Son of the warlord Ma Teng and a highly skilled warrior. He mobolised his father’s forces for revenge when Cao Cao tricked his father to the capital and kill him along with his brothers Ma Tie and Ma Xiu. Together with his father’s sworn brother Han Sui, they troops set off for Chang’an and conquer it easily. Having conquer Chang’an they advanced towards Tong Pass which is a strategic pass. Cao Cao ordered Cao Hong and Xu Huang to lead 10,000 troops to guard and hold on to Tong Pass for ten days. On the ninth however Cao Hong could not stand Ma Chao’s challenge and verbal abuse and went out of the pass to give battle but was defeated and resulted in the loss of the pass.
Cao Cao led troops personally to recapture Tong Pass and Ma Chao defeated many of Cao Cao’s generals such as Yu Jin, Zhang He etc… single handed after which he went after Cao Cao to avenge his father. Cao Cao in a bid to escape cut off his beard and threw away his robe to avoid being identified by Ma Chao’s troops before being rescued by Cao Hong and Xiahou Yuan.
In order to cut off Ma Chao’s supplies lines, Cao Cao lead troops to cross the river but Ma Chao was prepared and ambushed him instead. If not for Xu Chu, Cao Cao would have perished there. In the days ahead, Ma Chao harrassed Cao Cao’s troops and gave them no chance of setting up camps. Knowing that it would be very difficult to defeat a valiant general like Ma Chao, Cao Cao accepted his adviser Jia Xu’s proposal to pretend to make peace with Ma Chao and at the same time attempt to turn Ma Chao and Han Sui against each other. Slowly the two men were driven apart and Ma Chao thought that Han Sui had collaboratd with Cao Cao against him and tried to kill Han Sui but only manged to chop off Han Sui’s hand. In the ensuing confusion, Cao Cao launched an attack on his confused enemies and overcome them.
Ma Chao together with his cousin Ma Dai and Pang De escaped and later sought refuge with the warlord Zhang Lu. Later Zhang Lu sent Ma Chao to rescue Liu Zhang’s Xichuan from Liu Bei’s invading forces. The first encounter with Liu Bei’s army is with Zhang Fei and these two men fought like tigers for two days with no signs of either one gaining an upper hand. Fearing that either one will get hurt Liu Bei consulted Zhuge Liang and Zhuge Liang agreed too that such a valiant and highly skilled general like Ma Chao would be a waste if any harm befalls on him and Zhang Fei. An envoy was thus sent to pursuade Ma Chao to switch sides over Liu Bei and Ma Chao being in a fix at that time switch his allegience over to Liu Bei.
After the founding of the Shu Kingdom, Ma Chao was responsible for guarding the northern border against invasion by the barbarian tribes and the Wei Kingdom.