Ruy Lopez, Marshall attack, are you afraid of it?

I actually am ( to play it for White ), and not just me, but quite a few GMs – Gary Kasparov (OK, I respect him too much – he just didn’t want to play it),  Kramnik, etc. played/play anti-Marshall lines to avoid it,  why?

Kramnik vs. Leko, 2004, World Chess Championship.  Leko as Black played Marshall attack 4 times, 3 times Kramnik avoided it, drew, 4th time accepted, played a novelty – Leko found a hole in it and won.

Recent game,  Anand-Aronian, Morelia-Linares 2008, final blow, 30.  … Re2-e3! (31. fxe3 Qxf3):

GMs Adams and Nunn like to play it as Black, the result?


Adams – 29 games – 8 wins, 4 losses, 17 draws,  Nunn – 27 games – 7 wins, 3 losses, 17 draws.

So, what is it, how it appeared?

Frank Marshall first introduced it again Capablanca in 1918.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 (The Marshall Attack)

9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 ( the best move, Marshall played 11. … Nf6 )

followed by 12. … Bd6 and then often 13. … Qh4.  White’s king side has no defenders and as Marshall himself said, “the attack gives Black many winning chances and should be good for at least a draw.”

Here is the my best game so far using Marshall attack, played recently on FICS:

( 12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Nd2 Bg4 ):

After 15. …Bg4 white plays 16. Qc2, this allows combination ( now I understand why white in many variations exchange bishop on b3 for night on d5)  16.  … Nf4!

White resigned ( 17.  exf4 – forced … Bxf4 18. Nf3 Bxf3 with mate on g2).

Just this Sunday I played my first Marshall attack in the rated tournament.  It was last round, I needed to win, so I decided this is a time.

After 12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Qf3 Bg4 16. Qg2 Qh5 17. Bxd5 cxd5 18. Be3 Bf3 19. Qf1 f5   20. Nd2  BIack played 20. … f4!

White can’t take the pawn ( 21. Bxf4 Rxf4 22. gxf4 Qg4+ or 21. gxf4 Qg4+) because of the mate on g2, so he decides to take the bishop – 21. Nxf3 fxe3 22. Rxe3 Rxf3 23. Qe2!

Here I made quick, obvious and bad move giving back the piece I just won and ruining my chance to win:

23. … Raf8? ( … Rf5! )  24. Rxf3 Qxf3 25. Qe6+ Qf7 26. Qxd6 Qxf2+ and game finally ended in a draw.

Of course, Marshall attack is not a recipe for guaranteed win, there are many good defenses for White, so you take risks, but if you want to get an attack with Black pieces just after  first 15-18 moves, where for your opponent every move is like a step on the minefield ( step aside of the safe path and you are blown up – see above ) you would definitely try it.