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Emanuel Lasker vs Frank Marshall
Lasker - Marshall World Championship Match (1907), USA, rd 14, Mar-23
French Defense: Classical. Swiss Variation (C11)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-08-05  Dres1: Am i trippin or does 18.Nd6+ followed by 19.Rf7# straight win?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Sure looks like it. Another mystery: what was Marshall thinking with 11...Bxh2+? I guess he didn't notice that ...Qc7+ would fail to Ne5, but it's hard to believe he would miss that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <> Black's 15th move was 15...Rh7. Therefore Lasker did not miss a mate in 2.
Jul-09-05  ramdaz: <Dres1> 19 RF7+ Nf7
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <ramdaz: <Dres1> 19 RF7+ Nf7> The gamescore originally had 15...Rg8 which would indeed have allowed Dres1's mate in 2.
Mar-22-06  Whitehat1963: Ouch! Lasker and Capablanca both used Marshall as a regular whipping boy, unlike Rubinstein, with whom Marshall held his own pretty well.
Jul-30-07  Fast Gun: Prior to this game Marshall actually had a plus score against Lasker, but after this game, all that changed !!
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Fast Gun: Prior to this game Marshall actually had a plus score against Lasker, but after this game, all that changed !!>

No, this was the 14th game of the match, by which time Lasker had a large plus score over Marshall.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Prior to the match, Marshall did have a plus score against Lasker--1 win (Paris 1900) and 1 draw (Cambridge Springs 1904). As <keypusher> points out, the match changed that just a bit. After the 14th game, the score was even: 7 wins for Lasker, 7 draws for Marshall.
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Horrible blunder, but at least Frank got an opening and a chess club named after him. Immortality on West 10th St.!
Jun-20-10  Granny O Doul: <keypusher> Well, it's either that or he forgot that bishops were worth more than pawns.
Premium Chessgames Member
  profK: Worst World Championship bashing I have seen...Marshall beat himself up !
Jan-06-12  M.D. Wilson: I have to say, this is a terrible game by Marshall.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: Marshall's play in this game has a sense of despondency. The match is over and he knows it.
Feb-07-15  poorthylacine: TO WHITEHAT1963:

Unlike Rubinstein but LIKE TARRASCH!!

Feb-07-15  1d410: Marshall's edge over Lasker and Capablanca was that he had the satisfaction of knowing chess is one big swindle!
Feb-24-22  DaviesNjugunah: worst marshall game ever
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: How could Marshall have blundered as he did on move 14, throwing away a piece by trying a plainly flawed combination. Let me offer my thoughts:


Marshall had lost the first three games in New York, but had then mostly held his own during the balance of the initial stay in New York and in the games played in Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, and Chicago (losing one and drawing seven in Games 4 through 11). But beginning in Game 12 on March 19 when the contestants got to Memphis, Lasker had won the first two of their three scheduled games in that new locale. Game 15 was to be played in New York after a break of 10 days. Marshall may have wanted to salvage a win in this final Memphis game and not return to New York down 6-0 (as would have been the case had he drawn this 14th game. Marshall by now may have abandoned any hope of winning the match, and did not fancy playing a bunch of draws. (Only Gary Kasparov ever displayed the ability when down 4-0 and later 5-0 in a world championship match to have the patience to draw game after game and wait for his opponent to tire).

For most of us, continuing to play the same opponent when down 6-0 is not much fun.


Just as there was "Fischer draw" in the 1960's and 1970's, playing Lasker at the time must have been a frightening experience. Players wilt and make silly mistakes when engulfed by such fear.


As only Tarrasch amongst the commentators has pointed out, Marshall had a bad position when he committed his awful blunder on move 11. While Tarrasch went overboard in declaring Marshall lost before the blunder, his main point is well taken. Given Lasker's skill, Marshall was in serious trouble after 11. Bxf3 even if he was not actually lost.


Marshall played the French Defense in all seven games he had Black (drawing three and losing four). As White, after losing Game #1 with 1...e4, he played the Queens' Gambit in his other seven games when he had the first move, drawing four and losing three. One would have expected Marshall to try some new openings when the ones he was using did not work. Lasker had unleashed the Lasker Defense against Marshall's Queen's Gambit, and Marshall likely thought he needed to try something desperate with his plan had been a total failure.

Any, and for what it is worth, here is the game.

1. e4 e6

As mentioned above, Marshall played this in all his games as Black. A true recipe for disaster. Lasker was no openings expert, and Marshall should have tried a surprise or two.

2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bd3

Lasker had played this in Games 2 and 12, both of which he had won.

4... c5
5. Nf3

Lasker had played this in Game 12, after getting little from 5. exd5 in Game 2 (which Lasker won anyway).

5... c4

This move, which looks best, was a novelty at the time. Marshall had played the inferior 5...dxe4 in Game 12.

6. Be2

click for larger view

Marshall had actually obtained some small advantage from this opening to this point. But it did not take him long to ruin his chances.

6... dxe4?

Much better was 6...Bb4, as was noted by Tarrasch:

"Black should play 6...Bb4. The text move would be good if White had to play 7. Ng5, but the Knight goes to e5 and Black surrenders control of the center."

When Lasker followed the same line as White against Rudolph Spielmann in 1923, Spielmann followed Tarrasch's advice and played 6...Bb4 and achieved a draw. Topalov likewise played 6...Bb4 in this same position many years later.

7. Ne5


click for larger view

The situation has changes and for exactly the reasons Tarrasch mentioned.

To be sure, White is only marginally better at this point, but from here Marshall continued to flounder and got himself into trouble even before his horrendous blunder on move 11.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

I should have included a 5th explanation for Marshall's blunder in my last post:


Marshall's oversight in this game seems incredible, but so did Fischer's error in Game #1 of his 1972 match with Spassky; and Nepo's trapping his Bishop against Carlsen (eliciting "WHAT?" from Anish Giri) and only two of several seemingly inexplicable errors by the world's best when playing for the title. The pressure in such matches must be intense (Petrosian in 1963, who almost never lost a game, played like a scared rabbit in Game 1 of his match against Petrosian); and since everybody is watching, big mistakes get noticed...and promptly punished by the world-class opponent). In short, Marshall has plenty of company in the sort of freak-out he had in this game.

Any, back to the actual game:

7... Bd6

Very weak. 7...Nc6 or 7...Be7 would leave Black with only a slight disadvantage.

For what it's worth, Topalov played 7...Nbd7 here, which is not much better than the text.

8. 0-0 a6
9. Nxc4

click for larger view

9... h6?

"Defending against Bg5. One sees how the bad move 6...dxe4 makes necessary further bad moves." (Tarrasch)

But 9...h6 was hardly "necessary." Black should develop with 9...Be7 or 9...Nc6 after which his position could not fairly be called terrible.

10. f3 exf3
11. Bxf3

click for larger view

Lasker was certainly much better here, but Tarrasch over-stated his edge:

"White had the decidedly better game, and the following erroneous combination(if one may really call it so) probably was not needed to preserve White's victory."

This is hard to buy. With 11...0-0, or maybe 11...Bc7, Marshall would have been far from lost. His next move, however, left him without hope.

11... Bxh2+


As <Keypusher> has almost certainly correctly surmised, Marshall probably thought that Lasker's c4 Knight was hanging and could be snared after 12. KxN Qc7+.

Oh well.

12. KxN

click for larger view

"Marshall now made the unpleasant discovery that he cannot win back his piece by 12...Qc7+ because of 13. Ne5." (Schroeder)

A glance at the board reveals that Marshall--in addition to being down a piece--was also almost completely undeveloped.

Under the circumstances, Marshall's attempt now to go for a haymaker was understandable. But coffee-house tactics were unlikely to get him very far against the dreaded Lasker.

12... h5?!
13. Bf4

Lasker could also just have played 13. Kg1.

13... Ng4+

Continuing in the same vein, since normal play would get him nowhere.

14. Kg1

Lasker could also have won with 14. BxN hxB+ 15. Kg1.

Marshall's undeveloped army posed little threat to Lasker:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  nizmo11: <keg> <Marshall by now may have abandoned any hope of winning the match, and did not fancy playing a bunch of draws. (Only Gary Kasparov ever displayed the ability when down 4-0 and later 5-0>
I think Marshall displayed this ability at least to some degree in Capablanca - Marshall (1909) After game 13 Capablanca was leading 7-1, needing only one more win. In this situation Marshall changed his style and "began to adjust" (Soltis, Marshall, McFarland 1994, p 161) There now followed a streak of 9 draws that ended when Capa won the game 23.
Contemporaries did not like the draws, Capablanca biography by M. Sanchez (McFarland 2015) reproduces a very nice cartoon where the long bearded contestants are playing their umpteenth game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

14... g5?!

Desperation! But "sound" play such as 14...0-0 held out no hopes.

It is remarkable that Marshall--who had sacrificed a piece, was far less developed than Lasker, who for much of this game was just minding his own business:

click for larger view

15. Be5

15. Nd6+ was perhaps even faster.

15... Rh7

Many scores give this move as 15...Rg8. If that were the case, as several users have noted on this site, Lasker would have had--and missed--mate in two on move 18:, i.e., 15...Rg8 16. BxN hxB 17. Ne4 [17. Qxg4 would now have been crushing] Nd7 [this would have been suicide, and Marshall would surely either have resigned here or else playe 17...f5]. Now, White would mate in two with either Knight to d6+.

All in all, too many things point against 15...Rg8 as having been Marshall's move, and I therefore follow the score given on this site rather than those giving 15...Rg8. Notably, in his notes on the match, Tarrasch gives 15...Rh7 as having been played.

16. BxN hxB

click for larger view

17. Ne4

17. Nd6+ also wins quickly.

17... Nd7

Marshall here began developing his Queen-side. It was a little late for that!

18. Qxg4

Lasker had a whole bunch of winning moves here. In addition to the text, he could have played 18. Qd3; 18. Bf6; 18. Ned6+; 18. Ncd6+.

18... NxB

Marshall now had to trade off his one developed piece. The game was quite over.

19. dxN Kf8

If 19...Qd4+ 20. Rf2 Rh4 21. Ned6+ Kd8 22. QxQ RxQ 23. Nb6 and Black's army is annihilated.

20. Rad1

Once again, Lasker had a bundle of ways to finish off the game.

20... Qc7
21. Nf6

click for larger view


Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <nimzo11> "I think Marshall displayed this ability at least to some degree in Capablanca - Marshall (1909)."

True. Thanks for pointing this out.

Of course, this tactic of hanging on by drawing a bunch of games was much less successful for Marshall than it would later be for Kasparov, who managed to avoid losing the match. Marshall, by contrast, only prolonged the humiliation of getting thrashed by a player who at the time was not considered world-class. The only solace for Marshall was that Capablanca soon proved that he was indeed an all-time great, so that Marshall's three crushing losses in matches were to three of the very top players of his time (Tarrasch, Lasker, and Capablanca), at least two of whom were among the greatest ever.

May-08-22  Granny O Doul: ...Bxh2 is the American blunder.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <nizmo11>Oops. I sent my reply to the wrong user name. So sorry for the typo.

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