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Ruy Lopez, Marshall (C89)
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

Number of games in database: 1608
Years covered: 1893 to 2022
Overall record:
   White wins 31.0%
   Black wins 25.2%
   Draws 43.8%

Popularity graph, by decade

Explore this opening  |  Search for sacrifices in this opening.
With the White Pieces With the Black Pieces
Viswanathan Anand  33 games
Peter Leko  20 games
Judit Polgar  17 games
Levon Aronian  42 games
Michael Adams  42 games
Mark Hebden  31 games
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
White Wins Black Wins
Capablanca vs Marshall, 1918
Kramnik vs Aronian, 2007
S Sery vs Z Vecsey, 1921
Kramnik vs Leko, 2004
Shirov vs Aronian, 2006
Polgar vs Adams, 1999
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 page 1 of 65; games 1-25 of 1,608  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. K Walbrodt vs Conill / Ostolaza / Lopez / Herrer 1-0441893Consultation gameC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
2. S Sittenfeld vs V Soldatenkov 0-1251901Casual gameC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
3. W Frere vs Marshall 0-1171917freeC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
4. Capablanca vs Marshall 1-0361918New YorkC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
5. J S Morrison vs Marshall 0-1841918New YorkC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
6. S Sery vs Z Vecsey 1-0181921BrnoC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
7. J W te Kolste vs R Loman 0-1181921Dutch ChampionshipC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
8. Yates vs J J O'Hanlon  1-0351921British ChampionshipC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
9. B Moritz vs K Emmrich 1-03319222nd Play-OffC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
10. Lasker vs H R Bigelow 0-1191926Simul, 30bC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
11. Ed. Lasker vs Marshall  ½-½301926ChicagoC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
12. L Steiner vs K Helling 0-1181928Berlin BSGC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
13. M Fox vs H Steiner 1-0221929Bradley BeachC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
14. A Gromer vs J van den Bosch  1-0581930Hamburg OlympiadC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
15. Stoltz vs H Steiner  1-0361930Hamburg OlympiadC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
16. R Loman vs J van den Bosch  1-0361932The HagueC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
17. C Jaffe vs Marshall 0-1481936Rice Progressive CC - Marshall CC mC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
18. M Brakmanis vs G Hodakowsky  0-1271938Riga championship group 1C89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
19. J Battell vs Marshall 0-1281938Marshall CC chC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
20. A Ismodes Dulanto vs C H Alexander 0-1351939Buenos Aires Olympiad qual-1C89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
21. Foltys vs B Thelen  0-1221943UJCS-17.KongressC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
22. A Pinkus vs B Altman  1-0411944USA-chC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
23. R H Steinmeyer vs Santasiere  ½-½49194445th US OpenC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
24. Z Solmanis vs Keres 0-1481944Daugava-Kalev club team matchC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
25. A Tsvetkov vs A Preinfalk  ½-½471945Yugoslav ChampionshipC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
 page 1 of 65; games 1-25 of 1,608  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <offtherook> I would agree with Red October. The lines with h3 and d3 generally lead back to the main line of the Ruy with the lost tempo being meaningless. And Marshall players hate those lines--well, at least I do.
Aug-20-08  Cactus: I was thinking about the idea of playing 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.Qf3 Bd6 13.Bxd5!?> Any thoughts?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Cactus> I assume you're looking at this position, after <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.Qf3>

click for larger view

And now <12...Bd6 13.Bxd5 Bxe5 14.Bxc6>.

Well, one could be particularly nasty and ask "Why settle for material equality (two pawns for the exchange) when you could be a pawn ahead?" But that's obviously not the point here. Black would be out of his comfort zone, and as long as the bishop can be maintained on c6 it will be difficult to play ...Re8 for e-file pressure. Also, I don't know if Black would especially want to trade light-squared bishops, as White's defense often involves the g2-g3 push when Black needs that bishop for attacking purposes.

Perhaps 12...Bd6 isn't Black's best response in the diagrammed position. 12...Be6 is worth a thought, but Black might end up a tempo down if White heads back to more normal Marshall lines. Or maybe Black would like to gambit another pawn after 12...Bd6 13.Bxd5 cxd5. A couple of fun possibilities are 14.Rxd5 Bb7 15.Rxd6 Qxd6 16.Qxb7 Rae8, or 14.Qxd5 Bxe5 15.Qxd8 (15.Qxe5 Re8) Bxh2+. Neither of these are forced, of course.

In short I don't see anything forcing for Black offhand, though our Friendly Neighborhood Mechanical Monsters may rule differently. So why isn't this idea played? From what I can see, it goes against a couple of time-tested principles of the Marshall.

First, White should beware of a premature Bxd5. Black's attack often involves the move ...f5, which self-pins the knight on d5 and greatly increases the bishop's power. Second, White's basic problem in the Marshall is the slow development of his queenside pieces. That's why 12.d4 is almost invariably played instead; White needs to get his pieces developed rather than leading with his queen and possibly exposing her to attack.

I've always thought that you should try your new ideas in established openings, as long as there is no immediate refutation. If the idea is good, all the better. If it's lousy, well, that should help you to better evaluate your ideas the next time one jumps into your head.

Besides, you might get White against me and play this line, and I'll be sitting there rubbing my hands together gleefully with an evil smile on my face...

Sep-04-08  Cactus: Thanks a lot! You make very good points, though in responce to your

<Or maybe Black would like to gambit another pawn after 12...Bd6 13.Bxd5 cxd5. A couple of fun possibilities are 14.Rxd5 Bb7 15.Rxd6 Qxd6 16.Qxb7 Rae8, or 14.Qxd5 Bxe5 15.Qxd8 (15.Qxe5 Re8) Bxh2+. Neither of these are forced, of course.> On one hand, the type of player that plays the Marshall is the type that would trot out that kind of gambit faster than the next guy. But I have to say that I really don't like black's position after that. Similarly, I don't think playing 12...Be6 first is too threatening. White can just play 13.d4 ...Bd6, when I think the insertion of the moves d4 and Be6 favors white.

Also, I disagree that there isn't anything forcing. e.g. <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.Qf3 ...Bd6 13.Bxd5 Bxe5 14.Bxc6>.

click for larger view

Black to move
Firstly, black needs to move his rook.
So 14...Ra7 15.d4 (with tempo) .Bd6
16.a4 (again forcing) Qa5 (or maybe 16...b4 c4 ) sees black getting pushed around. Finally, it's worth pointing out that I don't think two pawns for the exchange is equality. It's better for the side down the exchange (though perhaps it's just that I'm exchange 'trigger happy', often saccing the exchange in my Dragon games without any pawns to show for it). Anyway, just some stuff to chew on. Thanks for the responce.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Cactus> One small claification: I wasn't talking about forcing lines for White, but for Black.

In your line, I think I would profer 14...Rb8 to 14...Ra7, which just walks into a pin. But the more I look at that position, the more I don't like it for Black. I don't know if it's losing by any means, but there just doesn't seem to be the type of play Black likes to have.

Perhaps, after 12.Qf3, Black should play 12...Nf6 and gambit the c-pawn as well; if 13.Qxc6 Bd7 might get Black started. But these are positions to be tried in practice, and I've never been one for deep openings analysis anyway.

Sep-05-08  Cactus: <Phony> Your right. I checked the position with Lil' ChessPartner, to make sure there weren't any immediate tactical flaws, and it played 14...Rb8, which turned out to be better, because it also stops the a4 advance because then white's b-pawn is extremely weak. However, white is certainly not without better tries. I found something interesting...

<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.Qf3 Bd6 13.Bxd5 Bxe5 14.Bxc6 Rb8 15.d4 Bd6 16.Nd2 Qe7 (Qc7 is well met by Ne4!, and after 17...Bxh2 18.Kh1, white threatens 19.g3, and black can't put his bishop anywhere. 19...Bd6? 20.Nxd6 Qxd6 Bf4 ) 17.g3 Qe1+ 18.Kg2>

click for larger view

And Black has an interesting position. White threatens 19.Nb3 and 20.Be3, trapping his queen. Also, and this is the bigger threat, white threatens 19.Ne4 Bc7 (or 19...Be7 Bg5!) 20.Bf4!. But that isn't the only problem. The thing is <Black has no constructive moves.> It's quite interesting. There is nothing black can do to stop white's plan. I'd say this is winning for white, but if you spot any flaws, please say so.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Caucus> No, I don't like that line at all for Black. After 14...Rb8 15.d4 Bd6 (or ...Bc7), White might even consider the immediate Bf4 trading off his bad bishop bishops.

I'm beginning to think that Black should offer the second pawn with 12...Nf6:

click for larger view

What we have now is the original Marshall attack (11...Nf6) with the moves Qf3 and ...c6 thrown in. First of all, I don't know if White really wants to take that c-pawn. After 13.Qxc6 Rb8, Black is threatening to trap the queen with 14...Bb7, so White must retreat her and has no time for d2-d4. So let's say 14.Qf3 Bd6, reaching this position:

click for larger view

Now, if you try the 15.d4 Bxe5 16.dxe5 idea, Black is obviously better placed than before; the pawn on e5 is more exposed than it was on d4, and the White bishop is not on the commanding c6 post. Problem is, the rook doesn't have a great square to go to. Normally in the Marshall White would play 15.Re1, but that loses at once to 15...Bg4 16.Qe3 Re8!

Yes, now that I've looked at your analysis more carefully, I'd surely avoid it and play 12...Nf6 if this ever came up. But you'll certainly get a lot of people who will play 12...Bd6 automatically, so I think you'll get a few chances to try it out.

Sep-05-08  Cactus: <Phony> Good points. I'd say that the c-pawn is quite poisoned indeed. And if white doesn't take the pawn, the position is quite unbalanced. On one hand, The Queen is rather misplaced on f3, , but on the other hand, the knight of f6 blacks any ...Qh4 plans. I think 13.d4 Bd6 14.Re1 Qc7 15.g3 Bb7 looks quite akward for white. Nice idea, that.
Aug-15-09  muwatalli: i'm thinking about taking up e5 rather than the sicilian, and i'm wondering whether to play the marshall gambit or not, is it worth learning? and is it really very good? it seems just glancing at the position that the black squared bishop for black is rather misplaced on e7. thanks in advance
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <muwatalli> First of all, Black's bishop never stays on e7 for long. In most of the lines White plays Rxe5, and Black can post his bishop ideally on d6 with a gain of tempo.

There are several important things to consider before taking up the Marshall:

1) You won't get to play it a lot. White has many good ways to avoid it on moves 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and there's always those people who don't play 3.Bb5 in the first place.

2) You have to be familiar with a lot of theory. White has a number of choices that Black must be familiar with, and what works in one line often doesn't work in another. This on top of all the extra theory you have to know for the non-Marshall lines.

3) At the top levels, I believe it is considered drawish. For the average player it is very double-edged and dangerous for both sides.

4) You can't go into it just looking to get the pawn back with a positional edge. Often, additional and heavy sacrifices are needed to keep the initiative.

I don't want to sound discouraging, but just to give you some idea of what you're getting into. If you are a person who likes the initiative at any cost and are willing to put some time into the studying the theory, it can be a lot of fun. But it can't be your only weapon.

Aug-17-09  Open Defence: <muwatalli> I would suggest avoiding the Marshall for now.. get a good number of games in with 1...e5 in other variations and openings and then have a look
Oct-02-09  Open Defence: <Cactus> , <Phony Benoni> I would just play 13...cxd5 in that line..
Oct-02-09  WhiteRook48: maybe the Petrov would be first...
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: Jan Gustafsson recently finished a Fritz Trainer CD on <The Marshall Attack>

"The Marshall Attack is one of the most dynamic replies Black has at his disposal against 1.e4. At the cost of a pawn, Black takes over the initiative from the get - go and goes after the white king.

Wrongly considered to be mainly a drawing weapon by some, this DVD offers many new ideas for Black, showing how to keep the queens on the board and to play for a win in almost all cases.

Unfortunately White is not obliged to enter the Marshall. This is part 1 of a twopart series that will provide the viewer with a complete repertoire against 1.e4.

The disk deals with all white options after <1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0>.

In 17 chapters with a total runtime of three hours and 45 minutes, all the subtleties of the Marshall and Anti-Marshall will be revealed. Video running time: 3 hrs 45 min.

The author is grandmaster Jan Gustafsson. Rated 2646, <Jan is one of the leading German players and one of the world’s biggest Marshall specialists.> More about Jan can be found on

Check out for 2 video examples:

Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: I heard Garry Kasparov used to avoid the Marshall Attack.
Dec-30-10  micartouse: <I heard Garry Kasparov used to avoid the Marshall Attack.>

On Geller's advice, he used anti-Marshall variations in his world championship match with Nigel Short. In OMGP II, he claims that Geller's ideas were sort of hazy and general, but they provided him with inspiration to really tear black apart!

Kasparov vs Short, 1993
Kasparov vs Short, 1993
Kasparov vs Short, 1993

And naturally he kept the weapon in his arsenal for the balance of his career.

Dec-30-10  Eyal: According to this database, Kasparov faced the position after 7...0-0 24 times in his career (Repertoire Explorer: Garry Kasparov (white)), and only twice he allowed the Marshall with 8.c3 ( - one of them not in a very serious game (a simul against computers in 1985). As it happens, even in both these games his opponents didn't go for it...
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: <micartouse> and <Eyal> Thanks for the information.
Jan-12-11  g man 0550: The Marshall is without a doubt an annoying system to face if one doesn't know the theory (which is extensive going out to move 30 or so.), Blacks attack occurs on the weak white squares so the way to deal with that is rid black of his light square bishop with 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 9. ed Nd5 10. Ne5 Ne5 11. Re5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Be3 Bg4 16. Qd3 Rae8 17. Nd2 Re6 18. Qf1 Qh5 now here I think whites best try may be 19. Bd1! (I doubt this move is new but my database has no mention of it.) ...Bd1 (anything else seems worse for black) 20. Rad1 Rfe8 21. Qe2. Of course their are different paths to take such as 20...f5 to avoid the line, but after 21. Qe2 blacks offensive is contained.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <g man 0550> The move Bb3-d1 is an important White resource in many lines for the reasons you state, so it's certainly worth exploring the position after <19.Bd1> a bit:

click for larger view

Now, in the line you analyze with 19...Bxd1 20.Raxd1 Rfe8 21.Qe2 Qxe2 22.Qxe2, Black can simply regain his pawn with 22...Nxe3. The resulting ending is unbalanced, but perhaps not enough to present any real winning chances for either side.

A Marshall player might reason differently. 19.Bd1 does trade off Black's strong bishop, but its downside is that pressure on the a2-g8 diagonal is released. This pressure can be very annoying for Black, who generally wants to play ...f5 but is restrained by the multiple pins along that line. Hence, after trading bishops Black would certainly consider 20...f5 to keep life in the game.

The idea of maintaining the diagonal pressure is another very common one in the Marshall. For example, White rarely trades early on d5 in order to keep it going. Black often winds up wasting a tempo with ...Kh8 to get ...f5 in, and in this opening a tempo can be gold.

Which is not to say 19.Bd1 shouldn't be tried, but I don't see it as a real winning attempt by White.

Jan-13-12  edbermac: Following the main line 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. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Be3 Bg4 16. Qd3 Rae8 17. Nd2 Re6 18. Bxd5 cxd5 19. a4 bxa4 , the database gives 20 c4 and 20 Qf1, has anyone ever tried 20 Ra4 here? Just wondering if white can grab the pawn and fend off black's k-side attack.

click for larger view

Jan-13-12  RookFile: I would think that in this position, ....f5, and ....f4 would be very dangerous.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Opening of the Day

Ruy Lopez, Marshall
1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.♗b5 a6 4.♗a4 ♘f6 5.O-O ♗e7 6.♖e1 b5 7.♗b3 O-O 8.c3 d5

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  eternaloptimist: This is the Opening of the Day today. On the highest levels of chess, the Marshall has lost a lot of its' bite unless you are really familiar w/ the theory for the black pieces for it. It also helps if the player playing the white pieces isn't really familiar w/ the theory. IMHO Svidler is the best at playing it right now & Ivanchuk is the worst at playing the white pieces against it (as far as a super GM). Examples: M Vachier-Lagrave vs Svidler, 2009 Ivanchuk vs Leko, 2011 Ivanchuk vs Svidler, 2015 Hebden is also very good at playing it.
D Haydon vs Hebden, 2010 R Bellin vs Hebden, 2015
Jun-19-20  wordfunph: "I merely claim that the attack gives black many winning chances and should be good for at least a draw."

- Frank J. Marshall (on Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez)

Source: Chess Review 1943 March

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