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Harry Nelson Pillsbury vs Frank Marshall
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 11, Jun-07
Russian Game: Modern Attack. Symmetrical Variation (C43)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
May-10-05  paladin at large: A fine full-blooded attack by Marshall with 13. .... Nxf2 followed by 17.... Re2. Did Pillsbury miss a saving defense after 13.?
May-10-05  Calli: <paladin at large> "Did Pillsbury miss a saving defense after 13.?"

13.Nd2? leaves the bishop at d3 unguarded and allows Nxf2!. 13.Nc3 is safe.

May-11-05  paladin at large: er, thanks <Calli> I am not surprised that I missed it, but am surprised Pillsbury missed it. Marshall's guns are all lined up.
May-11-05  Calli: <paladin at large> Looking at it again, 13.Nc3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Nd2 15.Bxh7+ Kxh7 16.Qd3+ Ne4 17.Rae1 looks complicated. Don't believe everything I say :-).
May-11-05  InspiredByMorphy: White neglected development in the opening. Look at blacks position after 11. ...Bg4 . 7.Qe2 should have kept the position equal.
Jan-18-07  notyetagm: 6 ... dxc3?? drops the undefended Black b4-bishop to the <DOUBLE ATTACK> 7 ♕a4+, since Black cannot reply 7 ... ♘c6?? as this move simply puts the Black knight en prise to the White d5-pawn.

Instead Black has 6 ... ♕e7+, <DEFENDING> the Black b4-bishop with <GAIN OF TIME> on the White king. -Now-, on move 7, Black can follow up with 7 ... dxc3 since his b4-bishop does -not- hang to the White queen check on a4 as it is already <DEFENDED> by the Black e7-queen.

Jan-18-07  notyetagm: What a massacre this is by Marshall, one tactical blow after another. In the final position, Marshall is up by a whole rook!

click for larger view

Marshall was such a -god- of tactics, here wiping the super-strong Pillsbury completely off the board in just 30 moves, and with the Black pieces to boot!

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: This was round 11 at Paris. In round 14 Marshall played his famous "Pipe Game" against Burn-Marshall vs Burn, 1900

So the question is, did Pillsbury get his cigar lit before the tactics at move 13?

Sep-23-10  morphy2010: notyetagm: What a massacre this is by Marshall, one tactical blow after another. In the final position, Marshall is up by a whole rook!

click for larger view

Marshall was such a -god- of tactics, here wiping the super-strong Pillsbury completely off the board in just 30 moves, and with the Black pieces to boot!

Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

3. d4

Avoiding the more usual 3. Nxe5. The text is also good, and is both more aggressive and more in line with Pillsbury's style.

3... d5

"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.

4. exd5

"With 4. Nxe5 White can transpose into the usual position." (Schlechter).

The text looks fine to me.

4... exd4
5. Bc4

"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.

5... Bb4+

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. Be2

"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.

7... dxc3
8. bxc3

8. Nxc3 seems better and would have avoided the later problems Pillsbury faced.

8... Bc5
9. 0-0 0-0
10. c4 Re8
11. Bd3 Bg4

The position was now:

click for larger view

"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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Chances were about even through the first eleven moves. But then Pillsbury faltered.

12. Bb2

As Marshall and Teichmann have pointed out, 12. Nbd2 was much better.

12... Ne4

This move does not deserve the "!!" it received from Rosenthal in the Tournament Book. The move works wonderfully only because of Pillsbury's mistake on his next move. Much better was 12...BxN with the better game for Black.

The position was now:

click for larger view

13. Nbd2?

"A gross oversight.' (Teichmann).

Teichmann's comment seems a bit over the top. Pillsbury's move is a loser only because of Marshall's lovely combination. While I am surprised--being a great admirer of Pillsbury--that he didn't see the combo, Marshall's line is subtle enough that overlooking it can not properly be called a "gross oversight."

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book says that the "right move" was 13. BxN, but playing that would concede Marshall the better game.

The best choice was the one Pillsbury identified after the game: 13. Nc3 which leaves White fine in all variations I can find.

Calli on this site, after originally calling 13. Nc3 "safe," later posted a line which he suggests would have given Pillsbury trouble. But his analysis seems wrong. After 13. Nc3 Calli suggests 13...BxN 14. QxB Nd2. but this loses to 15. Qh5 (or 15. Qh3). Calli only considers 15. Bxh7+ which does indeed lead to trouble for White after 15...KxB 16. Qd3+ Ne4 17. Rae1 [I like 17. d6 here, but White would still be in trouble]. In Calli's line, 14...NxN is better than his 14...Nd2?, but White then has the better game.

Teichmann, who calls 13. Nc3 the "only move" here, suggests 13...Ng5 as the best response for Black. But then 14. Re1 NxN+ (or 14...QxR+ immediately) 15. gxN QxR+ 16. QxQ RxQ+ 17. RxR Bd2 seems to give White the edge (contrary to Teichmann's claim that the game would then be about even).

Best for Black after 13. Nc3 is 13...f5. A complicated tactical battle with chances for both sides then seems to be in the offing.

In conclusion, 13. Nc3 was best for White. The key difference between that move and the text will be seen on move 17...Re2! This was the key to Marshall's combination, and Marshall undoubtedly saw this before making his 13th move. If, however, Pillsbury had played 13. Nc3 instead of 13. Nbd2, then Re2 would have been out of the question.

After the text (13. Nbd2) Pillsbury was lost, as Marshall proceeds to demonstrate.

13... Nxf2!!

"A very nice move which wins the game for Black." (Rosenthal).

14. RxN BxR+

The position was now:

click for larger view

15. KxB?

Although not mentioned by any of the commentators I have read, this was a bad mistake. Pillsbury is already in trouble, but now he is toast. He had to play 15. Kh1 here.

15... Qe3+
16. Kg3 QxB
17. KxB

The position was now:

click for larger view

Marshall was here about to play the finishing touch to the combination he initiated on move 13, as I will discuss in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

The genius of Marshall's combination was revealed with:

17... Re2!

"The key to the whole combination. White is helpless." (Marshall).

"The last move of the combination, it cuts off retreat of the King and keeps all the White pieces hopelessly blocked." (Teichmann).

18. Kh3 Nd7

This move develops the Queen-side and is certainly sufficient to win. The question--about which much ink has been spilled--is whether 18...h5 would have been better. The line everybody cites is 19. QxR (19. Qb1 may be best, but since no one doubts that Black would then be winning, I confine my analysis here to the move given by all the commentators--19. QxR) QxQ 20. Re1 Qd3 21. Re8+ Kh7. The position would then be:

click for larger view

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book says this position "favors White." Surely he jests. True, Black has to find a way to free his Queen-side. But that--while a chore--is hardly impossible, and Marco's claim--supporting Rosenthal's evaluation--that "Black cannot develop his game" seems misguided. If 22. Ne4 (a move suggested here by Marco) then Black seems to win easily after 22...f6 (with Qxc4 to follow). If 22. g3 (Marco's alternative choice) then 22...Qf5+ and Black is off and running.

The best analysis of why Marshall played 18...Nd7 instead of 18...h5 was given by Marshall himself: The text is "simpler" since after 18...h5 "the win is not easy."

Marshall has said it all.

Anyway, let's get back to the game (i.e., after Marshall's 18...Nd7)"

19. Rc1 h5

"Threatening mate in two moves." (Schechter).

19...Rae8 is also a crusher.

20. Qc2

"He must stop Qf5+" (Sergeant-Watts).

20... Nc5

As Marco point out, 20...RxN looks pretty, but is "insufficient" after 21. QxR Qf5+ 22. Kg3 Nc5 23. Re1 Nd3 24. h3.

The position was now (after Marshall's correct 20...Nc5):

click for larger view

This position--as I will argue in my next post--offered Pillsbury his last chance to make a fight of the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Pillsbury was still lost after Marshall's 20...Nc5, but (as a result of what I claim was Marshall's less than best 18th move) he still could have offered resistance. But here he played:

21. g3?

From here on, the roof fell in on Pillsbury. The question is whether he could have saved the game with 21 QxQ. The commentators all say this was no improvement over the text, but I'm not so sure. After 21. QxQ NxQ the position would have been:

click for larger view

Most of the commentaries consider only 22. Rc2, and I agree that the game is then pretty much hopeless for White. But how about 22. Rb1 as an alternative? Black still probably has a win, but Pillsbury wouldn't have been blown off the board right away (as he was after 21. g3). This line appears to be the only chance for White. The only commentator who even mentioned 22. Rb1 was Rosenthal, and all he said was that Black wins after 22...g5.

Incidentally, after 21. QxQ NxQ 22. Rc2, the win is not as simple as the commentators seem to think. Sergeant-Watts give 22...Nf2+ as best here, but after 23. Kh4 Ne4 the win is far from easy. Marshall suggests the far netter 22...g5! but he then errs after 23. Kg3 with g4 [23...Rae8 or 23...h4+ would have been much better] after which 24. Nd4 (and not Marshall's horrific 24. Nh4) gives White a decent shot at saving himself.

My main point here is that Pillsbury still had a glimmer of hope before he played 21. g3. But after his actual move...

21... g5!
22. g4

"Despair. There is no defense." (Marshall).

"Best" here, I suppose, was 22. Nxg5?!, but as Marshall correctly has said, there is no defense anymore.

22... RxN
23. QxQ RxQ
24. Rc3 f5
25. Kg2 fxg4
26. Nxg5 Rd2+
27. Kg3 RxB

Pillsbury is now down a full Rook-- and would be in big trouble even if Marshall did not have his extra Rook. But he plays on for three more moves.

28. h3 Rf8
29. hxg4 hxg4
30. Kxg4 Rff2


A great win for the young Marshall.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Westminster Gazette, June 9th 1900, p.3:

<Yesterday [June 7] was a field day. When the envelope containing the drawing of the eleventh round was opened two important pairs were disclosed - Tchigorin v. Janowsky and Pillsbury v. Marshall. I have never met a young player who has so much confidence in himself as Marshall. He wanted to back himself to draw with Pillsbury, the latter having the first move, and to beat him in replaying the draw, he having the first move. He did better, however, and beat Pillsbury as will be seen from the game below. There was intense excitement in the rooms after Pillsbury's resignation. Chess-playing members streamed into the arena, shaking hands and complimenting the young American. Some of them who did not know Marshall by sight shook hands effusively with Pillsbury.>

Oct-01-22  Retireborn: <KEG> Thanks for that, have added the game to my collection. Megabase tells me that this wasn't Marshall's first adventure with 3...d5; I put the game here for comparison.

[Event "NY State CA Midsummer Staatszeitung-08"] [Site "Grove Springs"]
[Date "1898.08.08"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Lipschuetz, Salomon"]
[Black "Marshall, Frank James"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C43"]
[PlyCount "53"]
[EventDate "1898.08.08"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[Source "Brooklyn Eagle 9 AUG 1898"]
[SourceVersionDate "2021.05.04"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 d5 4. exd5 e4 5. Ne5 Nxd5 6. Bc4 Be6 7. Qe2 Nd7 8. Qxe4 N7f6 9. Qe2 Be7 10. O-O O-O 11. c3 c5 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Bg5 h6 14. Bh4 Rc8 15. Bg3 Re8 16. Nd2 Qb6 17. Bb3 Bg4 18. Qd3 Qe6 19. Nxg4 Qxg4 20. Bxd5 Rcd8 21. c4 b5 22. b3 h5 23. Nf3 bxc4 24. bxc4 Ne4 25. Ne5 Qf5 26. Qxe4 Qxe4 27. Bxe4 1-0

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