Frank Marshall, Part 4: St. Petersburg 1914 And The Gods Of Chess
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg

Frank Marshall, Part 4: St. Petersburg 1914 And The Gods Of Chess

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In part 3 we left Frank Marshall playing in one tournament or match after another. Nothing changed in 1912. The guy seemed to live for chess and he continued to compete all over Europe, Russia, and the U.S. Since he couldn’t fly to all those places, one wonders how much of his time was taken on ships and trains. 

Personally, I would be exhausted since once you get to where you want to be, you have to play in a tournament for a couple weeks or a month or even longer. Then, when it’s over, you do it again!

frank marshall chess

Marshall via Wikipedia. 


San Sebastian

Marshall’s first tournament in 1912 was the chess-friendly San Sebastian. He did okay, but I’m sure he wanted to do better:

Akiba Rubinstein was first, Spielmann and Nimzowitsch tied for 2nd and 3rd, Tarrasch was 4th, Julius Perlis was 5th, and Marshall 6th. Other players were Duras, Teichmann, Schlechter, Leonhardt, and Forgacs behind.

Bad Pistyan

Marshall did better here, but the event was a triumph for Rubinstein who clobbered the rest of the field with 12 wins, 4 draws, and one loss. Spielmann came in second 2.5 points behind Rubinstein, and Marshall was 3rd. Some of the other players: Schlechter, Duras, Teichmann, Alapin, Breyer, etc.



Teleporting to a tournament in Budapest, Marshall and Schlechter tied for 1st and 2nd, Duras and Maroczy tied for 3rd and 4th, and Teichmann and Vidmar tied for 5th and 6th.

18th DSB Kongress, Breslau

Marshall came in 6th out of 18 players. This tournament is famous for Marshall’s brilliant queen sacrifice.

Here’s what Marshall said: “Perhaps you have heard about this game, which so excited the spectators that they showered me with gold pieces! I have often been asked whether this really happened. The answer is yes, that is what happened, literally!"


Biarritz Match

Marshall vs. Janowski

It was a nine-game match. Marshall slaughtered his eternal opponent 6 wins, 1 loss, 2 draws.

Here is Marshall’s favorite game of the match:


New York National

With 14 players, the big hitters were Capablanca, Marshall, and Janowski. Capablanca came in first (though he lost a game to Jaffe), and Marshall (who was the only undefeated player) was half a point behind.

Though Marshall continued to attack whenever possible (and sometimes he would attack when it wasn’t possible!), Marshall had realized that, when you play a top guy you often can’t bully him. Instead you need endgame skills (and Marshall was already very good in endgames), solid openings, and the ability to play solidly. In other words, he was becoming a well-balanced player who preferred sharp, attacking chess while accepting reality if the board told him to put on the brakes.


Eight players (14 games each), and the big three were, once again, Capablanca, Marshall, and Janowski. Marshall came in first, only losing one game to Janowski (Marshall won their other game.). Capablanca was second (he lost a game to Janowski and another loss to Marshall).

The following game shows that Marshall won due to patience and good defense. Yes, Capa was winning this game, but many “winning positions” have come a cropper thanks to solid defense.


New York Match

Marshall vs. Oldrich Duras

Marshall won with a 3-0 score. That’s a great victory since Duras was an exceptionally strong player.


New York Progressive

Four players (12 games): Frank Marshall, Oldrich Duras, Oscar Chajes, and Charles Jaffe. Marshall won with 5 wins and one loss.


St Petersburg Preliminary

This was an extremely important tournament, and only the top five would make it to the final. Isidor Gunsberg and Joseph Blackburne didn’t have a chance. That left Janowski, Ossip Bernstein, Marshall, Rubinstein, Capablanca, Tarrasch, Lasker, Nimzowitsch, and Alekhine. It wasn’t a surprise when Janowski crashed and burned, and Bernstein did better than expected (he was tied for 6th and 7th with Rubinstein, which was nothing to be ashamed of, but he didn’t reach the final.).

Nimzowitsch could only reach 8th place (meaning he was out), and Rubinstein (thought to be a favorite) lost to Lasker and Alekhine, leaving him in 6th place and a “good but not good enough” trip back home.

Capablanca was on fire and came in 1.5 points ahead of the 2nd and 3rd players, Lasker and Tarrasch. Alekhine was in 5th place, and Marshall surprised quite a few chess fans by coming in 4th (he only lost one game. Who was it? His nemesis Alekhine!).

A word about Lasker: he hadn’t played in a tournament for five years (!) and it wasn’t clear that the cobwebs would be able to vanish in time (or ever). Thus, equal 2nd and 3rd was perfectly okay.

Marshall’s game against Bernstein was critical.

St. Petersburg Final

It seemed that Capablanca would easily win since the results from the preliminary carried into the final. That means that, going into the final, Capablanca was 1.5 points ahead of everyone else. However, Emanuel Lasker was now warmed up and he smashed the competition, scorching his rivals with a 7-1 finish (6 wins, 2 draws, no loses). Capablanca had 5 points, Alekhine had 4, and Tarrasch and Marshall had 2. When the preliminary points were added in, Lasker won the tournament by half a point over Capablanca.

According to Marshall, the Tsar of Russia “conferred on each of the five finalists the title ‘Grandmaster of Chess.’”

I would like to share a few paragraphs from Marshall’s book, “Marshall’s Best Games of Chess”, which discusses what Marshall did after the St. Petersburg Final:

“After visiting several places in Russia and Germany, giving exhibitions, I went to Mannheim. The tournament there was little more than half over when it ended abruptly by the outbreak of World War I. It was surprising how quickly the place became infested with soldiers. They seemed to spring up from nowhere. The one French representative, D. Janowski, and the three Russians, Alekhine, Flamberg and Bogoljubow, were promptly place under arrest. The German players, including Krueger, Carls and John, at once joined the colors. Dr. Tarrasch saw two of his sons depart for the front. The remaining players were invited to make themselves scarce.

“I made for the Dutch border and arrived in Amsterdam after many adventures. Usually a seven-hour trip, it took me 39 hours. Somewhere on the border I lost my baggage, containing all my belongings and the presents I had received in St. Petersburg and elsewhere. After a few days in Paris and London, I finally obtained ‘special accommodations’ on the S.S. Rochambeau and returned home.

“Five years later, much to my astonishment, my trunks arrived in New York, with their contents intact!”

DSB-19 Kongress, Mannheim

After St. Petersburg, it was clear that Lasker was still the world’s best player with Capablanca a tad behind him. The 3rd best player was a bit of a surprise: Alekhine! Indeed, these placements were shown to be 100 percent correct since Capablanca finally took the world championship in 1921 from an aging Lasker and, as if it was Alekhine’s turn, Capablanca lost the title to Alekhine in 1927.

However, let’s not ignore Marshall, who (now in his prime) was not good enough to beat the three chess gods, but did well against just about everyone else. Marshall’s excellent result in St. Petersburg proved that Marshall was (depending on his form, which comes and goes) 4th to 8th in the world. This was proven in the very strong Mannheim event, with Alekhine dominating (9.5-1.5), Vidmar and Spielmann tied for 2nd and 3rd, and Janowski, Marshall, Reti and Breyer all tying for 4th-7th. Other players: Bogoljubov, Tarrasch, Duras, Tartakower, Mieses, etc.



Please look for part 5 (and last) of this series next week.

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