The Most Beautiful Move Ever Played

By National Life Master Loal Davis

Frank James Marshall (August 10, 1877 – November 9, 1944), was the U.S. Chess Champion from 1909–1936, and was one of the world’s strongest chess players in the early part of the 20th century.  He was one of the five individuals who placed into the Finals of the St. Petersburg Tournament of 1914.  This honor granted him a ‘grand’ title; International Grand Master.  St. Petersburg 1914 marks the origin of that title.


The original Grandmasters of Chess

(left to right)

Lasker, Alekihine, Capablanca, Marshall, Tarrasch

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.  Marshall was best known for his great tactical skill. One aspect of this was the “Marshall swindle”, where a trick would turn a lost game around. Andrew Soltis writes that, “In later years his prowess at rescuing the irretrievable took on magical proportions”.  Not so well known now, but appreciated in his day, was his endgame skill.

‘The Most Beautiful Chess Move Ever Played’

“Perhaps you have heard about this game, which so excited the spectators that they “showered me with gold pieces!”. I have often been asked whether this really happened. The answer is – yes, that is what happened, literally!”

Click on the board to step through this annotated game.


As ‘another’ story goes, the Leningrad master Levitsky was accompanied by another Russian, P.P. Saburov, a well-to-do patron of the game. Another visitor was Alexander Alekhine, a dapper, prosperous aristocrat who was on his way from Stockholm (where he had won 1st prize) to a tournament in Vilna. Saburov, Alekhine, and a few other Russian guests made it their duty to place a wager on Levitsky’s win over the “played-out American”. However, Marshall upset their patriotic predictions and the bettors tossed over their pledges. Rubles, marks, Austrian crowns, and similar coinage of the period were minted partly or fully in gold.
Regardless of the story/tale/perception – This is certainly the game/move of a lifetime.


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