The movie "Tower Heist" and the greatest move in the history of chess

The movie "Tower Heist" and the greatest move in the history of chess

May 28, 2012, 5:29 PM |

The movie "Tower heist" is not a chess movie.Its about a couple of employees of an apartment building who lose their pensions.A Wall Street swindler played by Alan Alda have defrauded them and now they want payback.

The movie just contains one chess scene but it was quite interesting.

Alan Alda is playing alone on a chessboard when he is visited by Ben Stiller and some others  who lost their money.

He asks if Ben knows what is considered the greatest move in the history of chess.He tells the story of Frank Marshall who was losing a game against Levitsky 1912 in the world championship in Helsinki,Finland.

It wasn't until move 23 when Marshall sacrificed his queen leaving Levitsky so chocked that he could win two moves later.The move became known as the "Marshall swindle".

I had to look up the game and indeed it existed.However some things in the movie wasn't correct.

It was played in Breslau now called Wroclaw in Poland in the masters tournament of the DSB Congress.After move 23 by Marshall,Levitsky resigned immediately.And without the beautiful sacrifice ,Marshall wasn't about to lose the game but had a better position.

So who was Frank Marshall? (1877-1944)

He was considered one of the worlds best players staying at top 10 for over 20 years.Between 1909-1936 he was the US champion and he had many openings named after him.Perhaps the most famous being the "Marshall attack" in the Ruy Lopez.

Emanuel Lasker and Capablanca where two players at that time he couldn't match though.

The move 23...Qg3 by Marshall is indeed considered one of the best moves in the history of chess.So why did Levitsky resign?

Black is threatening mate with Qxh2 so white has to do something.

hxg3 leads to checkmate with Ne2#

fxg3 is met by Ne2+ and after Kh1 black mates with Rxf1#

Best is Qxg3.Black plays Ne2+.White Kh1 is met by Nxg3+.And after Kg1 black checks again and after Kh1 ,black is a knight up and have a winning endgame.


I have included the whole game analyzed with my Stockfish 5 engine.