come on move 31 after the time control was reached). Bad as the position was here for Marshall, had he been in better form he might well have saved the game given Gunsberg's upcoming missteps.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

28. Rh5

A strong blow, but 28. d5 (giving the White Queen access to d4) was perhaps even more lethal.

28... f5!

The only way to continue the game. If 28...Qf6 29. Qe4! and Black cannot avoid mate. If 28...Rg8 just loses a Rook. Marshall's move should not save the game, but it did complicate Gunsberg's task and--perhaps because Gunsberg was in time trouble--led him to err.

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29. Qh3

This didn't blow the win, but it was far from best. There was no need to defend the h5 White Rook since White retains a mating threat so long as the Queen stays on the g-file. Thus, 29. Qg3 or 29. Qg2 were best.

29... Qc6+

Once again, Marshall found the only move to extend the game.

30. f3

Better than 30. Rg2.

30... Qd7

But here Marshall missed his best chance: 30...Rf7, which would have allowed Marshall's Queen to remain on c6 and/or slide to d6.

After 30...Qd7, the position was:

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31. Rgg5?

In his effort to snatch the Black pawn on f5, Gunsberg gave Marshall new life. He had several ways to knock off resistance, e.g., 31. Rhg5; 31...Qg3; 31. d5; or 31. Qh4.

His actual move had a serious flaw:

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31... Rf6?

This loses a second pawn with nothing in return. But with 31...Rae8!, Marshall would suddenly have real counterplay: e.g., 32. Rxf5 RxR (or 32...Re1+) 33. RxR Rg8 34. Rh5 QxQ 35. RxQ Re8 36. Rb4 Re1+ 37. Kg2 Re2+ 38. Kg3 Rxb2 leaving:

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This would, at best, be a very difficult Rook and pawn ending for White to win. But Marshall's 31...Rf6 left him position in shambles:

32. Rxf5

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32... Rd6

Weak. 32...Re6 was the best chance.

33. Re5

One of several ways to win. Also good were 33. f4; 33. Qg4; 33. Qg3; and (the prettiest) 33. Rxh7+

33... Qg7

Another poor choice. 33...Rg8 was the most tenacious means of resistance. 33...QxQ was also much better than the text.

After 33...Qg7, the position was:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

34. Rhg5

34. Qg3 or 34. Qg4 would be quicker.

34. Rxh7+ is another winning option (e.g., 34. Rxh7+ KxR 35. Rh5 Rd7 36. Qf5 QxR 37. QxQ+ leaving:

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This is of course a win for White, but it is understandable that Gunsberg chose a different route.

Anyway, back to the game after 34. Rhg5

34... Qf7
35. Qh5

One of several winning plans for White. Also good were 35. Qf5; 35. Qg3; and 35. Re3.

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35... Qd7

Marshall's desire to keep the Queens on the board is easy to understand, but here his best shot was probably to trade Queens and try to hold the double-Rook ending (always tricky). With White's Queen on the board,the defense for Black is impossible.

36. Rgf5 Rg6


37. Rg5

37. Rf4 also does the trick.

37... Rb6

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38. Rg2

38. Qh4 would have been crushing. Black could not then play 38...Rxb2 because of 39. Qe4! (with Rd5 to follow).

38... Rf6

Marshall was losing patience and/or interest. 38...Rf8 would have made Gunsberg's task at least a bit more difficult.

39. Rge2!

The end was clearly near:

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Here Marshall blundered [to the extent any move in lost position can qualify as a "blunder"] and effectively hung a Rook:

39... Rf7??

About the worst move Marshall could have played (just about anything was better, e.g., 39...h6; 39...Qf7; 39...Qd6; 39...Rg8). Now, the position was:

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White to move and win [i.e., finish off the game immediately]

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

40. Rd5!

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Game over! Marshall now had to choose between losing his f7 Rook or giving up his Queen for a Rook.

40... Qa4

Marshall chose the former option. It made no difference. He was done for.

41. b3

41. Qe5+ also does the trick.

41... Qa3

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42. QxR

GrahamClayton suggested 42. Re1 to stop the Queen checks. This wins too, but it's slower and the checks are harmless (essentially spite checks). Better to take the Rook, as Gunsberg did.

The game did not last much longer. Either Marshall wanted to have a few spite checks, or Gunsberg was short on time and Marshall decided to play on to move 45 (the next time control at Monte Carlo 1901).

42... Qc1+
43. Kg2 Rg8+
44. Kh3 Qf1+
45. Kh4


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Needless to say, if 45...QxR, White mates in three: 46. Qf6+ Rg7 47. Rd8+ and mate next move.

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