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Frank Marshall vs Emanuel Lasker
St. Petersburg (1914), St. Petersburg RUE, rd 3, Apr-24
Queen's Gambit Declined: Modern Variation (D50)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part I

This game was played early in the tournament (Round 3) and ended in a draw, so it hasn't gotten a lot of attention. But it's an amazing struggle, emblematic of Marshall and Lasker's styles. From a conventional Queen's Gambit Declined, Lasker unbalances the position, handing his opponent dangerous attacking chances in exchange for queenside superiority. He manages to outplay his opponent in a dubious middlegame and gain a winning position, but at the very last move before the time control he slips up. Marshall jumps on his chance and plays a pretty combination to escape into a drawn ending.

Notes below are taken from Dale Brandreth's edition of Tarrasch's 1914 tournament book, translated by Robert Maxham, with additional comments from Georg Marco, Shredder and me. Comments from Tarrasch and Marco are in plain text; comments from Shredder or me are in brackets. Unattributed comments in plain text are from Tarrasch.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Nf3 c6

Here Bernstein's maneuver is executed very early and therefore with a much better result than in the preceding game [ Rubinstein vs Capablanca, 1914 ].

7. Bd3 dxc4 8. Bxc4 b5 9. Bd3 a6 10. 0-0 c5

All this has been done before! Lasker himself employed the Bernstein maneuver in a match against Steinitz, when the Russian matador was still in chess diapers. Still, the games are not equal! White is now two moves ahead in development; further, the black pieces do not stand so well as the white pieces. But at least Black has the prospect of developing powerfully with ...Bb7, ...Qb6 etc.

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11. Qe2 0-0 12. Rad1

Entirely correct! The king's rook can later come effectively to the e- or f-file.


Thereby Black commits himself. It transfers his center of gravity to the Queen's wing and cedes to his opponent superiority in the center and with it the prospect of an attack on the King. I consider this strategy incorrect, although it is excellently executed here, and would prefer ...Qb6.

13. Bb1 Nd5 14. Bxe7

Did Marshall here take the zwischenzug Qc2 into account? Upon ...f7-f5, e3-e4 would have been very strong after the exchange of bishops; upon ...g7-g6, however, the bishop goes to h6. <Shredder thinks 14. Qc2 f5 15. Bxe7 Nxe7 16. e4 Bb7 is OK for Black.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II

14....Qxe7 15. e4 N5b6 16. e5

There is no better continuation of the attck, although hereafter the Queen's pawn remains backward. Threat: N-e4-d6. After all, White had to open a square for the Queen's knight, which was threatened by ...b5-b4.

16....Bb7 17. Rfe1

Unnecessary and, above all, useless! N-d2-e4 could have been played at once.

17....Rfd8 18. Nd2 Rac8 19. Nde4 Bxe4 20. Nxe4 Rc7

To attack the knight immediately by ...Nc8 should it go to d6.

21. Qh5 Nf8 22. Re3 Nd5

Delays the rook on its intended march to h3, for otherwise ...Nf4 wins the exchange, and the knight sacrifice on f6 is also insufficient.

23. Rf3

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Something must happen; the attack threatens to become overwhelming. Ng5 with attacks on f7 and h7; or Nd6; or Nc5 with a threatened sacrifice of the bishop on h7, followed by Rh3: not very attractive prospects for Black. But Lasker always keeps a cool head in defense and has also played very prudently to this point.


Marco: <The Field> mentions ...f7-f5. But other sources universally give ...f7-f6. This version is the only plausible one, for upon 23....f5, White could play 24. Nd6 -- definitely not to Black's advantage. <Shredder finds that 23.....f5 24. Nd6 c3 25. bxc3 Nxc3 <is> to Black's advantage, so presumably 23....f5 was what Lasker played.>

24. exf6?

After White has exchanged his strong King's pawn, the attack completely collapses. If anything could have furthered his attack, it was Nd6 followed by g2-g4. <Shredder likes this move, for reasons seen below.>


Now all the vulnerable points are admirably defended, the pawn on h7 as many as four times.

25. Re1

A blunder in time pressure. Perhaps there was still something to be made out of g2-g4, Rg1 and g4-g5.

<Shredder thinks Black has real problems after 25. Nc5 hitting e6 and a6. After long consideration it decides Black should give up a pawn with 25....f5 26. Nxa6 Ra7 27. Nc5 Ng6.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part III


Wins a pawn, for Re2 leads to debacle on account of 26....c3 27. b3 c2 28. Bxc2 Rxc2. <Shredder: 26. Re2 c3 27. Nxf6+!? Nxf6 28. Qg5+ Rg7 29. Qxf6 Qxd4 .>

26. Kf1 Qxb2 27. Nxf6+ Nxf6 28. Rxf6 Qxb2

And now Black should also win the game; everything is protected on the King's wing; in the center he is master of the open file, and on the Queen's wing he has a colossal superiority. But it is almost a psychological law: a single frivolous moment of relaxation comes as a reaction after the preceding tension -- and that negates the toilsome labor of hours.

29. Qf3 Rg7 30. h3 Qd6

Here it is, and the tactically alert American makes use of it at once.

Marco: A bad mistake. Best was simply ...b5-b4. Let us linger a moment over the highly interesting consequences of this move, while we especially consider the possibilities after 31. Bc2. Can Black now continue with 31....c3? You think so, dear reader, because you have an ingenious idea of startling beauty: 32. Rd1 Qc4+ 33. Bd3 c2!!; Bravissimo, that is, in fact, brilliant and White must immediately capitulate. But what if he had simply answered 32. Bb3 after 31....c3? But one exchanges the Queens thereupon and wins in the endgame as one wishes: 32....Qd3+ 33. Qxd3 Rxd3 34. Bxe6+ Nxe6 35. Rexe6 (threatens a bagatelle) 35....Rc7; and the pawn on c3 cannot be stopped. That would obviously also be very pleasant for Black. But don't be in such a hurry! In chess, too, once should not praise the day before its end. All variations must always be tested. We should, then, still consider the following: 32...Qd3+ 33. Qxd3 Rxd3 34. Rexe6!!. Now mate is threatened in two moves by Re8+ and neither ...Nxe6 nor ...Rd8 nor anything else helps against it. We see how dangerous the attraction of the diagonal b3-g8 can be and are now in a position to understand why Dr. Lasker instinctively seeks to protect the point e6 early and as solidly as possible.

With a more minute examination, for which the time is, however, often lacking in the tournament, he would definitely have soon recognized that 30....b4 is surely satisfactory, for after 31. Bc2 Black can, so to speak, put the knife to his opponent's throat with 31....Qd5!!. The result could perhaps be 32. Be4 Qd2! 33. Bb1 c3!! and White is finished with his trickery. <Marco was no miser with exclamation points.>

31. Bf5!

Wins the pawn on e6 and so salvages the game; indeed even endangers the valiant opponent's game. Lasker probably intended to penetrate with the Queen to h2, but thereupon a highly unpleasant surprise was in store for him with Rxf8+ followed by Be6+.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part IV

31....Re8 32. Bxe6+!

Brilliantly played. Upon ...Nxe6, Rexe6, ...Rxe6(?) <....Qxe6!>, Qa8+ even leads to mate.


Marco: Doubtful was 32....Nxe6 33. Rexe6 Qd7!(?) (or I. 33....Qd8 34. Qd5!! Kh8 <...Rf7 transposes (a move behind) to the 34. Rxe8+ Qxe8 35. Qd5+ Rf7 36. Rxa6 line at the bottom of the paragraph, and is Black's best hope> 35. Qd6!! <Shredder rather cruelly finds that this move can be adequately answered by 35....Rgg8. Instead 35. Rxe8+ Qxe8 36. Re6 Qf8 37. Qe5 is crushing> threatening Rxe8+ with win of the Queen. II. 33....Qxe6 34. Rxe6 Rxe6 35. Qa8+ Kf7 36. f4 (threatening g2-g4, etc.) <instead of 36. f4?!, 36. Qf3+ draws>. Neither variation offers Black anything worth striving for) 34. Rd6(?) etc. <Shredder finds that 34. Rxe8+ (instead of 34. Rd6) Qxe8 35. Qd5+ Rf7 36. Rxa6 threatening 37. Ra8 is stronger and probably winning for White.> And 32....Kh8 is also questionable.

33. Rxf8+ Qxf8 34. Qd5 Qd6 35. Qxe6+ Qxe6 36. Rxe6

There now follows a rook endgame in which Black still stands somewhat better, but by so little, that it is easy for the opponent to hold the draw.

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The rooks belong behind passed pawns, behind their own in order to support their advance, behind the enemy's in order to impede their advance.

37. Ke1 c3 38. Kd1 Rd7+ 39. Kc1 Rd2 40. Rxa6 Rxf2 41. Rb6 Rxa2 42. Rxb5 Rxg2 43. Rc5 Rg3 44. h4 Kg7 45. Kc2 Kg6 46. Rxc3

Broken off as a draw. After the exchange of rooks, the white King arrives at the very square he needs to reach: f1. A very interesting, worthwhile game, as, however, are most of the games of the tournament.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: White missed a nice opportunity to get clear and maybe already winning advantage with 27.Ng5!

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Of course, the Knight cannot be taken and white has suddenly very strong attack. For example, if 27...Rg7 (to eliminate threat Rg3), then 28.Bxh7+ Nxh7 29.Nxe6. 27...Qd2 or 27...Qxd4 can be followed by 28.Nxe6 with advantage. For example, 27...Qd2 28.Nxe6 Re7 29.Rh3 (29.Rg3+ Kh8 30.Rd1 is good too) 29...Nf4 30.Qg4 Ng6 31.Rd1 or 31.Bxg6 with next Rd1 practically forces black to give up the Queen. 27...Qxd4 28.Nxe6 Nxe6 29.Rxe6 Re7 30.Rxe7 Nxe7 31.Qxh7+ Kf8 32.Re3 Rd7 33.Qh6+ Kf7 34.h3 is also better for white.

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