Horsham Club Knockout 2017-18: Mansson – Marshall

Following on from the first rounds of the Quickplay Knockout played the previous week, last Tuesday’s club meeting saw the first round of the main Knockout. I was paired against John Marshall and was playing White.

My opponent was evidently willing to play the Marshall Gambit (pioneered by the great Frank Marshall, no relation – I think – to my opponent!), but I decided to sidestep it and instead we headed into a more regular Closed Ruy Lopez. My opponent made some positional errors and ended up in an inferior position. However, despite my positional advantage, I still needed to find a way to break through.

The game then followed a predictable pattern. My opponent every few moves gave me an opportunity to break open his position with a sacrifical continuation and I failed to grasp the opportunity. Admittedly, these chances were non-trivial and required careful calculation – or an inclination to gamble. Eventually, I did take one of the chances offered to me and my opponent soon resigned as he was two pawns down with a hopeless position.

As well as the usual game viewer, I have decided to give the game analysis in “long form” due to its complexity.

Mansson, James C – Marshall, W John, Horsham Club Quickplay (1) 2017.09.26

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O

John Marshall threatens to play his namesake’s famous gambit.

8. h3

I considered it prudent to avoid the gambit line.

8. c3 d5 is the Marshall Gambit, pioneered – of course – by Frank (not John!) Marshall.

8… d6

Black transposes to the lines more usually reached via 7…d6 8 c3 0-0.

8…Bb7 is the main alternative for die-hard Marshall Gambiteers who want to
avoid the main lines of the Closed Ruy Lopez.

9. c3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 Bb7?!

This does not seem a good idea for me, as I think the game demonstrates. Black’s most popular approach to playing the Chigorin is to open the c-file. This seems to me to make good sense, as if Black allows White to close the position under the right circumstances, then White often has a free hand to build up an attack, while Black’s cramped pieces have to wait.

12…cxd4 13. cxd4 Nc6 is the current main line.

13. d5!

This demonstrates the problem with Black’s last move. The bishop now “bites on granite”, and Black is not well-placed to play for …f5, which is his natural means of
counterplay in this structure.


This is surely wrong as the rook is not well placed on the c-file, while the bishop on b7 and knight on a5 end up even further out of the game.

13… Bc8 is most logical as the bishop is now better placed on c8, to support f5 in due course.

14. b3!

White deprives the Black knight of its last square.

14…Ba8 15. Nf1 Nb7 16. Ng3 g6 17. Bh6 Rfe8 18. Nh2!

White aims to play f4. He also creates the possibility of bringing the knight to g4.

18…Bf8 19. Bxf8 Kxf8 20. Qd2 Ng8 21. f4 f6 22. Rf1 Re7

This allows White to create a protected passed pawn on d6. However, the
alternatives are not appealing.

22… Kg7 23. f5 g5 24. h4

  • 24… h6 creates a weakness on g6 that White can look to exploit in due course to penetrate. 25. hxg5 hxg5 26. Ng4 Kf8 27. Kf2 followed by Rh1 with a very strong attack.
  • 24…gxh4 25. Nh5+ Kh8 26. Qf2 followed by Qxh4 and Ng4 with a very strong attack.

23. fxe5 dxe5

23… Rxe5? 24. Ng4 wins.

24. Ng4

From a positional point of view, White has a clear advantage based on his
protected passed pawn and the poor position of the Black pieces. However,
White needs to find a way to break through.


This allows an immediate tactical blow.

24… Rf7 is necessary.

25. a4?

I had a good look at sacrificing on f6, but could not make it work. However, there was a way of playing it that would have been decisive for White.

25. Nxf6! Nxf6 26. Rxf6 

  • 26. Qg5 Ng8 27. Nf5+ Kh8 28. Nxe7 Qxe7 29. Qxe7 Nxe7 30. Rf6 was also

26… Kxf6 27. Qh6

This was the continuation I considered.


This was the obvious – and only – reply, but then I didn’t see that after…

28. Qxh7+ Ke8 29. Qxg6+ Kd7 30. Nf5

…White was completely winning due to the hopeless position of the Black pieces.


  • 30… Nd6 31. Nxe7 Kxe7 32. Rf1 (intending Qe6+) 32…Re8 33. Bd1 (intending Bh5 and Rf7+) 33…Kd8 34. Rf6 Nc8 35. Bh5 wins.

31. d6! Nxd6 32. Nxd6 Qxd6 33. Rd1 wins.

25… Qb6 26. c4 b4

26… bxc4

was the alternative, trying to play actively on the queenside to generate counterplay, but this seems to backfire if met correctly by White.

27. bxc4 Qb4

  • 27… Na5 28. Nxf6 Nxf6 29. Rab1 Qd8 30. Qg5 intending Qxf6+ or Nf5+ wins.

28. Qf2 Nd6

  • 28… Qxc4 29. Ne3 Qc3 30. Ngf5+ gxf5 31. Nxf5+ Kf8 32. Nxe7 Kxe7 33. Qf5 wins.

29. Rab1 Qxc4 30. Rb6 Rd8 31. Ne3 Qc3 32. Rxd6 Rxd6 33. Ngf5+ gxf5 34. Nxf5+
Kh8 35. Nxd6 wins.

27. Rf3 Rf8 28. Raf1 Nd6?

28… Ref7 is necessary.

29. Ne3?

Here White has more than one sacrifice to force a win, but I was unable to see how to make them work and so played the more cautious game move. Admittedly, although the computer quickly assesses the positions as massively in White’s favour, despite the extra piece, for a human it is not quite so easy to have that confidence.

Winning Line 1

29. Nxf6! Nxf6

  • 29… Rxf6 30. Nh5+ gxh5 31. Rxf6 Nxf6 32. Qg5+ leads to the same thing after White captures on f6.

30. Rxf6 Rxf6 31. Nh5+ gxh5 32. Qg5+

White wins back a rook and his various threats prove to be decisive because of the poor position of the Black pieces.


Or 32… Kf8 33. Rxf6+ Ke8 (33… Rf7 34. Re6 wins; 33… Nf7 34. Qf5 wins) 34. a5!

  • 34… Qxa5 35. Rxd6 wins
  • 34… Qd8 35. Qg8+ Kd7 36. Rxd6+ Kxd6 37. Qxd8+ wins
  • 34…Qc7 35. Qg8+ Kd7 36. Qxa8 wins

33. Qxf6+ Rg7 34. Qxe5

intending Rf8#


Or 34… Kg8 35. Qe6+

  • 35… Kh8 36. Rf8+ Rg8 37. Qxg8#
  • 35… Nf7 36. Qe8#
  • 35…Rf7 36. Rxf7 Nxf7 37. Qxb6 wins

35. Rf6 Nc8 36. Re6 Ne7 37. d6 Ng8 38. Re8 Qd7 39. Rxa8 wins.

Winning Line 2

29. Nh5+! gxh5

Otherwise White just takes on f6.

30. Nxf6 Nxf6 31. Rg3+ Kh8

Or 31… Kf7 32. Rxf6+! Ke8 (32… Kxf6 33. Qf2+ Nf5 34. Qxf5#) 33. Rxf8+ Kxf8 34. Qh6+ Ke8 (34… Kf7 35. Bd1 wins) 35. a5!

  • 35…Qxa5 36. Qxd6 wins
  • 35… Qd8 36. Rg8+ wins
  • 35… Qc7 36. Rg8+ Kd7 37. Rxa8 wins

32. Qh6 Ref7 33. Rxf6 intending Rxd6 against which Black has not defence.

29…Bb7 30. R3f2 Bc8 31. Bd1 Ref7 32. Bg4 Nh6?

Instead 32…Bxg4 33 hxg4 would have kept White’s advantage to a minimum. The moved played allows the Black pieces to be pushed to vulnerable squares.

33. Be6 Re7 34. Bxc8 Nxc8 35. Nc2?

I saw the strongest continuation here (35 Nef5+), but did not realise how
well White stood in the key position and so rejected the line. Instead, I
aimed to put pressure on c5 with Nd3 and Qe3.

35. Nef5+! gxf5

  • 35… Nxf5 36. exf5 g5 37. Ne4

36. Nh5+ Kg6

Otherwise White just takes the knight, having opened up the Black king.

37. exf5+ Nxf5

  • 37… Kxh5 just leads to a quick mate after 38. g4+ Nxg4 (38… Kh4 39. Qxh6+ Kg3 40. Rf3#) 39. hxg4+ Kxg4 (39… Kh4 40. Qh6+ Kg3 41. Rg2#) 40. Qh6 followed by Rg2#

38. Rxf5

I had analysed this far over the board, but did not realise how strong White’s
position was.


defends against Rxf6+ but then White can force mate.

39. Qd3

intending Rxf6+

39…Kh6 40. Qe3+ Kg6 41. Qg3+ Kh6 42. Ng7

intending Rh5#

42…Rxg7 43. Qh4+ Kg6 44. Qh5#

35… Nd6? 36. Ne1?

I looked at sacrificing on f6, but missed a key point and so rejected the line. Instead I continued with my plan for putting pressure on c5.

36. Rxf6! Rxf6 37. Rxf6 Kxf6 38. Qxh6

White threatens 39 Nh5+ Kf7 40 a5! Qxa5 41 Qg7+ Ke8 42 Nf6+ Kf8 43 Qf8+
Ne8 46 d6 winning. The point of 40 a6, deflecting the queen, becomes apparent
after 46 d6. The move 40 a6 is the one I missed in my analysis.

38…Rf7 39. Ne1 Qb8 40. Nf3

and White wins the e-pawn, giving him two connected passed pawns for the exchange. This should be enough to win.

36… Ref7 37. Nd3 Qc7 38. Qe3 Rc8 39. Rf3 Ne8?

This allows the decisive breathrough.

39… Ng8 is necessary.

40. Nh5+! gxh5 41. Rg3+ Kh8

41… Ng4 42. hxg4 hxg4 43. Rxg4+ wins.

42. Qxh6 Rg7 43. Rxg7 Qxg7 44. Qxh5 Nd6 45. Qh4 Rf8 46. Nxc5 1-0

Black now resigned as his position is hopeless.

46. Nxc5 is of course a good move, but I played it without considering an obvious response by Black: 46…Qa7 This was the move I didn’t see before I took on c5. However, I soon
realised that 47. Qf2 just leaves White two pawns up.

This entry was posted in Club Knockout, Games, Opening Analysis, Reports, The Ruy Lopez. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *