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Marshall vs. Torre

One of the interesting attractions of the Dimock Theme Tournament is the insight it gives us into the friendly rivalry between Frank Marshall and Carlos Torre. Marshall accompanied Torre on his European tour in 1925 (which took them to Baden-Baden, Moscow, and Marienbad) and acted as something of a mentor to him. And Torre said of Marshall that he was a "fine person and great friend."

But when they met over the board, it was generally a fight to the death (see Game 1).

With only one exception (their meeting at Baden-Baden, where Torre seems to have accepted a draw by repetition in a slightly advantageous position), the games between the two were very hard fought. Half of them had a decisive result, and it is worth noting that Torre held a clear advantage in their meetings: +3, =4, -1.
 

 

Introduction
The Players
Key Moments
The Tournament
Marshall vs. Torre
The NY International
A Piece of History
Chess History Links
Acknowledgments
Games Index
 
  Torre's advantage may have been due to his better opening preparation and Marshall's rather dubious embrace of development over material. Torre did especially well whenever he was able to lure Marshall into playing a positional or hypermodern line, where Marshall usually tried to play more aggressively than the position dictated. In the open games, Marshall generally held his own.

Their play reflects a clash of styles, between members of the old and new schools. Marshall clearly represented an older and more romantic style while Torre represented the emerging hypermodern approach to the game. The eight games below can be seen as constituting a match between the two generations of chess players in the 1920s.



Black to move after 22.hxg3.

Carlos Torre
vs.
Frank James Marshall
Dimock Theme Tournament, New York 1924

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Marshall transposes to the Two Knights Defense with 3....exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6 and Torre chooses the Perreux Variation with 5.Ng5. An ending is soon reached where Black has an isolated pawn on the open e-file but has managed to damage White's pawn formation as well.

In the diagram, it is Black to play. Marshall has just exchanged off the remaining minor pieces with 21....Nxg3+ 22.hxg3 leaving an instructive Rook ending. Material is equal, but Black's pawns are better than White's, giving him the advantage. Rook endings depend, though, on piece activity and it appears that White's Rook is keeping Black's tied to the defense of the pawn at e5. How should Black proceed?

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Black to move after 9...O-O 10.Bd3?

Frank James Marshall
vs.
Carlos Torre
Dimock Theme Tournament, New York 1924

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The second meeting between Marshall and Torre is a fascinating struggle in the Urusov Gambit. Marshall misses the best line of play in the opening but continues to make it difficult for Torre to consolidate his pawn advantage well into the ending. Eventually, though, Torre finds the way to win.

In the diagram, it is Black to play after 9....O-O 10.Bd3? What should Marshall have played instead of 10.Bc4-d3? And what defensive plan does Torre discover in this position?

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Black to move after 6....Bf2+ 7.Kd1.

Carlos Torre
vs.
Frank James Marshall

Dimock Theme Tournament 1925

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In the second Dimock Theme Tournament that Marshall and Torre participated in, in January and February of 1925, the theme was the Vienna Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5. Marshall denies White the right to castle in the opening and slowly begins to build an advantage that includes a passed pawn. But Torre is able to pull out a draw by repetition late in the game.

In the diagrammed position, Black has just forced the White King to move. But now his two minor pieces are in danger. How does Marshall extricate his Bishop without losing material?

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Black to move after 4.b3.

Frank James Marshall
vs.
Carlos Torre
en route to America from Baden-Baden

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Marshall and Torre likely played a large number of offhand games. The following game is suggestive of how tactically interesting these encounters may have been. It was played on their way together across the Atlantic by ship (the only way to travel in 1924) on their way to the Baden-Baden tournament.

Torre's "Two Knights Tango" has invited Marshall's pawns to advance with the potential to weaken his dark squares. How did Torre begin an attack on those squares to quickly win?

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Black to move after 12....cxd4 13.exd4.

Frank James Marshall
vs.
Carlos Torre

Baden-Baden 1925

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Marshall adopts a rather classical stonewall formation against which Torre's flexible King's Indian formation allows for more room to maneuver. Torre plays the opening in a more aggressive style than Marshall and eventually begins to gain the advantage. But just when he seems to be gaining the initiative, Torre accepts a draw by repetition.

In the diagram, it is Black to move. White has claimed space in the center in classical fashion by advancing his pawns, while Torre has held back his center pawns and established control over the center from afar with his pieces in hypermodern style. Torre to move tries to show that Marshall's light squares are weak and his pawns are potential targets. What does he do?

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White to move after 29....Bd5.

Carlos Torre
vs.
Frank James Marshall
Marienbad 1925

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Marshall plays the opening rather inaccurately, allowing Torre to gain material. But he then struggles back to equality and holds a draw through tenacious maneuvers.

In the diagram, it's Torre to move as White. How can he win a pawn and make it difficult for Marshall to draw?

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Black to move and win after 32.Bf2.

Frank James Marshall
vs.
Carlos Torre
Moscow 1925

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Once again, Marshall plays the opening rather poorly, allowing Torre to gain the initiative.

In the diagram, it is Torre as Black to play after 31....Rb3 32.Bf2? White's last move is a blunder. How can Black win material and the game? Black to play and win.

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White to move after 11...Qc7.

Carlos Torre
vs.
Frank James Marshall
Chicago 1926

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Marshall plays the opening aggressively as Black, with no regard for material. Though he gains an edge in development, it really is inadequate compensation for his lost pawn.

In the diagram, Torre can begin an attack that will either win material or force Black into major positional concessions. It all begins with a surprising and seemingly loosening move. White to play and win.

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Contact: Michael Goeller, goeller@rci.rutgers.edu
Last modified: July 15, 2002
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