A Century of Chess: Janowski-Marshall 1908
Marshall and Janowski. 1907.

A Century of Chess: Janowski-Marshall 1908

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Among players of the classical era, it’s somehow easy to underrate Janowski. There was the difficult personality, the really execrable match score against Lasker, an unfortunate tapering off of playing form in the era after World War I, as well as a certain one-sidedness to his style. But he was a terrifying opponent in the 1900s, one of the first to combine modern positional methods with headlong attack (much in the way that the Soviet school, decades later, would revolutionize the chess world’s understanding of the correct way to operate a game).

Janowski. From Edward Winter.

His convincing win over Marshall in 1908 – the third of five (!) matches between these two – is a good opportunity to appreciate Janowski in his element.

Marshall, Nardus, Janowski. From Leopold Hoffer.

The match was Janowski’s long-awaited chance for revenge for a humiliating loss to Marshall in 1905. It was held at the home of Leo Nardus, Janowski’s personal chess patron (an art dealer and sometime forger). Over five matches and 80 games, the two proved themselves to be roughly equal. In 1905, it appeared, with his genius for combination as well as an instability in Janowski’s temperament, that Marshall was the superior player. But by 1908, Marshall had lost the crystalline play of his best years. My suspicion is that he really had been demoralized by his match losses to Tarrasch and to Lasker. In 1904-05, he had an aura of invincibility in his play. By 1908, he no longer seemed to have the same overpowering confidence, and his play had a club feel to it – cut-and-thrust, deep combinations paired with fairly basic oversights. More concretely, his opening choices in the match often seemed to get him into trouble. It was part of a streak of four consecutive match losses for him – an indication that match play really was a weak point in his game.