Frank Marshall (chess player)

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Frank Marshall (chess player) : biography

August 10, 1877 – November 9, 1944

Quotes

  • "The hardest thing in chess is to win a won game."Georgia Chess, Jan 2008, p. 37

Chess career

Marshall was born in New York City, and lived in Montreal, Canada, from age 8 to 19. He began playing chess at the age of 10, and by 1890 (aged 13) was one of the leading players in Montreal.

He won the 1904 Cambridge Springs International Chess Congress (scoring 13/15, ahead of World Champion Emanuel Lasker) and the U.S. congress in 1904, but did not get the national title because the U.S. champion at that time, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, did not compete. In 1906 Pillsbury died and Marshall again refused the championship title until he won it in competition in 1909.

In 1907 he played a match against World Champion Emanuel Lasker for the title and lost eight games, winning none and drawing seven. They played their match in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and Memphis from January 26 to April 8, 1907.

In 1909 he agreed to play a match with then young Cuban chess player José Capablanca, and to most people’s surprise, lost eight games, drew fourteen, and won only one. After this defeat Marshall did not resent Capablanca; instead, he realized the young man had immense talent and deserved recognition. The American champion worked hard to ensure Capablanca had the chance to play at the highest levels of competition. Marshall insisted that Capablanca be permitted to enter the San Sebastián tournament in 1911, an exclusive championship promising to be one of the strongest yet in history. Despite much protest at his inclusion, Capablanca won the tournament.

Marshall finished fifth at the St. Petersburg tournament in 1914, behind World Champion Lasker, future World Champions Capablanca and Alekhine, and former World Championship challenger Tarrasch, but ahead of the players who did not qualify for the final: Ossip Bernstein, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, Blackburne, Janowski, and Gunsberg. According to Marshall’s 1942 autobiography, which was reportedly ghostwritten by Fred Reinfeld, Tsar Nicholas II conferred the title of "Grandmaster" on Marshall and the other four finalists. Chess historian Edward Winter has questioned this, stating that the earliest known sources that support this story are Marshall’s autobiography and an article by Robert Lewis Taylor in the June 15, 1940 issue of The New Yorker., by Edward Winter

In 1915 Marshall opened the Marshall Chess Club in New York City. In 1925 Marshall appeared in the short Soviet film Chess Fever in a cameo appearance, along with Capablanca.

In the 1930s Marshall captained the U.S. team to four gold medals at four Chess Olympiads. During one round, he returned to the board and found that his comrades had agreed to three draws. After he finished his own game, he gave each of them a stern talk individually on how draws do not win matches.

In 1936 after holding the U.S. championship title for 27 years, he relinquished it to the winner of a championship tournament. The first such tournament was sponsored by the National Chess Federation and held in New York. The Marshall Chess Club donated the trophy, and the first winner was Samuel Reshevsky.

Notes