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Theodor von Scheve vs Frank Marshall
Monte Carlo (1901), Monte Carlo MNC, rd 8, Feb-15
Formation: Queen Pawn Game: London System (D02)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Marshall's miserable tournament experience at Monte Carlo 1901 continued in this 8th round loss to von Scheve. Having failed to win a game at this tournament at this stage (Winawer and Didier were the only two other winless competitors at this point), Marshall's desperation is evident. Having misplayed the opening--but being far from lost--Marshall needlessly sacrificed a piece and was unable to recover. His wild efforts to complicate from there only made things worse. von Scheve did nothing special here. Sometimes just showing up and not blundering is sufficient to win the day.

1. d4 d5
2. Bf4

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A favorite line of Janowski, Rubinstein, and Mason that was occasionally tried by the likes of Vidmar, Schlechter, Alekhine, and Rudof Spielmann. Not as popular as other 2nd moves for White, but absolutely sound and a potential surprise for Black.

2... c5

Played by Tarrasch and (more recently) Gelfand. Marshall played this on at least four other occasions.

2...Bf5 and 2...Nc6 are good alternatives.

3. e3 Nc6

As the Tournament Book pointed out, White is better after 3...Qb6 4. Nc3.

4. c3

This Stonewall-type formation is good enough for equality. 4. Nc3 and 4. Bb5 are good alternatives.

4... Qb6

More aggressive than the solid 4...Nf6 or 4...Bf5. These are all decent lines, and the choice seems to be mainly one of style. Marshall's choice of 4...Qb6 is predictable.

5. Qd2

The Tournament Book stated that this is better than 5. Qb3, but its analysis of 5. Qb3 was doubtful at best: "...c4! 6. QxQ [inferior to 6. Qc2--KEG] axQ 7. Nd2 [7. Nf3 is slightly better--KEG] b5...or 6. Qc2 Bf5! [6...e5 is better--KEG] 7. Qc1 [Very weak--White is better though shedding the exchange after 7. QxB! Qxb2 8. Qxd5 QxR (or 8...Qc1+ 9. Ke2 Q2+ 10. Nd2 QxR 11. Qxc4) 9. Qb5--KEG] Nf6."

The Tournament Book notwithstanding, the text [5. Qd2] is awkward and weak. 5. Qb3 (see above) 5. Qc2 or 5. b3 are all better.

After 5. Qd2, the position was:

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5... c4

"?"--(Tournament Book)

5...Nf6 was probably better, especially since the text results in a backward d-pawn for Black. But the text does create problems for White on the Queen-side and can hardly be called a "mistake." I don't like the move all that much, but assigning a "?" was overdoing it.

6. Nf3

6. e4 or 6. Qc2 or even 6. b3 were all better.

6... Nf6

Marshall seems to have been in a fog for much of this game. 6...Bf5 was clearly better.

7. Be2

von Scheve also seemed lost in this opening. The Tournament Book, in praising von Scheve's opening play here, stated that von Scheve had made a "special study" of d-pawn openings. His success in this game notwithstanding, von Scheve's supposed prowess in this sort of opening is not apparent in this contest.

7. b3 was better.

7... Bf5

Better late than never.

8. 0-0 Ne4

"?"--(Tournament Book)

"The Queen can easily retreat, allowing the QN to be developed. Better was 8...e6." (Tournament Book)

8...e6 does indeed look better. But-yet again--the "?" assigned to Marshall's move is unwarranted.

9. Qc1 e6

9...h6 or 9...Rg8, in each case followed by 10...g5, were good alternatives.

10. Nbd2 Be7
11. NxN BxN

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From the comments in the Tournament Book, one would think that von Scheve had a strategically won game at this point. In fact, the game at this point was very much in the balance. Marshall's loss is attributable to his wild play in what followed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

12. Nd2

"!"--(Tournament Book)

He could also have played 12. Re1 followed by 13. Nd2. But von Scheve had another (also good) plan in mind.

12... Bg6
13. e4

"!"--(Tournament Book)

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13... 0-0

This or 13...Rd8 was best. The Tournament Book analyzed 13...Bxe4, which gives White a major advantage after 14. NxB [and not--as the Tournament Book correctly noted--14. Bxc4 Bxg2 ("!"--Tournament Book) 15. KxB dxB 16. Nxc4 Qd8 [even better is 16...Qa6, Black being better in either case--KEG]. After 14. NxB, White--contrary to the Tournament Book's evaluation--14...dxN 15. Bxc4 Na5 after which White is much better with 16. Be2 having the two Bishops while Black has a doubtful King-side pawn structure.

14. exd5

14. Re1 may be better.

14... exd5
15. Bf3 Rad8

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16. Re1

"!"--(Tournament Book)

"The Knight is going to attack the d5 pawn." (Tournament Book)

16... Bf6

16...Rfe8 or 16...Bd6 were better.

17. Nf1

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In this position, Marshall went off the deep end, sacrificed a piece for plainly inadequate compensation, and never recovered.

Granted, White was better after 17. Nf1, and the assault on the Black pawn on d5 via White's 18. Ne3 was very real. But Black was not without recourse, and with 17...Ne7; 17...h6; or 17...Bf5 he had every reason to expect he would be able to hold the game.

The Tournament Book attacked 17...Ne7 as an error because of 18. Bg5, but with 18...BxB 19. QxB f6 Black looks fine to me. White's best chance to retain a meaningful edge following 17...Ne7 lay in 18. Ne3 or 18. b3.

But whether because of panic, because he miscalculated, or because of his frustration having failed to win even a single game through the first seven rounds, Marshall played:

17... Nxd4?

This was not Tahl-like; it was just a bad move. At best, Marshall now faced a tough fight to avoid loss.

18. cxN

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18... Qxd4

The Tournament Book considered 18...Bxd4 and correctly concluded that this was no improvement [in fact, it would have been a serious mistake]. The Tournament Book's analysis of 18...Bxd4, however, had serious errors: "18...Bxd4 19. Be3! Qxb2 20. BxB QxB 21. Rd1 [This lets Black back in the game. 21. Qa3 should be played here--KEG] 21...Qe5 22. Ne3 Be4 [this sinks Black; 22...Bd3 was the best chance--KEG] 23. BxB QxB 24. Qc3 with advantage [24. Qb2 would be much better--KEG], e.g., 24...d4 25. Qxc4 b5[25...Rfe8 was slightly better--KEG] 26. Qc2!."

19. Bg5

"!"--Tournament Book

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

19... b5?

"19...Qxb2 20. QxQ BxQ 21. BxR BxR 22. Ba5! followed by Bxd5." (Tournament Book)

White would indeed still have a significant advantage on the Tournament Book's line. But Marshall would then have had some real counterplay. Marshall's actual move just left him lost.

20. BxB QxB
21. Ne3

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Marshall was down a piece for two pawns. Had von Scheve kept his head, he should have won easily from here. But Marshall kept pressing, and von Scheve from here through move 30 lost his way and nearly lost his winning advantage:

21... d4

The best chance in a desperate situation.

22. Nd5 Qd6
23. Qd2

23. a4 or 23. Ne7+ should also do the trick. But von Scheve's move was also fine. His problems arose on move later.

23... d3

Best. If 23...Qc5 24. b4 ["!"--Tournament Book] after which Black loses whether he plays 24...cxb4 (25. Rac1 Qd6 axb3) or 24...Qd6 (25. Qxd4).

After 23...d3 the position was:

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24. b3?

"!"--(Tournament Book)

The Tournament Book's assessment notwithstanding, this could have given some life to Marshall. He would have kept Marshall on the ropes with 24. a4 or 24. Ne7+

24... Kh8?

"Avoiding possible White checks." (Tournament Book)

Marshall should have exploited von Scheve's poor 24th move with 24...Qc5.

25. bxc4 bxc4

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26. Rac1?

Again giving Marshall a chance. He should have played 26. Ne3 and then if 26...Qc5 27. Qc3 Rd4 28. Nf1 followed by Nd2.

26... Qc5
27. Ne3 Rd4
28. Rc3 f5

28...f6 was best.

29. Rec1 Qa5

"?"--(Tournament Book)

The text does not look bad to me.

The position was now:

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30. Rd1

"!"--(Tournament Book)

This worked like a charm in light of Marshall's coming blunder. On paper, 30. Qb2 was much better.

After 30. Rd1, the position was:

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Thanks to von Scheve's doubtful play, Marshall now had a chance. But in this position he blundered, losing one of the two pawns he had for the sacrificed piece and finding himself in a hopeless endgame.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

30... Bf7?

"?"--(Tournament Book)'

"30...Qc5 was necessary." (Tournament Book).

Marshall's unsound piece sacrifice on move 17 had already left him with at best an uphill struggle, but he had two pawns for the piece and could have offered serious resistance with 30...Qc5 or 30...Qb5. The text, however, was a blunder that lost a pawn and left him without resource.

The position after 30...Bf7? was:

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White to move and win.

Marshall's blunder on move 30 came at the end of the 30-move time control. It was perhaps his bad luck that--with the time control having been reached--von Scheve had plenty of time to calculate the winning combination that followed:

31. Rxd3!

"!"--(Tournament Book).

Marshall, in addition to losing a pawn, now had to trade off Queens and a pair of Rooks. The game was effectively over:

31... QxQ
32. R3xQ RxR
33. RxR

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33... f4?!

In his desperation to create some counter-chances for the lost piece (beyond his one extra pawn), Marshall only made matters worse for himself. The more stolid 33...g6 or 33...Bg8, however, would only have prolonged the agony.

34. Nd1 g5

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35. h4

Unnecessary, but not seriously spoiling anything. Simpler were 35. Rd7 or 35. Kf1 or 35. Nc3.

35... h6

He had nothing better than 35...hxg4, unsavory as that would have been for Black.

36. Nc3

Still foregoing the simpler 36. Rd7 or 36. hxg5.

36... Re8

Marshall being Marshall decided to go down fighting. The text loses yet another pawn, but at this stage it hardly mattered.

37. Rd7

von Scheve could also have played 37. hxg5 and then 38. Rd7.

37... Re1+
38. Kh2 Bg6
39. Rxa7

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Marshall could have soared himself what followed, in which he worked himself into a mating net:

39... Bf5

This brought on an immediate catastrophe, but by this stage nothing else was going to work.

40. hxg5 hxg5
41. Ra5

Now Marshall had to lose another pawn--and soon thereafter get mated.

41... Bd3
42. Rxg5 Rc1
43. Nd5 Rc2
44. Nf6


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44... Bh7

The only way to avoid immediate checkmate.

45. Be4

45. NxB would also win quickly (e.g., 45...KxN 46. Be4+ with mate to follow very shortly).


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