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Siegbert Tarrasch vs Georg Marco
Vienna (1898), Vienna AUH, rd 29, Jul-12
Russian Game: Classical Attack (C42)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-24-05  ksadler: Another wonderful game by Tarrasch! Great tension, poisoned pieces, and a swift tactical finish. A good game for study, in my opinion. It's somewhat obvious, but I'll mention it anyway: if 34. .. fxg6 then 35. f7+! with an immediate checkmate or promotion.
Jun-20-06  GeauxCool: Tarrasch gives black problems, he's restricted and can't develop normally. On move 17, Marco must sacrifice a pawn to free himself.-Fine
Jul-09-06  Petrocephalon: A correction has been submitted. (Note you can do this via the link "suggest your correction" under the Kibitz window).

An interesting comment by Reinfeld to 13.Nf3:
"This is the kind of move that can be made only by a tyro or a great master. Tarrasch deliberately refrains from obtaining two Bishops and retreats the Knight with a loss of several tempi. But what is really important is the weakening of Black's position (..P-KR3) and the cramping effect of the coming P-KB5"

Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Position after 20.g4:

click for larger view

Tarrasch uses his pawns to great effect to smother Marco's position.

Feb-02-13  backrank: < Anastasius: 24.Rac1: In order to avoid the exchange of rooks makes less sense than Rae1. I think 24.Rae1 was played.>

For the final combination too it's important that the rook is placed on e1 to prevent the black king from escaping.

Reinfeld, Réti and Euwe all give 24 Rae1.

Jul-05-16  zanzibar: Here <CB>,<NIC> and <365> all get it wrong... with 24.Rac1, whereas <CG> now is correct with 24.Rae1 is given in TB G-265 p239/267.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Having just completed my posts on Tarrasch-Marco, Monte Carlo, on the suggestion of <keypusher> I am looking at one of their earlier encounters; their second meeting at the great Vienna 1898 tournament. Tarrasch had already defeated Marco in an earlier Round (Round 10--Tarrasch playing Black). The instant game was their seventh meeting, Tarrasch having won six of their first seven meetings. As in their second game at Monte Carlo, Tarrasch in this earlier game completely outplayed Marco almost from the outset. The one difference here is that Tarrasch, perhaps weary in this gargantuan tournament (this game was played in Round 29!, and Tarrasch needed this win to tie Pillsbury for first (he later won the close play-off match against Pillsbury), faltered at a few moments. But Marco was unable to capitalize, and Tarrasch came away with another relatively easy victory.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. Nxe5 d6
4. Nf3 Nxe4
5. d4 Be7

Marco here shunned the more usual 5...d5. Reinfeld his commentary on this game condemned the text, but 5...Be7 is quite playable provided Black is prepared to endure a somewhat cramped position in the opening.

6. Bd3 Nf6

Almost certainly inferior to 6...d5. The text, as noted by Tartakower and Du Mont in their commentary on the game ("T/D"), "concedes time and territory."

7. 0-0

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7... 0-0


Reinfeld disliked the text because it--in his view--allowed Tarrasch to deprive the White-square Black Bishop of decent squares. Reinfeld therefore recommended 7...Bg4. This remedy, however, looks worse than the disease after 8. h3 Be6 9. c4. Best for Black here were 7...Nc6, 7...d5, or...the text.

8. h3


Reinfeld claimed that the text must have come as a surprise for Marco, overlooking that Tarrasch had played this very move six years earlier against von Bardeleben at Dresden. Moreover, the constrictive nature of 8. h3 was very much in Tarrasch's style.

Reinfeld points out that such an advance can often be weak, but Reinfeld went on..Black has scant attacking prospects here and is fighting to equalize.

8... Be6

Reinfeld mocked this as "a developing move of sorts," but did not suggest any alternatives. Perhaps 8...d5 was simpler, but there was--so far as I can see--nothing much wrong with the text.

9. c4


click for larger view

"The beginning of a local skirmish round d5." (T/D).

9... c6

As Reinfeld pointed out, the natural developing moves 9...Nc6?? or 9... Nbd7?? would both lose a piece immediately to 10. d5.

Reinfeld also claimed that 9...d5 could be answered by 10. c5 "leaving Black with a cramped games," but with 10. b6 Black's position does not look so dire. It is the text that allowed Tarrasch to cramp the Black forces and thus 9...d5 was probably best.

10. Ng5

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"Tarrasch...wants to play 10. f4 and f5, further reducing Black's terrain." (Reinfeld)

"A fine maneuver." (T/D).

Tarrasch certainly had much the better game after the text, but neither Reinfeld nor T/D considered whether 10. Re1 or 10. Nc3 (or maybe even 10. Qc2) first would have been even stronger.

The text, however, had the immediate merit of flustering Marco who shortly thereafter began to drive his already inferior position into the ground.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

10... Na6?

"Rushing--via c7--to the succour of his e6." (T/D)

Both Reinfeld and T/D correctly point out that 10...h6? 11. NxB exN would be wretched for Black. But the folly of 10...h6 did not justify the text. The solution to the potential wrecking of Black's King-side pawn structure could have been better avoided by playing 10...Bd7 (or maybe 10...Bc8) first. Marco would almost certainly soon be forced to play Na6. But he should first have avoided 11. NxB.

Ironically, the text (10...Na6) did nothing to prevent 11. NxB.

11. Nc3

While thee text was a decent developing move, Tarrasch here (surprisingly) by-passed the chance to play 11. NxB He would thereby have messed up Black's King-side, obtained the two Bishops, and then been able to play 12. Nc3 under much better circumstances. I still can't believe Tarrasch--of all people--omitted the strong 11. NxB.

As to why Tarrasch abstained from 11. NxB, the reason became clear with Tarrasch's next move.

11... Nc7

Both the Tournament Book and T/D preferred 11. h6, but that can't be right in light of 12. NxB. The text avoided the wrecking of the King-side pawns since 12. NxB could now be answered by 12...NxN. Simplest and best for Black here was 11...Bd7.

After 11...Nc7, the position was:

click for larger view

12. f4?!

So this was Tarrasch's idea. T/D/ referred to the f-pawn here as "ambitious." I think the move was premature and that Tarrasch should still have played 12. NxB (or maybe 12. Re1). After the text, Marco was able to claw his way back into the game.

12... h6

Reinfeld criticized this move to the extent it weakened the Black King-side pawns. But now this was not so terrible, though arguably 12...Bd7 or 12...Re8 were simpler ways to strive for equality.

13. Nf3


"This preserves his shock troops." (T/D)

"This is the kind of move that can be made only by a tyro or a great player. Tarrasch deliberately refrains from obtaining two Bishops and retreats his King with a loss of tempo." (Reinfeld)

Reinfeld went on to note the weakening of the Black position with 12...h6 and the cramping effect Tarrasch was intending when he got around to playing f5.

This was indeed a key moment in the game, and Tarrasch's decision to refrain from playing 13. NxB ended working to perfection. But some later weak play by Marco had a good deal to do with this.

What is most important is that the text allowed Tarrasch to demonstrate his ability to reduce an opponent's position to utter helplessness by purely positional means without any flashy combinations (though--after achieving a won game, Tarrasch ended the game with just such a combo here).

All of the above being said, I find the loss of tempo with 13. Nf3 to high a price .

13... Qc8

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14. Qc2 Rb8

Going all in on his intended Queen-side attack.

As Reinfeld noted, 14...d5?! would have led to trouble after 15. c5. But 14...Bd7 or 14...Re8 look more prudent. 14...b5?! is another possibility, but likely premature.

The text did nothing to anticipate Tarrasch's next move:

15. f5

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"Choking his opponent's game." (T/D)

Tarrasch had clearly obtained much the better game, but Black--though dreadfully constricted--still had play. The difficulties in the Black position no doubt go a long way towards explaining Marco's upcoming errors.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

15... Bd7
16. Bf4

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"...reminiscent of Steinitz; the QB is developed very late, but to a beautifully effective post."

"With his pieces ideally developed, White has a general, though no specific, threat."

16... b5

"The counter-play which Black seeks to obtain requires too much time before it can achieve any concrete result." (T/D)

While there is much wisdom in the comment of T/D here, by this point Marco had pretty much made his bed, so it is difficult to suggest a better move for Black. The text at least makes a fight of the position.

17. b3

Calm and cool as usual, Tarrasch deftly brushed off Marco's attacking scheme.

I love these sorts of quiet positional gems. Tarrasch was a wizard at employing such soft retorts.

The position was now:

click for larger view

17... c5


A step too far. At this stage, Marco had nothing better than the modest 17...Na6. The text is a pawn sacrifice (18. dxc5 bxc4 19.bxc4), and Black would have had scant compensation had Tarrasch grabbed the pawn.

Tarrasch, however, was after bigger fish, and sought to constrict the Black position even further. This looks like the best strategy for White here, but--Reinfeld's accolades notwithstanding, Tarrasch's way of pursuing this goal was doubtful at best.

18. d5?!

click for larger view


The text worked beautifully here, but only because Marco's Queen-side advance was still in over-drive.

Objectively, 18. Rae1 or 18. Rfe1 were much better, and Tarrasch might well have proceeded in this manner had Lasker been Black. But it must be recalled that Tarrasch knew Marco well, and may have had reason to believe the text would yield a collapse by Marco. In any case, that is what happened--immediately.

18... b4!?

Marco remained transfixed with his Queen-side attack and didn't try the much better 18...Na6 with Nb4 in view. Marco's 18...b4?!, however, completely ruled out that potentially equalizing concept.

Especially against a master strategist such as Tarrasch, one had to prepared to shift gears as the position required. Marco was not up to the test here.

19. Ne2

19. Rae1! (or 19. Rfe1) looks even stronger. But Tarrasch was in no hurry and now proceeded with his usual deliberation and care.

19... a5

Marco continued with his Queen-side advance.

click for larger view

Marco's position certainly looks over-extended, but it looks scary, especially in over-the-board play. It is instructive to see how Tarrasch demolished the Black position (albeit with some assistance from March and with a hiccup or two by White along the way).

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

20. g4?!


"Beginning the process of taking advantage of ...h6." (Reinfeld)

click for larger view

Everyone else, including Stockfish, seems to love this move, so I guess I'll have to be the lone party-pooper: (1) The move was almost certainly unnecessary. White can continue his relentless build-up with 20. Qd2 followed by Rae1, Nh2, Ng3, until the Black position collapses; (2) Had Marco defended stubbornly (e.g., with 20...Re8) or played for counter-attack, in line with his prior Queen-side scheme with 20...a4; he seems to survive.

Over-the-board, however, the text must have been a nightmare to face, and Marco cracked immediately:

20... Nh7?

Reinfeld praised the text as the only way for Black to "hold up the pawn-storming attack for a while." That this analysis was misguided was shown by Tarrasch's next move:

21. h4!

"White's three musketeers become threatening." (T/D).

21... Qd8

"Obtaining at least a postponement of the hostile g-pawn's advance." (T/D)

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T/D appears to be dead wrong. The text does not save Black or even cause White to have to blink. The text may be best, but Black was lost after 20...Nh7?

22. Bg3

Tarrasch's position was so strong he even had time for the lethargic text. But more to the point was 22. Rae1 (as played on his next turn) or 22. Ng3. The text did preclude an immediate 22. g5, but it doesn't do anything else to save Black who can still be steam-rolled even without the g-pawn advance.

22... a4

click for larger view

Reinfeld here commented on the comparative threats of White and Black here. As is obvious from even a glance at the position, White is the one with a deadly choke-hold. But counter-play is usually the best notion when under siege as Marco was here. The text doesn't save the day for Black, but I have no better ideas for Marco.

23. Kh1

Was Tarrasch playing cat-and-mouse with Marco here. 23. Nf4 looks indicated with, among other things, Ne6 or g5 in mind. Tarrasch could also have played the powerful 23. Rae1, as on his next move.

The text displayed the helplessness of Black against the powerful position Tarrasch had constructed. Tarrasch could even afford to pass. I don't know for sure what Tarrasch was thinking, but I am guessing that Tarrasch was enjoying himself at this point.

After the text, which nobody I have seen has commented on, Tarrasch got back to business and brilliantly wiped Marco off the board.

23... Ra8?

This did nothing to halt Tarrasch's attack. If Marco was hoping to trade Rooks, his hopes must have sagged after Tarrasch's response.

24. Rae1!


"Tarrasch naturally is not going to permit the exchange of Rooks..." (Reinfeld)

Another classic--but deadly--Tarrasch move:

click for larger view

What followed now, as I will discuss in my next post on this game, was sheer carnage.

Remarkable that Tarrasch had achieved such a bind with only a pair of pawns yet having been exchanged.

One quick side-note, in some versions of the game Tarrasch was said to have played the inferior 24. Rac1. As <backrank> has already pointed out here, for the coming crushing combination Tarrasch needed this Rook on e1; not on c1.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

24... Ne8

"In order, at last, to mobilize his KB. But the cramped position of Black's forces brings retribution." (T/D)

All true, but Black is dead anyway. T/D suggest 24...Re8, but then 25. Nf4 is crushing. If Black then plays 25...Re8, as per T/D, either 26. Ne6 or 26. g5 (now that the Black Bishop no longer oversees this square) would be killers.

25. Nf4

"!"--(Reinfeld)(Tournament Book)

click for larger view

25... Bf6?

This only eased Tarrasch's task. 25...Bc8 or 25...Nef6 or 25...axb3 might have delayed Tarrasch, but they would not have changed the outcome.

The Tournament Book's suggested 25...f6? would have been particularly bad. Tarrasch would then just have played 26. Ne6 and then if 26...BxN? as given by the Tournament Book [26...bxa3 or 26...Qb6 or 26...Qa5 might have offered somewhat stiffer resistance, albeit with no real hope of saving the game] 27. fxB and now Black has nothing better than the manifestly hopeless 27...f5 28. Bxf5. If then 28...Nhf6 29. g5 follows and ends any meaningful resistance.

26. Ne6!

click for larger view


"A very beautiful turn." (T/D)


"Lightning out of a clear sky!" (Reinfeld)

Huh? Tarrasch had been preparing for this lethal blow. By this stage, Marco must have seen it coming.

Black was now completely helpless. Remarkable to see a player crushed this way on move 26 with only a pair of pawns having yet been exchanged.

26... axb3

Everything else loses as well.

If now 26...fxN White wins in a walk after 27. fxe6 and now if: (i) 27...axb3 (as per the Tournament Book and T/D) 28. axb3 [28. BxN+ immediately also wins easily] 28...Kh8 [the Tournament Book's 28...Bc8 gets annihilated by 29. BxN+ Kh8 30. g5 [or--even more deadly--30. Ng5!] 29. BxN; and if instead (ii) 27...BxN 28. fxB g6 [Reinfeld's move--it is hopeless, but everything else gets crushed as well] 29. exf7+ Rxf7 30. Bxg6 Re7 31. RxR [as per Reinfeld, 31. Qf5 is even nastier] QxR 32. Re1 Be5 [another Reinfeld suggestion and as useless as anything else: 32...bxa3 33. axb3 Ra1 34. RxR BxR 35. BxN(e8) QxB 36. Bxd6] 32. NxB dxN [32...axb3 only delays the inevitable by one move] 33. Rxe5

27. axb3

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27... Qb6

If instead 27...fxN, then, as noted in the Tournament Book, 28. fxe6 is devastating: 28...Bc8 [the Tournament Book's move; 28...Kh8 or 28...Bxe6 might delay the finale, but--again--not change the outcome] 29. BxN+ and wins, since 29...Kh8 [Black's only legal move] gets murdered by 30. Ng5!, since 30...hxN gets killed by either 31. Bg6 [leaving Black in a mating net] or 31. hxg5/

After 27...Qb6, the position was:

click for larger view

As is obvious, the end was now near.

Tarrasch now had his choice of ways to win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Thanks KEG! You clearly put a lot of work into this, as you always do.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <keypusher>High praise from so fine an analyst as you.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

28. NxR

Tarrasch chose the most practical winning method. A prettier winning method was 28. g5 Bc3 29. Re3 Ra6 30. gxh6 Nhxh6 31. NxR (at last!) KxN 32. Rg1. But with the clock ticking down to the Move-30 time control I suspect that even Fischer, Kasparov, and Carlsen would have played the text.

28... KxN
29. g5

click for larger view


"Thus advance forces a quick win." (Reinfeld)

"By this beautiful pawn sacrifice, White gains access to the enemy fortress." (T/D)

There were of course other winning moves (e.g., 29. Qh2; 29. Bf4, etc.), but the text was the clearest and quickest way to close out the game.

29... hxg5

29...Bc3 would have put up slightly tougher resistance, but that too would have ended with a Black defeat after 30. gxh6 [30. Re6 would be another pretty finish] BxR 31.RxB Kg8 ("best") 32. Ng5! Nhf6 33. h7+ Nxh7 34. f6! NxN 35. hxN gxf6 36. gxf6 and Black will soon be checkmated.

30. hxg5

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30... Nxg5

As Reinfeld showed, 30...Bxg5 was even worse: e.g., 31. f6 ! g6 [this move given by Reinfeld is hopeless, but other tries would not have been much better] 32. Bxg6 [32. NxB was simpler (if now 32...NxN 33. Qc1 forces resignation---and mate) 32...fxB (leads to instant disaster, but not much else Black can do) 33. Qxg6 with checkmate soon to follow.

31. Qh2

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"Threatening 32. Qh8 mate." (T/D)

The text is indeed a crusher, as was 31. NxN (if then 31...Be5 32. BxB dxB 33. f6!) BxN 32. Qh2 and Black is toast.

31... Kg8

This shortened matters and allowed Tarrasch to finish neatly.

32. NxN BxN

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33. f6!


"A fine unmasking advance." (T/D)

33... g6

Now the game ends instantly. By now, however, Marco--having reached the move-30 time control, probably had no interest in extending the game.

34. Bxg6!

click for larger view


If now 34...fxB, White mates in two via 35. f7+. Unaccountably, Reinfeld here gives 35. RxN+ as winning for White. In fact, this would have been a gross blunder which would have turned a win for White into a loss after 35...BxR leaving Black a piece up and suddenly safe from White's attack. I can safely say that there was no way Tarrasch would have made this mistake or missed the obvious 35. f7+

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