Sunday, March 28, 2010

Frank Marshall

Frank James Marshall was the U.S. Chess Champion from 1909-1936, and was one of the world's strongest chess players in the early part of the 20th century.

Marshall was born in New York City, and lived in Montreal, Canada from ages 8 to 19. He began playing chess at the age of 10 and by 1890 was one of the leading players in Montreal.

He won the U.S. chess championship in 1904, but did not accept the title because the then current U.S. champion, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, did not compete.

Marshall finished fifth at the extremely strong St. Petersburg tournament in 1914, behind World Champion Lasker, future World Champions Capablanca and Alekhine, and former World Championship challenger Tarrasch, but ahead of the players who did not qualify for the final: Ossip Bernstein, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, Blackburne, Janowski, and Gunsberg.

Marshall was best known for his great tactical skill. One aspect of this was the "Marshall swindle", where a trick would turn a lost game around. Andrew Soltis writes that, "In later years his prowess at rescuing the irretrievable took on magical proportions". Not so well known now, but appreciated in his day, was his endgame skill.

Here is one of his games:

Paris, 1900
Queen's Gambit Declined

1. d4, d5
2. c4, e6
3. Nc3, Nf6
4. Bg5, Be7
5. e3, 0-0
6. Nf3, b6
7. Bd3, Bb7
8. cxd5, exd5

Here 8. ..... Nxd5, leading to some simplification, would give Black an easier game.

9. Bxf6, Bxf6
10. h4, g6

The move permits White to open the h file.

11. h5 .....

This cannot be answered by 11. ..... g5 because of 12. h6! followed by 13. Qc2 winning a pawn.

11. ..... Re8
12. hxg6, hxg6
13. Qc2, Bg7

A reflex action to shield his King - but it is too late.

14. Bxg6, fxg6
15. Qxg6, Nd7
16. Ng5 .....

White has two mating threats.

16. ..... Qf6

Black parries one of the threats (17. Qf7 mate) but he is helpless against the other one.

17. Rh8, Resigns

For after 17. .....Kxh8, 18. Qh7 mate.  White has executed a dashing attack in a most attractive manner.

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