Frank Marshall, Part 3: Capablanca Takes The Stage
Capablanca giving a simul. | Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Frank Marshall, Part 3: Capablanca Takes The Stage

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What do you do when you've failed to win the world chess championship and, more important, you've realized that the biggest title will never be yours?

Well, you play chess of course!

Yes, the top players dream of the world championship, but you didn’t get into the game for that. You play because it’s part of you and, quite simply, you love it.

Frank Marshall had good times and bad times, but he always looked for the next tournament, new opening ideas, and improvement in all phases of the game. And when he won a game by a beautiful attack… THAT is what he lived for.

frank marshall chess

Marshall via Wikipedia. 



An interesting and strong tournament. There were six players, and all had to play four games against the others. Tarrasch took first (Marshall drew three games against Tarrasch and lost one), Schlechter was 2nd, Marshall and Janowski tied for 3rd and 4th, Burn 5th, and Chigorin 6th.


In Marshall’s day, if any chess player heard the word “swindle” they immediately thought of Marshall. Marshall was famous for finding himself in bad (often hopeless) positions, but when that occurred magic appeared: Marshall tossed whatever pieces he had left at his opponent and, lo and behold, the opponent’s brain melted as tactic after tactic left Marshall with another victory.

Here’s a typical example:

Marshall had positional skills too; it’s just that he preferred whack-a-mole chess. When he did play positionally, he was always on the lookout for a segue into an attack. The following game shows this philosophy in perfection:



A very strong group of players (21!). Marshall didn’t do very well, but he was ahead of many legends. Akiba Rubinstein 1st, Geza Maroczy 2nd, Paul Saladin Leonhardt 3rd, Aaron Nimzowitsch and Carl Schlechter tired for 4th and 5th, Milan Vidmar 6th. Marshall tied for 11th and 12th, ahead of Spielmann, Tartakower, Chigorin, Janowski and others.



Twenty players, 19 games, Maroczy, Schlechter, and Duras tied for first with 14 points. Rubinstein was 4th, and Marshall, Leonhardt, and Mieses tied for 9th to 11th. By the way, last place with just 1.5 points was Richard Reti!

By now it has become clear that Marshall played a zillion games! The guy couldn’t stop playing.



DSB-16 Kongress

Marshall again won a tournament with no losses. His score of 11.5-3.5 put him 1.5 ahead of 2nd place (Salwe). Spielmann took 3rd.


Smooth, wasn’t it? It’s amazing how calm, technical skills often win games in what looks like a simple manner. Marshall always loved tactical play, but as he grew older, and as he got more and more experience, he started to appreciate positional chess too.


Lodz mt

Akiba Rubinstein, Marshall, and Georg Salwe. Each played an 8-game match with the others. When the smoke cleared Rubinstein won with 9.5, Marshall had 8, and Salwe had 6.5.


Warsaw match

Frank Marshall vs. Akiba Rubinstein

An eight game match, it was hard-fought with Rubinstein winning 3 wins to 2 with 3 draws. Since Rubinstein was the 2nd-best player on Earth, Marshall’s result was good.

The 6th game was going very well for Marshall but he wasn’t able to break through. Eventually it equaled out, though Marshall kept slogging along, still remembering his long-gone advantage. Finally Marshall sacrificed a piece and we have this position:

How can these legends play like this? Simple, it’s clear that both were in horrendous time pressure. When that scenario hits the board, anything can happen!

Berlin Match

Frank Marshall vs. Jacques Mieses

10-game match: Marshall wins 5 games, Mieses wins 4, with one draw. (Marshall won the last game!).


Suresnew Match

Marshall vs. Janowski Does it Again!

Another match (10 games) between David Janowski and Marshall. Janowski won comfortably by 5 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses.

Yet did he really win in the overall scheme of things?

It turned out that, after losing their 2nd match in 1905, Janowski’s ego was nuked and, as a result, he immediately made a challenge for another match. One insane condition (created by Janowski of course) was: “I also offer you the advantage of four points: that is to say, my first four wins are not to count.”

When this 3rd match finally happened (in 1908) Janowski won by 3 games, but if he didn’t count his first 4 wins that means Marshall got the money. I don’t know if Janowski made changes after his misguided bravado, but the whole thing was crazy anyway.


USA m New York

Frank Marshall vs. Jose Raul Capablanca

This match was supposed to be for the U.S. championship, and, since Capa never played in a strong European tournament and was unknown to many, everyone was sure Marshall would easily win. However, Marshall got eviscerated! After the match, Marshall complained that Capablanca (a Cuban) wasn’t an American citizen and therefore couldn’t be the U.S. champion.

Walter Penn Shipley, a strong chess player and lawyer, agreed and made it clear that Capa couldn’t have the title. Shipley also said that Marshall didn’t have the title (since his opponent wasn’t a U.S. citizen) and so it was reverted to the old U.S. champion, Jackson Showalter. This led to a match between Showalter and Marshall a short time later, Marshall won decisively by crunching him 7 to 2, and finally Marshall was officially the U.S. champion. Marshall had the title for ages and gave it up in 1936.

The Marshall vs. Capablanca match was long—23 games. But Marshall must have quickly realized that he was face-to-face with a monster. The final score: 8 wins for Capablanca, 1 win for Marshall, and 14 draws.

The “problems” that occurred (Marshall's losses and the problem with Capa not being a U.S. citizen) could have made the two men enemies. However, Marshall wasn’t a guy that kept grudges. When the very strong San Sebastian (a seaside town in Spain) tournament (1911) was inviting the best of the best, Marshall insisted that Capablanca (an unknown in Europe) get into the event. Capablanca came in first, and a new chess god was born. Marshall came in 4th, ahead of Tarrasch, Schlechter, Nimzowitsch, Spielmann, Maroczy, Janowski, and others.

Here is Marshall’s only win in their match:

A really good game by Marshall (a mix of positional skill and tactics)! If he played like that throughout the match, he would have won several more games!


DSB-17 Kongress

1st Schlechter, 2nd Duras, 3rd Nimzowitsch, 4th Spielmann, and Teichmann and Marshall tied for 5th and 6th.

There were 17 players in this event, and players like Tartakower and Tarrasch failed to make the top 6. But what stands out the most was a young Alekhine, who tied for 7th and 8th.

Marshall drew his game with Alekhine but never beat him as the years went by. Their life score for serious tournaments: 7 wins and 8 draws. Why was Alekhine so difficult for Marshall? That’s simple: Marshall’s main strength was attacking skills and tactics. Unfortunately for Marshall, Alekhine was the best in the world when it came to those two things.

Here’s a very interesting (I should change “interesting” to “AWESOME”) draw between these two men bashing it out in 1924. The end was full of fireworks!



New York

Marshall came in first (undefeated), Capablanca 2nd. Capablanca lost to Roy Turnbull Black, who was a judge. Capablanca, with an “I can beat this fish with any opening” mentality, played 1.e4 c5 2.b4. It didn’t go well for the Cuban. Here’s a quick and instructive look at the Capa vs. Black battle:



Hamburg match

Frank Marshall vs. Paul Saladin Leonhardt

A 7-game match. Marshall won with 2 wins, 1 loss, and 4 draws.


Twenty-six players. Teichmann 1st, Rubinstein and Schlechter tied for 2nd and 3rd, Rotlewi 4th, and Marshall and Nimzowitsch tied for 5th and 6th. The 19-year-old Alekhine tied for 8th-11th.

The following game is a humor piece. Nothing profound, just humor! When I was a child I read this and I enjoyed it so much that I never forgot it. All the notes are by Marshall:

“I felt rather nervous when I sat down to play the Russian master Dus-Chotimirsky in the last round; I knew that he had received considerable coaching in anticipation of his game with me. My excitable opponent also showed signs of great nervousness. This amusing little game was the result of our meeting.”

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