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Frank James Marshall vs Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Vienna (1903), Vienna AUH, rd 12, May-18
King's Gambit: Accepted. Philidor Gambit Schultz Variation (C38)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-30-04  valerianus: Again, an unusual record off-setter: Marshall has a plus score to Pillsbury, who in turn has an even score with Emanuel Lasker--
Apr-30-04  iron maiden: And Marshall had a +2 =11 -12 score against Lasker. Interestingly enough, Marshall won the first and the last decisive game between the two, but could never win another in the forty years between those two games.
May-04-04  LIFE Master AJ: This is a very odd game from ... "The Great Gambit Tournament" of Vienna, 1903. (ALL the players were required to open the game with this opening!)

The tournament was won by Tchigorin, Marshall took second I believe. I have a whole web page on Marshall, if you are interested, check out the following link:

May-10-04  LIFE Master AJ: This game is now annotated on my web site.
May-10-04  Lawrence: How Pillsbury as Black goes from joy -4.92 to despair +5.91 in 2 unfortunate moves. 30...Rd8 -2.80 (30...Rc8 -4.92) 31...Rf8 +5.91 (31...Ka6 -2.69). As <AJ> mentions in his analysis, Pillsbury was in time trouble.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: An interesting position. I really don't think Pillsbury has such a big edge, though. Sorry Junior!

AJ's 31...Ka6! 32.dxc6 Qf1! is excellent. It still looks like draw because after 33.b4 (threatens mate) Qe2+ 34.Kb1 Qxe4+ 35.Kb2 and now Black maybe forced to take the perpetual because of 35...h4 36.Qc7! with too many threats.

It would seem that Pillsbury's Rd8, Rf8 loses a tempo. The immediate 30...Rf8 leads to a virtually forced sequence (I think!)

30...Rf8 31.Qxd7+ Ka6 32.Nc4 Qxa2 33.Qxc6 Rf2+ 34.Nd2 Rxd2+ 35.Kxd2 Qxb2+ 36.Ke3 and I don't know whether this is drawn or not.

May-10-04  LIFE Master AJ: <Reply to everyone>
I am NOT claiming that Pillsbury's moves are the best.

What is curious is how later annotators <Soltis, A nameless annotator in CB mag> could pass over some of these moves ... and not say anything!!!

I remember studying this game MANY years ago ... I had MANY questions. Most of these were how Pillsbury could go from being so much material up to so lost, and so quickly.

I actually have a theory - and a formula - that deals with this. But not here ... it would take 2-3 pages to properly explain it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: In Marshall's own game collection he believed that Pillsbury could have won with: <29...Kb8> 30.Qg8+ Nf8 31.Qxf8+ Kb7; which seems convincing.

He believed Pillsbury missed a further win on move 31 with a "highly ingeneous" line found by "the Viennese amateur Dr Kaufman":

<31...Nc5> 32.Qxd8 Qf1 33.dxc6+ Kxc6;

(a) 34.Qd5+ Kc7 35.Qe5+ Kb7.

(b) 34.Nb1 g3 35.Qd5+ Kc7 36.Qe5+ Kb7 37.Qxg3 Qe2+ 38.Nd2 Qxd2+.

(c) 34.Nb1 g3 35.Nd2 g2 36.Qc8+ Kb5.

Unfortunately, the simple <34.Qc8>, which is not given in the book, appears to be a perpetual.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <Chessical> "the simple <34.Qc8>" Yes! Good call.

Instead of 29...Kb8 30.Qg8+, what about 29...Kb8 30.Nb5 with the threat of Qc6? I've looked at a couple of lines but came to no conclusion.

May-11-04  LIFE Master AJ: <Reply to everyone> Thanks to all ... for looking at this game. Most the the ideas here are pretty good.

Did you know that Marshall himself was asked to pick five of the best games he ever played for an American Chess Magazine ... and he picked this one? (In his M.F.Y.O.C. he says it is his best game vs. Pillsbury.) I think if he had beaten a nobody this way, it would not have meant that much to him. I think the fact that he simply defeated Pillsbury was the primary reason he attached so much meaning to this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: <Calli> Your idea creates a very interesting attack. I have looked at two lines: (a) a possible draw, and (b) an unclear (to me!) sacrifice: From the stem game: <29...Kb8 30.Nb5>

(a) <30...Qf1> 31.Qc6 Qf2+ 32.Kd1 (32.Kb3? Qf7+ 33.Kc2 Nf6) 32...Qg1+ 33.Kc2 (33.Ke2 Qh2+ 34.Kd1 Qg1+ equal) 33...Qf2+ 34.Kd1

If Black kicks the N with <30...a6>, I believe that White is forced to sacrifice it to avoid losing a crucial tempo;

(b) 30...<a6!?> 31.Nxd6!? cxd6 32.Qxd6+ Kc8 33.Qc6+ Kd8 34.Qxa8+

What happens now? Can White make a draw by repeated checks with the Q? Further analysis of this line would be appreciated.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: Yes, I think your 39...a6! wins because Black's passed pawns are too strong at the end of the Nxd6 line.
May-15-04  LIFE Master AJ: <Reply to everyone> Very entertaining! I don't reckon anyone has found any real holes in my lines?
Jul-20-04  suenteus po 147: Did Pillsbury resign too soon? Why not 35...b5+?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: After 35...b5+; 36.♔a5 Qxc3+; 37.♔a6 and where does Black check next? d8=♕/♖ is difficult to meet.
Jul-20-04  suenteus po 147: Thanks, Benzol. I didn't see the king ducking into a6. After that, nothing stops the pawn from queening and forcing mate thereafter.
May-06-06  LIFE Master AJ:

The direct link for my page on this game.

Dec-18-13  LoveThatJoker: GOTD: Prince of the Gambiteers


PS. Inspiration from the pun, can be found here:

Vienna (1903)

Therein it is stated that Chigorin was acclaimed "King of the Gambiteers", as he won the tournament.

<Tschigorin, acclaimed as 'King of the Gambiteers,' outstripped the field with 12 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws to win first prize (1,893.75 kroner). The runner-up spot and 1,380 kroner went to a kindred spirit, Marshall (+10-5=3), who was not displeased with his showing:

"…coming second to Tschigorin was no disgrace, for the old Russian had made a lifelong study of the King’s Gambit and had a deeper knowledge of this intricate opening than has ever been possessed by any other man.” – Marshall in <'MY FIFTY YEARS OF CHESS.>>

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