He won the U.S. chess championship in 1904, but did not accept the title because the current U.S. champion, 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 Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker for the title and lost eight games, winning none and drawing seven. They played their match in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Chicago, and Memphis from January 26 to April 8, 1907.
After this thrashing Marshall did not resent Capablanca; instead, he realized the young man had immense talent and deserved recognition by the chess community. The American champion worked hard to assure Capablanca had the chance to play at the highest levels of competition.
Marshall insisted that Capablanca be permitted to enter the San Sebastian tournament in 1911, an exclusive championship promising to be one of the strongest yet in history. Despite much protest at his inclusion, Marshall's young friend won the tournament.
Marshall finished fifth at the extremely strong 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 an article by Robert Lewis Taylor in the June 15, 1940 issue of The New Yorker and Marshall's autobiography.
In the 1930s, Marshall captained the US 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 don't win games or matches. They got the message. The U.S. team has never repeated the great successes of Marshall's teams. However, it must be emphasized that the Soviet Union, which would later dominate this competition, was not entering teams in the 1930s.
In 1936, after holding the U.S. championship title for 29 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.
1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nc3 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Be2 Nf6 7.O-O Be7 8.Bg5 O-O 9.dxc5 Be6 10.Nd4 Bxc5 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.Bg4 Qd6 13.Bh3 Rae8 14.Qd2 Bb4 15.Bxf6 Rxf6 16.Rad1 Qc5 17.Qe2 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Qxc3 19.Rxd5 Nd4 20.Qh5 Ref8 21.Re5 Rh6 22.Qg5 Rxh3 23.Rc5 Qg3!! 0-1This move is considered one of the most brilliant moves ever played (Tim Krabbé ranked it third). Legend has it that the spectators showered the board with gold pieces after Marshall's stunning last move.
An important gambit in the Semi-Slav Defense is also named after Marshall. That "Marshall Gambit" begins 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 e6 4.e4!? Now the main line runs 4...dex4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 (6.Nc3 saves the pawn but is not considered dangerous) Qxd4 7.Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8.Be2 with sharp and unclear play.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bg4 7. O-O Nc6 8. c3 Be7 9. Nbd2 Nxd2 10. Bxd2 O-O 11. h3 Bh5 12. Re1 Qd7 13. Bb5 Bd6 14. Ne5 Bxe5 15. Qxh5 Bf6 16. Bf4 Rae8 17. Re3 Rxe3 18. fxe3 a6 19. Ba4 b5 20. Bc2 g6 21. Qf3 Bg7 22. Bb3 Ne7 23. e4 dxe4 24. Qxe4 c6 25. Re1 Nd5 26. Bxd5 cxd5 27. Qe7 Qc8 28. Bd6 h6 29. Rf1 f6 30. Re1 Rd8 31. Bc5 Kh7 32. Qf7 Qf5 33. Be7 Qd7 34. Kf1 Rf8 35. Qe6 Qxe6 36. Rxe6 Re8 37. Re2 Kg8 38. b3 Kf7 39. Bc5 Rxe2 40. Kxe2 f5 41. Kd3 Ke6 42. c4 bxc4+ 43. bxc4 g5 44. g4 f4 45. Bb4 Bf6 46. Bf8 dxc4+ 47. Kxc4 f3 48. d5+ Ke5 49. Kd3 Kf4 50. Bd6+ Be5 51. Bc5 Kg3 52. Ke4 Bf4 53. d6 f2 0-1
Capablanca rarely lost in the endgame.
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