Master the Marshall Attack ⎸Chess Openings, Ruy Lopez, Marshall (C89)

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The Marshall Attack is one of the most aggressive ways to fight the Ruy Lopez. Black gives up a central pawn in exchange for attacking pressure and piece activity.

For the theory of the Ruy Lopez watch this video on the basics:
The Breyer Variation in depth – a positional approach by black:
The Chigorin Variation in depth – attacking the Spanish:
The Exchange Variation – the simple approach by white:
The Archangel Variation – black’s most aggressive line:
The Berlin Defense – Kramnik’s strongest weapon:

The Marshall Attack branches out of the Closed Ruy Lopez (Spanish game) after the moves:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 a6
4. Ba4 Nf6
5. O-O Be7 (the Closed Ruy Lopez)
6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 O-O (black usually plays 7…d6, entering standard positions leading to the Breyer, Chigorin, Karpov etc., castles keeps his options opened; either for entering the Marshall Attack or normal Closed Spanish lines)
8. c3 d5 – this move signifies the Marshall Attack or the Marshall gambit, as it’s also known (because black sacrifices a central pawn)

White plays 8.c3, which gives black an opportunity to exploit the lack of development and the fact that white took away the c3 square from the b1 knight. That’s way d5 works. It’s a timely reaction which provides attacking chances and a huge initiative in exchange for a pawn. If white wants to avoid the Marshall, he can refuse to play c3 on move 8, and enter the “Anti-Marshall” lines with the moves a4, h3 or d4 on move 8. In which case the position will resemble closed variations of the Spanish (Ruy Lopez).

However, after c3, black can still go for 8…d6, entering normal lines, but in most cases, d5 will be played, entering the Marshall Attack.

After the moves:

9. exd5 Nxd5
10. Nxe5 Nxe5
11. Rxe5 c6 – white wins the e5 pawn, and black solidifies the knight which is now attacked twice (Marshall, the inventor of this variation, played Nf6 instead of c6, which is imprecise)
12. d4 Bd6
13. Re1 Qh4 – It’s clear that black has more than enough compensation for the pawn, but he has to push hard in order to prove that. Wasting time could be terminal for him. And white just needs to survive the onslaught, solidify his position and develop the queenside pieces. If he manages to do that he will have an advantage (which will increase as the position simplifies).

The Marshall Attack was named after Frank James Marshall (1877 –1944), who was one of the best chess players at the turn of the century. He was also a US Champion for almost thirty years, from 1909 to 1936.

The theory of the Marshall Attack goes 30-40 moves deep on GM level, and mastering the opening will require studying games of top players who use the opening. The biggest contemporary expert is Levon Aronian. Two other players whose games you should study are Michael Adams and Mark Hebden. Here are a few sample games:
*study them over the board to get a feeling about the position. Starting from move 13-15, try to come up with different solutions to the problem for each side – try to increase the pressure with black and do the opposite with white. (and don’t use the engine)

Judit Polgar vs Michael Adams 1999
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6
12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Re4 Qf5 16. Nd2 Qg6
17. Re1 f5 18. Qf3 Kh8 19. Bd1 f4 20. g4 h5 21. h3 Nf6 22. Qg2
hxg4 23. hxg4 Bxg4 24. Re6 Qh5 25. Bxg4 Nxg4 26. Rxd6 Rae8
27. Ne4 Ne5 28. f3 Nxf3+ 29. Kf2 Nh4 30. Qh1 g5 31. b4 g4
32. Bb2 g3+ 33. Kg1 Nf3+ 34. Kg2 Nh2 35. c4+ Kg8 36. Qd1 f3+
37. Kxg3 Qg4+ 38. Kf2 Qh4+ 39. Ke3 Qf4+ 40. Kd4 Qe5+ 41. Ke3
Ng4+ 42. Kd2 Qxb2+ 43. Qc2 Qxa1 44. Rg6+ Kh7 45. Rxg4 f2 0-1

Fabiano Caruana vs Levon Aronian 2014
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5
7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6
12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Bf5 14. Qf3 Qh4 15. g3 Qh3 16. Be3 Bxd3
17. Nd2 Qf5 18. Bd4 Rfe8 19. a4 h6 20. Kg2 Kf8 21. Rxe8+ Rxe8
22. axb5 axb5 23. Qxf5 Bxf5 24. Bxd5 cxd5 25. Ra6 Be7 26. Nf1
b4 27. Ne3 Bd3 28. Ra5 bxc3 29. bxc3 Bd8 30. Ra8 f6 31. f3 Be7
32. Ra7 Bd6 33. Rd7 Ba3 34. Rxd5 Kg8 35. h4 Bc1 36. Ng4 Bc4
37. Rc5 Be6 38. Nf2 Ra8 39. g4 Ra2 40. Kg3 Ra6 41. Rc7 Bd2
42. Ne4 Be1+ 43. Bf2 Bxf2+ 44. Kxf2 Ra2+ 45. Kg3 Rc2 46. Kf4
Ra2 47. h5 Ra5 48. Nc5 Bd5 49. Rc8+ Kf7 50. c4 Ba8 51. Rc7+
Kg8 52. Ne6 Ra3 53. Rxg7+ Kh8 54. Kf5 Bxf3 55. Rg6 Be2
56. Rxh6+ Kg8 57. Rg6+ Kh8 58. Rxf6 Rf3+ 59. Nf4 Bxc4 60. Kg5
Kg8 61. Kh6 Ra3 62. g5 Ra7 63. g6 Rc7 64. Nh3 Rc8 65. Ng5 Rd8
66. Nh7 1-0

76 Comments

  1. Bishop e3 may be played because of the following reasons.
    Black already leads in development and tries to exchange the rook on e1, moreover someday black will try to deflect queen from defending mate by capturing rook on e1 and queen have to recapture, so in order to avoid exchanging rook in such an early stage, white plays bishop e3

  2. Hello Stefan, I analysed the moves on marhsall attack at 12:26 in your video, turns out queen can never leave the main diagonal, but even if queen is on h1, it is checkmate from movement of rook, hence you should remove bXNhd6 by white as "the best move"

  3. Really appreciate your videos Stjepan! I play e4 and have learned a lot about the Ruy and Italian game from you. Keep up the good work.

  4. You're sometimes a little bit too fast when playing the variations, i have to go back on the vidéo

  5. Forgive me for the dumb question coze I am newbie. At 5:57, if Knight takes D4 then what should white do?

  6. one small obvservation. it seems to me more natural, to have been switched the board, before starting, as marshall is the point of view of black not of white

  7. Best opening theory I've found on YouTube so far. Thanks for the videos!

  8. Maybe the Gods of Chess bless you. Couldn't have known about chess this much without your channel. Thank you.

  9. I stopped playing Queens gambit and started playing ruy Lopez opening. It increased my blitz rating by 100 points. Thank you for this.

  10. After white play Qd3, why not Bf3 and give checkmate in one. Time 18:44.

  11. This channel helped me increase my rating from 900 to 1800 . Thank you so much . Ruy lopez is my favorite opening . I increased my rating in just 3months, thanks to this guy !!

  12. Hello Sir, Please help me understand as you have much more knowledge, and maybe to you a move is understood but I am confused at 14:25 after whites queen move, why doesn't bf3 work? I can't see a way for white to get out of this mate.

  13. ⚠️ YOU DID A MISTAKE!
    @ 15:32 Queen to d3 is a blunder. Coz black can place the Bishop on f3.
    Or am I missing something?

  14. In the Marshall Attack white moves it's rook from e5 to e1, why doesn't it move to h5? This way it will negatate the possible attack by the queen when it is supposed to go to h4.

  15. Pozdrav stari 😀
    Zanima me na 6:57; zašto je bxh7 jedini potez? zar se nije mogao jednostavno povući nazad na c2?

  16. Hi Master really really handsome vid thanks a lot for all this explanations !! But please could you make a video about Cozio defense it is very annoying !!

  17. Only 45k views??? How?? This is great content.

  18. 6:56 why white bishop has to take h7 pawn? Why can't bishop retreat?

  19. Thank you for you assiduous and detailed tutorial. You took the time to define and explain options in a thought-provoking way. Really enjoyed it and feel your students come away the better for it.

  20. Anyone else obsessed with his partner in the bg?

  21. 18:49 isnt black winning here after Bf3? i think im missing something whats defending that square

  22. 15:31 why does black move the rook to G8 why not move the bishop to F3 before white has moved the knight to D2? Whilst F3 is totally undefended, then surely blacks next move would be checkmate regardless of what white does or am I missing something?

  23. Your videos are incredible! Entertaining and informative, you're a good teacher!

  24. 14:25 Why not bf3, that looks like it's unstoppable. The only try for white is to give up a lot of material to even play the game.

  25. Great analysis of the main line of the Marshall Attack. I play the black side of the Marshall Attack quite regularly. It's surprising how many white players are willing to subject themselves to this attack. I imagine it is because they have studied the main line and, as you explained, if white knows the theory, he is going to end up better. However, I play the Steiner Variation of the Marshall Attack and probably win over 90% of those games, even against more highly rated players. After 9.exd5, I play 9…e4. I can tell that many white players are perplexed by this move because there is usually a fairly long pause before they decide to continue with 10.dxc6 exf3, 11.Qxf3 Bg4. This is where another long pause occurs for white. They are clearly not sure where to put the queen. The best move is 13.Qg3 (according to engine) but I often see 13.Qe3. This is a mistake and gets white into a lot of trouble after 13…Re8. I have won countless games that have continued: 14.d4? Bd6, 15.Qd2. The engine thinks the best move for black in this position is 15…Ne4 but 15…Bf4 always seems to win because white never finds the only saving move of 16.Re3. The games often continue along this line: 16.Qd3 Rxe1+, 17.Qf1 Bxh2+ and white is completely lost. White usually resigns at this point. Look at white's queenside! Completely undeveloped!

  26. At 15:30 in the video, if the white queen moves to d3 isn’t mate after Bf3?

  27. Zašto u ovoj poziciji, prije topa, ne igra lovac ne igra f3 i siguran mat??

  28. Excellent Stejpan! I love the way you explain and understand openings. Really recommend this channel to every chess player who is serious about the sport

  29. Excellent lesson. Thanks for work

  30. Question – After White moves Q to d3 (15:30 mark), isn't Black's best move Bf3?

  31. 18:44 can t black just play bishop f3 instead of rook cause there is nothing to stop him and then move queen and its mate?

  32. Now that your probably much stronger then 4 years ago when you published this video ..do you look back on it and found you where lacking understanding in those videos?

  33. If I want to just make a one time payment with paypal, square or venmo, can I do that instead of the Morphy (can you provide account info)

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