Frank Marshall the Legend-2

Frank Marshall the Legend-2

Mar 26, 2015, 9:04 AM |

Frank James Marshall

 (August 10, 1877 - November 9, 1944)

In my previous blog about Frank Marshall. I wanted to give a very brief intro on some of his achievements and showed one of his most Notable games ever played with some background history etc.

In the Last blog I said the following paragraph:

His legacy in chess still lives on today. For he created some of the almost breathe taking games ever played. He also created lines that still strike terror and fear into Grand-Masters till this sparingly day. The lines have scared Grand-Masters deeply. In Fact, The fear the Grand-Masters have made them create other lines solely to prevent the lines Frank Marshall created.

Well in this blog I plan on talking about the portion of the paragraph I have highlighed in red. So lets get on with it.

What are these lines that Frank Marshall created? Why are Grand Masters so terrified? How terrified were the Grand Masters really?

Questions that deserve to be answered. So lets start at the beginning. Frank Marshall has a couple of lines named after him.

Can you guess what the name of the lines are?

Ha Ha Sick joke I'm sorry I couldn't help myself. Look at the beginners raising their hand saying they know the answer. I bet the name of the line starts with the word Marshall lol Shiny gold star on your bright young forehead.

Ok being more serious now I had my laugh. Their are a couple of lines Frank Marshall created that are considered very strong and well respected even today. So let me show you those lines and give you their exact name.

  1. Marshall Defense
  2. Marshall Gambit
  3. Marshall Attack/Gambit

* Brief Background*

Most of the lines named after him are played with the black piece's. The importance of this is quite remarkable. Frank Marshall even though he was never World Champion did defeat a World Champion with the black pieces. The World champion he defeated was Jose Capablanca. Jose Capablanca has a reputation of never losing with the white pieces so the fact Frank Marshall was able to beat him with the black piece really shows some impressive skill from Frank Marshall.

The First line I will show you is named the:

* I will be adding a Ranking Scale in blue to show the ranking range. I believe the line can be playable at.*

Marshall Defense

This line is played with the black pieces.

Rating Scale: 500-1500

So lets talk about this line.The name of the line white is playing is called the Queens Gambit.

The Marshall Defense bascially plays the move 2...Nf6 defending the d5 pawn as well as developing a piece. He is bringing pieces out getting more development. This does have some tranposition value to it. You are flexible with the moves c6 or e6 alot of options for black here. This move does happen at move 2 so its not alot we can say about the position. However, it is very flexible option and it is a line Frank Marshall created.

First thoughts or questions a person might have is. Is the line still popular? Well the answer would be yes and no.

At a certain level this line has been showen to be inferior to other Queens Gambit lines. However, depending on what your level/ranking is this line could be played. I did add a Rating Scale so if your ranking is in that range you could possibility give this line a try if you wanted to.

Once you get above a certain ranking this line has been proven to be inferior to other Queens Gambit lines by black. Super Grand Masters have not played it alot any more mainly due because its not as great as other lines such as

Queens Gambit Accepted(2...dxc4)

Queens Gambit Decline (2...e6)

Slav Defense(2...c6)

I will say this line does offer some chances to tranpose into some of the other lines with moves like 3...dxc4, 3...e6, or 3...c6.

I believe alot of high level players may not like this line simply because they try to defend their pawn with a pawn instead of a piece.

One quick line I believe that might make high level players not play the Marshall Defense alot any more is the below diagram.


So when you look at that diagram you can see black doesn't have a pawn on d5 any more that might be 1 possible reason why higher levels don't play it alot any more. Yet again I believe it still can be playable at a certain level.

The Second line I will show you is named the:

Marshall Gambit

This line is played with the white pieces.

Rating Scale: 500-2700

This line is still used in high level chess. Some recent games with this line have happen in 2014. So its still going strong lol. Even though this line is not as feared as another line Frank Marshall created it is still respected in high level chess.

The name of the line black is playing is called the Semi-Slav Defense.

So lets talk about this Marshall Gambit line.What exactly is going on here in this position.

The Marshall Gambit is defined by the move 4.e4. This line does give up a pawn. The pawn that is being given up is in fact the d4 pawn which you might have not of guessed lol. I will show you how. Before we go into the details of how black handles this position lets stop and take a look at the position.

One important thing the move 4.e4 is doing is creating extreme pressure on the d5 pawn.

 When you look at the above picture you can see. The red arrows demonstrating the tension being mounted on the d5 pawn White has 3 attackers on the d5 pawn shown by the arrows.

At the present moment black is able to defend his d5 pawn with his c6 pawn + e6 pawn + Queen. So black does have 3 defenders its not a huge issue as of yet. However, black has to be careful.

If he puts a piece in front of his queen for example than black might run into problems because than he would only have 2 defenders and will than have the possiblity to lose a pawn.

Another important thing I should point out is whites space. If you look at the above picture notice the squares I have highlighted yellow. What do you will see?

White has 3 pawns on the 4th row up and black only has 1 pawn on his 4th row up. What does that tell us?

What that tell us is white has more space and his pieces have more places to develop too. When you have more space your pieces have more squares to go to your position is more open.

Now when you look at blacks position what do you notice?

Blacks position is more cramped because he only has 1 pawn advanced to the 4th rank. Black has less space which means his pieces don't have alot of squares to go to. Blacks pieces are basically fighting for the same spots to go to becuase of how limited he is in this position.

Now draw your attention to the squares I have highlighted in red. Blacks bishop is stuck inside his own pawn chain becuase his pawns are on the same color. Notice how his lack of space means his bishop doesn't have alot of squares to go to. In fact, the only square it can go to is on d7 it is a prisoner for him at the moment.

All of these details are important factors becuase white by playing e4 has made his pieces more active they have more squares to go to. Do you visually see the difference?

So Now that we have an understanding of the position and some of the small differences and we was able to read the board. How does black respond in this position that is the key.

First lets look at the book moves/best moves. What does a Grand Master play in this position? I believe before you look at other side line moves you first have to see what good players to. How do good players handle the position. Once you know how they handle the position than you can start trying to figure out what happens if your opponent doesn't play the book moves/best moves.

Remember chess is a game that is won by people capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. If your opponent is not playing a book move than that means it has a high chance of being a mistake and you should try and figure out how to capitalize if you can.

The moves I showed are considered the mainline books moves.

At move 6 white has 2 moves he can play that are both book moves. They go into different paths one line is sharper than the other.

The moves are 6.Bd2 or 6.Nc3

6.Bd2 continuation.

In this position we can see how the d4 pawn has been giving up(Gambit). The queen comes down and takes it. The position is quite sharp and very unclear.

If we was to look at the position and evaluate it:


Positive - White has the bishop pair, White is more developed, White has a dark bishop making it a little annoying for black to castle.

Negative- White is down 1 pawn, White does not have alot of effect pawn breaks left becuase he lost his center pawns.



Positive - Black is up 1 pawn, Black position is very solid, Very solid pawn structure.

Negative - Black will have some trouble to castle, Black does not have the bishop pair, Black is not very well developed.

As you can see both sides have their advantages and disadvantages and will try to prove one side is better than the other.

6.Nc3 continuation.

Here is a funny fact. The name of this continuation is actually a very funny one. It is called "Semi-Slav Defense/Marshall Gambit/Forgotten Variation"

So this 6.Nc3 line is the Forgotten Variation lol that every one forgets lol. In fact I am going to forget to do the positive and negative of this line lol. Well their is some good news.

This continuation is actually much easier to talk about becuase their are not alot of imbalances in the position. White trys to keep his d4  pawn and black simply trys to do a pawn break with c5 to try and break up/attack the d4 pawn.

Both sides have only 1 piece developed so the position is I would say more calm. This position is very rich of different ways to play the position. White can try and play a3 kicking blacks dark bishop and the bishop can retreat or take the knight.

Also other possiblitys are white can try and defend the d4 pawn with Be3 or Nf3.

I would go deeper with some more book moves;however, I don't want you to get over loaded and I don't want you to forget lol how to play the Forgotten Variation Ha Ha. Could you imagine the irony in that.

You go to a chess club and tell a chess player " Dude I have Forgotten how to play the Forgotten Variation" The player might look at you and respond with " You have Forgotten how to play the Forgotten Variation? You have shamed the chess community. Please leave I don't want people to see my next to you."

Before I move on to the next line Frank Marshall Created. I figure lets see if you can capitalize on a mistake. I showed you both lines that are played by Grand Mastesr from both sides with book moves. However, Lets say I play a move that is not a book move can you find a way to capitalize? Now the importance of this is sometimes people don't always know the book move. Sometimes they are beginners or not familar with a position and play a move. Can you try and capitalize.

Ok So I'm going to show you a position.


Ok so your opponent plays 5...Nf6.  Lets pretend they are new or not familar with this line and do not know the book moves/theory. What do you do from here.

Well lets look at the position. Keep in mind you know the move black is suppose to be doing in this position. 5...Bb4 check, You also know how you are suppose to respond to it 2 different ways. So lets observe the below position.

Well the yellow arrows show what is suppose to happening. Rememeber we know the book moves for both sides. Our opponent is suppose to be doing a check after he does his check we respond with either 6.Bd2 or 6.Nc3. Now try and keep in mind what happens after we do those 2 moves. In both cases our d4 pawn gets attacked rememeber?

So in this position. We want to defend d4 in some way. What esle do we want to do? Well instead of playing the bishop check out opponent developed his knight to f6 hitting our knight. So our knight is threatened as well. So when you look at the red squares on the board you can see we have 2 issues we are trying to solve here. This is how we plan to exploit the fact black made a mistake in his moves.

I will even give you a small hint. It is a knight move. In fact their are 2 knight moves that can be played in this position that are ok for white. Can you find them? Take a few moments and look at the below diagram. Keep the idea's of the moves in your mind as well. See if you can find the 2 continuations. I will create 2 puzzles so if you think you got the move try it in 1 puzzle if it doesn't work try it in the other puzzle. I will label the moves on which puzzle is more precise and is best continuation and which one is second best.



This is the very best move.

Ok if your first atempt didn't succeed try your move in the second puzzle. This is the Second Best move even though its not the best it still gives white advantage so you have a second chance in this puzzle.


Well I hope you found one of the continuations that gives you the best chance to keep some advantage. It might be a little hard at first to understand how those moves can be good. However, I will give some more light on the situation so that you can see how it is a good move and how it defends both problems. The problem which were the d4 pawn and the Knight being attacked. The best continuation was in fact a in between move. If you noticed the move captured a piece while placing the enemy king in check. So black had to respond. Once black responses white than is just in time to save the day. If you take a look at the picture below you will notice after white plays the move the best continuation Nxf6+. The black queen is forced to recapture. If black recaptures with the pawn than his pawns are ruined which is not very good. he wants to keep solid. So the best way is to capture with the Queen.

OK so notice how once the black queens captures on f6 it still is attacking d4. The white queen is still defending d4. However, It is white move and if black gets the chance he might be tempted to play Bb4+ or c5 hitting trying to hit the d4 pawn again. If you look at the green arrows in this position. You can see which moves white can play that are considered very good. If you look very closely you can tell each one of the moves that are in green are helping defend d4 either directly or indirectly.

So the moves Nf3, Be3 help defend the d4 pawn directly

The move a3 helps defend d4 because it stops black from playing Bb4 or c5 hitting the d4 pawn. At this point white has an advantage.

Think about why white has an advantage here if you can. In the other lines black had a bad Light Square Bishop that was a prisoner but his compensation was he had 1 extra pawn.

Now look at this position he still has a bad Light Square Bishop that is prisoner but now he does not have 1 extra pawn.

Do you see that? After the simple move Nf3 defending the d4 pawn computer engines believe white has half a pawn advantage.

However, we did not need the engine to tell us black was worse here we already knew becuase we looked at the position and deciphered it. The engine is only comfirming what we expected all along.

White has extra space, White has good places for his pieces, White has all his pawns not down any material. Black has some bad pieces and no compensation.

I believe I will end this discussion here.The last line I have to talk about is a line I actually love. I do try to play it sometimes when my opponent allows me the chance too. The only problem is they don't allow me becuase their scared of it LOL. Well even Grand Masters have some fear against it. So you can not blame them to much. I have decided instead of continueing in this blog. I will be creating another one sololy for that line.

Hopefully you will be excited about that since I do plan on adding some history and deeper information to it if I may. I do plan on having alot to say about the other line so yeah maybe fresh blog will be nice. So hopefully you enjoyed these lines I showed here and might try them in your own games for fun.