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The Marshall Attack is one of today’s most important systems against the Ruy Lopez and it is also one of the sharpest. With 8.c3 d5, Black offers to sacrifice his e-pawn, since after 9.exd5 Nxd5 White can capture twice on e5 with 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5. Black will go on to try to exploit for an attack on White’s king’s position those diagonals and files which have been opened by disappearance of the central pawns. It was the American Frank James Marshall (1877–1944) who discovered this gambit and in New York 1918 he employed it against Capablanca. Marshall played 11...Nf6, to be followed by ...Bd6 and then ...Ng4 and ...Qh4. But, although this appears splendid, this direct form of the attack is no longer reckoned to be sufficiently good. The modern form of the gambit, preferred by such top players as Levon Aronian, Peter Leko and Michael Adams, begins with 11...c6, meaning that the black knight is retained on the central d5-square.
Many players do not like having to suffer even for the gain of a pawn and thus avoid the gambit aft er 7...0-0 by not playing 8.c3. Instead, they choose on move eight one of the Anti-Marshall systems, above all 8.h3 and 8.a4 have often been played, but also 8.d4 and 8.d3 are worth considering. At this point both transpositions to other variations of the Closed Ruy Lopez and also independent lines are possible.