Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Marshall-Black, Lake Hopatcong 1923

Position after 16.Qe5 in Marshall-Black, Lake Hopatcong 1923
Black to play and gain counterplay, with at least a slight edge.

I have recently been working through John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book, which may be one of the most difficult collections of tactical positions I've ever studied. Of course, Nunn intends it to be difficult and the positions (almost all of which are from GM games) to be a bit messy and complicated, in the way that practical play always is. But I realized recently that what makes the positions most difficult is that, in many of the cases, the solutions were missed by human players and even annotators! Nunn developed many of his examples by going through old Informant games and analysis with a computer to catch all of the things that the GMs had missed. I'm sure I'm not the first reader to ask, "Well, if a GM missed it, then how the hell am I supposed to find it?" I guess the answer is that I have the advantage of knowing, by the very nature of a puzzle book, that it is there to be found. Nobody ever tells you "Black to play and win" during the game (unfortunately).

The position above is exactly the sort that Nunn would have liked to include in his book. It is taken from Marshall-Black, Lake Hopatcong 1923. Marshall has just played 16.Qe5(?), which is awarded an exclamation mark by both Hermann Helms and GM Andrew Soltis in their notes. The players obviously thought it was a strong move as well. Helms writes that Roy Black thought that 16.Qe5 "practically settled the question then and there." But while the idea is correct, the execution was faulty. Fritz suggests first 16.dxe6 Nxe6 and then 17.Qe5! with a big plus for White. The computer also finds that Black has a strong saving line after 16.Qe5(?) which everyone else up to now has overlooked. Knowing that it is "Black to play and gain the edge," can you spot it?

The following article appeared in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on August 21, 1923. Notes to the first game are based, in part, on those of Soltis in his book Frank Marshall, United States Champion (McFarland)--which was only recently published but bears a 1994 copyright, suggesting that its analysis was done before the widespread use of computers. You, however, can use a computer to view the PGN files: simply copy them to the clipboard and then use Edit>Paste>Paste Game to load them into Fritz or your preferred PGN-viewer.


By Hermann Helms

One is strongly reminded, when perusing the game Marshall won from Black (both old Brooklynites, by the way, but now gone elsewhere) in the masters tournament at Lake Hopatcong, of the palmiest days of the United States champion, as he went out among the great experts of Europe and bowled them over in a fashion that opened their eyes much the same way as did the exploits of Morphy and Pillsbury. Black, in his defense to the Queen's Gambit, followed the lead of Capablanca as far as the fifteenth move but later acknowledged that Marshall's next move of 16.Q-K5 practically settled the question then and there.

The champion's handling of the entire game was a treat to witness. The final position, in which Black was merely a pawn behind, is a real problem for the enthusiast to work out. Black saw through it and resigned as a matter of courtesy to Marshall, whose strategy he respected.

Chajes, after an indifferent start, is very much in the running. His game with Sournin of Washington is typical of his style.

[Event "9th American Chess Congress"]
[Site "Lake Hopatcong, NJ USA"]
[Date "1923.08.15"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Marshall, Frank James"]
[Black "Black, Roy"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D64"]
[PlyCount "47"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 O-O 7. Rc1 c6 8. Qc2 dxc4 $6 (8... Ne4 $1 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nxe4 dxe4 11. Qxe4 Qb4+ 12. Nd2 Qxb2 $11 {Soltis}) 9. Bxc4 Nd5 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. O-O Nxc3 12. Qxc3 $1 $14 { "Stopping ...e6-e5 and thereby limiting Black to passivity" writes Soltis.} b6 13. e4 Bb7 14. Rfe1 Rfd8 15. d5 $1 { "Elementary but thematic exploitation of the e-file pin" writes Soltis.} Nc5 $6 (15... cxd5 16. exd5 Bxd5 $2 (16... Nf8 17. dxe6 Nxe6 18. Bxe6 fxe6 $8 19. Qe3 $14) 17. Bxd5 $18) (15... e5 16. dxc6 Bxc6 17. Bxf7+ $16) (15... c5 $5 {Fritz}) 16. Qe5 $2 {Inaccurate play by the champion.} ({ The correct way of executing Marshall's plan is by} 16. dxe6 $1 Nxe6 (16... fxe6 17. b4 $16) 17. Qe5 $1 $16) 16... Kf8 $2 ({ Black could actually obtain the advantage here with} 16... cxd5 $1 17. exd5 Bxd5 18. Bxd5 Nd3 $1 19. Rc7 (19. Qc7 Qxc7 20. Rxc7 Rxd5 $17) 19... Qf8) 17. Qh5 $16 cxd5 (17... Kg8 18. b4 g6 (18... Nd7 19. dxe6 fxe6 20. Ng5 $18 {Soltis} ) 19. Qh6 Nd7 20. dxc6 $1 Bxc6 21. Bxe6 $1 fxe6 (21... Qxe6 $2 22. Ng5 Qf6 23. Rxc6 $1 $18) 22. Rxc6 $16) 18. exd5 (18. Qxh7 $142 $16) 18... Bxd5 $2 (18... h6 $142) 19. Bxd5 Rxd5 20. Qxh7 $18 Qb7 21. Qh8+ Ke7 22. Qxg7 Rf5 23. Nd4 $1 Rf6 24. Qg5 {Black cannot stop Nf5+ without surrendering the Rook.} 1-0

[Event "9th American Chess Congress"]
[Site "Lake Hopatcong, NJ USA"]
[Date "1923.08.15"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Sournin, Vladimir"]
[Black "Chajes, Oscar"]
[Result "0-1"]
[PlyCount "94"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 d6 3. Nf3 Nbd7 4. Nc3 c6 5. e4 Qa5 6. Bd2 (6. Bd3 e5 $1 $11) 6... Qc7 7. Bd3 e5 8. O-O h6 9. Re1 g5 $6 10. dxe5 $6 (10. Ne2 $1 exd4 11. Nfxd4 $16 {with the idea of Ng3 and Ndf5}) 10... dxe5 $11 11. Ne2 Nc5 12. Bc3 Bd6 13. Ng3 Be6 (13... Na4 14. Qd2 Bg4 $15) 14. Nf5 Bxf5 15. exf5 Ncd7 (15... O-O-O $1) 16. Qd2 O-O-O 17. b4 $2 Rhe8 $17 ( 17... g4 $5 18. Nh4 e4 $40) 18. Bc4 e4 19. Nd4 Bxh2+ 20. Kf1 Bf4 21. Qe2 Nb6 $6 ({Much stronger was} 21... Ne5 $1 {placing the Knight to a much more active post and blocking the dark-squared Bishop's long diagonal.}) 22. Ne6 $1 fxe6 23. Bxf6 exf5 $1 24. Bxd8 Qxd8 $17 { Black's exchange sacrifice maintains his strong positional edge.} 25. Bf7 Re7 26. Bg6 Qf8 27. g4 $1 e3 $5 (27... fxg4 28. Qxg4+ Kb8 29. Bxe4 $15) 28. Bxf5+ Kb8 29. f3 $6 h5 30. Kg2 hxg4 31. fxg4 Bd6 32. c4 Bxb4 33. Rh1 Qg8 34. Bd3 a5 $6 (34... Na4) 35. Raf1 (35. Rh5 $1 Nd7 36. Rah1 $13) 35... Na4 36. Qf3 Ka7 37. Be4 $2 Qxc4 38. Qxe3+ Bc5 39. Bd3 Qxa2+ 40. Rf2 Qxf2+ $1 {Forcing a won ending. } 41. Qxf2 Bxf2 42. Kxf2 Nc5 43. Bf5 b5 44. Rh6 Kb6 45. Rg6 a4 46. Rxg5 a3 47. Bb1 Ne4+ $1 0-1

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