Friday, March 26, 2010

Marshall's 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6!?

Rick Kennedy's well-researched Alekhine vs. Marshall's 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6!? at ChessCafe (originally in Kaissiber #27) would almost lead you to believe that Frank James Marshall's center-surrendering experiment against the Queen's Gambit might be fully playable.  Alekhine's notes on Alekhine - Marshall, Baden Baden 1925 suggest as much, and 12…Nxe5 13.0-0 0-0 14.Be2 Be6 would clearly have improved on Marshall's play.  However, there are two lines that Kennedy does not consider which seem to keep the line in doubt, and both are examined in Matt Pullin's excellent two-part video series from 2008 (see above).  

I always admire Pullin's objectivity, and he does his best to demonstrate Black's chances as well as White's most powerful challenge with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.Nf3! (objectively better than the natural 4.e4 Nf6! 5.Nc3 e5!) 4...Bf5 5.Qb3! and if 5...Nc6 6.Nbd2! gives White a strong variation of the Baltic (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Bf5), as demonstrated in the game Takacs-Havasi, Budapest 1926.  Kennedy also does not mention the game Alekhine - Mooyman/Citroen, Surabaya 1933 (surprising, given his focus on Alekhine) where White was definitely better following 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.e4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nf3 exd4 7.Nxd4 (7.Qxd4 is also slightly in White's favor).  Pullin suggests Black may have a playable game here after 7....Bc5 8.Be3 O-O (better than the tempting but tempo-wasting 8...Ng4?! as Alekhine's opponents tried) and if 9.Ne6 Bxe6 10.Bxc5 (gaining the two Bishops in an open position) 10...Re8 11.Qxd8 Rxd8 he thinks Black has reasonable chances, which may be true, though Black's position is hardly inspiring.  Conclusion: Marshall's variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined may have more to it than commonly thought, but it does not inspire confidence against White's best counters.


Anonymous said...

I know you must hear it all the time from lots of chessplayers, but I'll let you hear it again - " This is one GREAT chess blog " :) Keep it up.


Michael Goeller said...

Thanks. I really do not hear it enough... :-)

Rick Kennedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Kennedy said...

In my article for Kaissiber #27 (recently at Chess Cafe) I did not cover the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.e4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nf3 for reasons of focus and space.

I wish now that I had been more expansive.

6.Nf3 has an interesting history. The earliest example that I have of the move is from the clock simultaneous game Otto Zimmerman - Alekhine, Basle, Switzerland, 1925. Alekhine, several months after his game against Marshall at Baden-Baden, faced Zimmerman, one of "ten, strong, master players" (according to Skinner and Verhoeven in their majestic Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games, 1902-1946).

It appears that Alekhine tried out Marshall's novelty, 5...e5, for the first time in that simul game, only to meet Zimmerman's novelty, 6.Nf3.

Alekhine later played 6.Nf3 successfully at least three times, in simul games against Citroen & Mooyman (Soerabaja, Indonesia 1933), Goossens (Semarang, Indonesia 1933) and Alba (Madrid, Spain 1941).

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.e4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nf3 was also played in the 1925 correspondence game Vitaly Halberstadt - Alberto Rastrelli, (published in the March 1926 issue of La Strategie). This was the center of a later, undated, anecdote that appeared in Halberstadt's March 1956 British Chess Magazine article "Reminiscences of Alekhine" and mentioned in Edward Winter's Chess Notes #2899.

"One day at the Regence I asked him, 'Alexander Alexandrovich, may I show you a correspondence game I played (in 1925-26) in the France-Italy match?' and I commenced the demonstration.

"1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.e4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nf3 exd4 7.Nxd4..

"Alekhine stopped me with 'Your move [7.Nxd4] is a bad one, since Black can play 7...Bc5 and if you play 8.Be3 Black replies 8...Ng4 as I said in the notes to my game against Marshall at Baden-Baden.'

"I looked up at him and asked innocently 'and if then I should play 9.Ne6?' Surprise on Alekhine's part, and, with a laugh, 'Well, I never saw that.' "

Thanks to Matt Pullin's wonderful videos on the Marshall Defense that you've highlighted, many people will see that now...

Thanks for the attention to the Marshall Defense and the kind words.

Oh, this is one GREAT chess blog, too.


Michael Goeller said...

Thanks for the comments. Quite a piece of research finding that Alekhine quote in BCM. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Gary Lane discussed this line in an old ChessCafe piece: