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Georg Marco vs Emanuel Lasker
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 8, May-31
Spanish Game: Open. Italian Variation (C82)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: An exciting and well-played game. Marco got an advantage that he took into the ending, but Lasker fought back and had chances to win after sacrificing a piece.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6

Inspired by Pillsbury and Marshall, many players in this tournament had been playing the Berlin Defense against the Ruy Lopez. But Lasker plays the tried and true 3...a6 and(like his admirer Victor Korchnoi did decades later) opts for the Open Defense.

4. Ba4 Nf6
5. 0-0 Nxe4
6. d4 b5
7. Bb3 d5
8. dxe5 Be6
9. c3 Bc5
10. Bc2

Better than 10. Bf4 (recommended by Rosenthal in the tournament book) and as good as the more usual 10...Nbd2.

10... Bg4
11. Nbd2

Rosenthal called this move "weak," but it in fact is just fine and logical, and better than Rosenthal's proposed 11. Qe2.

11... NxN

An uncharacteristically lazy move by Lasker. 11...Nxe5 was best.

12. QxB

I am mystified by this move. Why not the simple and clearly better 12. BxN? In any case, Lasker will be able to mess up Marco's King-side pawn, but Marco will have the two Bishops plus pressure on the e-file and thus has at least equal chances. (But I still think 12. BxN was better).

12... BxN
13. gxB Nxe5

Lasker is playing with fire here. 13...0-0 seems safer and better. But the text leads to a tactical skirmish. Lasker obviously fancied his chances in this sort of battle against Marco.

14. Re1 Qe7
15. Kg2!

Marco's idea to be able to continue to exploit the pin on the e-file.

The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

Battle lines are now drawn. The fascinating continuation will be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

After 15. Kg2, Lasker faced a tough task. Among his problems was the pin on the d-file. Let's see how Lasker went about holding his position.

15... 0-0-0

If 15...0-0, Black would have been in big trouble after 16. Qxd5. The text both gets the K off the d-file and defends the pawn on d4.

16. f4

16. b4 was probably even stronger.

16... Nc4

This is one way to get rid of the pin on the d-file. Perhaps a simpler road to holding was 16...Qd7! and if 17. RxN Qg4+. But Lasker's move, though risky, results in a tactical battle--just what he wants.

17. RxQ NxQ
18. Rxf7 Nc4
19. b3 Nd6
20. Rxg7

Marco is now up a pawn, but how much benefit are his divided King-side pawns?

click for larger view

20... Rhe8

Lasker is not counting pawns! Another--and perhaps even better--option was 20...Ne4.

21. Be3

If 21. Rxh7 then Lasker would be off to the races with 21...Re2! But the text gives Lasker everything he wants. Much better would have been either 21. Bd3 or 21. b4.

21... BxB
22. fxB Rxe3
23. Bxh7

The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

Lasker had now clearly made major progress and the game is very much in the balance.

23... Re2+!

I love this move. How many of us would simply have played 23...Rxc3 and then looked around to see what happened. What would have happened, of course, was the beginning of a march by White's h-pawn with 24. h4.

24. Kh3

Now the dangerous h-pawn (White's major trump in this position) is blocked. Marco might have tried 24. Kg1, but Lssker would then have had equal chances 24...Rf8. Alternatively, if 24. Kg3 Rde8.

24... Ne4
25. a4

Well played. Another good option would have been 25. BxN.

25... Rd6

Lasker is a pawn down, but is playing for a win! Safer though less enterprising were 25...bxa4 or 25...Nf6. The text sets a nasty trap for Marco:

click for larger view

26. Bf5+

Had Marco played the natural-looking 26. axb4?, Lasker would have won immediately with 26...Rh6+ 27. Kg4 Rg2+.

26... Kb7
27. Rg6 RxR

But here Lasker errs. 27...Nxc3 was best.

28. BxR Nxc3
29. axb5 axb5

The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

Both sides have passed pawns, but White has the more serious threats. But now Lasker soon fought his way back to a winning or near winning position. How this came about, and how Marco went on to escape defeat, will be covered in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

Lasker had somewhat the worst of the struggle after 29...axb5. But the battle in this endgame had only begun.

30. Rh1

Much better would have been 30...Rf1. Now, Lasker's d-pawn becomes a monster.

30... d4!

Suddenly, Marco is in trouble. He faces some tough choices here.

31. Kg4

If 31. f5, Lasker would have likely prevailed after 31...Ne4. But 31. Bh5 would have been much better for Marco here.

31... Rg2+

Lasker is still much better here, but 31...c5 looks even stronger.

32. Kf5 Kc6

32...d3 would have been better. If then 33. h4 as suggested by Rosenthal in the tournament book (33. Bh5 would have been better, though Black would still be better), then 33...Kb6 (even better than Rosenthal's suggested 33...d2, which still wins after 34. Bh5 Kb6--[rather than Rosenthal's far inferior 34...Rg3]).

Best for Lasker here, however, would have been 32...c5. After the text (32...Kc6), Marco has chances which he seizes immediately.

33. h4!

Lasker may have underestimated the power of this move. The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

33... Kd6

Another good option was 33...Ne2+.

34. h5

The h-pawn marches on! How will Lasker deal with this?

34... Nd5

A fighting defense by Lasker! Perhaps sounder was 34...Ne2.

35. Bf7

Even stronger was 35. Be8.

35... Ne7+

Forced. The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

36. Kf6

36. Ke4 was the only way to maintain his advantage. The text allows to force a draw and get out of this mess. (Since draws were replayed at Paris 1900, Lasker then gets another shot at Marco, this time with White):

36... Rf2
37. Kg5 Rg2+
38. Kf6 Rf2
39. Kg5 Rg2+
40. Kf6

We now have a draw by triple repetition. But neither side claims the draw. Lasker is apparently expecting that Marco will decline the chance and play for a win. If so, his wish will soon be granted.

40... Rf2

click for larger view

Once again, Marco can claim a draw by triple repetition. But--as Lasker had apparently been hoping--Marco now spurns the draw and immediately gets into trouble as I will show in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

After 40...Rf2, Marco had to decide whether to claim a draw with 41. Kg5 or to try to win. Clearly 41. Rh4? would lose after 41...d3 42. h6 d2 43. Rh1 (Rosenthal's suggested move in this line. Better--though still hopeless--would have been 43. Bh5) Rxf4+ (even more devastating than the 43...Rh2 proposed by Rosenthal in the tournament book).

Marco's choice is not quite as bad as 41. Rh4, but it lands him in grave jeopardy:

41. h6? Rxf4+

Forced--and powerful. Lasker's plan now is to sacrifice his Knight for Marco's h-pawn and then advance his pawns to victory on the Queen-side.

42. Kg7


42... Nf5+

Also forced, but putting Lasker on the verge of victory.

43. Kf8?

A mistake. He had to try 44. Kg6.

The position was now as follows:

click for larger view

43... Nxh6!

Lasker's ace in the hole! He now seemingly had the game won.

44. RxN+ Kc5
45. Ke7

The position was now:

click for larger view

45... d3?

A mistake by Lasker in a winning position. He should have played 45...Kb4 (with c5 to follow). Marco now finds a road to safety and forces a draw.

46. Rh5+ Kb4

One move too late!

47. Rd5 Rf3
48. Be6

48. Bg6 is perhaps simpler, but the text is also sufficient for a draw.

48... c5
49. Kd6

1/2 - 1/2

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