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Frank Marshall vs Carl Schlechter
Paris (1900), Paris FRA, rd 10, Jun-05
Tarrasch Defense: General (D32)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jun-02-06  mjk: Did Marshall let this one get away? After 18.♕xb7 he's got a Pawn and pawn structure.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <mjk> Fritz 9 indicates that Marshall should have played 24.Bh2 and if then 24...d4 25.e4. Or if 24.Bh2 Ne4 25.Nf3. White would then still retain winning chances. The tournament book by Rosenthal also states that 24.Bh2 was the correct move.

24.Bg3 was not as good, however Marshall still had an advantage. On his 25th move, Marshall should have admitted his error and played 25.Bh2. Instead, by playing 25.Bxe4, the game became almost entirely equal.

Towards the end of the game, Marshall even drifted into a slightly inferior position, but a draw appears to be the correct result.

Jun-04-06  mjk: Thank you <Pawn and Two>.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: An engrossing game in which both side missed chances to win. Marshall had a won game by about move 14, but missed his chance on moves 23 and 24. He then played recklessly in the endgame and Schlechter had a win---but incredibly enough agreed to a draw.


1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 c5

The Tarrasch Defense. Such active play is a logical line to play against an attacking player like Marshall.

4. cxd5 exd5
5. dxc5 Nf6

MCO gives 5...d4 as best, but the text certainly seems playable.

6. Bg5

6. Be3 is best.

As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, if 6. b4 a5; and if 6. e4 d4.

6... Bxc5
7. e3 Be6
8. Nf3 Nc6
9. Rc1

9. Bb5 was better.

9... 0-0
10. Bd3 Be7

10...h6 was simpler and better.

11. 0-0 Qb6

Once again, 11...h6 was better.

The position was now:

click for larger view

The two key questions here are: (i) what is the status of the isolated d-pawn; (ii) is Black's threat to take the b2 pawn for real.

12. h3!?

Marshall ignores the threat. But was this right? I think not. Marshall could have gotten the better game with 12. Na4. With the text, he leaves the b2 pawn hanging.

12... Rac8

Chickening out. In fact, Schlechter should have played 12...Qxb2, which would have yielded an even game. Thus: 12...Qxb2 13. Nb5 h6 or 13...Qb4 would have been fine for Black. Rosenthal only considers two moves for Black that yield a small edge for White: (A) 13...Qb4 14. Nc7 Rab8 15. Bf4, which favors White: or (B) 13...Qxa2 14. Ra1 Qb2 15. Rb1 gives White a tiny advantage (and not Rosenthal's 15. Qa4 which allows Black to turn the game around with 15...Qb4).

The text (12...Rac8) gives White chances---which Marshall seizes.

13. Na4 Qa5
14. a3

The position now was:

click for larger view

Best for Black here are 14...Qd8 or perhaps Rosenthal's suggested 14. h6. In each case, Marshall would have a slight edge.

But here Schlechter miscalculated:

14... Ne5?

Marshall lost no time in punishing this inaccuracy:

15. NxN RxR
16. QxR QxN
17. Qc7!

The position was now:

click for larger view

As mjk and Pawn and two have pointed out on this site, Marshall almost certainly has a won game here. The b7 pawn must fail, and Black looks busted. Yet matters turned around very quickly and Schlechter was soon back in the game. How this came about will be discussed in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

Schelchter was in trouble after 17...Qc7, but from this point his play tightened up and--slowly but surely--he outplayed Marshall.

17... Bd8
18. Qxb7

As mjk has noted, Marshall now is a pawn to the good and also has the sounder pawn structure. Probably enough to win with best play.

18... h6

Schlechter begins to put questions to Marshall's black-square Bishop.

19. Bf4

Marshall might have won a second pawn with 19. BxN BxB 20. Nc6 g6 (20...a5 21. Rc1 is even worse for Black) 21. Nxa7 Kg7 22. Nc6 Rc8, but Schlechter would then have had some counterplay plus the two Bishops; whereas Marshall now has not only an extra pawn but powerful Bishops. On balance, Marshall's move appears to be best.

19... Bb6
20. Qc6 Qb3!

Virtually forcing Marshall to reduce to an endgame in which White will still be a pawn ahead but will lack immediate attacking prospects. This was not only the best objective strategy, but the best way to test the young Marshall whose tactics were superb but who lacked Schlechter's experience in positional and endgame play at the highest levels.

21. Qc2

Marshall's first inaccuracy. Trading with 21. Qb5 was much stronger. Better to have a Bishop on b5 (after the trade) than one on c2.

21... QxQ
22. BxQ Rc8

Even better would have been 22...g5.

The position was now:

click for larger view

23. Bd3

23. Ba4 was much better. The Bishop is not accomplishing much at d3, while Schlechter is carefully strengthening his position.

23... g5!

Putting a second question to this Bishop. This time, Marshall errs.

24. Bg3?

As both Rosenthal in the Tournament Book and Pawn and two on this site have correctly pointed out, Marshall would have retained winning chances with 24. Bh2 (keeping the Bishop out of harm's way). Rosenthal then recommends 24...Ne4 25. Rd1. That indeed keeps a significant edge for White, but is inferior to the better 25. Nf3 in Pawn and two's analysis. I also agree with Pawn and two that had Schlechter responded 24...d4 to 24. Bh2, then Marshall would have have winning chances with 25. e4.

After the text, Marshall's winning chances have all but evaporated.

24... Ne4
25. BxN

Pawn and two is correct that "Marshall should have admitted his error and played 25. Bh2," but much of the damage has already been done. In any case, Pawn and two is unquestionably right in saying that " playing 25. BxN the game became almost equal."

25... dxe4
26. Rd1 Rc2

A slight inaccuracy by Schlechter, who should first have dealt with the King-side with either 26...Kg2 (to eliminate the possibility of Ng4-f6) or 26...h5.

27. Nd7

This was Marshall's last chance to play for a win. He should have tried 27. Ng4. Now, Schlechter is out of danger.

27... BxN
28. RxB Rxb2

The position was now:

click for larger view

Marshall has no advantage and the position looks like a draw. But Marshall kept looking for tactical tricks, and Schlechter's precise play slowly ground him down until Schlechter had the game in hand. How this happened, and the shocking conclusion of the game (in which Schlechter agreed to a draw after finally obtaining a won game), will be covered in my next post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

The drawish position notwithstanding, Marshall kept pressing for a win. This yielded nothing but trouble for him against the solid Schlechter.

29. Re7 Rb3

29...f5 was simpler, but as will be seen Schlechter is--without taking any real chances--playing for complications in this endgame against his less experienced opponent.

30. Re8+

30. a4 or 30. Rxe4 were faster routes to a draw. But Marshall wants more.

30... Kh7

30...Kg7 is simpler, but Schlechter at this point appears happy to give Marshall a little rope to hang himself, and this move is provocative. Schlechter could not really have been worrying about 31. Be5+ after 30...Kg7.

31. Be5

Rosenthal in the Tournament Book comments "Well played," and claims that Marshall would have gotten into trouble after 31. Rxe4 Rxa3 but, the passed a-pawn notwithstanding, I see no real risks for Marshall here. The text, 31. Rxe4, and 31. a4 (if 31...Rb4 32. Be5!) were all good options.

The text (32. Be5) sets a little tactical trap for Schlechter. The position was now:

click for larger view

Had Schlechter here played 31...Rxa3 Marshall would have suddenly have had winning chances with 32. g4. But Rosenthal's claim that Marshall would then have had a won game is too strong a statement. Of course, had Schlechter played in accordance with Rosenthal's analysis in this line: i.e., 32...Ra5? 33. Rh8+ Kg6 34. Rg8+ Kh7 35. Rg7+ he would have been toast [e.g., 35...Kh8 36. Rxg5+ Kh7 37. Rg7+ Kh8 38. Bf6 Ra6 39. Rxf7+ Kg8 40. Rg7+ Kf8 41. Rb7]. But Schlechter would undoubtedly not have permitted all this and played 32...f6! Marshall would then have had winning chances, but not the overwhelming advantage as in Rosenthal's line.

Schlechter's actual move (31. Rb1+ sidesteps all of Marshall's threats, and was obviously much better than 31...Rxa3. Also good for Black here is 31...h5.

32. Kh2 Rb5

32...Rf1 seems an easier road to a draw, but Schlechter is here setting a trap for Marshall, the position now being:

click for larger view

As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, Marshall would have lost immediately had he played 33. g4 because of 33...RxB! since White cannot take the Rook because of 34...Bc7!

33. Bc3

Marshall avoids Schlechter's little trick. But 33. g3 (which avoids the Bc7 pin in the above line) was somewhat better.

33... Rb3
34. Be5

34. Rh8+ was also good enough for a draw,


Equivalent to offering a draw.

35. Rh8+

Marshall still seeks a win.

35... Kg6
36. Rg8+ Kf5
37. Bg7?!

37. Reckless play. Marshall should have played 37. Bc3 (or 37. Ba1) and been satisfied with a draw. He is not lost yet, but is certainly headed in the wrong direction.

37... h5!

Suddenly, Schlechter is the one with winning chances (37...Bc7 was also good for him). Marshall needed to play with great care now, but he is still fighting for a win.

38. g3 Rd5

Having reached a superior endgame, Schlechter strangely starts playing tentative chess and heading for a draw. This is perhaps why he became known for drawing so many of his games. 38...f6 was much better.

39. Re8?

Marshall should have played 39. Rh8 or 39. Bc3. With the text, he is on the brink of defeat.

39... f6?

Letting Marshall off the hook. 39...Rd8 was much better.

40. Bf8?

Suicide or genius?

The position was now:

click for larger view

The players here agreed to a draw! Rosenthal in the Tournament Book makes no comment on the result. But isn't the final position a win for Schlechter? I will make my case for this in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

Schlechter should not have agreed to a draw after 40. Bf8? since he had a win here. All he had to do was play 40...Rd8 forcing the trade of Rooks. The position would then have been (with White to move):

click for larger view

I have spent several hours playing out this position, and fed it to Fritz 15 (which rates the position (-6.68) on a 36-ply search. No doubt about it, Black must win.

Black wins because his King must guard his black-square pawns on the King-side while Black picks off the White a-pawn.

Here is one line: 42. Kg2 g4 43. hxg4+ hxg4 44. Kf1 Ke6 45. Ke2 Kd5 leaving the position as:

click for larger view

White has no defense here. His King cannot both defend the King-side and his a-pawn.

The fatal flaw in White's position is the hole on f3. This means that either the White King or the White Bishop must be prepared ti defend the f2 pawn against Black's Bishop coming to e1. This need makes it impossible for White to defend the a-pawn.

Definitely a missed opportunity for Schlechter.

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