KEG: A spectacular combination by Marshall on move 13 blows Pillsbury away.
Facing Marshall's Petroff Defense, Pillsbury--locked in a battle with Lasker for first place-- tried hard to avoid potential drawing lines and had if anything the inferior game after his 12th move. On his 13th turn, Pillsbury erred badly, and Marshall's 13...Nxf2!! was crushing. After that shot, Pillsbury's desperate efforts to get back in the game backfired. Marshall did not always find the best lines after 13...Nxf2! but his victory was never thereafter seriously in doubt.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
The Petroff--a favorite of both players.
Avoiding the more usual 3. Nxe5. The text is also good, and is both more aggressive and more in line with Pillsbury's style.
"An unusual move at this juncture but it seems the best. Such identical positions always tend to equality and an early draw." (Teichmann).
"An attempt to amaze the opponent." (Schlechter).
"White [can now] get the better pawn structure." ]MCO-13]
"Well played. This move equalizes the game." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).
3...Nxe4 or 3...exd4 seem best. The text--which results in a symmetrical position--could indeed turn the game towards a draw. According to Sergeant and Watts in their book on Pillsbury, it was Pillsbury's fear of a draw that caused him to play recklessly and allow Marshall his chances in this game. I am not so sure that is what happened. Pillsbury and Marshall seem to me both to be playing for the initiative. The game was decided because Marshall saw the gorgeous combination on move 13 and Pillsbury did not.
"With 4. Nxe5 White can transpose into the usual position." (Schlechter).
The text looks fine to me.
"Either 5. Bb5+ or 5. Qxd4 would give more chance of obtaining some initiative." (Marshall).
Best play here seems to be 5. Bb5+ c6 6. dxc6 [Not MCO-13's 6. Qe2+ which would be met by 6...Be7] bxc6, as given by Sergeant and Watts (though the best follow-up would then be 7. Be2 rather than the 7. Bc4 of Sergeant & watts].
5. Bb5+ appears best, but Pillsbury's move is definitely playable and perhaps an effort to get Marshall out of any prepared lines.
This is surely best, though I doubt it deserves the "!" is has received from Marshall and Rosenthal.
6. c3 Qe7+
"Obviously playing for the draw. That is to say, if 7. Qe2 then QxQ+." (Teichmann).
Since there was little chance Pillsbury (of all people) would play 7. Qe2, Teichmann's claim that Marshall was angling for a draw is doubtful.
As notyetagm has noted on this site, 6...dxc3 loses a piece to 7. Qa4+.
"7. Qe2 might lead to the exchange of queens and a draw, which Pillsbury did not want; but, as it is he gets the more difficult game." (Sergeant-Watts).
"7. Qe2 should have kept the position equal." (InspiredByMorphy on this site in 2005).
"If now 7. Qe2 7...QxQ+ and Black stands well for the ending because White's pawn position is somewhat weak." (Marshall).
Leaving psychology aside, the text appears best. White still has a slight advantage and there is no reason he should be aiming for a Queen swap at this point, though--contrary to Marshall--White seems fine after the exchange of Queens as well.
8. Nxc3 seems better and would have avoided the later problems Pillsbury faced.
9. 0-0 0-0
10. c4 Re8
11. Bd3 Bg4
The position was now:
"White's position has become uncomfortable since the pin of the Nf3 is troublesome, and Black controlas the e-file." (Marco).
I cannot agree with Marco here. The pin of White's Knight is easily addressed by 12. Nbd2 and chances are about even. Black has the e-file and White has pressure with his c4 and d5 pawns. Of course, if Pillsbury has lost his mind here and played 12. Re1 he would be crushed immediately with 12...BxN (as Marco points out). White need only figure out how to develop his Queen-side to have a playable game.
But it was here that Pillsbury began to go wrong, erring on his 12th move and blundering on his 13th turn, as I will discuss in my next post on this game.