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Frank Marshall vs Emanuel Lasker
Lasker - Marshall World Championship Match (1907), USA, rd 9, Mar-02
Tarrasch Defense: Two Knights Variation (D32)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-01-08  Knight13: <36...Bxh2> Fischer would wish he had this position to play ...Bxh2 on in his match against Spassky, 1972 round in.
Feb-07-15  poorthylacine: White should have played 39.Bc7,b8 or d6, in order to keep the control of the diagonal b8-h2, because after the move 39. Kg2? Lasker could win by 39...gxf4: 1: 40.g4+ Ke5
2: 40.gxh4 Bg3
3. 40. Ne4 Kg6

I think Lasker overlooked the winning move in the first variant after 41Kxg2: 41...Kd4 and then only White was helpless...

A pity, because it would have been another splendid endgame won by Lasker!...

Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Marshall avoided the exchange of bishops with 24. ♗xd6, as after 24...♔xd6, the black King would take up a very commanding position in the centre of the board on d4 after either ...♔c5 or ...♔e5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: By this time this 9th game in the Lasker Marshall 1907 World Championship match was played, Lasker had four wins to Marshall's none. After this game, the match score was identical to the score in the Karpov-Kasparov 1984 World Championship match (4 wins and no losses and 5 draws in favor of the champion). Marshall by this point--and indeed after losing the first three games running--seems to have arrived at the same strategy Kasparov was to use so successfully 77 years later against Karpov: extend the match with a series of draws and try to wear out the champion. Thus, Marshall decided to stick with the same openings in his games: Play the Queen's Gambit with White and the French Defense when he was Black. Only Lasker varied his opening play (for a while).

Lasker, like Karpov, wanted to do more than just win. Karpov wanted to defeat his young challenger 6-0 and so discourage this threat to his reign as World Champion. Lasker wanted to win with a more decisive score than the 8-1-8 score by which Tarrasch had defeated Marshall in their 1905 match.

The strategy failed here for Marshall for three reasons: (1) Marshall lacked Kasparov's super-human patience; (2) Kasparov was a far greater player than Marshall: and (3) Lasker was even more pragmatic than Karpov, and repeatedly tried to put Marshall off balance with unusual variations. Other than Game 6, all of the games Marshall drew lasted in excess of 40 moves.

In this 9th match game, Lasker introduced a novelty (at the time) on move 5 (5...cxd4. Instead of making a real effort to punish this temerity by Lasker, Marshall allowed the game to reduce to a likely drawn ending. This sort of play always suited Lasker, who was a far greater endgame player than Marshall. Here, Lasker kept the game going, tried again to put Marshall off-balance with 36...Bxh2, seemingly allowing his Bishop to get trapped (shades of the 1st match game between Spassky and Fischer in 1972), until Marshall blundered on move 39 giving Lasker a chance to win. The only surprising feature of this game is that Lasker missed what for him should have been a routine win on move 39.

After this draw, the players drew the next two games, and then Lasker blew Marshall away by winning the final four games running.

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

Lasker had played 3...Nf6 in Game 3 (which he won), in Game 5 (a draw), and finally in Game 15 (the final game of the match which Lasker also won). Lasker had switched to 3...c5 in Game 7, and tried it again here. Both games were drawn, and Lasker switched to other openings as Black in Games 11 (the Dutch) and 13 (the Tchigorin Defense to the QGD).

4. cxd5 exd5
5. Nf3 cxd4

A novelty at the time. Lasker had played the more usual 5...Nc6 in Game 7 of the match. The text led to the following new position:

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6. Qxd4

The diagrammed position was not reached again (so far as I am aware) until 1908 when Mieses playd 5...cxd4 against Marshall in the first game of that match. In that encounter, Marshall (who had doubtless had ample time to study the variation) played the better 6. Nxd4 and ultimately won the game (in just 24 moves). Lasker, however, never played 5...cxd4 again.

6... Nf6

The game had now transposes into a known variaiton in which White has only a slight edge.

7. e4

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"This is the only good move." (Tarrasch)

Janowski claimed that 7. Bg5 was superior, and engaged in a debate on the subject with Teichmann (a seriously unappreciated played and analyst). Teichmann, in my view, had much the better of the debate, since Janowski only considered the inferior 7...Be6 for Black while Teichmann recognized that 7...Be7 was better and led to equality for Black in this line. Thus Tarrasch was clearly correct here, and 7. e4 is the only way for White to obtain even a modest advantage.

7... Nc6

Lasker could also have played 7...dxe4.

8. Bb5 dxe4

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

9. BxN+

Effectively offering a draw on move 9. Marshall could have played for an ending with some advantage with the stronger 9. QxQ+ and 10. Ng5. The text did indeed bust Lasker's Queen-side pawn structure, but it also left Lasker with the two Bishops, which was sufficient compensation. Marshall could have had little hope of winning in such an ending against an endgame titan such as Lasker.

9... bxB
10. QxQ+ KxQ

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11. Ng5 Be6

"Obviously bad. 11...Ke8 should be played." (Tarrasch).

An overstatement by Tarrasch, who was often over-eager to fault Lasker's play. 11...Ke8 may be somewhat better than the text, which allowed Marshall to bust up Lasker's position and get rid of the two Bishops, but the text is hardly a terrible mistake. I fed the position to Fritz, which prefers the paradoxical 11...Ke7.

12. 0-0

As Tarrasch pointed out, 12. NxB+ would have been better. I'm actually surprise Lasker allowed this possibility. Janowski disagreed with Tarrasch claimed that after 12. NxB+ fxN 13. Bg5 Be7 the lost pawn "cannot be regained without compromising White's position. In fact, on Janowski's line, White is certainly for choice after 14.0-0-0+. But Lasker would probably have played the better 13...Bb4, and White's edge would have been minimal. Moreover, 13. Bg5 (given by both Tarrasch and Janowski) may not even be best. 13. Ke2 (getting the h1 Rook into the fray and keeping the King poised for action in the center, was arguably White's strongest and seems to give White some real chances.

In any case, 12. NxB+ was unquestionably stronger than the text.

12... Bb4
13. Ncxe4

Marshall could still have played 13. NxB+, but with less effect than on his previous move.

13... NxN
14. NxN Bd5

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It is not quite clear who is better here, Lasker's two Bishops being fine compensation for his mangled Queen-side pawn structure.

Lasker, who (like Magnus Carlsen after him) was quite accustomed to winning equal or even slightly inferior endings. He must have been delighted to reach this position against Marshall. He had little risk of losing, and had enough material to press Marshall for a long while in the hope that the American would err. This is exactly what happened, except that Lasker missed the winning opportunity Marshall later gave him.

Marshall was probably also satisfied. If he was hoping for string of draws to tire Lasker out, this may have seemed to fit the bill.

15. Bd2

Sloppy but not fatal by any means. He could just have played 15. a3.

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15... Rb8


Janowski strongly disagreed with Tarrasch's assessment and claimed that "Lasker missed a great chance of the win here by 15...BxB 16. NxB Re8 17. Rfe1 [or 17. Rae1] RxR+ 18. RxR a5 (18...Bxa2 would be bad because of 19. b3 Rb8 20. Ra1 Bxb3 21. Rb1) 19. b3 [Janowski's alternate line of 19. a3 is terrible in light of 19...Rb8--KEG] a4 20. Rb1 axb3 21. axb3 21. Ra2."

White Black is surely better at the end of Janowski's line, he is nowhere near winning. Moreover, White would be fine with 17. Rad1 (a move Janowski did not consider).

15...BxB is arguably better than the text,but both moves are certainly reasonable, and the disagreement between Tarrasch and Janowski here is a bit over the top.

After Lasker's actual 15...Rb8, the position was:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

16. Rad1

"16. Rfd1is better in order to keep the a-pawn defended." (Tarrasch)

True. But 16. Nc3 looks better still.

16... Kc8
17. Nc3 Bc4
18. Rfe1 Rd8

"Threatens Bxa2." (Tarrasch)

19. Bf4

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19... Rb7

Of course not 19...bxN 20. RxR+ KxR 21. Rd1+ (Moran)(Wilson)

20. RxR+ KxR
21. Rd1+

24. Rc1 is perhaps better, but Marshall in this game seemed keen for exchanges.

21... Rd7
22. RxR+ KxR

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23. a3

23. Be3 was more accurate.

23... Bd6

23...Be7 was slightly better.

24. Be3

"White's King is so far from the field of action [so] the text is greatly [I would say slightly--KEG] preferable to 24. BxB." (Wilson)

"Marshall avoided the exchange of Bishops as the Black King would take up a commanding position." (<Graham Clayton>).

24... a6
25. Bd4

25. f4 was worth a look.

25... f6
26. Ne4

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26... Bc7

Lasker was a bit better at this point, so he didn't want to allow Marshall to play NxB and reduce the game to a Bishops of opposite colors ending.

27. f3 Ke6
28. Kf2 Kd5

The King is a fighting piece in the endgame.

29. Be3

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29... Be5

Lasker might have considered 29...Bb3 with some pressure on the White forces.

30. Nc3+ Ke6
31. Na4 h5

As Tarrasch noted, this move is preparation for an eventual capture of the White h-pawn. The game looks like a draw, but Black is certainly justified in exploring ways to try for a win.

click for larger view

Black's possible capture of the White pawn on h2 was to be the key theme of the rest of the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

32. b3

Tricky play by Marshall.

32... Bd5

Lasker was of course not going to fall for 32...Bxb3?? 33. Nc5+

33. Nc5+ Kf5
34. Nxa6 Bxb3

Lasker could also have played 34...Bxh2.

After the text (34...Bxb3), the position was:

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35.Nc5 Bc4
36. a4

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Looks like a draw, right? But Lasker finds a way to inject some tension into the game.

36... Bxh2

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User <poorthylacine> about six years ago on this site aptly noted that: "Fischer would wish he had this position to play Bxh2 in his [1972] match [Game #1] against Spassky."

This does, as Wilson noted, look risky at first site, but Lasker clearly knew what he was doing.

37. g3 h4
38. Bf4 g5

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39. Kg2??

As Tarrasch noted, this is a mistake. But only <poorthylacine> on this site has clearly explained, this should have lost the game for Marshall. With e.g., 39. Bc7 , the best Lasker had was 39...hxg3+ (or 39...Bxg3+) 40. Bxg3 BxB+ 41. KxB the game would be drawn, Lasker having to sacrifice his Bishop to stop the White a-pawn. If instead Lasker played 39...g4 (Tarrasch's suggestion), the game is still easily drawn (40. a5 hxg3+ 41. Bxg3+ BxB+ 42. KxB gxf3 43. Kxf3 Bb5 44. a6 Bxa6 45. NxB White would have a sole Knight against two easily stopped Black pawns.

After the text, buy contrast, the position was:

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39... Bxg3??

Inexplicable from Lasker. He wins--as <poorthylacine> has shown comprehensively (see his comment)--with 39...gxB. Tarrasch also said that Lasker should have played 39...gxB.

Lasker won this match in fifteen games by a crushing score of 8-0-7. But he missed endgame wins in both this game and in Game 11. Thus, his demolishment of Marshall could have been even worse.

After the text, the game was quickly drawn:

40. BxB hxB
41. Kxg3

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

41... Ke5
42. a5 f5
43. a6

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Lasker now had to give up his Bishop to stop Marshall's a-pawn, but his extra pawns guarantee the draw.

43... Bxa6
44. NxB Kd4
45. Nc7 Ke5

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46. f4+

This makes the draw certain. Marshall had only a Knight remaining, but Lasker had no winning chances either.

1/2 --- 1/2

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