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Eugene Delmar vs Frank Marshall
Buffalo (1901), Buffalo, New York USA, rd 5, Aug-14
Vienna Game: Mieses Variation (C26)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Despite the sparkling finish (aided by some discouraged play by Marshall), quite a bad game on the whole.

Marshall misplayed the opening and was probably lost after both his 11th and his 12th moves. Delmar missed the best continuation, and a confused (if the score is to b believed--always an issue with this tournament) game followed until Marshall (who had been better for much of the game) erred badly on moves 31 and 33 and then overlooked the only saving chance on move 34.

Delmar's finishing combination somewhat made up for his poor play for most of the game.

1. e4 e5
2. Nc3

The Vienna Game. Mieses was a terror with this opening at the time this game was played. Perhaps Delmar was inspired to follow his example. His subsequent play, however, suggests he didn't understand the 3. g3 variation he chose to employ.

2... Nf6
3. g3

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Mieses frequently played this line. It later was a favorite of Spassky, Gufeld, and Suttles; and more recently has been employed at least five times by Nakamura.

3... d5

If Delmar hoped to confuse Marshall with a line the latter did not know, he succeeded. 3...Bc5 and 3...Nc6 are the best replies for Black.

4. exd5 Nxd5
5. Bg2 NxN
6. bxN Bc5

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A somewhat unbalanced position with chances for both sides. As is obvious from what followed, neither player was comfortable in this variation.

7. Ne2

7. Nf3, 7. d3, and 7. f4 were all better options.

7... 0-0
8. 0-0

8. d4 is worth a look.

8... Nc6
9. Rb1

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9... f5?!

Typical of Marshall's wild and unsound play at this tournament and, indeed, throughout his very poor calendar year 1901. (9...Qd6 or 9...Re8 or 9...Bb6) were all better choices that the over-anxious text.

10. Rb5

This gave Delmar the better of the opening, but stronger still was the simple 10. d4.

10... Qd6

What was good on move 9 is bad here. Marshall would have been basically OK with 10...Bd6 or 10...Qe7.

11. d4

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White was somewhat better here. But now both sides erred badly, as I will discuss in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

11... exd4?

This might have led to a quick loss for Marshall. He would have had a playable game with 11...Bh6.

12. cxd4?

Missing the intermediate move 12. Bf4, e.g., 12...Qe7 13. Nxd4 NxN 14. cxN Bb6 15. Re1 with an overwhelming advantage for White.

After the wooden text, Marshall had a saving resource, the position now being:

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12... Bb6?

Come what may, Marshall had to try 12...Nxd4 (e.g., 13. NxN QxN 14. Qe2 Bd6 or 13. Bf4 Qa6! 14. NxN BxN 15. Rd5 Bf6 16. Bxc7) with reasonable chances of survival. But now Delmar should have had the game in hand, the position now being:

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13. Bf4?

Gave Marshall another chance. 13. c4! was the way to dominate the board, e.g., 13. c4 a6 14. c5 Qf6 15. Rb2 Ba7 16. Re1.

13... Qe7?

Marshall had to play 13...Qf6. Now, Delmar had another chance, the position now being:

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14. Rb3?

Again missing the chance to play c4.

14... Qf7

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15. Be3?

Pretty much giving up the chance to exploit his superior position. With 15. d5 or maybe 15. Qd3 or 15. Nc3, he would have retained much the better chances.

15.... Na5
16. Rb1 c6

More weak play by Marshall. With 16...Nc4 his counterplay would give him approximately equal chances. But now, Delmar had chances, the position being:

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17. a4

Missing 17. d5. The text got Delmar nowhere, and any edge he had enjoyed had been pretty much squandered.

17... Nc4

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While Delmar had thrown away winning chances, he still had an approximately equal position. But from here, he made one second-best move after another, and had to labor with an inferior position for the next approximately thirteen move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

18. c3

Yet another weak move by Marshall, needlessly allowing Delmar to trade off Knight for Bishop and weakening his position to boot. Delmar would have been fine with 18. Bc1.

18... Be6

Marshall could also have taken the Bishop immediately.

19. Nf4 Rae8?

Marshall should certainly now have played 19...NxB. The text gave Delmar another opportunity, the position now being:

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20. Re1?

With 20. d5!, Delmar would have seized a strong initiative. The text allowed Marshall to equalize immediately.

20... NxB

Marshall had by-passed a couple of opportunities to make this trade, but this time he got rid of the White dark-square Bishop.

21. fxN

A strange error, creating a backward pawn instead of the obvious (and equalizing) 21. RxN

21... Bc4

Marshall now had the two Bishops and the initiatibe.

22. Qc1

Beginning to dig a hole for himself. Delmar would not have been so bad after 22. Nd3 or 22. Bf4 or perhaps 22. e4.

22... Re7
23. Rb2

Another weak effort by Delmar. 23. Qa3 was better (as were 23. Qd2 or 23 Bf1 for that matter).

23... Rfe8

23...g5 was another interesting possibility, but the text was a less committal and sound option that gave Marshall good chances.

24. Bf3

Bh5 is not much of a threat. 24. Qd2 was better. After the text, the position was:

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24... Bb3

Delmar had by this point thoroughly ruined his formerly good position. Marshall could also have piled on pressure with 24...c5. The text was not as strong as it looked.

25. Nd3

25. Qb1 would have taken advantage of Marshall's last move. The text looks suspiciously like an oversight.

25... Bd5

Marshall was always more inclined to attack than to grab pawns. But here, 25...Bxa4 looks like the best way to punish Delmar for his foggy play.

26. Rf2

26. BxB was better.

26... BxB
27. RxB Qd5
28. Ref1 g6

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Neither played had performed at all well to this point, and Delmar certainly had the inferior position. But beginning here the veteran displayed the kind of chess of which he was capable, and outplayed Marshall the rest of the way, first equalizing, then seizing the initiative, and then running Marshall off the board. He had been one of the top players in the U.S. for years, and though age 59 at the time of this game, was more than capable of dealing with a faltering Marshall during the latter's disastrous 1901. Marshall had won a short match against Delmar the year before, but at Buffalo 1901 Delmar beat Marshall twice: coming back to win this game, and then (playing Black) slaughtering Marshall in just 14 moves in the final round.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

29. c4!

Well-played. Marshall was still better, but now Delmar had threats that Marshall had to consider.

29... Qe4

29...Qe6 was better. With his King on the a2...g8 diagonal, Marshall had to take prophylactic measures. But, as usual, he was focused only on attack.

30. Qd1

Eyeing b3 and the a2...g8 diagonal. With his c4 pawn not threatened (because Marshall had not played 29...Qe6), the text was possible.

30... Qe6

Effectively conceding that his 29th move had been a waste of time.

31. Qb3

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31... Rd8?

A bad repositioning of his Rook. Piling up on e3 is useful, as will be seen. Meanwhile, Marshall's King stayed on the dangerous diagonal. 31...Kh8 would have saved him a lot of grief. Alternatively, Marshall might have tried 31...Ba5, or perhaps taken the sting out of a possible c5 by White with 31...Bc7. After the text, the advantage Marshall had held was gone.

32. Nf4 Qf7
33. g4!

Playing both sides of the board. Marshall was still Ok with careful play, but he now had to tend to defense--hardly Marshall's forte at this stage of his career:

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33... fxg4?

Very weak. Marshall would have been OK with 33...Bc7. After the rote text, Delmar's attack gained further steam:

34. R3f2

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34... g3??

After this, Marshall's position was probably beyond repair. Scary as Delmar's attack appeared to be, Marshall had at his disposal here a neat combination involving a piece sacrifice that might have brought him to an ending in which he had two or three pawns for a Knight and very good drawing prospects: 34...Rxe3! 35. QxR Bxd4 36. Qe4 BxR+ 37. RxB Re8.

35. hxg3

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35... Re4?

Marshall might still have had some practical chances with 35...Rxe3 with themes similar to the above variation after the proposed 34...Rxe3 (though White still seems to win handily after 35...Rxe3 36. QxR Bxd4 37. Qe4 Qd7 38. Ne6 BxR+ 39. RxB Re8 40. Rf6 Qd1+ 41. Kg2 Qd2+ 42. Kh3 Qh6+ 43. Qh4.

But after the text, Marshall was dead, the position now being:

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White to move and win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

Not much of a problem.

36. Nh5!

36. Nd5 also wins. After the text, Marshall might have called it a day:

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36... Qe6
37. Nf6+ Kg7
38. NxR QxN

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39. c5

39. Rf7+ Kh6 40. c5 also wins.


A terrible debacle for Marshall, that pretty much sums up his play during calendar year 1901.

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