Marshall explains the Marshall Attack
From a Lecture in 1943
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the death of the legendary American champion Frank J.Marshall I present the essential substance of a lecture on his famous gambit that he delivered on February 16, 1943 at his chess club in New York.
The following has been gleaned from an article published in ChessReview of March 1943 penned under his own name. There should be no copyright issues involved here.
The Marshall Gambit of the Spanish Opening is arguably the most enduring legacy of the Golden Age of chess. Originally conceived as a swash-buckling gambit against the rock solid Spanish Opening, modern masters have re-shaped it into the cold blooded, positionally sound gambit that has continued to defy outright refutation.
The list of 1e4-champions that has seen their ambitions dashed to the floor and frustrated is long and remarkable.
Today there are many top level grandmasters who have included it into their repetoires, some almost to the virtual exclusion of anything else (Aronian, of course, comes to mind. Ding Liren is another).
In the lecture that Frank Marshall gave in 1943, Marshall makes it very clear that the strength of the gambit is its underlying positional soundness.
The Marshall Attack
Frank J. Marshall
US Chess Champion 1909-1936
It has been a good manv years since 1 first played the opening now known as the Marshall Attack. It was back in 1918, in New York, and my opponent was the late Jose R. Capabianca. I had been analyzing the variation for many years and came to the conclusion that the attack must be sound. 1 am still of the same opinion. By this I do not mean that Black necessarily wins; I merely claim that the attack gives Black many winning chances and should be good for at least a draw.
Actually, I lost my game against Capablanca. The first attempt failed. With admirable courage and skill, Capa accepted my pawn sacrifice and defeated the attack, although playing against a prepared variation he had never seen before. However, the result of one game is not sufficient to judge the true merits of a new variation and 1 used the attack in many subsequent games, with varying success. In these games I continually tried different moves, seeking the best combination.
The variation usually leads to an open, attacking game for Black—and that is undoubtedly why I prefer it to the close, defensive lines against the Ruy Lopez opening. Black gives up a pawn to obtain a strong attack against the white King. However, this does not state the whole case in favor of the variation. It is not just one of those attacks which White can weather by good defense and end up a pawn to the good. There is more to it than that. The pawn sacrifice can be justified on purely positional grounds. In other words, White’s opening moves leave his Queen-side undeveloped and Black can capitalize on this lack of development. If White just tries to block the attack, Black can continue with comparatively quiet moves and obtain adequate positional compensation for his pawn sacrifice. I shall explain this later.
First let us look at the opening moves of the variation:
”The foregoing may only be a by-path, but indeed it gives one an insight into the complexities of the position. And now, with these few suggestions, I leave it to others to the others to test the variation in actual play.
Since my game with Capablanca many evolutionary changes have taken place in the attack; but all were of a tactical nature and the main strategical concept remains the same Naturally, the play is acute, for ever present is the conflict between mobility and material, but, I feel as convinced as ever of the fundamental justification for Black’s aggressive play.”
Download PGN here.