Frank Marshall, Part 5: A Radical Change
Because these things will change.

Frank Marshall, Part 5: A Radical Change

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Frank Marshall played quite a bit in 1915, but all his games were in the U.S. There were two reasons for this: First, World War I. Second: Marshall opened the Marshall Chess Club in New York!

With new responsibilities and an inability to go to Europe, one might think that his chess would lose a bit of his strength. That wasn’t the case. He still had his attacking flare and he was also extremely hard to beat.

frank marshall chess

Marshall via Wikipedia. 

The New York National tournament was a great example. Capablanca took 1st and Marshall 2nd (both were undefeated). The 3rd and 4th places (Chajes and Kupchik) were 5 points behind Marshall! Capa and Marshall were so far ahead of the other players that they should have changed the name of the event to “The Two Foxes in a Henhouse Tournament.”

Here are a few examples:


New York Match 1916

Marshall vs. Janowski

1916 was a quiet year for Marshall, and he played very rarely. He did sneak in an eight-game match against Janowski, which he won decisively with a 5.5-2.5 score.


Though 1916 was a slow year, 1917 was even slower. Here’s a training game in which Marshall prepares the famous pawn sacrifice for Capablanca.

New York Manhattan CC 1918

When Marshall decided to make use of his new Ruy Lopez gambit (with the adjustment of 9…Nxd5 instead of the inferior 9…e4), Capablanca played brilliantly and won. Nevertheless, Marshall’s idea (named after him) is now known as 100 percent sound and modern players often avoid it. Due to this, the once-powerful Ruy Lopez has lost a lot of its luster, forcing many to use the Giuoco Piano (3.Bc4 instead of 3.Bb5) which, sadly, is rather boring.

This was not a good tournament for Marshall. Capablanca came in first with a crushing 10.5-1.5 score, while Boris Kostic was very sold with a 9-3 score. Poor Marshall lost four games (he lost both games against Capablanca), though he still came in 3rd.


White seems to be busted since Black threatens ...Qb2 mate and also ...Bf5+ winning White’s queen. Can Marshall save himself?

The Quiet Years

The years went by, with few tournaments played. 1919 wasn’t even on the map, and 1920 (he was now 43 years old) offered one small tournament (Atlantic City, which he won) and a few games in the Metropolitan Chess League. Was he more or less retired from international play?

1921 and 1922 continued the view that Marshall was done, only sitting down with the chessboard during a game in the Metropolitan Chess League.


1923 was a do or die time for Marshall. The Metropolitan Chess League games were dragging him down due to the poor competition. He was 45 years old. He owned the U.S. championship for 14 years, and Edward Lasker (age 37) wanted a match for the title. Arguments about the match for the U.S. championship got heated, and Edward Lasker and Marshall became enemies. In the end they agreed to the match (animosity and all).

The match was played in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee/Cleveland, Detroit/Cincinnati/Baltimore/Washington, and Long Island. Marshall, no doubt out of form, lost the first two games, but after that his play improved and he managed to win the match, 9 1/2-8 1/2.

Zipping ahead a bit, In 1926 both Edward Lasker and Marshall (still enemies) were playing in a tournament. Edward Lasker won a last-round game which enabled Marshall to win the tournament. Marshall gave the following speech: “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to state publicly that I owe first place in this tournament to Edward Lasker. We had a misunderstanding during our match for the U.S. championship and we have not been on speaking terms since then. I did not think he would try to defeat Torre and in that way make me come out first. He proved himself a true sportsman, and I want to express my gratitude.”

Earlier in this series I mentioned that Marshall had quite a few games featuring (for one side or the other) tripled pawns. Here’s an example from the Marshall-vs.-Edward Lasker match:

Lake Hopatcong

Marshall tied for first with Kupchik, though Frank was undefeated. Janowski was 3rd.

Here’s Marshall’s favorite game from this event.


New York

After his tournament and match victories in 1923 Marshall was getting closer and closer to his old form. The timing was perfect since the Manhattan Chess Club organized one of the greatest events ever: New York 1924.

The question for Marshall was, “Can I still hold my own with the big boys? Can I still play against the highest competition?”

The players: Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker, Alekhine, Bogoljubow, Maroczy, Reti, Tartakower, Janowski, Edward Lasker, Yates, and (of course) Marshall.

Marshall didn’t have a good start; he drew his first two games (against Reti and Tartakower), lost to Bogoljubow, drew with Yates, and lost to Maroczy. Many players would psychologically collapse, but Marshall always believed in himself and, suddenly, Marshall’s skills came back and Marshall was, once again, Marshall. He drew Alekhine (A very hard opponent for Marshall. This draw must have given him confidence.), beat up Janowski, drew Emanuel Lasker (Lasker was on the ropes and only Lasker’s famous defensive skill deprived Marshall of a glorious victory.), drew Capablanca, and took down Edward Lasker.

The first half of the tournament was over and Marshall had turned a minus-two into an even score. Now he needed to show his stuff in the 2nd round:  he beat Janowski again, had a small setback by losing to Tartakower, showed his resilience by beating Reti (Finally a plus score!), drew Capablanca again, drew Edward Lasker, got revenge by smashing Bogoljubov (Plus two!), drew Maroczy, drew Alekhine again, beat Yates (plus 3), and ended with a thud when Emanuel Lasker outplayed him (back to plus 2 for Marshall).

The 56-year-old Emanuel Lasker was clear first, 1.5 points (with an amazing plus-12!) ahead of Capablanca, who was second. Alekhine came in 3rd and, once again, Marshall showed that he was the real deal by coming in 4th. Reti was 5th, Maroczy 6th, Bogoljubov 7th, Tartakower 8th, Yates 9th, Edward Lasker 10th, and poor old Janowski last.


New York 1924 rejuvenated his chess-lust. All of a sudden he was back and starving for strong tournaments!


A huge tournament, there were 21 players. Alekhine was first (1.5 points ahead of the field), Rubinstein was 2nd, Saemisch 3rd, Bogoljubow 4th, and Tartakower and Marshall 5th and 6th. Others: Rabinovich, Gruenfeld, Nimzowitsch, Torre, Reti, Spielmann, Tarrasch, Mieses, etc.

Marshall once again showed he was hard to beat. His only loses were against Alekhine and Reti. His wins included Saemisch, Bogoljubow, Tarrasch, etc.



Aaron Nimzowitsch (Marshall beat him) and Akiba Rubinstein tied for 1st and 2nd, with Marshall tying for 3rd and 4th (with Torre). I should add that Marshall was the only player who was undefeated! Others: Tartakower, Reti, Spielmann, Gruenfeld, Saemisch, Janowski, etc.

Having no fear, Marshall cracked out the Wing Gambit!

I have to add that a gentleman online said that Marshall always played 1.e4 and beat his opponents with a gambit. That's incorrect. Yes, Marshall did play 1.e4 often, but he played 1.d4 more. And he did play gambits, but not nearly as often as people think he did. Truth to tell, he loved gambits and combinations, but he was also excellent in endgames and dynamic positional play. He was a well-rounded player, which explains why he was so hard to beat.

Moscow 1925 (21 players)

A famous tournament and Bogoljubow's greatest victory. Efim Bogoljubow 1st, Emanuel Lasker 2nd (57 years old!), Jose Capablanca 3rd, and Marshall 4th. Others: Tartakower, Torre, Reti, Romanovsky, Gruenfeld, Spielmann, Rubinstein, etc.



Reliving the Good Old Days

Hermann Hesse’s fantastic novel, Narcissus and Goldmund, reminds me a bit of Marshall. Goldmund (placed in the 14th century) becomes a wanderer, hoping to find who he really is (Marshall was also a wanderer). At the end of the book, an aged Goldmund decides to relive his adventures one more time, but things were not the same and Goldmund dies. Marshall was luckier than Goldmund. His comeback in 1924 and 1925 was amazing.

Sadly, nothing lasts. The 49-year-old Marshall started his ups and downs in 1926 and, like every sportsman, you’re all used up and there are mainly only downs. It’s up to every player to decide when that moment has arrived.

New York Dimock 1926: Four players, two games against each other, Marshall came in tied for first and second, but the competition wasn’t very good.


White is dead lost (a queen vs. two rooks and a bishop). What’s the best way to end the game?

Lake Hopatcong 1926: 5 players, two games against each other, Marshall came in 4th, winning just one game and losing three.

Chicago 1926: Marshall was clear first, ahead of Torre, Maroczy, Kupchik, Jaffe, Kashdan, and others.

None of those 1926 tournaments were the “super events” that he reveled in.


New York

This was a super tournament (6 players, all play each other 4 times), and Marshall, for the first time since he became a top player, came in last. Capablanca came in 1st, Alekhine 2nd, Nimzowitsch 3rd, Vidmar 4th, Spielmann 5th, and Marshall at the end. Out of 20 games, Marshall managed to win just one game (against Vidmar).

London British Empire Club

Nimzowitsch and Tartakower tied for 1st, Marshall did well here, coming in 3rd (once again he was the only player who didn’t lose a game). 4th was Vidmar, 5th Bogoljubow, etc.


Bad Kissingen

12 players, very good competition: Bogoljubow 1st, Capablanca 2nd, Euwe 3rd, Rubinstein 4th, Nimzowitsch 5th, Reti 6th, Tartakower 7th, Marshall 8th, Yates 9th, Spielmann 10th (Spielmann beat Capablanca), Tarrasch 11th, Mieses 12th.


Marshall came in 4th behind Saemisch 1st, Reti 2nd, and Kmoch 3rd. Not a particularly strong tournament, the Marshall of 1924 and 1925 would probably have won it.


Capablanca 1st, Marshall 2nd, Spielmann 3rd, and the rest of the players were not in the same class.

Berlin Tageblatt

A very strong tournament, and another last place: Capablanca 1st, Nimzowitsch 2nd, Spielmann 3rd, Tartakower 4th, Rubinstein 5th, Reti 6th, and Marshall 7th.


A weak group, Colle, Marshall, and Takacs all tied for 1st-3rd.


Bradley Beach

Alekhine wiped out the others with 8 wins, 1 draw, no losses. Marshall would have take 2nd place in his better days, but now he could only come in 6th. 2nd was Lajos Steiner, Kupchik 3rd, Turover 4th, Fox 5th, Kevitz 7th, Herman Steiner 8th, Cintron 9th, and Bigelow 10th.


To me, this was the tournament that screamed, “Don’t let Marshall play in top tournaments anymore!”

Nimzowitsch 1st, Capablanca and Spielmann 2nd and 3rd (Spielmann beat Capablanca again), Rubinstein 4th, Becker, Vidmar, and Euwe 5th-7th, Bogoljubov 8th, Gruenfeld 9th, Canal and Matisons 10th - 11th, Tartakower, Maroczy, Colle and Treybal 12th - 15th, Saemisch and Yates 16th - 17th, Johner and Marshall 18th - 19th, Gilg 20th, Thomas 21st, and Menchik 22nd.

Liege 1930

Tartakower 1st, Sultan Khan 2nd, Nimzowitsch, Ahues, and Colle 3rd - 5th, Przepiorka 6th, Rubinstein, Soultanbeieff, and Weenink 7th - 9th, Thomas 10th, Marshall 11th, and Pleci 12th.

Of course, though older players tend to crash, they also have moments when that old magic rears its head. This game reminds us just how good Marshall was:


After Liege 1930 Marshall decided that the time was right to quit tournaments. However, he didn’t completely step away from competitive chess! Instead, he still played in the Metropolitan Chess League and he was a serious factor in four chess Olympiads:

Marshall was the only player on all four gold-medal winning U.S. teams of the 1930s (1931-1933-1935-1937) who had a lifetime score of 67 percent. He won individual gold on board two in 1933. What is most impressive is Marshall did all this while in his 50s! He turned 60 during the 1937 Olympiad in Stockholm. 

He was a hero in the 1933 Olympiad:

The U.S. was leading Czechoslovakia in the last round of the 1933 Olympiad held in Folkestone, England, by 2 1/2 points but almost lost to their rival 4-0 in the last round. Around move 18 Simonson and Kashdan had lost and Fine was in trouble. Marshall’s position (against Treybal, who in 1941 was charged by the Gestapo and executed for illegal possession of firearms) was no better, but he saved the day by winning that very critical game.

In 1936, after holding the U.S. championship title for 27 years, he relinquished it to the winner of a championship tournament (Samuel Reshevsky). The first such tournament was sponsored by the National Chess Federation and held in New York. The Marshall Chess Club donated the trophy.

Here’s a hilarious offhand game Marshall played in 1940:

Marshall died in 1944. He lived as he wanted to live, he experienced things that rarely are seen, he traveled the globe, he was loved by his fans, and his death was the end of an era. Yet, his chess games live on to this day, enjoyed by young and old alike as they marvel at Marshall’s genius.

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