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Frank Marshall vs Emanuel Lasker
Lasker - Marshall World Championship Match (1907), USA, rd 13, Mar-21
Queen's Gambit Declined: Chigorin Defense. Exchange Variation (D07)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-01-08  Knight13: Black's Queen stayed on the 5th rank from move 3 until move 35!!!!


Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: You can't blame Marshall for trying.

click for larger view

This is the position after 39...Kh7. White has to try for a perpetual check, and the only way he can think of doing it is by advancing his pawns to open some lines.

So, in turn, Marshall pushes the h-, f-, and g-pawns forward frantically. Lasker phlegmatically absorbs them all, and with the queens coming off as well Marshall is finally forced to concede.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Games 12, 13, and 14 of this match were played in Memphis. These games were a disaster for Marshall, who lost all three, going from a 4-0 deficit to a 7-0 deficit.

The instant game (Game #13) was the second of the games in Memphis. After losing this game, Marshall was down 6-0 and seemed to have abandoned hope. Lasker surprised Marshall by adopting the Tchigorin Defense to the Queen's Gambit, Neither side appeared comfortable in this (for them) unusual opening, but Lasker handled the situation more confidently. Marshall, by contrast, gave up whatever small advantage he had as White, his 11th move exchange being particularly bizarre. Lasker gave Marshall some chances with his 17th move, but Marshall missed this opportunity, and his efforts at attack on moves 18 and 19 handed the advantage to the always alert Lasker. With his weak 33rd move, Marshall allowed Lasker to trade down to a winning Queen and pawn ending. These endings can be tricky, but not for Lasker. A disheartened Marshall's desperate efforts in the ending allowed Lasker to close out the game efficiently.

1. d4

After losing Game 1 (in which he played 1. e4), Marshall opened with his d-pawn for the rest of the match in the games in which he was White. After losing Game 3 with 1. d4, Marshall had managed to draw his next five games as White, before losing in this 13th game and then in the Game 15 finale.

1... d5
2. c4 Nc6

The only game of which I am aware in which Lasker adopted the Tchigoring Defense.

3. cxd5

Marshall played 3. Nc3 when he faced Tchigorin himself in this opening in a game at Monte Carlo 1902 that Marshall won.

The text is a reasonable alternative to 3. Nc3 or 3. Nf3.

3... Qxd5
4. Nf3

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4... Nf6

4...e5, as recommended by Schlechter, looks best.

5. Nc3 Qa5

As <Knight 13> notes, Lasker's Queen now remained on the 5th rank for 32 moves, only departing from this rank when he played the crushing 35...Qf2.

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6. e3

Even stronger was 6. Bd2.

6. d5, mentioned by Schlechter, was premature, and White should get crushed on the line the usually astute Schlechter provided in his commentary on this game: 6. d5 Nb4 7. e4 (unsound, White would be about equal with 7. Bd2) Nxe4 (Schlechter gives this a "?", but it looks clearly best) 8. NxN ? (this should probably lose, White needs to play 8. Bb5+ to keep the position manageable) Nc2+ 9. Ke2 NxR 10. Nc3 Bf5 11. Nd4 and now, instead of Schlechter's suggested 11...Bg6 12. Be3which lets White back in the game, Black should play 11...Bg4+ 12. f3 e5 13. fxB exN 14. Qxd4 0-0-0 and White is in troublr.

6... e5


Tarrasch notwithstanding, this is best. If instead Lasker had played Tarrasch's proposed 6...Bg4, Marshall would have been clearly better after 7. h3 BxN 8. QxB.

After 6...e5, the position was:

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7. dxe5

Much better was Schlechter's 7. d5.

7... Nxe5
8. Bb5+

This gave Lasker chances he did not immediately seize. Better for White were 8. Bd2 or 8. Be2 (or maybe 8. Nd4)

After 8. Bb5+, the position was:

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How should Lasker get out of check?

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Have some pleasant memories of Memphis; fine place to score some barbecue. Beale Street is well worth a visit.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious> I've actually never been to Memphis. If I survive my upcoming mountain climb in the Nevada desert, I'll make sure to check out the Memphis barbecue. I love barbecue, and not just the great stuff in Kansas City and Texas.

Thanks for the tip.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <KEG>, where in Nevada? I was just out that way for a somewhat tamer pursuit, to wit: playing in the World Series. May go back for the last ten days or so, but have not yet decided.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

8... Ned7?

"Forced." (Schlechter)

Both Tarrasch and Schlechter claimed the text was best and said that 8...c6 would lose.

It appears that the commentators accepted what was a rare miscalculation by Lasker here, since 8...c6 was in fact best.

Both Tarrasch and Schlechter thought--as presumably Lasker did too--that after 8...c6 9. NxN (best is 9. Be2, but even then Black is a bit better) cxB 10. Qb3 Black would be in trouble, overlooking that via 10...b4! 11. Qxf7+ Kd8 12. Nd5 QxN 13. QxQ+ NxQ White wins with 14. Nf7+, but after 14...Kc7 15. NxR Be6 Black though nominally down the exchange and a pawn is in fact better and must regain at least a pawn soon and have all sorts of attacking chances.

By contrast, the text (8...Ned7) left Lasker's pieces poorly developed and badly tangled:

click for larger view

Marshall was certainly better at this point, but he misjudged and played:

9. Qb3

9. 0-0; 9. Bd2; or 9. Be2 were all somewhat better. But Marshall, thanks to Lasker's blocked position, was still better situated.

9... Bb4

Now 9...c6 would be potentially problematic for Black, as Schlechter pointed out, though the way to exploit Black's problems would not have been with Schlechter's 10. Bf1 but with 10. Ng5! with the sort of attacking configuration in which Marshall excelled.

10. Bd2 0-0

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Marshall still had what edge existed, but now inexplicably played:

11. BxN?


"What kind of ghost could Marshall have seen that made him decide to play this move which helps Black develop and untangle his pieces?" (Tarrasch)

Schlechter attempted to answer Tarrasch: "This exchange develops Black's game, but the Bishop on b5 is exposed, and its retreat loses time."

Tarrasch clearly appears to have had the better of this colloquy. Marshall should keep his light-squared Bishop either with Tarrasch's suggested 11. a3 (11...BxN 12. BxB Qb6 13. Bc4) or with 11. Be2. In either case, White retains some edge while the text solves just about all of Black's problems.

11... BxB
12. 0-0 Be6
13. Qc2

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Comparing this diagram with the previous one, it is obvious that Marshall's 11. BxN has allowed Lasker to obtain a fine game. If anything, it is now Black who has the superior chances.

13... Qh5

Hardly best. Lasker should simply bring his Rooks into play beginning with 13...Rfe8 or 13...Rfd8.

14. Ne4 Be7

The text sets a clever trap (or two);

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15. Ng3

15. Qxc7 was, as Tarrasch pointed out "too risky" (and probably losing): 15. Qxc7 NxN 16. QxB Rfe8 17. Qxb7? (now Black is definitely lost, he might have survived with 17. Qc7 or maybe even 17. Qb4) Bh3! (even stronger than Schlechter's 17...Bg4, which may also win).

Also bad, but not as catastrophic as 15. Qxc7? would be 15. NxN+ BxN and now if 16. Qxc7 (the move considered by Schlechter, better would be 16. Bc3 which would give Black only a small advantage) 16...Bd5 after which--as Schlechter pointed out--"Black regains the pawn" and in fact strongly placed with his two Bishops and command of much of the board.

Marshall's move was surely best.

15... Qc5

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Chances were now roughly even, but Marshall was now faced with a key decision: should he trade Queens?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious>I will be climbing in Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas. It should be exciting!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <KEG>, great! Hope you enjoy yourself!

As to the game: <.....Marshall was now faced with a key decision: should he trade Queens?>

If I were playing White, it would be difficult to go in for the exchange of queens and give my opponent the bishop pair on an open board, along with a queenside majority.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious>You've said it all. Your comments match what Schlechter said: "After the exchange of Queens Black with his two Bishops and his extra pawn on the Queen-side would have rather the better chances."

Marshall agreed with you too, since he played 16. Bc3.

I raise the question only because Stockfish strangely prefers 16. QxQ.

Another example of why computers are unreliable in assessing many sorts of positional questions.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <KEG>, the reason I could come to such an assessment in a flash--buttressed, of course, by a quick look at the position to ensure there were no pitfalls--is plenty of knowledge and experience, partly from playing through games with annotations by such titans as named above, who were twentyleven times the player I ever was. I claim no great insight.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious> You do yourself an injustice. You have hit the nub of the issue here nicely and concisely.

As fate would have it, however, the presence of Queens on the board ultimately proved Marshall's undoing in this game--not to say he would have done any better in an ending against the endgame wizard Lasker

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

16. Bc3

See <perfidious> for the reason for this choice by Marshall.

16... Rfe8

While the text was a safe and reasonable choice against Marshall, who seems to have been in self-destruct mode during the final stages of this match, objectively stronger and more enterprising was 16...Nd5.

17. Rfc1

Arguably better was to put the other Rook on this square. But neither choice can be deemed "wrong."

17... Bd5

One of the few times in this match that Lasker seems to have been playing by rote. Against a less distraught strong player, the text might have led to trouble. Tarrasch's suggested 17...c6 looks better. Perhaps simplest was 17...Rac8. 17...g6 also looks much better than Lasker's move.

After Lasker's 17...Bd5, the position was:

click for larger view

As Tarrasch aptly noted, Marshall would have had much the better chances after 18. Qf5! Tarrasch went on to report that at this point "Marshall was in severe time pressure." Strange after only 17 moves (with a move-30 time control). But it does help explain the drastic deterioration of Marshall's play beginning here.

In addition to Tarrasch's 18. Qf5, White would also maintain the better chances with 18. e4,

18. Ng5?


In fairness, the text gives up the chance for White to exploit his edge. Even after this move, there was no reason Marshall should have gotten into trouble--as he quickly did.

Perhaps Marshall was setting a trap with 18. Ng5. As will be seen, there was tactical poison in Marshall's move that might have tempted a lesser player than Lasker to get into trouble.

Even worse than the text, as Schlechter pointed out, was 18. BxN? QxQ 19. RxQ BxB 20. Rxc7 which superficially appears to win a pawn but in fact lead to trouble for White after Schlechter's 20...Bc6, e.g. 21. Nf5 Bd8 22. RxN bxR 23. Rc1 and White is down the exchange for a pawn but with counterplay against Black's weak isolated c-pawn. Indeed, Black in this line can perhaps do even better by--instead of playing to win the exchange--playing 20...Bxb2, leaving him with much the better game after 21. Rd1 Rad8 and little counterchances for White.

After Marshall's 18. Ng5, the position was:

click for larger view

Here, as Schlechter explained, Lasker could have gotten the inferior game had he played the superficially tempting 18...Bxg2 in light of 19. BxN QxQ 20. RxQ BxB 21. KxB BxN 22. Rxc7 after which White with his Rook on the seventh rank has much the better game.

But Lasker, predictably, played clean and sober chess, which was all he needed to do to lure Marshall into trouble.

18... Bc6

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Marshall could of course here been entirely fine with 19. Nf3. But this retreat, which would be an admission that his 18th move was pointless, was not in Marshall's DNA (not would most other players be pragmatic enough to shift courses in this way).

Instead, Marshall played:

19. Nf5?!



After this premature advance, Marshall was fighting an uphill battle until his blunder on move 33 gave him a lost game.

Even worse was Schlechter's suggested 19. Qf5, in light of 19...Qd5 20. QxQ NxQ 21. Nf3 NxB 22. RxN Bf6 after which Black's two Bishops give him all sorts of opportunities to press play.

Marshall's 19. Nf5 might have troubles many tournament players, but Lasker's cold-blooded defense.

19... Bf8!

click for larger view

Suddenly, Lasker's defense had made Marshall's Knights look like paper tigers.

Perhaps Marshall had originally intended to continue here with 20. BxN. But as Schlechter pointed out, this would have led to a lost game for Marshall: 20...QxQ 21. RxQ gxB 22. Nf3 (probably 22. RxB sacrificing the exchange was slightly better than Schlechter's 22. Nf3, but White is lost in either case) 22...Be4 (what a nasty fork--chess can be a cruel game!).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Probably recognizing that 20. BxN wouldn't work, Marshall tried another line of attack:

20. b4 Qd5
21. f3 Bd7


Lasker could also have played 21...Ba4. In either case, he now had--by any reckoning--the superior chances:

click for larger view

22. e4 BxN
23. exB h6

"The sacrifice of the Pawn is only temporary." (Schlechter)

Perhaps even better for Black here was 23...Bd6.

click for larger view

24. BxN hxN


25. Rd1 Qb5
26. Bxg5 Bxb4

Tempting was 26...Re2, but Lasker's move was probably best.

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27. Qxc7

Over-eager. Marshall should perhaps have played 27. a4. (And had he done that, the subsequent loss of this pawn on a2 would have been avoided). 27. Bh4 was also probably better than the text.

27... Qxf5
28. Bh4

28. Qf4 looks stronger.

28... b6

28...b5 and 28...Bc5+ also look promising for Black.

29. Bf2

Schlechter recommended instead 29. Qc4, but Black remains with a significant edge after 29...Bc5+.

29... Re2

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Lasker clearly had the initiative, but Marshall's position could almost certainly have been held with careful play.

But from here, Marshall collapsed, getting into deep trouble with his next move and then blundering away any chances he might have had to save himself with his 33rd move:

30. Rd8+?

"30. Qc4 is much better. White should then be able to hold the draw." (Tarrasch)

In addition to Tarrasch's suggestion, 30. Rad1 and 30. h3 were much better than the text.

30... RxR
31. QxR+ Kh7
32. Qd1

A retreat that is an admission that his 30th move (perhaps played in time trouble as the move 30 time control beckoned) was an error. But I see nothing else that holds any chance of saving the game for White.

32... Qe5

32...Rb2 was also very strong.

After 32...Qe5, the position was:

click for larger view

Marshall was probably not lost here, but his position required the sort of iron defense that was not Marshall's forte.

In any case, after Marshall's blunder on his next move, his game was beyond salvation against a player of Lasker's caliber.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V:

As should have been obvious to Marshall--especially since the move 30 time control had been reached--was that he could not afford to drop his a-pawn. So long as he retained his a-Pawn, Marshall had good chances of contending with Lasker's connected Queen-side pawns. Without his a-Pawn, Marshall would likely be toast,

By far the best way for Marshall to keep his a-pawn was with 33. a4. But instead, he erred fatally with:

33. Bd4?

Remarkably, none of the commentators on this game mentioned this lemon, which in fact was the losing move.

Lasker now pounced decisively:

33... Bc5!

Now the a-Pawn falls and Black wins in a walk:

34. BxB


34... Qxc5+
35. Kh1 Qf2

The Black Queen, which as <Knight 13> had noted had been hanging out on the 5th rank for over 30 moves, now moved in for the kill.

36. Qg1 Rxa2

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37. RxR

37. QxQ?, as Schlechter noted, gets immediately crushed by 37...RxR+ (but not, as Schlechter also pointed out, 37...RxQ 38. Kg1 R moves 39. Rxa7 and White should easily hold the Rook and Pawn ending).

37... QxR

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Queen and Pawn endings can be tricky. But here Lasker had connected passed pawns on the a and b files. The win is only a matter of technique, and asker had plenty of that.

38. Qd1

38. h3 was perhaps slightly better, but it almost certainly would not have made any difference.

38... Qc4

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39. Qd8+?!

Marshall could have made Lasker's task more difficult by playing possom (e,g,m 39. h3 or 39. g4 or maybe 39. Kg1.

But Marshall doubtless realized that this would only delay the inevitable. And so, as discussed by <Phony Benoni>, he embarked on a wild scheme of advancing his King-side pawns, hoping to create a way for perpetual check. And, as will be seen, Marshall also had notions of a possible mating net to trap Lasker's King. None of this had much chance of success against Lasker, but Marshall decided it was worth a try.

39... Kh7
40. h4?!

The White Pawn storm begins!

40... b5!

Meanwhile, Lasker got HIS pawns rolling, this time with no enemy pawns to thwart their advance.

click for larger view

41. Qg5?!

A desperate attempt by Marshall to make something out of nothing.

41... b4
42. h5 b3

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This was clearly a battle Marshall couldn't win. But, as <Phony Benoni> has said, "You can't blame Marshall for trying."

As I will show in my next post, Marshall eventually managed to create threats that might have worked against a careless player. Lasker, however, was rarely careless, especially when the World Championship was at stake.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

43. h6

The only chance to create any problems for Black.

43... gxh6
44. Qf5+ Kg8
45. Qe5

Preparing to advance his f-pawn--the only way to concoct any threats.

click for larger view

45... a5

With the a-pawn now on the move, any threats Marshall hoped to create needed to be sprung post-haste.

46. f4

Going for broke.

46... a4
47. f5

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"Now Black must defend against the threat of f6, threatening Qg3+, etc." (Tarrasch)

This idea might have caused a less seasoned player to begin to sweat, but Lasker brushed away Marshall's threats with ease.

47... Kh7

Simplest, though 47...Qh4+ also obviously wins.

48. f6 Kg6

Cold-blooded defense. Once again, Qh4+ by Black would also have sufficed.

49. Kh2 Qh4+
50. Kg1 Qxf6

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Marshall might have called it a day here, but--as in Game 12--he made Lasker play it out.

51. Qe4+ Qf5
52. Qb4

"If 52. Qxa4 b2 etc." (Tarrasch)

52... Kh7
53. Qb7 Qc5+
54. Kh2 Qc4
55. Qd7 b2

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Time to throw in the towel? Nope. Marshall battled on.

56. Qf5+ Kg8
57. g4

Marshall was down to one pawn, and decided to try to use it to create some miracle perpetual check. But with Lasker, it was plainly not to be.

57... a3
58. g5 Qh4+

click for larger view


Facing loss of his remaining pawn and a trade of Queens (after 59...Qxg5+), Marshall elected not to play on with a lone King against Lasker's entire army.

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