One of history’s most memorable attacking masters hailed from the United States. He was known, especially in his early career, for his intense tactical style of play. An oft-repeated story is told about him. He moved his queen to where it could be captured by either of two pawns or his foe’s queen. Taking it would result in mate or decisive loss of material; not taking it would result in mate. Though accounts vary, the story continues that appreciative spectators showered him with gold pieces. We are talking about New York City-born Frank Marshall, U.S. Champion for a record 27 years, who confirmed that this event “literally” happened to him.
So tricky was Marshall combinationally, that he developed a reputation for salvaging losing games by tactical means. This became known as the “Marshall Swindle.” In chess, the word “swindle” has lost its pejorative meaning. Instead of being criticized for being unethical, a chess swindler is admired for his survival skills. In fact, Marshall was so proud of his being able to snatch undeserved victory from deserved defeat that he published a book called Marshall’s Chess Swindles. “... his prowess at rescuing the irretrievable took on magical proportions” [Andrew Soltis]. This column’s featured game has been considered one of Marshall’s best swindles. It certainly serves to encourage us to never say die.
Game of the week Frank Marshall-Georg Marco Monte Carlo, 1904
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.c3 d3 6.0–0 d6 7.Qxd3 Nf6 8.b4 Bb6 9.a4 a6 10.Re1 Ng4 11.Ra2?(A) Nge5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Qg3(B) Nxc4 14.Qxg7(C) Rf8 15.e5 Nxe5 16.Kh1 Be6 17.Rae2 Qe7 18.f4 Nd3 19.f5 Ne5(D) 20.fxe6 fxe6 21.Bh6 Qxg7 22.Bxg7 Rf5 23.Bxe5 Rxe5 24.Rxe5 dxe5(E) 25.g3 Rd8 26.Kg2 Rd3 27.Rxe5 Kf7 28.Re2 Be3 29.Rc2 Bh6 30.Rf2+ Ke7 31.Rf3 Rd1 32.Rf1 Rd3 33.Rf3 Rd1 34.Na3?(F) Rc1 35.c4 Ra1 36.c5 Bc1 37.Nc4 Rxa4 38.Ne5 Bb2 39.Nd3 Bc3 40.Rf4 a5 41.Rh4 axb4 42.Rxh7+ Kd8 43.Nf4 b3 44.Nxe6+ Kc8(G) 45.c6!(H) Be5?(I) 46.cxb7+ Kb8 47.Nc5 Ra2+ 48.Kh3 b2 49.Re7 Ka7(J) 50.Re8 c6 51.Ra8+ Kb6 52.Rxa2!(K) b1Q 53.b8Q+ Bxb8 54.Rb2+ Qxb2 55.Na4+ Kb5 56.Nxb2(L) c5 57.Kg2 c4 58.Kf3 c3 59.Nd3 Kc4 60.Ne1 Kd4 61.h4 Bd6 62.g4 Be7 63.g5 Ke5 64.Kg4 Bf8 65.Nc2 Ke4 66.h5 Kd3 67.Na1 Ke4 68.h6 Ke5 69.Kh5 Kf5 70.Nc2 Bd6 71.Nd4+ Ke4 72.Ne2 c2 73.g6 Ba3 74.g7 Kd3 75.g8Q Kxe2 76.Qa2 1–0
A) Overlooking a tactical shot. From this point, Marshall is losing. B) 13.Qe2? Nxc4 14.Qxc4?? Be6. C) Constant aggression, of course. D) Inaccurate. The more complicated 19...Nf2+ 20.Kg1 Ne4+ 21.Be3 Bc4 22.Bxb6 Bxe2 23.Rxe2 cxb6 24.Qd4 0–0–0 25.Rxe4 leaves Black much better off. E) Marshall has almost equalized. F) Unwisely disdaining a draw by repetition. Soon, his queenside pawns will suffer. G) Clearly, Marshall is busted. In just a few moves his opponent will have an extra queen [...b2, b1(Q)]. H)Getting Tricky. I) Probably avoiding 45...bxc6 46.Rxc7+ Kb8 47.Rb7+ Kxb7 48.Nc5+ since the Black rook falls and the b-pawn cannot advance. But, 48...Ka7 49.Nxa4 Bd4 traps the knight which will be lost. J) Not 49...b1Q? 50.Re8+ Ka7 51.Ra8+ Kb6 52.b8Q+ Kxc5 53.Qxb1. K) Finding an amazing combination. L) Down a pawn and probably in shock, Marshall’s foe drifted down to defeat.