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Marshall -- Ed. Lasker 1923 match
Compiled by crawfb5

For links to other US championship matches, see Game Collection: US Championship matches (meta)

Marshall held the title for 14 years before playing a match to defend it. Lasker, in his book <Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters>, wrote that while he did not consider himself Marshall's equal in tournament play, Lasker thought Marshall's aggressive style might be a liability in a match, where one faces the same opponent game after game and losses are more important to avoid than draws. Marshall was often competitive with the top players of the day in tournaments, but did not fare so well in matches. The match would bear this out.

As fate would have it, this was the last match played for the US championship prior to conversion to a regularly scheduled championship tournament. The same problems that plagued early world championship matches (no governing body, difficult negotiations, frequent inability to raise sufficient funds by challengers) also plagued US championship matches. Lasker wanted a rematch, but Marshall wanted the rather substantial prize money ($3000) deposited up front before proceeding with negotiations, basing his position as similar to Capablanca's insistence on the "London 1922 rules." Marshall's letter detailing his conditions was published in the <Brooklyn Daily Eagle> 25 Oct 1923. His conditions were as follows:

1. Between 16 and 30 games total.

2. Minimum purse of $3000 with Marshall guaranteed 60 percent regardless of outcome.

3. Marshall's expenses paid for any games played outside of New York, to be money above and beyond the prize fund.

4. The stake of $3000 plus approximate expenses to be deposited with a stakeholder <before play began>.

5. Should Marshall successfully negotiate a rematch with Capablanca, the rematch with Lasker would have to be delayed.

Lasker thought Marshall was engaging in gamesmanship with the negotiations to avoid a rematch, and this was the cause of bad relations between the two for years. He was under the impression he and Marshall already had an understanding of conditions for a rematch. His letter of protest was published in the <Brooklyn Daily Eagle> 16 Dec 1923. His major points were:

1. It was not possible to raise the stake beforehand for the initial match, yet the pledges of the various clubs were considered sufficient, and the stake was raised by the end of the match. <NOTE: Hermann Helms estimated the funds raised for the first match was approximately $5000, with player expenses being paid out of this pool.>

2. Lasker was ill during two weeks of play and yet the final score was very close, being decided by a single game. Lasker was of the opinion that conditions for a rematch should be easier, not harder.

3. Other potential challengers were also unable to raise sufficient funds up front, so even if Marshall discounted Lasker's illness, Marshall's conditions were making it difficult for <anyone> to successfully negotiate a challenge.

4. Lasker offered to play for a guarantee to Marshall of $2000 and half of any sum raised above $3000 to play half of a match in New York and half in Chicago, with the funds being raised as before, from clubs and other sources once the match began.

5. Lasker was unwilling to acknowledge the priority of a possible Marshall-Capablanca rematch or any other match not negotiated before Lasker issued the rematch challenge in June.

Negotiations broke down at this point. Marshall wanted to establish conditions similar to those demanded by Capablanca, while Lasker and other potential challengers thought Marshall was being unrealistic about what kind of money could be raised before the fact. Marshall was later challenged by Isaac Kashdan in the 1930s and after several years of fruitless negotiations it was finally agreed to allow the National Chess Federation (a forerunner of the current US Chess Federation) organize US championship tournaments and end match play for the national championship. Marshall at first said he would play in such a tournament, but as it became more and more of a reality, he eventually resigned his championship and never played in the tournament. The first US championship tournament was held in 1936.

In 1926, both Lasker and Marshall were playing in a masters tournament organized by the Western Chess Association in Chicago. Lasker, by winning Torre vs Ed. Lasker, 1926 in the last round, enabled Marshall to finish in first place a half point ahead of Torre and Maroczy. At the post-tournament banquet, Marshall gave some remarks, quoted by Lasker in <Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters>:

<"Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to state publicly that I owe first place in this tournament to Edward Lasker. We had a misunderstanding during our match for the U. S. Championship, and we have not been on speaking terms since then. I did not think he would try to defeat Torre and in that way make me come out first. He proved himself a true sportsman, and I want to express my gratitude."

With these words he walked over to me, stretched out his hand and said: "Let things bygone be forgotten and let us be friends!"

I was quite moved by this unexpected scene , and I assented, feeling that this forthright attitude of Marshall atoned for any wrong he may have done me during our match. I have always given him credit for this courageous speech. Most people hate those whom they have wronged. Marshall had proved himself above this category.>

Soltis and McCormick, in their book on the US Championship, call Marshall "the champion who enjoyed it." Despite being a master who was very active in tournament play, he averaged the <least> number of games per year in championship match play. Of course there is a difference between enjoying <holding> a title and actively and readily <defending> it, as did Showalter.

Time control was 30 moves in 2 hours and 15 moves per hour after that, with at least four hours of play before adjournment. Games were to start at 8 PM and adjournments were to be played the following afternoon.

The first three games were played in New York, and Marshall got off to a very bad start, losing two out of the three. In his <Eagle> coverage, Helms wrote that Game 2 was "practically a gift by Marshall" and in Game 3 "Marshall fell into a fairly simple trap in the opening" and only gradually earned a draw after a long struggle. Lasker wrote that he knew his offered sacrifice in Game 2 might not be completely sound, but he felt an aggressive player like Marshall would be uncomfortable being on the defensive. Lasker thought 11...Nf5 was unexpected, based on Marshall's expression. In his notes to 12...g6, Lasker wrote that a spectator suffered a heart attack at about this point and had to be carried out. Lasker maintained he was winning Game 3 up until just before the end of the second time control, where he made a few weak moves in time trouble that threw away the win. Even so, Lasker was very happy with his start in New York and felt he was playing better than anyone had expected. <Lasker 2½ Marshall ½>

A scheduling problem made it necessary to move the Cleveland games to after the Chicago games. Despite Chicago being Lasker's "home turf," Marshall made up some ground by winning Games 4 and 5 in Chicago, but lost his way in time trouble in Game 6 and lost. In Game 4 Lasker felt he used the wrong move order in the opening, got into an uncomfortable position and finally blundered with the "incomprehensible" 16...dxe3? Lasker's losses in Games 4 and 5 convinced him that Marshall's greater playing experience might prove critical in middlegame play. Lasker thought Marshall suffered a "hallucination" in Game 6 with 16...b4, hoping to spring a combination similar to Lasker's in Game 3. Game 7 was somewhat unusual in that the adjournment had to be postponed for several days because Lasker was diagnosed with kidney trouble and spent several days in the hospital. Even then, Lasker wrote as if he returned to finish the game prematurely because of Marshall's objection to the postponement. At the adjournment, Lasker thought it "an easy draw," but Marshall eventually won the Queen and pawn ending. The match score was now tied. <Marshall 3½ Lasker 3½>

Game 8 in Milwaukee was drawn when Lasker got into time trouble and could not convert his advantage. Game 9 in Cleveland was drawn and Marshall won Game 10 when Lasker got into time trouble. Lasker said he "went altogether blind" not seeing that 30...Nc6 would draw easily and eventually lost a piece and the game. Game 11 was delayed due to further kidney troubles on the part of Lasker. Lasker again had an advantage he was unable to covert because of time trouble. Lasker called Game 11 "the tragedy of my chess career....Drawing this game which I could have won in many ways, had a most depressing effect on me." <Marshall 6 Lasker 5>

Game 12 in Detroit was won by Marshall. Lasker wrote his oversight was 7...e5. In Game 13 in Cincinnati, Marshall won a pawn but was unable to win the Queen and pawn ending. Lasker wrote he barely managed a draw. Game 14 in Baltimore was won by Lasker when "Marshall tried to rush things against a Slav Defense which I had ventured, and he gave up a Pawn for an attack which turned out to be insufficient." Game 15 in Washington was drawn. "I almost came to grief again," wrote Lasker, but he found a combination starting with 49. b5 that caused Marshall to take a draw by perpetual check. <Marshall 8 Lasker 7>

In Game 15 Lasker had a Bishop for two pawns and lost his way trying to analyze 34...Rgxf3. He finally played 34...Bxd4? hoping to win the Rook and pawn ending. He was unable to do so and this may have been his last realistic chance. "In the last two rounds I no longer had the opportunity of winning the match or even tying the score. Marshall played solidly for a draw." <Marshall 9½ Lasker 8½>

Soltis and McCormick claimed Marshall outplayed Lasker in the endgame, "...scoring wins from slightly favorable positions and holding bad ones once queens were off the board." It is evident from Lasker's notes on the match that he may have felt outplayed in the middlegame, but not the endings. Taking in to account the mutual proneness for time trouble, the inevitable missteps in high-pressure games by both players, and Lasker's illness which required hospitalization, it seems like a very even match.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Marshall 0 0 = 1 1 0 1 = = 1 = 1 = 0 = = = = 9½ Lasker 1 1 = 0 0 1 0 = = 0 = 0 = 1 = = = = 8½

GAME 1 -- 15 MAR 1923 NEW YORK
Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923 
(D40) Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch, 81 moves, 1-0

GAME 2 -- 17 MAR 1923 NEW YORK
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(C28) Vienna Game, 50 moves, 0-1

GAME 3 -- 19 MAR 1923 NEW YORK
Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923 
(C48) Four Knights, 104 moves, 1/2-1/2

GAME 4 -- 2 APR 1923 CHICAGO
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(D33) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 39 moves, 1-0

GAME 5 -- 4 APR 1923 CHICAGO
Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923 
(D61) Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox, Rubinstein Attack, 33 moves, 0-1

GAME 6 -- 7 APR 1923 CHICAGO
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(D34) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 29 moves, 0-1

GAME 7 -- 9 APR 1923 CHICAGO
Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923 
(D30) Queen's Gambit Declined, 61 moves, 0-1

Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923
(D34) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 31 moves, 1/2-1/2

Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923 
(D38) Queen's Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation, 63 moves, 1/2-1/2

GAME 10 -- 18 APR 1923 CLEVELAND
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923
(D34) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 40 moves, 1-0

GAME 11 -- 20 APR 1923 CLEVELAND
Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923
(C90) Ruy Lopez, Closed, 76 moves, 1/2-1/2

GAME 12 -- 23 APR 1923 DETROIT
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(D24) Queen's Gambit Accepted, 51 moves, 1-0

Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923 
(C48) Four Knights, 44 moves, 1/2-1/2

GAME 14 -- 28 APR 1923 BALTIMORE
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 47 moves, 0-1

Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923
(D30) Queen's Gambit Declined, 63 moves, 1/2-1/2

Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(C28) Vienna Game, 54 moves, 1/2-1/2

GAME 17 -- 10 MAY 1923 LONG ISLAND
Ed. Lasker vs Marshall, 1923
(D02) Queen's Pawn Game, 31 moves, 1/2-1/2

GAME 18 -- 11 MAY 1923 LONG ISLAND
Marshall vs Ed. Lasker, 1923 
(D44) Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, 40 moves, 1/2-1/2

18 games

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