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The Scandinavian Defense, Marshall/Ross Gambit:

An Aggressive Chess Opening (a Reversed Danish Gambit) for Black

 

The Marshall/Ross Gambit in the Scandinavian Defense is a very aggressive response by Black to 1. e4, offering sharp play similar to that of the Danish Gambit for White, only reversed.  Black receives a very strong initiative in exchange for two pawns.  This variation was developed by and is named after Thomas Ross, who has a Hungarian chess master heritage.  He grew up a skeptic or agnostic but turned to Jesus Christ, was born again, and is now a Baptist seminary professor (find out more about the author of this variation by clicking here).  The starting point of the Ross Gambit in the Scandinavian Defense is as follows (click on the arrows to get to the starting position):

Of course, 1. e4 d5 is the Scandinavian Defense.  1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 is the Marshall Gambit.  Often in this position White plays 3. d4, the Modern Variation, after which, if Black wishes to continue a Gambit style of play, he can play respond with 3. … Bg4, the Portugese Variation (or, alternatively, 3. … g6, the Richter Variation).  However, the Variation under discussion arises if White seeks to hold the pawn with 3. c4, after which Black responds with 3. … c6. If White responds with 4. d4, declining the offered pawn, then Black plays 4. . . . cxd5, transposing into the Panov-Botvinnik Attack of the Caro-Kann Defence.  If White accepts the pawn on c6 with 4. dxc6, Black commonly responds with 4. … Nxc6, a Gambit of one pawn that offers Black a good game.  However, if Black wishes to sharpen his attack further at the sacrifice of another pawn, he can instead respond with 4. … e5.  This move constitutes the beginning point of the Ross Gambit in the Scandinavian Defense, which most commonly continues with 5. cxb7 Bxb7, after which Black has a very strong initiative in a position similar to the Danish Gambit in exchange for his two pawns.  The slightest slip in the White defense can result in a crushing and speedy Black victory.

As this is a lesser known variation within the 2. … Nf6 variation of the Scandinavian, a Black player is likely to have moved his opponent out of book lines when he plays the Ross Gambit, making the Gambit especially attractive in chess played under shorter time controls.

Sample games in the Ross Gambit include the examples below.  They are not meant to be a comprehensive theoretical analysis of every possible situation that can arise in the Ross, nor are they claimed to represent best play in all situations.

Ross Gambit Accepted

The following game represents an example where White gets greedy, falls behind in development, and pays for it:

 

Here is an alternative line where White does not take Black’s threats seriously enough, and pays for it:

In this game White again gets too greedy and pays for it:

The following game features a sacrifice on the weak f2 square:

Here is an example where Black’s pressure leads White to make a fatal error after the f2 sacrifice:

Here is another example with the sacrifice on f2:

However, Black has an alternative that is even stronger than taking on f2, namely, 10 . . . f5! as seen, for example, in the game below:

Instead of 6.  … Nc6, Black can play 6. … Bc5.  This can also be very dangerous for White.  For example:

Here is an example where White plays carelessly in the 6 …Bc5 line and loses in 10 moves:


If White responds with 7. Be3, Black can easily restore material equality and leave White’s king unable to castle.  For example:

If White decides to defend instead with 9. Qc1, he still ends up in trouble:

Here is another game in the 6. …. Bc5 line where Black gets a strong attack (and went on to win this game):

Thus, 6. … Bc5 is worth considering as an alternative to 6. …. Nc6.

Here is a complete game in the 6. … Bc5 variation:

In the following game White is already lost after 8 (apparently) reasonable moves, because of Black’s threats on f2 and b2:


Here is a game in the Bc5 variation that leads to a King chase and a quick mate:

Ross Gambit: 2nd Pawn Not Accepted

 

Here is a game where the pawn on b7 is not accepted, only the one on c6.  Black emerges from the opening with a superior position and material equality.

 

 

Ways White Declines the Ross Gambit

In the following variation White returns the pawns with 5 d4 in exchange for solid development.  However, Black gets a fine position with material equality.

 

In the following variation White seeks to return material with 5. f4, but this move is essentially losing, as the following line demonstrates.

In this game White (a very high level computer) strives to keep all the material offered by Black in the Ross Gambit, but loses.  Games such as this one against computers demonstrate that the Ross Gambit in the Scandinavian Defense is not only sound, but possibly accepting the Gambit is a fatal mistake for White.

In this game White returns the material with Nc3 after playing c4.  Black gets a great game and an attack, which leads to a fatal White error.

A Fun Alternative Line Where Black Sacrifices Two Pawns

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