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Emanuel Lasker vs Frank James Marshall
Lasker - Marshall World Championship Match (1907), USA, rd 8, Feb-19
French Defense: McCutcheon. Exchange Variation (C12)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-01-08  Knight13: 10. Kd2!? What do you call THAT one?
Mar-04-09
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: 10.Kd2 is quite natural here as 10.Be2 looks inferior due to 10...Rg8.

Black should not have traded the Queens. In ending his Pawn weaknesses on Kingside became fatal.

Mar-09-09  outplayer: <Honza Cervenka> Good strategic evaluation.
Sep-18-10  soothsayer8: <Knight13> I call it a manual castle, with a purpose

Marshall's endgames seem really weak in this match

Jan-24-11  Llawdogg: After Lasker's 17th move, Bg2, this game looked exactly even. However, Marshall had a forced win. Unfortunately, 17 ... Be4? was not the winning move. It was a case of right piece, wrong square. Schlecter pointed out that 17 ... Bd5! was the winning move.
Jan-24-11  Llawdogg: After Bd5, the game might have continued like this: 18 Qxa7 Qc6 with a double threat, diagonally and vertically. 19 Qc5 Qa4 with multiple threats.
20 a3 Na2+! going for mate.
21 Kb1 Rd6 another piece joins in.
22 c4 Nc3+ almost there.
23 bxc3 Qb3+ white may resign here.
24 Ka1 Qxc3+ the queen, rook, and bishop will soon mate the white king whether it goes to b1 or a2.
Jul-20-12  King.Arthur.Brazil: 50...h5?! What else? Black N is lost!
The planed 50...Nd6+ 51.Kd4 treats Rc7#.
Nb5+ 52.cxb5+ Rxb5 53.Nc3 Ra5 54.Rxh7 and White King side Ps must win.
Jul-20-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < Honza Cervenka: ....Black should not have traded the Queens. In ending his Pawn weaknesses on Kingside became fatal.>

I disagree with this general assessment of the position, as in my opinion, there's still plenty to play for, though Black needs to exercise care. The move Marshall played is one idea which looks reasonable, with others being 19....Kb8 or possibly 19....a6. Black's 21....e5 is a move I'd think twice about playing, because after this, the kingside can indeed be exposed. Once White plays 26.f4, this ending looks very good for him.

Oct-04-17
Premium Chessgames Member
  Breunor: Wonderful endgame! It looks like White's only real advantage was the black doubled pawns, instructive endgame play by Lasker.
Jan-12-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  OrangeTulip: Time after time Lasker manages to steer a game against Marshall towards an endgame in which he just outclasses him
Feb-23-19
Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: Marshall defended passively with 34..Nf8. The only chance was active resistance with 34..Re6 35 Ng2 Re2.
Nov-20-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Marshall had lost the first three games of the match, but had then managed to draw Games 4 through 7. So maybe he had found his second wind and had a chance. The result in this 8th game must have knocked the wind out of his sails.

For the fourth straight time as Black, Marshall played the French Defense. Lasker played the same 5. exd5 variation he had tried in Game 6. He obtained no advantage, and when he erred on move 17, Marshall had a chance to seize a major advantage (but almost certainly did not have a win as many commentators have claimed). After Marshall's weak 17th move, Lasker was able to reach an ending in which he had a small edge (and not a winning one) as a result of Marshall's problematic pawn structure. As late as move 25, Marshall had an entirely salvageable position, but from there he weakened and Lasker--always formidable in the endgame--simply wiped Marshall out. For whatever reason, Marshall played on long after his position was hopeless.

1. e4 e6

Marshall played the French in each of the seven games he had Black in this match. He had drawn two of the three prior games with this opening, and the game he had lost with the French (Game 2) was certainly not decided in Lasker's favor by the opening. The French generally got Marshall reasonable positions, but by the end he had lost four and won three as Black.

Marshall's problem was not the opening. His problem was that he was playing a far superior player who was especially deadly in matches in which he could anticipate the opening his opponent was intending.

2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Bb4


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This position was reached in Games 4,6,8, and 10 of the match. In Game 4 Lasker played 5. e5 which is White's strongest choice. But he got into trouble in that game, so in Games 6,8, and 10 he switched to the equalizing:

5. exd5 Qxd5
6. BxN

This move, which Lasker played in Games 6 and 10, was [with one exception the players may not have known about] an innovation. The idea of giving up Bishop for Knight in order to mess up Marshall's King-side pawn structure, was reasonable and gives White a tiny edge. The pawn structure weakness was ultimately to prove fatal for Marshall in this game, though this need not have been the case.

6... gxB

Played also by Marshall in Games 6 and 10. 6...BxN+ (messing up White's Queen-side pawns but giving White chances to invade on the King-side) was also a reasonable option.

7. Qd2

Lasker played this also in Games 6 and 10. But 7. Nge2; 7.Qg4; and 7. Qd3 look stronger.

7... BxN

Probably best.

8. QxB Nc6
9. Nf3


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9... Qe4+

In Game 6, Marshall drew effortlessly after 9...Rg8. The text was also Marshall's choice in Game 10.

10. Kd2

The most aggressive choice, but perhaps the best. 10. Be2 was also reasonable.

10... Bd7


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11. Re1

In Game 10. Lasker played 11. Rd1. Though Tarrasch preferred the latter move, 11. Re1 as played here looks best to me. I fed the position to Fritz and to Stockfish, both of which preferred 11. Re1.

11... Qf4+
12. Qe3 Qd6

Marshall was entirely right to keep the Queens on the board. After 12...QxQ 13. fxQ, White would have much the better chances.

13. Kc1 0-0-0


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An interesting unbalanced position with chances for both sides.

Nov-21-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

14. Rd1

It was probably because of Lasker's decision to play this move that he faulted 11. Re1.

14. c3 was arguably better. But even the text, which did involve some loss of time, was hardly fatal or a terrible error.

14... Rhg8

Janowski called this the beginning of a "very clever" attack by Marshall. Any threats as a result of the text, however, were easily parried.

15. g3

The simplest reply.

15... Nb4

"?!"--Moran

"This forcible move gives Black an advantage in position." (Schlechter)

But, as Tarrasch pointed out, 15...Nb4 could have been parried by 16. a3

After 16. Nb4, the position was:


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16. Qa3

"?"--(Tarrasch)

Tarrasch correctly pointed out that White could have obtained the edge here with 16. a3.

Tartakover suggested 16. Qb3 and then 17. a3, but he appears to have overlooked that after 16. Qb3 Bc6 17. a3 Black would be fine by responding 17...Qd5! since the White Knight on f3 is hanging. Thus, the only way for Lasker to have played for any sort of advantage here was with an immediate 16. a3 while the White Knight is still defended by the White Queen.

16... Bc6


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17. Bg2?

I was surprised to see that none of the commentators faulted this lemon, which in fact was the source of Lasker's problems. All of the lines suggested by which Marshall could supposedly have won or obtained a major advantage would have been avoided had Lasker played the better 17. Be2, since 17...Bd5--which would have been so strong after Lasker's actual 17. Bg2 would now have been rendered harmless with 17. c4!

After Lasker's inferior move, Marshall had his big opportunity:


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17... Be4

"?"--(Tarrasch)

Tarrasch, Janowsky, and Schlechter all claimed a win for Marshall here with 17...Bd5. While that move is surely best, the claimed win doesn't seem to be there.

Tarrasch and Tartakower only considered 18. c3 after 17...Bd5, after which Black does probably win with 18...Nxa2+. But even then, the win is not easy if White responds 19. Kc2 rather than 19. Kd2 as analyzed by Tartakower and Moran. After 19. Kd2, Black wins with 19...QxQ 20. bxQ Rd6, which is better than takower's 19...Qc6 which allows some play for White with 20. Rd3. But best for White in this line would be 19. Kc2 and then after 19...Qc6 (much better than Moran's 16...b5) Black is better but not necessarily winning if White plays 20. Rd3.

The above, however, is all only of theoretical interest, since had Marshall played 17...Bd5, Lasker would almost certainly found the stronger 18. Qxa7. Only <Llawdogg> on this site appears to have considered this possible pawn grab, which in fact is best. The only way for Black to gain a significant edge then would be with Llawdogg's 18...Qc6. But is White then plays 19. Qc5 (forced), Black's only real chance to try for a win would lie in either 19...QxQ+ 20. dxQ Nxa2+ 21. Kb1 Nb4 or the equivalent 19...Nxa2+ 20. Kb1 QxQ 21. dxQ Nb4.

In the above line, Llawdogg's 19...Qa4 would allow White decent chances to emerge intact after 20. a3 Na2+ 21. Kb1.

In any case, after Marshall's actual 17...Be4, Lasker was quite OK with:

18. Ne1!


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Then came:

18... BxB
19. NxB


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Marshall had lost any edge he had enjoyed, but there was no need for him to have lost from here. How Lasker nonetheless managed to prevail proved interesting.

Nov-21-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

19... Qc6

According to <Honza Cervenka> and <outplayer> claim that Marshall should not have permitted the trade of Queens here and that:

"In [the resulting] ending his Pawn weaknesses on [the] Kingside became fatal."

But, as I will attempt to explain in the following commentary, I think <perfidious> is correct and the text was entirely reasonable.

20. QxQ RxQ

If 20...cxQ (as recommended by Janowski) 21. d5 (Schlechter's suggestion) would prove awkward for Black.

After the text (20...RxQ), the position was:


click for larger view

Despite Marshall's isolated h-pawn, his position did not put him in any serious jeopardy. Within just a very few moves, however, his game went downhill and he was lost.

21. c3 e5

"?"--(Tarrasch)(Moran)(Wilson)

I agree with <perfidious> that Marshall should have thought twice about this move which made his King-side a potential target.

But Tarrasch, I think, overstated the problem:

"This gives White a pawn majority on the Queen-side while Black's King-side majority is useless because it is doubled and isolated. Now the game is lost for Black."

21...Rgd8 and 21...Ne7 were sounder than Marshall's choice. But the game was hardly lost for Marshall yet, especially since it is not clear that Lasker adopted the strongest line.

22. d5

White's best chance to play for a win lay in 22. dxe5 fxe5 23. RxR cxR. Even then, I doubt White would have had anything close to a win with best play. After the text, Marshall's task had he been satisfied with a draw does not appear onerous.

22... Ne7
23. Ne3

Too slow. Lasker's best chance of trying to make something out of nothing was to try 23. c4. After the text, the position was:


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23... c6?

Now Marshall was in trouble. He would have been fine with 23...b5! slowing down any possible Queen-side steamroller by Lasker. Alternatively, Marshall could have played 23...Ra6.

24. dxc6 Rxc6

Better than 24...RxR+ 25. RxR bxc6 [not 25...Nxc6 as given by Schlechter and Moran which loses after Moran's 26. Nf5! or 26. Rd6 (though not so clearly after Schlechter's 26. Nd5 after which Black may yet survive with 26...f5)] 26. Rd6 after which White has definite winning chances.

25. Rhf1

"!"--(Moran)

"Now White threatens to open a direct attack on the King-side pawns and Black has no way to meet that threat." (Tarrasch)

In fact. 25. Nd5 looks stronger. After the text (25. Rhf1), the position was:


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Was Marshall truly lost at this stage. I think not. But he probably was after his next move:

25... Re8?

This move has escaped censure, but I doubt Black can hold against best play from this point. Marshall should have played 25...f5. But now, Marshall was ready to pounce:

26. f4!

I agree with <perfidious> that the ending now looks "very good" for White.

26... exf4

As Janowski pointed out, 26...e4 would get crushed by 27. f5!

27. Rxf4


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Marshall's King-side pawns were now entirely wretched, and the game was probably a theoretical win for White. But winning these sorts of endings is not easy. In what followed, however, Marshall seems to have been dispirited, and Lasker made step-by-step progress and soon any practical chances Marshall had evaporated.

Nov-22-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

27... Ng6
28. Rf3 Ne5
29. Rf2

29. Rf5 was stronger.

29... Ra6

29...Rce6 or 29...Rd8 were both slightly better.

30. a3 Rd8
31. RxR+ KxR


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One pair of Rooks were now off the board, but Marshall's King-side weaknesses remained.

32. Kc2 Rd6

Reasonable, but 32...Nd7; 32...Re6; and 32...Rc6 were perhaps slightly better.

33. Rf5

"!"--(Schlechter)

"Threatening to win the h-pawn and thus forcing the [Black] Knight to occupy a bad position." (Schechter)

For once, Schlechter misjudged the position. The text was certainly not bad, but it didn't contain quite the bite Schlechter (and Marshall) believed. Perhaps 33. Rf4 was best.


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33... Nd7

In fact, this retreat by the Knight was not necessary and made Lasker's task easier. Both 33...Kd7 and 33...Re6 were better. Thus, if 33...Kd7 34. Rh5 [as per Schlechter] Black plays 34...Nf3 with better chances than in the game (e.g., if 35. Rxh7 Rd2+ 36. Kb1 (best) Ke6 37. h4 Ne5 38. Nc2 Rg2 39. Rg7 f5 40. Nd4+ Kf6 41. Rg5 Rf2 42. Rg8 Nc4.

Of course, and as Schlechter pointed out, if 33...Rd3? 34. RxN wins on the spot.

After the text, Marshall was in deep trouble.

34. Rh5

Even stronger would have been 34. c4, a move made possible by Marshall's Knight retreat on his last move.

The position was now:


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As it turned out,this was Marshall's last chance to make a serious effort to hold off Lasker. He had to play 34...Re6 here so that he could penetrate with his Rook if Marshall moved the Knight, and could harass the White king after 35. Kd2 Rd6+. But instead, Marshall played:

34... Nf8?

Now Lasker had things his own way. I doubt that even Magnus Carlsen would have been able to bother Lasker from this point out.

35. c4!

Lasker now dominated the board, and the result was no longer in much doubt:


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Nov-22-20  sfm: Iron-fisted grind-down. Lasker, merciless, as always, against one of those who made chess more fun.

Curiously, White had an trivial instant mate with 63.Kb6, probably some notation error.

Nov-22-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

35... Kd7
36. Kc3 Ke6
37. Nd5

As noted by Schlechter, the text threatens 38. Nc7 followed by 39. Nb5, the position (after 37. Nd5) now being:


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Lasker's play here exemplifies what <sfm> has so aptly described as an "iron-fisted grind down."

37... a6
38. a4

Lasker played both wings splendidly in this ending.

38... Rc6

38...f5 might have offered slightly tougher resistance.

39. a5

Preventing b5 by Black, as noted by Schlechter and Janowski.

39... Rd6

Marshall played on for quite a while from this point, but he seems at times--as here--to have been just going through the motions and waiting for the ax to fall; not generally a productive strategy against an end-game assasin such as Lasker.

40. g4

Playing both side of the board. No wonder Marshall was discouraged:


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40... Rc6
41. b3

Tarrasch said this was much better for White than 41. Rh6, but his line after 41.Rh6 was flawed, and even after this move White's win is clear. Black should respond 41...Ke5 rather than Tarrasch's 41...Nd7? after which White just grinds down Black with 42. Kd4 or 42. h4 (and even after the inferior 42. Rxh7 Ne5--Tarrasch's line--White should win (e.g., 43. Nf4+ Kd6 44. b3.

41... Rd6

As Schlechter pointed out, Black must soon lose a pawn.

42. Kd4

42. Rh3 or 42. b4 might have shortened proceedings, but Lasker was in no hurry (and may have just wanted to save time on his clock before his final assault).

42. Kd7
43. Rf5 Ne6+
44. Ke3

44. Kc3 was more accurate, but Lasker's move didn't really spoil anything.

The position after 44...Ke3 was:


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44... Ng7

Very weak, but even the "better" 44...Nd8 would not have changed the result.

45. Nxf6+

It is difficult to understand why Lasker didn't just play 45. Rxf6. I must assume time pressure played a role. In any case, the text also wins, albeit not as quickly.

45... Kc6

Another indication that Marshall was just playing by rote at this point. 45...Ke7 would have made Lasker's task a bit harder.

46. Rf2 Rd1
47. Nd5

Lasker was apparently now out of time trouble. The text is more deadly than 47. Nxh7 (which would also ultimately have won for him).

47... Rb1

47...Re1+ looks a little stronger, but by now it hardly mattered.

48. Rxf7


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48... Rb3+?

The game was lost anyway, but this loses the Knight. If Marshall wanted to play on (which he obviously did), he should have tried 48...Ne6

49. Ke4

A remarkable example of a Rook dominating a Knight, all made possible here by Marshall's last move which allowed Lasker to bring his King to e4, closing the noose on the Black Knight.


click for larger view

Nov-22-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

49... Ne8

As Janowski pointed out, the Knight is lost. If 49...Ne6 50. Ke5 wins the Knight since 50...Ng5 would run into 51. Rc1 Checkmate. The problem Marshall caused for himself by bringing the Black King to e4 with his careless 48th move is now apparent.

50. Re7


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50... h5

"Black cannot save the Knight because of the mating threat. In any case, the only right procedure is to resign." (Tarrasch)

If 50...Nd6+ 51. Kd4 wins the Knight (if 51...Nc8 52. Rc7+).

51. RxN


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It is indeed hard to understand why Marshall decided to play this out.

51... hxg4

Not exactly tough resistance. Had Lasker not been bored to tears, 51...Rb2 would have been the only way to prolong the game.

52. Ke5

Lasker seems to have taken the balance of the game less than seriously, else he would have found the crushing 52. Re7 here.

52... Rh3
53. Rc8+ Kd7
54. Rc7+ Kd8
55. Rxb7


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55... Rxh2

Marshall also seems to have been playing on momentum by this point. 55...Kc8 or 55...Rh6 would have avoided the immediate catastrophe the text should have spawned.

56. Kd6

Either 56. c5 or 56. Rg7 would have shortened the finale. But the text obviously also wins, and Lasker apparently didn't consider the position one that demanded much thought.

56... Rh6+
57. Kc5 Rg6

Giving Lasker yet another opportunity snuff out any remaining resistance.

58. Nf4

Missing 58. Rb6 that might have shortened Marshall's suffering.

58... Rf6
59. Nd5 Rg6

Maybe time was a factor here, since Marshall was able to repeat the position. Lasker put an end to any hope of triple repetition, however.

60. Ne7

This eliminated the risk of a draw by triple repetition, but was less crushing than the simple 60. Rb6.

60... Re6
61. Nc6+ Kc8

Practically walking into a mating net. 61...Kd8 was the only way to last for more than a few more moves.

62. Rg7

62. Kb6 might have prompted resignation. The text, however, avoids even the possibility of any accidents by keeping an eye on Marshall's loose g-pawn.

62... Re4

This saves the g-pawn for the moment, but walks into something much worse. 62...Re2 or 62...Re1 were the only way to avoid mate. The text leaves Black's Rook blocked by the c-pawn from defending against White's mating net.

After the text (62...Re4), the position was:


click for larger view

Nov-22-20
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

63. Kd5

As <sfm> has pointed out, 63. Kb6 forces mate (to be specific, it is mate in 3). He suggests the score may be faulty here. But every record of this game gives Lasker's move as 63. Kd5. This, once again, didn't spoil anything. It only allowed the game to drag on for a few more moves.

63... Rf4
64. Ne5 Rf1
65. Rxg4


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Marshall could surely now have resigned with a clear conscience. But no, he struggled on a bit longer.

65... Ra1
66. c5 Kc7

66...Rxa5 runs into a quick mate after 67. Kc6

67. Rg7+ Kc8
68. Nc4 Ra2
69. Kc6


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As he made this move, Lasker (who was apparently now ready to finish off the game) announced mate in 5.

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