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Frank James Marshall, 1904

Dec 27, 2007, 1:32 PM 1

 In 1904 Marshall published a book called Chess Openings. The most intriguing part of the book, to me, was the autobiographical introduction that summarized Marshall's chess career up to 1904. I found it a bit bizarre how he wrote about his life, chess and talent unabashedly in the third person. If Marshall had any faults, humility was never one of them.


I've reproduced the entire biography below, leaving out only two tournament tables that seemed extraneous.


Portrait of Frank James Marshall

Frank James Marshall was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 10th, 1877. His first knowledge of chess was taught by his father, but his experience of serious games was gained in Canada, in the city of Montreal, where his parents removed from America when young Marshall was about ten years of age. He progressed so rapidly that he had won the championship of the Montreal Chess Club by the time he was fifteen. In the year 1896 the family returned to Brooklyn, and young Marshall having developed the taste for chess clubs, became identified with the Brooklyn and Manhattan Chess Clubs, and was a regular attender at these leading American chess resorts. He came into prominence in the year 1897 by winning the junior championship of the New York State Chess Association. In the following year he was a competitor in the Brooklyn Chess Club Championship Tournament but was defeated by Mr. W. E. Napier. In 1899 he made his first appearance in the cable matches - Great Britain versus the United States.  His position was board No. 8, and his opponent Mr. G. E. Wainwright. The game ended in a draw after Mr. Marshall won the opposing Queen for two pieces, and obtained a winning endgame position. Later during the same year (1899) Mr. Marshall crossed the Atlantic, intending to compete in the London International Tournament, which was limited to fifteen competitors. He was not chosen to play in the major even, but he competed in the minor tournament of twelve players, the company including Herrs Marco and Mieses. The struggle in this event proved very keen, but Mr. Marshall succeeded in winning first prize (£70) with a score of 8½ points - 7 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss. Mr. T. Physick was the player who defeated Mr. Marshall. Messrs. Marco and Physick were second ex æquo with 8 points each.

     We give two specimens of Mr. Marshall's play in the London contest, as they display evidence of that style which in later days has been so much admired.




    On his return to America, Mr. Marshall took part in the championship tournament of the Manhattan Club, and the New York State Association, winning first prize in both contests. In the following year (1900) he made his debut in international tournaments of major importance in the Paris Tournament of that year; and he startled the chess world by defeating Dr. Lasker (first prize winner) in the only game lost in that tournament by the Champion of the World. Mr. Marshall also defeated his fellow-countryman, Mr. H. N. Pillsbury (second prize winner), and he finished ex æquo with Herr Maroczy with a score of 12 points, dividing third and fourth prizes, £80 and £60.  Since 1900 Mr. Marshall has taken part in nearly every international contest of any importance. He played in the Monte Carlo Tournaments of 1901, 1902, 1903, and 1904.  In the 1901  contest he was in poor form, his total score only aggregating 5½ points.  In 1902 he finished ninth in the list of the twenty competitors, his share of the consolation prize money being £15 15s. In the 1903 tournament he was eighth with 12 points.  On this occasion fourteen players were engaged, and the leaders were Dr. Tarrasch (20 points), Messrs. Maroczy (19), Pillsbury (18½), Schlechter (17), Teichmann (16½), Marco (15), Wolf (14) and Mieses (13). The Monte Carlo Tournament of this year (1904) was restricted to six players, who were selected from 17 entrants. The competitors were Messrs. Gunsberg, Marco, Maroczy, Marshall, Schlechter, and Swiderski.  The contest was conducted in two rounds, and Mr. Marshall lost the first prize, and fell back to third place in consequence of refusing to draw against Herr Maroczy in the last round.  Other important contests in which Mr. Marshall has taken part are the Hanover International Tournament of 1902, and the Vienna Gambit Tournament of last year (1903), in which he won the second prize with 11½ points.  Prior to 1903, Mr. Marshall was regarded as an erratic player capable of defeating the strongest opponent, and losing to the weakest. 

      Notwithstanding this it was freely acknowledged that he has no superior as a chess tactician.  During the early part of 1903, his games began to show evidence that "steadiness" - the one element lacking - was being embodied in his style.  Perhaps the psychological turning point was the game he lost to Herr Maroczy, at Monte Carlo, after declining the draw offered.  In announcing that defeat to an English friend he wrote, "When shall I learn that a draw (½) counts more than a loss (0)?"  The lesson was not unheeded, as prior to his departure from England for Cambridge Springs he assured many of his friends that he would win the first prize in the forthcoming struggle, and he stated that the only player he feared was M. Janowski.  His victory in the American International Tournament was a memorable one, and will rank as one of the most remarkable events in chess history.  He won 11 games, drew the remaining four, and secured first prize (£200) with a score of 13 points.  Dr. Lasker and M. Janowski divided second and third prizes with scores of 11 points each.... [tournament table]


    The British Chess Magazinecomented on Mr. Marshall's success as follows:  - To play a series of 15 games against most of the strongest masters of the game in the world, and to win 11 of them, the remaining four being drawn, is a feat which he and his countrymen may well be proud of, especially when it is remembered that one of the four drawn games was with the champion of the world.   And how, it may be asked, could such a feat have been accomplished?  This is a question which we think only a perusal of Mr. Marshall's games can answer, and it seems to us that the answer must certainly not be by any superior knowledge of openings or end-games, not generally by the gradual accumulation of minute advantages, but by remarkable chess genius, by thorough insight into position, by original ideas of attack and defence, by a sort of intuition as to when a sacrifice can be ventured and when it can not, without the tiresome necessity of plodding through all the variations, to the great danger of exceeding the time-limit.  In short, Mr. Marshall is no ordinary strong player, his is a man of clever original ideas, and does not fear to carry them into practice even with the most formidable of his opponents.

     The Brooklyn Eagledescribed Mr. Marshall's play as "chess which, though perhaps not of the soundest, taxes the nerves of the most experienced of the masters. It is a combination of the old school with the new, which is at least sure of lasting popularity. There are some who go so far to say that it will be the means of bringing Mr. Marshall dangerously close to the world's championship.  Some of his moves, made in the face of all recognized principles, are so utterly audacious, though ingenious withal, that his fellow masters refer to them as "Marshall's swindles."

     The Field(London) referred to Mr. Marshall's victory in the following terms: - "Mr. Marshall stands out head and shoulders above the other competitors.  It is an achievement, if equalled, cetainly not surpassed in previous contests. . . .  His games are games of chess; they savor of a refreshing originality, full of vigor and enterprise, and they stand out like oases in the dreary deserts of the Ruy Lopez, the Four Knights, the Petroffs and the Center Counter Openings, which have been the repertoire in this tournament.  In spite of his enterprising style against over-cautious rivals, he never lost a game, nor is there a game in his list that he should have lost.

     After his success at Cambridge Springs, the members of the Manhattan Chess Club (New York) presented Mr. Marshall with a gold watch and chain.  The watch was inscribed as follows:

The members of the Manhattan Chess
Club to Frank J. Marshall, for his victory
at Cambridge Springs,  P.A., 1904

    The next public contest in which Mr. Marshall took part was the American Tournament at St. Louis, in October, 1904, when he practically repeated his previous effort by securing first prize of £100, with a score of 8 wins and 2 draws.  On this occasion the opposition was not the calibre which Mr. Marshall had met in previous first-class tournaments, and his success was therefore generally anticipated.  After the conclusion of the tournament, the committee of the Congress presented Mr. Marshall with a gold medal inscribed "Champion," but it is only fair to state that Mr. Marshall waives all claim to this title, in view of the fact that such players as Messrs. Pillsbury and Showalter did not compete in the tournament at St. Louis.... [tournament table]


Some time ago Mr. Marshall challenged Dr. Lasker for the championship of the world, but the negotiations proved futile owing to the large financial consideration (stakes £400 on each side) insisted upon by Dr. Lasker. The meeting may however yet be arranged, especially if Mr. Marshall should defeat M. Janowski in the match which these chess matadors have arranged to contest in Paris next month (December 1904).  Both players favour open tactics to such an extent that if each gives free scope to his imaginative faculties and powers of calculation the literature of chess will certainly be enriched by their efforts. Of Mr. Marshall it may be truthfully said that the Anglo-Saxon race has not produced since Morphy, with the exception of Mr. J. H. Blackburne, an exponent of chess play whose style is so incisive, so virile, or of such sustained interest as that of Frank James Marshall.


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