Mastering the Marshall

Posted: February 6, 2015 in chess

Almost all chess players set goals for themselves. In fact, it is fair to say that the number one goal among all players is to increase their rating to a level that is 200 points above where they are today.

This site has outlined a number of ways to venture down the road of self-improvement. Learning via computers or reference books are great ways to start. Buried in there somewhere is a simpler goal that can bring great rewards, namely the ability to stay calm under pressure and play the best move – the move that the position demands. Another way to improve is to play a wide variety of opponents.

For this reason, I personally like to make at least one trip to the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan each year as a kind of “final exam” to evaluate how well I have been playing in a particular year.

In the past, I’ve written more exhaustive articles about the Marshall experience. Instead of retreading over old ground, I’ve decided to tell the story in pictures with a few words of commentary in between.

Marshall - parking

The first step to any trip to the city is to find parking! On Sunday’s there is ample street parking around the Marshall, however in this case I was visiting on a Saturday morning. There are may websites that you can find for discounted garage parking such as If you are lucky enough to find a space as I did on this December day in 2014, be sure to check all of the signs to make sure that the space is legal.

Clock Tower

How do you know if you are near the Marshall? I always look for the Clock Tower. Once I see that, I know I’m right around the corner from 23 West 10th street.

Presb Church

After registering for the tournament, I had some time to kill and decided to take in the sights around the neighborhood. It’s nice to take a stroll and get into a relaxed state of mind to prepare for the long day ahead.

The First Presbyterian Church is an impressive structure on 12 West 12th Street. Built in 1845, it provides a glimpse into the NYC of over 150 years ago.

Washington Arch

Down the street from the Presbyterian Church is the famous Washington Square Arch (with the new Freedom Tower in the background). Another product of the 1800’s, the arch was completed in 1892 in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s Inauguration as president of the United States in 1789.

W 10th Street

Time to get back to the club for Round 1. Walk back up to West 10th Street and see the beautiful array of Manhattan Brownstones built in the 1800’s. I’ve always wondered what these buildings were worth. I did a little digging and found properties on West 10th street selling for $9.2 million to $24.7 million!

It’s a lot cheaper to visit and pay $40 to play in a tournament.

Marshall DoorWhen you arrive at the address, look for the small sign on the upper left side of the door that says Marshall Chess Club. Press the buzzer for the club (don’t press the other buttons as there are people who actually live above the chess club).

Marshall GM List

At the top of the stairs, you will find a listing of all of the current club members. Thee are 42 Grandmasters on the list, and numerous IMs, CMs, and WGMs as well. What caught my eye in this picture is the name of Marc Tyler Arnold. I played (and lost) to him back in 2003 when he was a 10 year old prodigy with a rating of 2043. (see the 1/25/13 post “Checkmating with Einstein” for more information on my encounters with future GMs).

Marshall Tables

So, what about the actual matches? Well, when I saw the initial pairings, I was surprised to see that I was the highest rated player in the under 1800 section since my rating was 1766. That meant that I would need to have a positive score in the four round event to have any chance to gain rating points.

I was also surprised to realize that the Marshall has radiator heat and that it felt like it was 90 degrees inside the building! Luckily I was wearing a T-shirt underneath my flannel shirt, so I was able to strip down to make it more bearable.

In the end, I finished with a score of 2.5 out of 4, which was o.k. I managed to only lose a few points and played some interesting games along the way against a variety of opponents.

One last thought, watch out for the young players at the Marshall. Though their ratings might only be 1400 – 1500, they are usually on the way up. Since a rating only shows relative strength at a point in time, you need to look at past trends to find out if they are on the rise or are just a low-rated player. I was fortunate to beat an 8 year old via a touch-move error. As a case in point, this player won all of his other matches and increased his rating by over 100 points by the end of the day.

Marshall Shirts

Lastly, if you are “partial to the Marshall” you can purchase a commemorative T-shirt … 


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