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Frank James Marshall vs Simon Winawer
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 2, Feb-20
Slav Defense: Winawer Countergambit (D10)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-03-04  caballos2: It is to some extent ironic to see Marshall confronted with a gambit opening like the ones he was likely to play! A good psychological move by Winawer. This approach can be very effective: I once played someone who always played the Caro whenever possible, so when I had black, I put his pet line on the board. Somehow it looked like he was afraid to play too violently against his beloved opening and went down in flames.
Mar-09-05  refutor: any books written on winawer?
Mar-09-05  shortsight: i don't think so, other than opening named after him, eg. the winawer variation of the QGA. would like to see the book too if there's one.
Jul-04-17  sudoplatov: Winawer has French Line too; perhaps more famous than his counter-gambit.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: This game was a replay of their Second Round drawn game, played 15 days earlier.

What a contrast in players. Marshall was at the beginning of his career, having burst as a star on the international stage with his strong showing at Paris 1900. Winawer, by contrast, was at the very end of his distinguished career. Monte Carlo was his very last tournament. After this encounter, Winawer played only four more games (not counting his default victory over last-place Didier).

What both players had in common was that they were having terrible tournaments. Marshall had scored only 1 win in the first ten rounds, and stood in 12th place out of 14 players. Winawer was doing even worse. He was--going into this game--one of only two players without a win. He stood in 13th place, with the humiliating total score of 0.75 points (draws counting 1/4 of a point at this event).

Here, however, Winawer hit gold with a (nearly) new line (now called the "Winawer countergambit) [1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 e5?!. Encountering this surprise variation, Marshall--preferring to be on the attack--wound up being the one offering a gambit. He was in trouble by move 6; possibly lost by move 9; probably lost by move 12; and hopelessly lost [as White!] by move 13.

Spurred on by this victory, Winawer followed with a win over Mieses (ruining the latter's hope of garnering a prize). A final taste of glory for Winawer as he exited the tournament stage.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 c6
3. Nc3 e5?!

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"The first time this move was played." (Tournament Book)

Not quite. It was played back in 1862. Probably no one in 1901 knew of the earlier game, so Winawer is properly named as the father of this counter-gambit.

Soltis, in his fabulous biography of Marshall, mistakenly calls 3...e5?! Winawer's "favorite." In fact, this is the only time in his life that Winawer played this move.

Marco was obviously impressed. He played the move in his game the very next game against Alapin, inflicting the only defeat Alapin suffered in this tournament. Marco then played the move in his game as Black against Pillsbury at Monte Carlo 1902, achieving a draw when his mighty opponent was suitably shocked. According to Hoffer in the Monte Carlo 1902 Tournament Book, Pillsbury had "no knowledge" of the move.

The move later became a favorite of Shabalov. Kolic played in four times. Other than that, the Winawer variation has been played only sporadically. Interestingly, the move was played by Stockfish against Komodo. That game ended in a draw.

"It is to some extent ironic to see Marshall confronted like the ones he was likely to play. A good psychological move by Winawer. ( <caballos2> on this site).

4. cxd5

"!"--(Tournament Book)

Pillsbury also played this move in his 1902 game against Marco. Alapin played the seemingly better 4. dxe5.

4... cxd5
5. e4

"White is playing too aggressively. The correct method [i.e., 4. cxd5] was played by Alapin against Marco." (Tournament Book).

5. dxe5 certainly looks safest and best. But the text is good enough for at least equality, and its tactical quality seems to suit Marshall's style [though he mangled the play as White from this point forward.

5... dxe4

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Marshall would have been just fine with 6. Bb5+. But instead, perhaps impatient based on his miserable results thus far in the tournament, Went wild with:

6. d5?

"?"--(Tournament Book)

So far as I am aware, this move has only been played one more time, by Perez in 1992 in a loss against Shabalov.

6... Nf6

6...Nd7 is almost certainly better.

After 6...Nf6 the position was:

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Not great for Marshall, but not hopeless either. From here, however, Marshall botched the play and was a dead duck in very short order.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

7. Bg5

Marshall still had many ways to keep the game in hand (e.g., 7. Bc4; 7. Nge2; 7. Bb5+). But he seems to have been distracted by this point in the tournament.

"Marshall has scant compensation." (Soltis).

7... Qb6

Shabalov, in his 1992 win over Perez, played the superior 7...Nbd7. 7...Bc5 was also better than the text.

8. BxN gxB

Much better than 8...QxB 9. Qa4+

After Winawer's 8...gxB the position was:

click for larger view

9. Bb5+

"This merely helps Black to develop." (Tournament Book)

9. Nxe4 was plainly indicated. Now, things got ugly for Marshall.

9... Bd7
10. BxB+ NxB
11. Nge2

11. Nxe4?? now runs into 11...Rg8 12. Kf1 Qxb2 and Black should win. 11...f5 would also do the trick.

11... f5

11...e3 was also strong. The text, however, led to an unexpected bonus, the position now being:

click for larger view

Marshall here might have had at least practical chances with 12. d6, or maybe 12. Rc1 or 12. 0-0. Instead he allowed Winawer to achieve a dream position with:

12. Qa4?

A likely grateful Winawer now played"

12... 0-0-0

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Things already looked grim for Marshall, who promptly dug an even deeper grave for himself with:

13. d6?

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13. Qc2 or 13. 0-0 or 13. Qc4+ or even 13. Rd1 were better.

Now, with 13...Nc5, Winawer might have made short work of poor Marshall. But...

13... Kb8?

Giving Marshall a glimmer of a chance.

14. Qc4 Nc5
15. 0-0 Qxd6
16. Qxf7 Qg6!

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Marshall should probably have tried to minimize the damage with 17. QxQ, but preferring a middle-game, Marshall played:

17. Qc4 Rg8
18. g3 Qe6?

Winawer could have shortened proceedings now with 18...Nd3!. But instead:

19. QxQ NxQ
20. Rad1 Nd4

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Marshall was still lost, of course, but he could still have made Winawer work for his first win of the tournament. But Marshall (who later developed into a first-rate endgame player), now fell apart. All in all a sad day for Marshall.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

21. Kg2

Marshall might have tried 21. f4, but this now would have been too little too late.

21... Bc5
22. Na4

As played, this merely lost a tempo. At this stage, however, it hardly mattered.

22... Be7
23. Nac3 h5!

Preparing a deadly assault.

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24. NxN?

Marshall deemed resigned to his fate. The text only strengthens the Black pawn phalanx. To play on, Marshall should have tried 24. h4, or may e 24. h3.

24... exN

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What a frightening looking Black pawn front!

25. Ne2

Mangling his own already horrific position. But the "better" 25. Nb1 would have been no picnic for White.

25... Bf6

Winanwer could also have played 25...d3 immediately.

26. b3

In his effort to save the b-pawn, the weary Marshall ran his shattered army even further downhill. In fairness to Marshall, however, his game would have been no fun even with 26. Nf4 or 26. Rfe1.

26... Be5

Seemingly having too much fun to play the crushing 26...d3.

27. Rfe1

This looks terrible, but I've no decent suggestions for White at this point.

27... d3

Marshall should certainly have spared himself the rest:

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28. Ng1 h4

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How sad to see the brilliant attacking player Marshall reduced to this.

29. Nh3 Rc8

Winawer could also have won easily with 29...hxg3.

30. Rc1 hxg3

Winawer could have put Marshall out of his misery a tad sooner with 30...Rc2.

31. RxR+ RxR
32. hxg3 Rc2

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The enemy was now truly at Marshall's gates.

I will cover the sad (for Marshall) finale in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

33. Nf4

If he really wanted to continue, Marshall should have brought his King closer to where it was needed and off the second rank with 33. Kf1. But even with that, Marshall could have been toast with 33...33...Bc6

33... Bd4


34. Rf1

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34... Bxf2

"!"--(Tournament Book)

34...Rxa2 would have been sheer butchery. The text also wins quickly, and was a prettier way to finish off poor Marshall.

35. Kh3

If 35. RxB d2 would be sheer murder.

35... Rxa2

35...Be3 and 35...d2 were even more brutally effective. How nice to have so many ways to win.

36. Kh4

36. Rd1 was the only way to hang on for a few moves. But now:

36... d2

click for larger view

Hard to understand why Marshall let himself undergo this.

37. Rd1 Bd4


"38. Ne2 would allow the following attractive finish: Ra1! [38...Bf6+ was also a winner--KEG] 39. Rxd2 Be3 [an amusing mating net--KEG] 40. Rd8+ Kc7." (Tournament Book)

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Department of Corrections:

Contrary to what I stated above, the Tournament Book did NOT give Marshall's 4. cxd5 an "!"

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