Levitsky - Marshall 


Stepan M. Levitsky (2498) - Frank J. Marshall (2675) 
DSB-18.Kongress,  (German Open Championships) 
(Round # 6),  Breslau, GER   1912 

 [A.J. Goldsby I] 

 I annotated this game (primarily) for my web page on the, 
 "Best (and Most Amazing) [Chess] Moves - Ever Played." 

This game contains one of the single most amazing moves ever played on a 

It is also the legendary  ...   "SHOWER OF GOLD PIECES"   game!! 
(After the game, the board was reputedly covered with gold marks, gold crowns, 
and gold sovereigns. Many newspaper columns said the spectators became so 
excited they threw coins, as if to reward Marshall for his brilliance.). 

Prior to annotating this game, (or at least attempting to!); I did a lot of research. 

I checked dozens of older books and old magazines, and I also spent a great 
deal of time in my database, and also on-line. (Internet.).  

Unfortunately - over a dozen 'chess reference' books gave NO mention of the 
player who championed the White pieces in this game. (Levitsky/Lewitsky.). 

   Stepan (Stephen) Mikhailovich (Michael) Levitsky -  
Levitsky  (some db's give Lewitsky)  was born in 1876 and died in 1924, 
when he was just 47. (Cause of death?).

He was a Russian/Soviet player, who may [also] have been of Polish descent, 
and he was almost definitely Jewish. 
(As many good chess players seem to be also of Semitic origin.). 

He was an inveterate KP-player, who was addicted to the Giuoco Piano. 
He scored moderately well with the White pieces, but poorly with the Black 

{ The common misconception seems to be ... } 
Many players have thought he was a "real fish," and  ... 
"not really of true Master strength." 
Quite the opposite seems to be true, he was definitely a real Master-level player. 
(When he was nearly 20, Tchigorin himself labeled this player,  
"Russia's New Chess Hope." !!).  

(ChessBase gives him a near 2500 ELO-rating.).  

While he never won a MAJOR international tourney, he did win at least 
one minor event. My database indicates he played in several German (Open) 
Championships, probably by invitation. He scored third in Vilna, 1912; 
(according to an Oxford Encyclopedia cross-table); behind Rubinstein and 
Bernstein, but AHEAD of many stars such as Nimzovich, Alekhine, and 
He also came in like 6th, (in a field of over 20 players); in the 1903 Russian 
Champ; (Kiev) ... (Won by the legendary Tchigorin!!) ...  
scoring a very respectable 10.5 out of a possible 18 points. 

In ChessBase's "Career Highlight's," they have Levitsky playing a 10-game 
match, (St. Petersburg, 1913.); against Alekhine. Although he lost by the 
somewhat lop-sided margin of 7-3; CB gives Alekhine's rating as "2774" 
and Levitsky's as "2596."  
(This was/is considered a pretty respectable result, especially considering 
who his opponent was!!! and ..... Adjusting for rating inflation, this means 
Levitsky would definitely be a GM today, especially by the watered-down 
standards of modern-day!!).  

He was most active in the period, 1910 - 1914; probably his chess activities, 
(like SO many others!!) were interrupted by WWI
(He played over 80 games during this period.).  

He was something of an innovator. Several modern ideas in the opening 
can be traced to him. 

Unfortunately, very little else is known about this player.  


  Frank James Marshall -   
Marshall's story is very well known. 
He was one of  ... 
 - THE FIVE ORIGINAL (!) GRAND-MASTERS of Chess!!!!! -   
(From St. Petersburg, 1914. Click  here  for more info on this event.)
- and U.S. Champion from 1906 to 1936. 
(He was also probably in the World's "Top Ten" players ... for nearly 40 years!!) 

He was known to be VERY passionate about chess, often taking a small 
chess-board with him when he retired to bed. Marshall won dozens of events 
and matches in the U.S. - he also won 4 or 5 major international tournaments. 
And he placed highly in dozens of other competitions. 
( His greatest success being Cambridge Springs, 1904. ) 

Marshall was a feared competitor, largely responsible for helping the U.S.A. 
to be THE chess world power during the 1930's ..... 
He played First Board in like 4 straight Chess Olympiads! 

Unfortunately, Marshall never had much luck with Emmanuel Lasker. 
[The World Champion.] 
(He had a very poor score against him, and his 1907 match against him 
 was almost a complete rout.).  
Marshall also did badly in his match against Capablanca. 

[Poor Marshall. He probably expected to be one of the best players in the 
western hemisphere - after Pillsbury's death. But he wasn't even the best 
player in New York after Capablanca started attending Columbia University!] 

Marshall was a renowned (and feared!) tactician, famous for his brilliant 
combinations ... AND his swindles!!!   

Marshall was also an innovator - he created the Marshall Attack, several lines 
in the Slav ... including, "The Marshall Gambit." In addition to this, Marshall 
first worked out many of the lines in the Petroff Defense. 
(And he worked on many other openings, helping players work out new lines. 
 The common wisdom at that time was to show Marshall a line  ... unless it was 
 a secret - OR you planned on playing it against Marshall!!
  ...  and let him 
 spot any tactical flaws - - - BEFORE you used it in tournament play! 
 -  Napier.) 

[The ChessBase software was very helpful in discovering information on Levitsky. By bringing up the CB software and inserting the CD-ROM disk containing the  "playerbase"  info, I was able to get quite a lot of information on this player. Additionally when I clicked on the "dossier" button, some really fantastic things began to happen. The machine automatically pulled up all the games of this player (130+); his career highlights, provided a repertoire of the openings this player gave, showed some of his better combinations, etc!!! 

I do not impress easily, but I must say I was VERY impressed!]. 

(The rating given of Levitsky was the one generated by ChessBase, when it showed a crossable of this event, and games of this player. Marshall's rating was given as over 2600, I have adjusted his rating slightly for inflation.) 

 Many Masters have praised this game, others have greatly criticized it!!!  


( One Master in Europe called it "The Grandest Game of Chess Ever 
   Played, ending with the single best move ever played." (!!) 

GM A. Soltis wrote:  "Marshall's startling Queen offer occurred at the 
 end of what looked like a Master-versus-'C' player game." 
{"The 100 Best," page # 3, paragraph 3.} ) 
[ I think Soltis is overly harsh in his criticisms of this game. ] 

  Such a  HUGE  difference of opinion!  Why? 
(Another European GM called this game, "Coffee-house rubbish.").  !!!


 << What is the truth about this game? 

Well ... 
let me say first that I studied this game initially when I was very young ... 
and I was somewhat hesitant about criticizing it. 

But the truth is that it IS a VERY uneven game ... especially when analyzed 
with the aid of a strong chess computer. (On a PC) 
(This game does NOT show up in either Soltis's book, "The 100 Best;" 
 or in Nunn's book, "The World's Greatest Chess Games." I guess this 
 means this game is NOT one of the very best!!) 

But I think that probably too much has been made of one or two moves, 
(esp. moves # 14 and 17 by White) - that were maybe inaccurate - 
while not pointing out how inconsistent the whole series of moves by 
White were. It was actually White's poor handling of the entire opening 
which spoiled his game. 

And almost no one ...   - that I am aware of -   ... has pointed out 
that Black [probably] had an improvement at move eighteen. (18).  

But Marshall's final move is  still one of the most amazing  in all 
of the lexicon of chess. >> 
( MY comments. {A.J.G.} ) . 


It does contain one of the most amazing and wonderful chess moves ever 
played, however. (See my web page devoted to this subject.) 
{ "The Best Moves" 
  (http://www.geocities.com /lifemasteraj/best_moves.html) }. 


This is what the great, (late) Irving Chernev wrote of this game: 
<< This is the famous "gold-pieces game." When Marshall made his 
coup-de-grace,  (and critics say it is THE most beautiful move ever made);  
he was showered with gold pieces by the excited spectators. 

Brian Harley saw Marshall in London and implored him not to play any more 
chess ----- this game should be his swan song! >> 
- Irving Chernev, in his book;  "The 1000 Best Short Games Of Chess." 
(Game # 918, Page # 499.) .

1. e4,  
Of course there is nothing wrong with this, it grabs the center. 

Fischer once said that 1. P-K4, was, "Best by test." 


[  Chernev (AND GM A. Soltis!!) gives this game as starting with:   
 1.d4 e6; Marshall often played this move, because he was VERY fond 
 of the Dutch, especially against lower-rated players!! 

[ Many Dutch fans do NOT immediately play 1...f5; as they may fear an 
immediate 2. e4!? (The Staunton Gambit.) ]. 

2.e4 d5;  transposing back to the game. 

This may have explained why, Marshall used the French. 
It was primarily the result of a transposition. 

 Or did Marshall have another reason? 

(In some books, this little transpositional trick is known as, 
 "The Levitsky Attack."). 
I pulled this game out of my database and I offer it as yet another example of an 
incorrect move order!! (I have found dozens - if not hundreds - of examples!!) ]


1...e6;  A French Defense. 

This opening is something of an oddity for Marshall. 

But I am sure Marshall ...  - who had an excellent memory, and also prepared 
for many an opponent - had a valid reason for playing this particular defense 
against this particular opponent. 
(Originally in his career, Marshall played the Black side of the Ruy Lopez. But 
after some disastrous results against the immortal Capablanca, Marshall practically 
gave up on the Black side of the Spanish Game; and instead began to specialize 
in: 1. e4, e5; 2. Nf3, Nf6!?)

[ More normal for Marshall, during this period - was to play: 
; 2.Nf3 Nf6;  which is the, "Petroff's Defense." ].  


2. d4 d53. Nc3 c5!?;  (A little unusual.) 
This sudden attack on the center, is known in some books as ... 
"The Franco-Sicilian." 
(Although many times the normal move order is 2...c5;  and then 3...d5.).  

White can give Black an isolated center-Pawn, but Black then gets 
 a lot of play. 

4. Nf3 Nc6!?;  
This development cannot be bad. 

I think the main idea is if White were to play 5. d4xc5!?,  Black could disrupt 
White's normal flow (of development) in the opening with 5...d5-d4. 

[ The 'Book' line here is:  4...Nf6; 5.Bg5 dxe4; 6.Nxe4 cxd4; 7.Bxf6 gxf6
Bd7; 9.Bxd7+ Nxd7; 10.Qxd4 Qa5+; 11.c3 Be7; 12.Qc4!? 0-0
  13.0-0 Rac8; "=" ].  


5. exd5!?
White immediately gives Black an isolated Pawn, but it is not clear 
 if this procedure is best. 

[ 5.dxc5!? d4!; 6.Nb5 e5; "~" 
  The computer likes: 5.Bb5, "+/=" (Maybe closer to equal?)  
  Also interesting is: 5.Be3!?, "=" ].  


For the next 5 or so moves, both sides develop pretty normally.
6. Be2
This is fine, but could have White found an improvement? 

[ 6.g3!?, Rubinstein figured out long ago that - in isolated QP positions - 
  that a fianchettoed KB may be the best way to go. ]


6...Nf67. 0-0 Be78. Bg5!?,  
This is OK, but does not seem congruent with Nimzovich's formula for 
handling the isolated QP positions. 

[ Maybe better was: 8.h3!?, "=" with the idea of Be3 to follow. ].  


8...0-09. dxc5!?,  
This gives Black an isolated-QP, but also activates Black's 
dark - squared Bishop. 

[ 9.Re1!?, "+/=" ]


9...Be6!;  Black guards his QP. 
(Black gets in trouble if he immediately captures the QBP.) 

[ Black avoids: 9...Bxc5?; ('??') 10.Bxf6 Qxf6; 11.Nxd5, "+/" ].  


10. Nd4 Bxc511. Nxe6!?,  Hmmm. 
This does not look right. 

(White gives up a great blockading Knight for a do-nothing Bishop. 
In addition, Black will no longer have an isolated center Pawn ... as White 
has repaired his structure.). 

GM A Soltis awards this move the dubious appellation, and then goes on to 
write:  "A common amateur error. The e6 pawn only appears to be weak, 
while the exchange of minor pieces leaves Black (well) in control of the center." 
 -  GM A. Soltis

'?!'  -  GM A. Soltis. 

[ 11.Be3!, "=" White may have the better long-term chances because 
  of Black's isolated QP. ].  


11...fxe612. Bg4!?,  Not impressive. 

Maybe White should have looked for something more vigorous. 

[ Maybe 12.Na4!? ].  


A centralized Queen ... usually not a bad thing to do. 

[ 12...Qe7; ].  


13. Bh3!?
This is nothing to scream about, but may now be positionally forced. 

[ 13.Nb5!? ].   


13...Rae8;  "=/+"   
Black has completed his development, and already has a small, 
but tangible and secure, advantage. 

[ 13...h6!? ].  


14. Qd2?!, (Maybe - '?')  
It does not look good to walk into a pin ... but ... 
White had  few good moves  here-abouts! 

'?' - GM A. Soltis. 

[ 14.Qd3!? ].  


GM Soltis awards this rather obvious pinning move an exclam, 
so I follow suit. 

"Pin and win," said Fred Reinfeld ... on more than one occasion. 

15. Bxf6!?, (Maybe - '?!') 
This does not make sense either, White will miss the protector of his 

[ Maybe better was: 15.Rae1 Bxc3; "=/+" ].  


Black's advantage increases just a little bit here. 

16. Rad1!?, (Maybe - '?!/?') 
This is definitely not the best here. 

[ Maybe better was 16.a3, (Box?)  This looked like it was, well ... 
  positionally forced. ].  


16...Qc5!?; (Maybe - '!')  
This seems like the most logical. Black piles up on the pinned piece. 

[ 16...Qb8!? ].  


17. Qe2!?, (Maybe - '?!')  
White targets Black's backward KP ... and also prepares to exploit a pin on 
 the e-file. 

GM A. Soltis awards this move a full question mark - but offers NO good 

'?' - GM A. Soltis. 

Since Black has a clear advantage no matter what White plays here ... 
- the computer confirms this -  and since no VASTLY better move for 
White can be demonstrated, I think Soltis is mistaken. It is (was) White's 
series of inaccurate moves earlier which caused the problems that now 
exist in his game. 

After hours of reflection on this position, I think one could even award an 
exclam to  17.Qe2,  as it is perhaps the best practical try here! 

[ Maybe only slightly better was: 17.a3!? Bxc3; 18.Qxc3 Qxc3
g5!; "=/+"  
  Maybe White could also try: 17.Qd3!? Bxc3=/+ ; but Black is better 
  in both cases. ].  


17...Bxc318.bxc3 Qxc3!?
Black grabs a pawn, and goes for the extreme piece activity. 
(Black keeps a very small edge after this move, yet it may not be 
the very best choice for Black.)

It may have been better for Black to keep his KP on the board. 

[ Probably better was:  18...e5!; "=/+" (Maybe - "/+") 
  Black is clearly better here. ].  


19. Rxd5,  Hmmm. 
Forced - to regain his pawn. 
(Several annotators have criticized this move as bad, but if White 
 does not regain his Pawn, he will be as good as lost.) 

One can now see why White played this line. 
(Positionally, White has the better game. The better minor piece and a 
slightly superior Pawn structure. Black also has a big target at e6!) 

But ... Black now has all the play! 
(Especially down the half-open f-file!) 

[ Not 19.Rd3? Qc5; "/+"  Or 19.f4?! Qc5+; 20.Kh1 Nb4; "/+" ]


19...Nd4!;  Nice.  (Energetic play.)  
Probably disrupting White's well-laid plans. 

"White is hanging by a thread." - GM A. Soltis

[ Not 19...exd5??; 20.Qxe8+ Rf8; 21.Be6+ Kh8; 22.Qxf8#
  Or 19...e5!? ; ('?') 20.Bd7, "=" ]


FM Graham Burgess, in his book; "Chess Highlights Of The 20th 
picks up this fabulous game at this point. 
20. Qh5?!, (Maybe - '?')  
FM Graham Burgess awards this move a whole question mark - but fails to 
suggest a worthy alternative! (Maybe 20. Qe4!?).  

It actually may not matter either, White may already be worse off ... 
in this position! 

'?' - FM Graham Burgess. 

(GM Soltis gives NO mark ... or appellation to this move at all!) 

 I think probably Burgess is closer to being right than Soltis. 
20. Qh5,  is probably a mistake ... BUT ... 
Black is still better in any case! 

[ Probably  forced  was: 20.Qe4[], (Maybe "=")  20...Rf4!; "<=>" 
  (Maybe - "=/+") Black is already just a tiny bit better here. 

  Not 20.Qe5?! Nf3+!; 21.gxf3 Qxf3; "-/+" (Maybe "-/+") 
(GM Soltis gives instead:  21...Rg6+;  which also wins for Black.)  ]


20...Ref8; (Almost - '!') 
Not quite an exclam, but this is clearly superior to 20...g6!? 

(The computer shows that Black's advantage is now overwhelming.) 

[ 20...g6?!; (Maybe - '?/??') The natural reaction ... and dead wrong! 
  21.Qe5, "="
("+/=" ?) Maybe slightly better for White! ].  


21. Re5 Rh622. Qg5,  Hmmm. 
This looks ugly, but it may be forced. 

FM G. Burgess  writes: 
"Otherwise 22...Rxh3; simply wins material for Black." 

 [ If 22.Qd1? Rxh3; 23.gxh3 Nf3+; 24.Kg2 Nxe5; "-/+" 

   Or 22.Qg4? Rxh3; 23.Qxh3 Qxh3; 24.gxh3 Nf3+; 25.Kg2 Nxe5; "-/+" ].  


Black's next move is a cute little sack. 
22...Rxh3!23. Rc5,  
Attempting to "bump" the Black Queen. 
(The routine 23.gxh3?? loses to 23...Nf3+; winning White's Queen.) 

Chernev writes: 
"Expecting to drive the (Black) Queen away, but ... 
  never to such a fantastic spot!" 

GM Soltis calls this move, "A last gasp." 

[ 23.gxh3?? Nf3+; ("-/+") Black wins White's Queen. ].  


23...Qg3!!(Maybe - '!!!/!!!!') Wow! 
  Easily one of the most amazing and incredible moves ever actually   
  played on a chess board.  

There is no defense, so  ... WHITE RESIGNS!   0 - 1  
(There is no reply to a real thunderbolt!!  Or a real ... "sock-dolager" as 
 Horowitz used to say.).  

[ For those who need proof that Black is really lost: 
; 24.Qxg3[], This looks forced.  

  Or  24.fxg3? Ne2+; 25.Kh1 Rxf1#;   Or 24.hxg3? Ne2# 

24...Ne2+; 25.Kh1 Nxg3+; 26.Kg1,   (26.fxg3?? Rxf1# )  26...Nxf1; "-/+" 
Black will emerge a piece up, with an easy win. 


Or Black could have played 23...Qb2!; "-/+" Black wins. - GM A. Soltis. 

Black could have also played: 23...Ne2+!?; 24.Kh1 Ng3+; 25.Kg1!
(25.fxg3?? Rxf1#.)   25...Nxf1!,   (25...Ne2+?!; 26.Kh1 Ng3+; 27.Kg1 Ne2+; 
  "=" - GM A. Soltis.)    26.Rxc3 Rxc3; 27.Kxf1 Rxc2; "=/+" (Maybe - "-/+") 
and Black is clearly better. 
(But this is GROSSLY inferior to what Marshall actually played!) ] 

  0 - 1 


Chernev writes, (after 23...Q-KKt6!!): 
"Such a move deserves two exclamation points! Apparently the Queen has 
committed suicide, but strangely enough it is White who is helpless." 
(Chernev goes on to analyze the position and prove that White is completely lost.) 

Chernev goes on to comment: (after 23...Qg3!!) 
"Levitszky did not mar the glory of the moment by playing on, chivalrously ... 
 he resigned." 

FM G. Burgess writes of the move, 23...Qg3!!: 
"A very pretty move to finish." (The understatement of the year!).

"The most elegant move ... I have ever played." 
  -  GM F. Marshall


Soltis awards this move (23...Qg3)  THREE (3) exclamation points! 

For many years ... the story on this game was that the spectators became 
so excited that they ... 
" ... showered the board with gold pieces." 
(Even several newspapers carried this version of the story.) 

<< The spectators were so thrilled with this 'magnificent play' that they 
showered the board with gold pieces. >>   -  GM Ruben Fine

Years later, it was revealed that gold pieces may have been paid ... 
 ... (at least in part) ... by disgruntled bettors - - - paying off their debts!! 
(But it does not lessen the tremendous impact or the electricity of Marshall's 
extremely rare move!!).  

On 23...Qg3: 
'!!' - Irving Chernev. 
'!!' - FM G. Burgess. 
'!!!' - GM A. Soltis. 
'!!!' - GM Ruben Fine. 

"Many respected critics consider this stroke to be the single most amazing 
 move of chess ever actually executed on a chess-board." - Anne Sunnucks


I checked the following (main) sources in annotating this game. 

The final position has been printed hundreds of times in newspapers, 
 magazines, and problem books. (!!!!!) 

 (Click here to see more on Queen sacrifices.) 

This game is pretty much the full version of the game as it exists in my database.
(I have not shortened it for publication.)
If you would like a copy of that game to study, please contact me.

  Click  HERE  to go (or return) to my web page on the great  Frank J. Marshall  himself.  

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 (GeoCities)   "Best All-Time [Chess] Moves Page."  

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 Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.  A.J. Goldsby, 1996 - 2005. 
    A.J. Goldsby, 2006.  All rights reserved. 

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