"Weird" Opening Attack

Mar 7, 2008, 12:00 AM |
28 | Strategy

Perhaps “weird” isn’t the right term, but it is definitely an extremely complicated attack. The Max Lange isn’t too popular these days, but if you look at Hans Fahrni’s way of playing it in 1914 it is worth a second look.

Anyway, I ran across this game in Lasker’s beloved book “Chess Strategy” and did some editing to the analysis and changed the notation to algebraic. I think you’ll find it a very instructive game!

White:              Marshall, Frank James
Black:               Tarrasch, Siegbert
Place:               Hamburg
Opening:           Max Lange Attack

1. e4                e5

2. d4                exd4

3. Nf3              Nc6

4. Bc4              Bc5

5. O-O             Nf6

Here Black could have avoided the complicated Max Lange Attack and kept the pawn he gained by playing 5 … d6. In reply to that White would have tried 6 c3, aiming after 6 … dxc3; 7 Nxc3, to quickly develop his pieces.  However, in that case Black has the ability to foil his aims by playing, either 6 … d3; or 6 … Bg4. By d3 Black prevents White from developing his queen-side Knight to its best square.  After Bg4 the play may possibly continue; 7 Qb3, Bxf3; 8 Bxf7+, Kf8; 9 gxf3, Nf6.  In that position Black has the opportunity to launch attacks on the broken king-side of White using the half open f file, while most of White’s pieces are still undeveloped. On the whole Black will have the greater advantage.      

6. e5                d5

7. exf6              dxc4

8. Re1+            Be6

9. Ng5             Qd5

White by playing 9 Ng5 threatened Nxe6 and Qh5+ with the resultant loss of a piece for Tarrasch. If Black tried 9 … Qd3 to prevent that, White can play fxg7 and then Ne4 and Nf6+.

The current situation in the game is the standard position of the Max Lange Attack. On appearance it seems to favor Black. Black’s minor pieces are fully developed, while his pawn bastion at c4 and d4 hampers White from getting his pieces out to a certain extent. Because of all those reasons disadvantageous to White, Max Lange Attack Opening was not a favorite in the tournaments.

However Marshall in this game played a novel move, 15 Bh6, and asked the question; Does White have sufficient attacking chances through the open e file combined with the pawn on f6 to make this opening attractive to White?

10. Nc3                       Qf5

11. Nce4                      O-O-O

Black must castle now. If Black moves the threatened Bishop to safety through Bb6, White will preclude Black from castling in the future. Without castling the King will be in danger, especially with an open e file. Play may have proceeded thus; 11 Nce4 Bb6; 12 fxg7 Rg8; 13 g4 Qg6; 14 Nxe6 fxe6; 15 Bg5 Rxg7; 16 Qf3. This gives White a devastating attack.

12. Nxe6

If White attempted, 12 g4 Qe5!; 13 Nf3 Qd5; 14 fxg7 and then NF6, in order to win the exchange, Tarrasch will counter with; 14 … Bxg4!!; 15 gxh8=Q Rxh8; 16 Nf6 Qxf3; 17 Qxf3 Bxf3. The result at the end is that White while attempting to take advantage of insecure Black’s Bishop has exposed his king-side through the advance his g pawn. He would have to be extra vigilant against attacks through the now open g file in the future. 

12. …                          fxe6

13. g4                          Qe5

If Qd4, White will play fxg7 followed by Nf6.

14. fxg7                        Rhg8

15. Bh6                       

This was the novel move introduced in this game by Marshall. After the inevitable g5 White’s Bishop is out of the game but in return Black Rook is held in g8 by the pawn on g7. In addition White has the ever present threat of Nf6, which can either gain him the exchange, or in case Black chooses to capture the Knight, the advantage of two very strong passed pawns.

15. …                          d3

16. c3                          Bd6

This move will only help White, since he intends to advance his central pawns. Only possibility available to Black to avoid defeat is to play Be7 followed by Rd7, Nd8 and NF7. However in this game Black seems to have lost the plot, as demonstrated by his next few moves. His defeat comes with astonishing speed.

17. f4                           Qd5

18. Qf3                        Be7

19. g5                          Qf5

20. Ng3                       Qf7

Tarrasch has not gained anything by moving his Queen around. Instead, he should have tried to bolster his defenses, or prepared a counter attack.  Anyway as a result White now has several possible attacking opportunities. He starts by setting his sights on e pawn.

21. Qg4                       Rde8

22. Re4                        b5

23. a4             

Marshall brings in the queen-side Rook to the attack. Black is clearly doomed.

23. …                          a6

24. axb5                       axb5

25. Kg2                      

Avoids the check, thus allowing the attack on e pawn to continue

25. …                          Nd8

26. Qf3                        Qg6

27. Rd4                        c6

28. Rxd8+                    Kxd8

29. Qxc6                     

Tarrasch resigned.

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