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Hanging out with Frank Marshall

I’ve been spending some time with Frank Marshall lately. Marshall, as you’ll doubtless recall, was the foremost American chessplayer of the early 1900’s. He was also an accomplished chess writer and I’ve recently been going back over his book on the openings.

I found some aspects of the book rather strange. Marshall calls the Queen’s Gambit “the soundest of all the openings”, implying that the White player should play it safe while still exercising some creativity. On the other hand, he heartily endorses the Schliemann Gambit as Black’s best reply to the Ruy Lopez. That one totally flipped me out. The Schliemann isn’t exactly the most highly-respected Black response to the Ruy these days, and my first thought was that Marshall’s book was actually ghost-written and Frank just “signed off” on it.

But then I checked ChessBase and I came away with a different opinion. Marshall played the Black side of the Schliemann twenty-eight times, a respectable number for the days when a top professional might play far fewer than a hundred games a year. Best of all, Marshall actually came away with a winning percentage as Black in the Schliemann, winning eleven and drawing ten of those twenty-eight games.

That’s what I get for doubting someone’s judgement based solely on his eclectic opening choices. Silly me.

Here’s a particularly neat Schliemann with Marshall as Black. But the fun doesn’t lie in the opening of this one; in a classic swindle, Marshall completely hoodwinks Teichmann in the endgame:

Teichmann,Richard – Marshall,Frank James [C63]
Monte Carlo (14), 1902

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 f5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.d3 Bb4 6.0-0 Bxc3 7.bxc3 fxe4 8.dxe4 d6 9.Qd3 Bd7 10.Rb1 Na5 11.Bxd7+ Qxd7 12.Bg5 Qc6 13.Bxf6 gxf6 14.Nh4 0-0-0 15.Nf5 Rd7 16.Ne3 Rg8 17.Rb5 b6 18.Rfb1 Rdg7 19.g3 Nb7

Position after 19...Nb7

Holy cats! I thought 1.e4 was supposed to lead to an open game! As is typical for the Ruy, the middlegame position looks like the D.C. beltway at 4 PM.

20.Nd5 Rf8 21.a4 Rgf7 22.R5b4 Nc5 23.Qc4 Kd7 24.a5 f5 25.axb6 axb6 26.f3 fxe4 27.fxe4 Rf2 28.Nxb6+ cxb6 29.Rxb6 Qxe4 30.Rb7+ Qxb7 31.Rxb7+ Nxb7

Position after 31...Nxb7

Let’s see a show of hands. How many people have never been in a chess club argument over which is better: a Queen or two Rooks? Nobody? That’s what I thought. It’s a source of constant debate among club-level chessplayers. This game will serve as evidence (or fodder) for the members of the “two Rooks camp”. Teichmann, though, is unconcerned.

32.Qe4 Nc5 33.Qxh7+ Kc6 34.Qh6 Rf1+ 35.Kg2 R8f2+ 36.Kh3 Rh1 37.Qg6 Rhxh2+ 38.Kg4

Position after 38.Kg4

Wait for it…wait for it…

38…Rf4+ 39.gxf4 Rg2+

Position after 29...Rg2+

Marshall sacs one of the Rooks to set up the classic skewer, providing Teichmann with a total facepalm moment. 0-1

To be fair to Teichmann, he’s essentially been losing for the last ten or eleven moves anyway, his failure to play something like 37.Kg4 or 37.Qe3 made the skewer possibility more or less inevitable. and Rybka shows that 39.Kg5 leads to a forced mate.

And, in case you’re wondering, I’ve been in the “two Rooks camp” for a couple of decades now. The defense rests, your honor.

I pulled all of Frank Marshall’s twenty-eight Schliemann Gambit games as Black from a database of nearly 4.5 million games in just seconds using ChessBase 10 from ChessCentral. ChessBase is the most valuable chess study and research tool ever. You can learn more in less time using ChessBase 10.

Have fun! — Steve

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