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Frank Marshall vs Emanuel Lasker
Lasker - Marshall World Championship Match (1907), USA, rd 5, Feb-05
Queen's Gambit Declined: Lasker Defense (D53)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-01-08  Knight13: Black never pushed his passed b-pawn... Why?
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: <Knight13>Black never pushed his passed b-pawn... Why?

Maybe because the Black Rook is ahead of the bpawn, it is not able to help with its advance. One of the "rules" with passed pawns in Rook endgames is to have the rook behind the pawn.

Maybe Lasker was more worried with stopping the advance of the White King to support the passed g-pawn?

A possible line could be 42.g5+ ♔f7 43.♖d3 ♖b1 44.♔e4 b5 45. ♖c3 b4 46.♖c6 b3. Is this winning for Black?

Sep-18-10  soothsayer8: White also has passed pawns of his own, this is a draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: On the face of it, this game was a dull draw in which Marshall--having lost the first three games of the match--tried to catch his breath. An endgame was reached by move 14, and an even and drawish Rook and Pawn ending by move 21.

Lasker repeated the 5...Ne4 defense against the Queen's Gambit he had introduced in Game 3 and drew with ease. Marshall yet again failed to make progress as White, though at least he managed this time to keep his head above water for the entire game.

The real hero of the game was Sr. Tarrasch, whose comments explained key nuances, and who found a practical chance in what looks like a dead-drawn Rook ending that is beyond the mental data-base of our silicon friends.

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
5. e3 Ne4
6. BxB QxB
7. Bd3 NxN
8. bxN Nd7
9. Nf3

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In game 3, Lasker here played 9...0-0 and soon thereafter got an inferior position, in large part because of subsequent second-best moves (though he eventually won anyway). Simplest and best for Black here is probably 9...dxc4. But Lasker decided to try something more dyanmic:

9... e5?!


This move was not only a novelty at the time, but so far as I can find has not been played since. It appears to lead to a round of exchanges and only a tiny edge for White.

10. dxe5

While certainly not an error, I would have expected Marshall to try to hold off the upcoming trade-offs with something like 10. Be2. After the text, the game got reduced to an ending in which neither side has many winning chances.

10... dxc4
11. Bxc4 Nxe5
12. NxN QxN

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The best chance of maintaining tension and keeping the game from reducing to a likely draw was 13. Qb3. But Marshall, perhaps trying to avoid yet a fourth loss so early in the match, chose the objectively unobjectionable:

13. Qd4

"The game now assumes the appearance of a draw, both players helping the exchanges in every possible way. Considering the subsequent play, it is difficult to see why the draw should not be postponed and accepted in a few moves from now." (Wilson).

Wilson's comments notwithstanding, there were some interesting moments yet to come in this game.

13... QxQ

Anything else would leave Black poorly placed.

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14. exQ


"14. cxQ is much stronger because White would have a strong pawn center and the open b and c files for his Rook." (Tarrasch)

14... Be6
15. BxB

The alternative (15. Bb3) was not much more promising.

15... fxB

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

16. 0-0

"Unbelievable. To slink off in the end game with the king. White should castle Q-side in order to defend the weak Pawns at a2 and c3." (Tarracsh)

The text cannot fairly be called a mistake, but Tarrach's move would have injected some life into this seemingly inevitably drawn position, though after 16...0-0 or 16...Rf8 the game still looks like a draw.

16... 0-0-0

This gives Black at least equality, and even some chances to complicate.

17. Rfe1

While focusing on Black's isolated e-pawn can hardly be bad, 17. f4 looks more enterprising.

17... Rd6!

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A lesser player might have played 17...Rhe8, but Lasker was a magician at: (a) combining offense and defense; and (b) deploying his Rooks horizontally (as he demonstrated in his superb end-game play in defeating Marshall in the first game of this match.

18. Re3

18. f3 is an interesting alternative.

18... Rf8

Lasker could also have played 18...Ra6, keeping White's a1 Rook on lock-down.

19. Rae1 Rd7
20. Rb1 Rb6

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21. RxR

"Better is 21. Rb3 or 21. Ree1. After the text, Black threatens to attack along the a-file. One now sees where the White King belongs [i.e., he should have castled Queen-side]." (Tarrasch)

As always, Tarrasch's analysis is a wealth of ideas. But here, his two suggested alternatives seem to give Black the much better chances after 21...Rf5. On balance, and being down 0-3 in the match, Marshall's peaceful effort made good sense.

21... axR

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Most top players today (probably even Magnus Carlsen) would call it a day here. But with Marshall and Lasker at the controls, the game was far from over.

On the face of it, Black has a small edge because of the open a-file. Marshall looked to create chances of his own.

22. Rh3


22... h6
23. Rg3 g5

A simpler way to maintain the balance was 23...Rf7. But Lasker was always willing to duke it out in the endgame.

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24. h4?!

24. Rh3 was the safest continuation. But Marshall was incapable of playing boring chess. The double-edged text, though theoretically inferior, is the best way to inject life into the game and was perhaps predictable with Marshall in charge of the White forces.

24... gxh4
25. Rg6

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Are there any real chances for either side to play for a win here. As I will discuss in my next post on this game, it was here that the genius of Dr. Tarrasch in his commentary came to the fore.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

25... h5

As any computer will tell you, "best" for Black here is 25...Rh8. But this is highly unlikely to lead to a win. Lasker's move was a better over-the-board try.

But the best practical chance lay in a brilliant suggestion by Tarrasch in his commentary on this game, which sets a diabolical trap for White. No computer program (except maybe Alpha Zero) is likely to "find" this line since it cannot work against correct play and should lead fairly soon to a draw. But--as Tarrasch recognized--in real life tournament play, illusions can work, and the Tarrasch line just might lead to victory against an unwary player controlling the White forces. Let's see what Tarrasch cooked up here:

"Black should play 25...h3 followed by 26...Ra8 [exploiting the open a-file--KEG]. White could then draw only by a very fine maneuver:

25... h3
26. gxh3 [else White is lost--KEG]

26... Ra8

[26...Rf3 is perhaps theoretically best, but it does not provide the practical chance that Tarrasch discovered--KEG].

27. Rxh6 Ra3

[27...Rxa2 is a simpler way to draw, but does not set the trap Tarrasch had in mind--KEG]

28. Rg6

[28. Rh7+ and 28. h4 are both clearer lines for White, but the idea of getting the White Rook off the h-file and allowing the White h-pawn to advance was obviously attractive and was a decent shot--KEG]

28... Rxc3

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29. h4 Ra3

[Other moves are also good enough for a draw, e.g., 29...Rh3 or 29...c5 or even 29. Rf3, but only Tarrasch's suggested move contains the real poison--KEG]

30. h5 Rxa2
31. h6 Ra5

[31...Ra8 also saves the day for Black, but does not spring the trap--KEG]

After 31...Ra5, the position Tarrasch had in mind arises:

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Now [continuing to quote Tarrasch himself], if:

32. h7 [superficially attractive but a bad mistake--KEG] 32... Rh5
33. Rg7 Kd6
Black wins." (Tarrasch)

The position would then have been:

click for larger view

White is then helpless against the advance of the Black Queen-side pawns.

Of course, White can avoid all this--as Tarrasch pointed out, with:

32. Rg2 (or 32. Rg7+ or 32. d5--KEG]
32... Rh5
33. Rh2 Rg5+
34. Rg2 and draws.

What an excellent practical analysis by Tarrasch who found the only real chance Lasker had to prevail after 25. Rg6.

After Lasker's actual move, 25...h5, the position was:

click for larger view

As I will discuss in my next post on this game, the actual continuation of the game from this point was not without interest.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

26. Rg5 Rh8

26...h3 is another decent try for Black.

Moran states that 26...Rf5 loses to 27. RxR. But that is simply wrong: e.g., 26...Rf5 27. RxR exR 28. Kh2 [essential--and apparently the theme of Moran's conclusion, i.e., the Black king-side pawns get captured] ] Kd6 29. Kh3 Kd5 30. Kxh4 Kc4 31. Kxh5 [after which White gets a Queen--but so does Black!] Kxc3 32. d5 b5 [Black loses the Pawn ending after 32...Kd4 33. Kg5] 33. f3 f4! [the saving move!!] 34. Kg5 b4 34. Kg5 b4 35. Kxf4 Kb2 36. g4 Kxa2 37. g5 b3 38. g5 b2 39 g7 ba(Q) 40. g8(Q) and draws. Or perhaps more simply and less spectacularly: 33. f4 b4 34.g4 fxg4 35. Kxg4 Kb2 36. f5 Kxa2 37. f6 b3 38. f7 b2 39. f8 (Q) b1(Q) 40. Qa8+ Kb3 41. Qxb7+ Ka2 42. QxQ+ KxQ and the King and Pawn versus King and Pawn ending is a simple draw for Black.

Lasker's 26...Rh8 avoided all of the above melodrama, and left the position as follows:

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27. a4

As Moran correctly notes, 27. Kh2 leads to trouble after 27...Ra8. But White can apparently still save himself (e.g., 28. Rxh5 Rxa2 29. f4 Rc2 30. Rxh4 Rxc3 31. g4 Rc4 32. g5 Rxd4 33. Kg3 [not 33. g6 which makes the draw tougher: Ke7 34. Rh7+ Kf6 35. Rxc7 Kxg6 36. Rxb7 Rxf4 37. Rxb6 Kf5 38. Kg3 and White --barely--hangs on] 33...e5 34. fxe5 Rd3+ 35. Kf4).

Marshall's move avoided all these nasty variations in which one false step would have meant immediate disaster.

27... Ra8

27...Kd6 looked better at first, but Black still cannot win: 27...Kd6 28. Kf1! h3 29. gxh3 Ra8 30. Rxh5 Rxa4 31. Rg5 [31. h4 probably also draws] Rc4 32. Rg3 b5 33. h4 b4 34. cxb4 Rxd4 35. Rh3 Rxb4 36. h4 Rf4 37. h6 Rf8 38. Ke2 Rh8 39. Kf3 Ke7 40. Ke4 Kf6 41. Rf3+ Kg6 42. Ke5 Rxh6 43. Rf6+ Kg5 44. RxR KxR 45. Kxe6 b5 46. f4 b4 47. f5 b3 48. f6 b2 49. f7 b1 (Q) 50. f8(Q)+ and draws.

Oh well, it looked like a good try for Lasker for a while!

28. Rxh5 Rxa4
29. Rxh4 Rc4
30. Rh3

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30... b5
31. Rd3 b4
32. cxb4 Rxb4

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33. Kf1

33. g4 immediately is slightly simpler.

33... Rb2
34. g4 Ke7
35. Kg2

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35... Rb4

<Knight 13> Quite reasonably asked on this site back in 2008 why Black did not push his passed b-pawn. As <Graham Clayton> noted two years later, also on this site, the position of the Black Rook on the b-file presents a problem. Indeed, my own analysis tends to confirm Graham Clayon's conclusion: e.g., 35...b5 36. Rc3 Kd6 37. Kf3 b4 38. Rc1 b3 39. Ke3 Ra2 40. Rb1 b2 41. g5 e5 42. g6 exd4+ 43. Kxd4 Ke6 44. Kc3 Kf6 45. Rxb2 RxR 46. KxR Kxg6 an a drawn King and Pawn versus King and Pawn ending. As <Soothsayer8> aptly summed it up: "White also has passed pawns of his own. This is a draw."

After Lasker's 35...Rb4, the position was:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

36. Kg3 Kf6

Here again, Lasker might have tried b5, and once again (and especially now with his Rook on b4) this would not have given Lasker any true winning chances.

37. f4

Best. If anything, Marshall had whatever advantage remained in the increasingly drawish ending.

37... Rb1

37...c6 was also OK for Black.

38. Re3 c6
39. Kf3

39. g5+ was no better.

39... Rb4
40. Rd3 Rb1
41. Re3 Rb4

1/2 -- 1/2

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Here the players agreed to a draw.

<Graham Clayton> gives a proposed line from that might have ensued had the players continued. This line looks to me to be pretty much best play:

42. g5+ Kf7
43. Rd3 Rb1

43...Rc4 looks like a simpler way to draw, but this proposed move is OK.

44. Ke4

44. Ra3 or 44. Rc3 may give White slightly better chances, but neither move would get White close to anything approaching a win.

44... b5
45. Rc3 b4!
46. Rxc6

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Graham CLayton asks if this is a winning position for Black. The clear answer is "No." Indeed, Black can only stay in the game here with 46... b3! But this only peters out to a draw: e.g., 47. Rb6 b2 48. Rb7+ Kg6 49. Kd3 Rd1+ (forced) 50. Kc2 Rxd4 51. Re7 b8(Q) + 52. KxQ Rxf4 53. Rxe6+ Kxg5

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