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Geza Maroczy vs Georg Marco
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 16, Jun-15
Spanish Game: Open Variations (C80)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A tough battle between two of the players at the top of the standings (Maroczy had 9.5 out of 13 going into the game and ultimately finished tied for third with Marshall). Many portions of this game are very complex, and the commentaries by Rosenthal in the Tournament Book and by Maroczy, coupled with the opinions I have obtained from Fritz and Stockfish, reveal the difficulty commentators (and my silicon friends) all have had in trying to unwrap exactly what happened. Indeed, at many stages, Fritz and Stockfish reach diametrically conflicting evaluations. I hope the analysis contained here will shed more light than confusion. I have taken a lot of time in reviewing this game, but remain--despite all my sources--of many of the conclusions I have reached.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Nxe4
6. d4 b5
7. Bb3 d5

Thus far, a pretty standard Open Defense to the Ruy Lopez. But here Maroczy and Marco departed from standard lines.

8. a4

8. dxe5 is normal here. The text goes back to Tchigorin's game against Rosenthal at London 1883. It was subsequently recommended by Pillsbury. In 1910, 8. a4 was played by Lasker in four of his five games with White in his match with Schlechter. All four of these games were draws, and Lasker's inability to win with 8. a4 was one of the reasons he nearly lost his title to Schlechter in 1910. [Lasker switched to Queen's Gambit in the final game, which he won].

8... Rb8

Schlechter played the text in Games 4 and 6 of the 1910 match with Lasker, but played the far superior 8...Nxd4 in Games 2 and 8. After the latter game, Lasker wrote: "At last Schlechter has solved the problem of a valid defense to the Ruy Lopez." In fact, all that Schlechter truly solved was the problem of a valid defense to 8. a4. That line seemingly vanished as a main line after the Lasker-Schlechter 1910 match.

As Maroczy summed up in his commentary on the present game, White gets the better game after 8...Rb8, but Black has the advantage with 8...Nxd4.

9. axb5 axb5
10. dxe5 Be6

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book criticized this move and claimed that 10...Ne7 was best. But after 11. Nd4, White is much better. The text, in fact, was best.

12. c3 Bc5

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book preferred 11...Be7. Fritz agrees, but says that equally good for Black was 11...Qd7. Stockfish thinks the text was best. All three moves seems quite reasonable to me.

12. Nbd2 0-0

The position was now:

click for larger view

13. Bc2

As Rosenthal noted, Maroczy here avoided 13. NxN? dxN 14. QxQ [14. BxB would be slightly better, but still leaves White in trouble after 14...fxB] RfxQ [14...RbxQ was much better and likely in a winning position] 15. BxB exN [much better than Rosenthal's 15...fxB] and Black is much better.

13... NxN

Maroczy's suggested 13...Bf5 or 13...Bg4 were better.

14. QxN

14. BxN was a good alternative.

14... Qd7

"Black prevents 15. Qf4 upon which 15...f6 could now follow." (Maroczy).

14...Bg4 was perhaps even better for Black.

15. b4

An interesting plan for Queen-side play by Maroczy. 15. Qd3 was another reasonable idea.

The position was now:

click for larger view

The preliminaries were now over and from here the real battle began. I will begin my discussion of what now ensued in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Maroczy's 15. b4 put the question to Black's c5 Bishop: how should it retreat?

15... Be7

Rosenthal gave this a "!" in the Tournament Book. Maroczy called it "the only move," claiming that 15...Bb6 would leave Black "hopelessly lost." Fritz considers Black lost after 15...Bb6, and Stockfish gives White +0.91 after 15...Bb6. But is that move really all that bad. Maroczy's refutation of 15...Bb6 is certainly not convincing: 15...Bb6 16. Qd3 g6 17. Bg5 ["!"--Maroczy] leads to a win for White in Maroczy's line only because he has Black play the awful 17...Bf5 [ 17...d4--Stockfish's move, seems to give Black chances] 18. Qd2 BxB? [instead of this blunder, Black should play 18...h6] 19. Bf6 Ne7 (not 19...Nd8 20. Qh6 Ne6 21. Ng5 and mate in three) 20. Nh4.

In sum, I agree that Marco's actual 15...Be7 is best, but the jury is still out for me on the possible fate of 15...Bb6.

Anyway, back to the game:

16. Re1 f6

This weakening move was not necessary. 16...Rfd8; 16...Rfe8; and 16...Ra8 were all much better.

17, Qd3

Maroczy said that 17. Bb3 was "also to be considered," but after either 17...Nxe5 or 17...fxe5 White's undoubted edge to this point would be entirely gone.

17... g6
18. Bh6 Rfe8

The position was now:

click for larger view

19. Bb3

This pretty much lets Black off the hook. Maroczy should, consistent with his prior play, have tried the far better 19. exf6. The text allows Marco to overcome most of his problems.

19... fxd5
20. Nxe5

Maroczy had a number of interesting and probably better options here; e.g., 20. Rad1; 20. Bg5; and 20. h3 (perhaps simplest and best). After the text, Maroczy has at best equality.

20... NxN
21. RxN c6
22. Ree1

Rosenthal gave this a "!" in the Tournament Book, but 22. Re3 (allowing the chance to either double Rooks or transfer the Rook to f3, g3, or h3 to begin a King-side attack; or even 22. h3 seem at least as good if not better.

22... Bf6
23. Be3

"Black has cleverly parried the King side attack. White therefore tries to convert his superiority [what superiority?--KEG] to an endgame advantage and to exploit the backward pawn on c6." (Maroczy).

The Black pawn at c6 is indeed a weakness, but--given White's weak pawn on c3--to call White's position superior here is dubious.

23... Bf5
24. Qd2 Ra8
25. h3

25. Ra5 or 25. RxR were perhaps slightly better, but chances in any event are approximately equal.

25... RxR

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book said that 25...Be5 was better, but Black certainly has no advantage after 26. RxR.

26. RxR

The position was now:

click for larger view

Material has been reduced, but the real battle--and the differing opinions--still lie ahead. I will begin to try to tackle the truly difficult parts of this game in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

In the position in which I ended my last post Marco missed a fine opportunity. His actual move was:

26... Qe6

However, Marco could have solved all his problems with 26...Bxh3!! 27. gxB Qxh3. All rational lines now lead to a draw. If White tries to win, he gets promptly crushed, e.g., 28. Re1? Bxc3!! [threatening Re4]; or 28. Bc2 Be5. White can do no better than 28. Bxd5+ cxB 29. Qxd5+.

Another way for Marco to hold his own was 26...Qc8. After the text, by contrast, Maroczy again has some advantage.

27. Bd4

This effort to trade off more material was good enough for equality, but Maroczy might have tried for more with 27. Ra6. Interestingly, Fritz thinks this gives White a small edge, but Stockfish thinks White is much better (0.56) after 27. Ra6. This is only the beginning of the running dispute Fritz and Stockfish seem to have in evaluating this game.

27... BxB
28. QxB Qe5
29. Qc5

Trading Queen would also have been good enough for equality.

29.. Qe6

The position was now:

click for larger view

30. Rd1

"Probably 30. Ra6 was more energetic here, but I did not have enough time [the time control in effect at Paris 1900 was 30 moves in two hours, and 15 moves per hour thereafter] on the clock to calculate all the consequences of that move. For example 30. Ra6 Qe1+ 31. Kh2 Qe5+ 32. g3 Bd7 33. Rxc6! BxR 34. QxB and White wins both the d5 and b5 pawns and has good winning chances with the Bishop and two pawns against Rook." (Maroczy).

I agree that Maroczy's line represents best play, but disagree with the final assessment. The position after 34. QxB in Maroczy's line would be:

click for larger view

After 34...Kg7 [or 34...Kh8] 35. Bxd5 [Not 35. Qxb5? d4!; or 35. Qd7+? Re7] 35...Rf8 [the resource Maroczy may have missed in his analysis] 36. f4 Qe2+ and a draw seems likely.

After the text [30. Rd1], however, Maroczy gets either a somewhat inferior game [Fritz] or a significantly inferior game [Stockfish].

30... Kg7

"This move is forced. White was threatening 31. Rxd5 cxR 32. Bxd5 and wins." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).

Rosenthal notwithstanding, Marco could have had the better game (much better according to Stockfish) with 30...Qf6.

With the text Rosenthal liked so much, Marco's advantage was gone.

31. Ra1

Missing his chance. Best was either 31. g4. Alternatively 31. Qd4+ was a possibility. After the text, Fritz rates the game as (-0.40) while Stockfish, which is more bullish on Marco's chances, gives (-0.80).

31... Re7

Marco again misses the chance to exploit the weak pawn on c3 with 31...Qf6.

32. Qd4+

Maroczy is still keen to trade Queens. Better was 32. g4.

32... Qf6
33. Ra7 RxR
34. QxR+

The position was now:

click for larger view

The game reached another cross-road here. Should Marco agree to trade Queens?

I will discuss the merits of the respective choices--especially the road chose by Marco--in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

After Maroczy's 34. QxR+, Marco played:

34... Qf7

This allowed Maroczy to swap Queens. Was this a mistake by Marco?

"Black should not exchange Queens; after this he has a lost ending." (Maroczy).

I agree that 34...Kg8 or 34...Kf8 were better, but was Marco lost after the exchange of Queens? As I will show, the resulting Bishop ending need not have been lost by Marco.

Given Marco's actual move (34...Qf7), the question at hand was whether Maroczy have traded Queens. If the Bishop ending was indeed a win for White, he obviously should have done so.

35. QxQ+

Fritz thinks this trade was best and that Maroczy now had a significant (0.59) but not necessarily winning ending. Stockfish disagrees, and rates 35. Qe3 as the only way doe Maroczy to have maintained any advantage (0.36). Stockfish considers 35. QxQ+ to be a mistake and rates the game (0.08) after the trade.

35... KxQ
36. g4

The position was now:

click for larger view

The key weakness in Black's position is the Black pawn on c6. [With only White-square Bishops, the White pawn at c3 is less of a weakness]. How should Marco have gone about defending this weakness, and--of more immediate note---where should he move his Bishop.

36... Be4

Fritz thinks this was a blunder that Marco was now lost. Fritz thinks White now has a win (1.23). Stockfish thinks the move was fine and rates the game as (0.08), i.e., about even. There were two major alternatives to 36...Be4:

A) Rosenthal in the Tournament Book claimed that Black--with best play--would have "equal chances" with 36...Be6. But his analysis was flawed. Rosenthal only considered two White moves after 36...Be6:

(i) 37. Kg2? was a blunder and loses, as Rosenthal demonstrated: 37...d4! 38. BxB+ [38. Bd1 or 38. Bd7 were somewhat better than Rosenthal's move, but insufficient to save the day] 38...KxB 39. cxd4 Kd5 and Black wipes out the White Queen-side pawns and wins without difficulty.

(ii) 37. f4? was better, and leaves White with the advantage, but after 37...h5 38. Bd1 hxg4 39. hxg4 [less forcing would be 39. Bxg4 c5 with equality, or even a win for Black if Maroczy played Rosenthal's poor 40. bxc4? (40. Kf2 or 40. Kf1 were better) d4 41. cxd4?? (41. c6 was the only hope) BxB 42. hxb b4 43. c6 Ke8 winning--rather than Rosenthal's 43...Ke7? leading only to a draw] 39...Ke7 40. Kf2 Kd6 41. Ke3 c5 and White--contra Rosenthal--still has the better chances.

(iii) The winning move for White after 36...Be6? was not considered by either Maroczy or Rosenthal in their commentaries: 37. Bc2! Now f4 is a real threat, and Black has no defense I can find.

B) 36...Bd7! This simple move, not discussed by Maroczy or Rosenthal, is in fact the best. The Black Bishop must defend the weak c6 pawn while also keeping an eye on f5. This move accomplishes both goals, and gives Black excellent chances to save the game.

As play actually went, however, Marco--even on Fritz' analysis was to have additional chances to hold the ending thanks to miscues by Maroczy. Make no bones about it, this is a very difficult endgame.

The position after 36...Be4? was:

click for larger view

37. f4

The key to Maroczy's winning chances here.

37... Ke6

Stockfish calls this a major mistake and thinks Marco had nearly equal chances with 37...h6. Fritz thinks Marco was lost here no matter what he played.

38. Kf2 Kd6

The position was now:

click for larger view

Maroczy has much the better chances here (a win according to Fritz, a major advantage according to Stockfish). But from here Maroczy made three mistakes in succession and prevailed only because--perhaps because of time pressure--Marco also erred. I will discuss these twists and turns in the contestants' fortunes in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

The winning method for Maroczy--if any--after Marco's 38...Kd6 had to combine: (a) exploiting his King-side pawn majority; (b) attacking--or forcing Black to defend--the weak pawn on c6; and (c) making sure Marco would not be able to generate serious threats on the Queen side. Maroczy experienced great difficulties in meeting these challenges.

39. Ke3

Hardly best. The key to breaking through Black's defenses lay in the power of White's Bishop. Maroczy must have known that c5 was coming. He could best meet that with 39. Bd1! After the text, Marco is able to generate serious counterplay.

39... c5!
40. Bd1

In my last post, I suggested this was a mistake. I had thought 40. h4, posing threats on both wings, was the best chance. Upon further reflection, I see the merit of 40. Bd1. This Bishop maneuver should have been played on Maroczy's prior move, but the strategy is still best.

The position was now:

click for larger view

40... Bb1?

This was a serious mistake and should have led to immediate loss. Marco had to keep his Bishop on the d5..a1 diagonal while striving for counterplay. The best and only way to do this here was with 40...Bg2! Then, after 41. h4 d4+ 42. cxd4 cxb4 Black Black would at least have Queen-side threats (albeit with isolated doubled pawns that could keep White occupied. After 43. Bb3 White would have threats on both wings that might be too much for Black to handle, but at least it would be a battle.

After the text, the win for White looks easy.

41. Be2?

But Maroczy misses his chance. With 42. bxc5+ Kxc5 43. Be2 Ba2 44. Bd3, White has too many threats (most prominently f5) and Black is busted.

The text, by contrast, gave Marco new life, and very real chances to save the game.

41... d4+!

Marco avoids the tempting but fatal 41...c4? which, as Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, loses to 42. Bf3 (e.g., 42...Bd3 43. h4 Ke6 44. Kd4 and Black's defenses collapse).

The text gives up a pawn, but gives Marco a dangerous passed b-pawn.

42. cxd4 cxb4

42...c4 loses to 43. h4

43. Bxb5

Stockfish here recommends 43. Bd3. Fritz thinks the text is (slightly) better.

The position was now:

click for larger view

Marco here blundered, and the game came to a swift conclusion

43... b3?

43...Ba2 would have given Marco chances of both attack (with his passed b-pawn) and defense (since his Bishop could roam on the a2-g8 diagonal and defend his King-side). Now, his Bishop is blocked by the b3 pawn, and Maroczy finished nicely.

44. Bd3!

This move is so pretty I give another diagram:

click for larger view

All of a sudden, the game is over.

44... Ba2

As Rosenthal pointed out in the Tournament Book, 44...BxB loses after 45. KxB Kd5 [45...b2 46. Kc2 is also hopeless] 46. f5!

45. Bc4 h5

A last effort at counterplay, which Maroczy snuffs out efficiently. Everything else is hopeless.

46. f5

"The shortest way." (Maroczy).

There are many roads to Rome from here. 46. Kd2 also wins. But Maroczy's method is the most elegant.

46... gxf5

This of course is suicidal, but 46...Bb1 47. Bxb3 would not have been much fun for Marco.

47. g5!

47. gxh5 also wins easily, but the text is especially lovely:

click for larger view


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