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Edward Lasker vs Frank Marshall
9th American Chess Congress (1923), Lake Hopatcong, NJ USA, rd 5, Aug-11
Four Knights Game: Ranken Variation (C48)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-23-04  Jesuitic Calvinist: Interesting ending; Capablanca once said that Marshall was a good endgame player, contrary to popular belief. The database includes an endgame win by Marshall against Capablanca in Havana.
Jul-23-04  azaris: 41. h4?? Instead 41. ♔e3 ♔e5 42. h4 gxh4 43. gxh4 b5 (Black has nothing better) 44. axb5 axb5 45. d4+! ♔d5 46. ♔f4 and draws.

If Black tries to skip a move by 41...b5 42. axb5 axb5 then again 43. h4 gxh4 44. gxh4 ♔e5 45. d4+! drives the Black king away from e5 and saves the day.

Jul-23-04  Jesuitic Calvinist: In your first line, Azaris, I think if 42.h4, then ...f4+ and if 43.gxf4+, gxf4+, 43.Kf3, Kf5 and black is better.

In any event, I think if 41.Ke3, then ...Kd5 is stronger than Ke5. It avoids a check upon gxf4, leaving open the option of capturing the 'h' pawn rather than the 'f'. It also means that the black king is protected from an unexpected check from the 'd' pawn.

Jul-23-04  azaris: 42. h4 f4+ 43. gxf4+ gxf4+ 44. ♔f3 ♔f5? 45. d4 and Black is in zugzwang! After 45...a5 46. b5! the Black king must retreat, White will queen the h-pawn while Black has to waste time handling both the b- and d-pawns.

41. ♔e3 ♔d5 42. h4 gxh4 43. gxh4 and again after White plays d4, Black can make no progress. 42. h4 f4+? is not possible since the king is not at e5.

The point of d4 is not to give check but to gain control of e5, forcing Black to give up his f-pawn.

Jul-23-04  Jesuitic Calvinist: Azaris, my idea with Kd5 is that after 42.h4 f4+ 43. gxf4, black's king is not in check, so he can play gxh4 and I thought at a quick look that while the white king captures the 2 passed h pawns, the black king can deal with the f and d pawns because they are not far advanced and then be better placed to get to the queen-side first.
Jul-23-04  azaris: Ah, but after 41. ♔e3 ♔d5 42. h4 f4+ 43. gxf4 gxh4 44. ♔f3 Black has to play 44...♔e6 45. d4 and if 45...♔d5 then 46. f5 and if 45...♔f5 then 46. d5 . Black can never capture either pawn because then the other will queen.
Jul-23-04  Jesuitic Calvinist: Yes, I have just discovered that for myself by analysing with a board. Perhaps I believed too much in Black's position! Can Black (with his king on e5) respond to h4 with g4? Then say d4+ Kd5; Kf4 Kxd4. At a rough glance I thought there were lines of that type that probably ended in a draw, with both sides queening on consecutive moves. A computer would be good for checking these things.

Anyway, thanks for the exchange of ideas; I must go now. It looks like you were probably right that Ed. Lasker suicided with h4 too early. You might be interested in a similar sort of pawn position (with knights on) - and another problematic h4 push in an ending in Day v Bisguier, Lone Pine 1979, on this site. I put some little comments on there and IM Day responded with some brief thoughts on the game.

Jul-23-04  azaris: White will of course not play ♔f4?? losing but instead ♔d3 and Black has no way in.

I'd be very interested in other K+pawns endgame examples, as this is what I've been studying most recently.

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