Max Lange Attack: Maximize Your Attacking Options

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Table of Contents

A favorite of Morphy in the 19th century and Frank Marshall in the 20th century, the Max Lange Attack is an excellent opening choice.

  • Get rapid development, early king safety, and make it challenging for your opponents to defend with the Max Lange Attack.
  • This chess opening is suitable for players of all levels and is a good choice for improving your level of attacking play.
  • The Max Lange Attack is an excellent opening for players who enjoy positions rich in tactics.

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Max Attack! - The Max Lange Gambit

What Is the Max Lange Attack?

This video is from our “Butcher 1… e5: The Bishop’s Opening” course

The Max Lange Attack is found in many chess openings. Two of the most common openings are the Two Knights Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0) and the Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 Nf6 6.e5 – see diagram)

The Max Lange Attack is often played in the Scotch Gambit.

This attack is named after the German chess player Max Lange and dates back to the 1850s.

One of the earliest games in the Max Lange Attack did not end well for white, but this is not unusual. The Marshall Gambit of the Ruy Lopez did not have a successful start but is considered an excellent choice for Black now.

Fortunately for us today, the theory in the Max Lange Attack has grown, leading to exciting chess games. Chess players who enjoy positions rich with tactical possibilities will relish playing the Max Lange Attack.

White sacrifices a pawn for a lead in development and gains time attacking Black’s developed pieces. Time is a vital element of chess in all phases, but particularly in the opening

Playing with the initiative is an excellent way to approach the opening phase of a chess game.

The white king reaches safety with early castling and allows a rook to enter the game quickly. A necessary pawn sacrifice for White is c3, which brings the knight into the game after …dxc3 Nxc3.

Bg5 is another typical attacking move in the Max Lange Attack.

White’s pieces become active, and opportunities to attack the black queen are not uncommon in the Max Lange Attack.

When playing the Max Lange Attack, always look to target the undefended black bishop on c5. A common tactic to win a pawn is the Bxf7+ and Qh5+ combination.

Chess players often overlook attacks from the opposite side of the board. This tactic makes excellent use of the queen’s long-range attacking potential.

Apart from winning a pawn, you will deny Black castling rights and expose the king.

Max Lange Attack in the Two Knights Defense

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0

the Max Lange Attack in the Two Knights Defense

The Max Lange Attack is a dangerous attacking weapon for players who wish to avoid the theory of the Fried Liver Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc5 Nf6 4.Ng5) against the Two Knights Defense. Chess players who choose the Two Knights Defense are much more likely to know how to play against the Fried Liver Attack than the Max Lange Attack.

Another excellent reason to choose the Max Lange Attack is that there is a lot less theory to learn in comparison to the Fried Liver Attack. The less time you spend studying the opening, the more time you can invest in improving your attacking skills.

Taking the pawn on e4 is a dangerous option but one you must know how to face. Black might think the knight is not in danger because there is the option of defending it with …d5.

This defense of the knight also attacks the bishop on c4, which makes it even more attractive. When playing this position with white, remember to use the fact that both the black knight and d-pawn will soon be pinned.

5…Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5! Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qh5 9.Nxe4 Be6 10.Neg5

In this position, the active knights are dangerous attacking pieces that can make excellent use of the black king in the center on the tenth move of the game.

Paul Morphy chose to meet 10…Bb4 with 11.Rxe6, but 11.Nxe6 was playable and possibly a better choice. For example, 11…fxe6 12.Rxe6+ Kd8 (12…Kd7 and 12…Kf7 allow a discovered attack on the queen with 13.Ne5+).

Position after 12...Kd8

Now the engine gives as a possible continuation the amazing 13.Bh6 gxh6 14.Rxc6 bxc6 15.Qxd4+ Bd6 16.Qxh8+. A better defensive try is 15…Ke7 which ends in a queen and pawn endgame with white two pawns up.

Played in an era long before chess engines, this game by Morphy is a beautiful example of attacking play.

Max Lange Attack in the Scotch Gambit

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 Nf6 6.e5

The Max Lange Attack is often played in the Scotch Gambit.

A popular move in this position is 6…d5, no doubt hoping for 7.exd6 Qxd6 when Black will complete development with …Be6 and long castle. However, White does better in capturing on f6 rather than d6.

6…d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5 10.Nc3 Qf5 11.Nce4 0-0-0

Note that the queen is tied to the defense of the bishop on c5. The exposed nature of the black queen makes attacking it easier.

One of the advantages of the Max Lange Attack is how easy it is for white to gain a pleasant advantage against natural moves by Black. The simple Nxe6, g4, and fxg7 give White a nice edge.

Bh6 is an excellent move that defends the g7 pawn and keeps Black tied down on defense.

Although White might not have a winning advantage in the resulting positions, the position for Black is more challenging to play. In 1910 Frank Marshall used the Max Lange Attack to defeat Siegbert Tarrasch in July and Jose Raul Capablanca in October.

If these two strong players could not defend the position, think how challenging it will be for your opponents.

In Conclusion

There is little doubt that the Max Lange Attack poses significant challenges to Black in many 1.e4 openings. If you enjoy starting your chess games with 1.e4, then including the Max Lange Attack in your repertoire makes a lot of sense.

Apart from the surprise factor, this attack is a good opening you can use to reach a comfortable middlegame position with White. The resulting middlegame position gives White a comfortable space advantage, active piece play, and many attacking tactical opportunities.

And if this is not enough, there is the bonus that the slightest slip-up by Black can give White a winning advantage very early in the game. A chess player cannot realistically ask for much more than this from any opening.

Today is the perfect day to play the Max Lange Attack and learn why Marshall was confident enough to play it against the best chess players in the world at the time.

Max Lange Attack Frequently Asked Questions

How do you play the Max Lange Attack?

Two of the most common ways to play the Max Lange Attack are 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 Nf6 6.e5, and 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0

What is the Max Lange Attack?

White prioritizes fast development and active piece play in the Max Lange Attack. A common tactic by White is to sacrifice a pawn on e4 or c3.

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Max Attack! - The Max Lange Gambit

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