Chess Wednesdays – Frank Marshall

Once again, some Decorah-area chess enthusiasts are gathering at the local watering hole (Pulpit Rock Brewing Company) beginning at 6:30pm and ending whenever on Wednesday 11/3/2021. There is a wide range of skill levels, so please don’t be afraid to join us. As long as you have an interest in chess, you will be welcome!

The last American Chess Magazine had quite a tribute to Frank Marshall. He was the U.S. chess champion from 1909 to 1936. There have been three really big names in chess in America that have really gripped the American public and chess communities: Paul Morphy, Frank Marshall, and Bobby Fischer.

Time usually provides a recency bias, and the first two names are probably foreign to most people outside the chess community (and even to several inside). There is much to learn about Marshall’s contribution to the world of chess. I hope to learn some of it with a trip to the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan someday soon. In the interest of brevity, I’ll simply introduce you to an opening known as The Marshall Attack.

The Marshall Attack

If you’re familiar with several openings, you will find yourself thinking that this opening is simply the Ruy Lopez. It is. There is a point, however, when it becomes unique and it occurs around the 8th move. In the 15th edition of Nick de Firmian’s Modern Chess Openings, Ruy Lopez openings are covered from pages 42-95, and the Marshall Attack is on pages 93-95.

The first few moves are 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5.  This defines the Ruy Lopez opening, as seen in the graphic below.

Run Lopez opening

Now, continuing the opening: 3. … a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3. It is at this point that Stockfish, the chess engine that lichess.org uses, still doesn’t recognize The Marshall Attack.

Still a Closed Ruy Lopez opening

But Black’s next move defines The Marshall Attack: 8. … d5. This produces many, many different openings some of which favor white or black and a few that lead to a pretty even match even after 23+ moves.

Black’s d5 move defines The Marshall Attack

This opening, played in the Anand-Aronian match in 2007 leaves a pretty even match after 23 moves. 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Re4 g5 16. Qf1 Qh5 17. Nd2 Bf5 18. f3 Nf6 19. Qg2 Qg6 20. Re3 Rae8 21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. g4 Ng3 23. hxg3 Bb1.

I hope this small introduction to The Marshall Attack opens your eyes to the vast world of openings that have been studied and tried over time. See you Wednesday!

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