My previous column dealt with question and suggestion to examining why 1.e4 is best for the amateur to concentrate energies on in order to develop attack/defense motifs that should dominate the learning experience from beginner to master. The rating range of master to Grandmaster encompasses a larger segment as you go up the ladder where opening systems are dissected into the 20-30 move middlegame in many cases with the pawn structure in mind for getting a superior endgame when and after the fur has flown in the melee.
What I show now is the Ruy Lopez and one of my main stays as Black defending against it. After, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc3 3.Bb5 I previously looked at various less common ways to address the defense needs called variations–all having interesting titles attributed to either a player or tournament where it originated or made popular. Now I examine a favorite of mine where I have had reasonable success in both otb and cc play through the years.
At this point, the most popular Closed Variation 3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7, a tree from those explored earlier whose branches are many from this point on. Now, 6.Qe2 the Worrall Attack varies from the main theme and enjoys some popularity. GM Reshevsky used to play it just to vary from…
6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d6
Black can try the Marshall Attack …d5, which could have been avoided by White playing 8.a4. That idea runs 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 (Bb7 is possible) 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 that has remained a mystery as to who, if either, has the advantage. If you enjoy attacking or defending tedious and unclear positions, this variation is fun to play and leads to some exciting play.
8.c3 O-O 9.h3
If White plays 9.d4 then Black is best to play Bg4, a continuation explored in recent years with mixed results. However, Black should avoid 9…Bb7 because of 10.d5 blocking the diagonal although it relaxes central tension enjoyed by the pawn duo d4/e4.
Black has a slight lead in development but cannot prevent White from occupying the center via d4 so compensation must be found to offset this since White will eventually complete developing and be in position to launch tactics with both Q-side and K-side threats of attack coordinated by a fairly secure center pawn structure. This whole concept is why the Ruy Lopez has enjoyed enormous prestige for decades.
Black’s choice aims to pressure e4 which he hopes will interfere with White general development of the QN from d2>f1. There are two alternative plans: (1) Morphy line 9…Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7; (2) Nb8 Breyer line 10.d4 Nbd7. After 11.Nbd2 Bb7 looks sharp because the N no longer blocks the diagonal.
A key to Black’s positional defensive maneuver here is to guard the square e5 while making room for the Bishop to go to f8 to help guard the King position and secure e5’s post.
11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a4!
This Qwing action is often seen when Black’s Qside pawns are advanced. It signals White intends to eye the whole board in his tactical and strategic aims. But White must be careful to avoid the mistake of 12.Nf1 because Black is prepared to nail the center with a hammer blow starting with …exd4 13.cxd4 Na5 with a tripling attack on e4. A trap is 13…Nxe4?? 14.Rxe4 Rxe4 15.Ng5 Re7 16.Qh5 and the attack looks deadly.
At this point I have played 12…Qd7, 12….g6 as well the next.
Adding protection to the center squares d3 and e4 and where pressure might be possible on b5 via Bd3 at some point.
Because of 12…h6 I now follow Kasparov vs Karpov for an excellent example of two geniuses at work. The art of chess at its best.
13….exd4 14.cxd4 Nb4
Makes room for c5 and attacks the center which is a normal defensive strategy when faced with a pending K-side assault.
Gaining square count and space on the Q-side and stopping a possible Knight to d4. Black might consider also here 15….Qd7 with 16…g6 and 17…Bg7 setting up some defense of the King position. Still, the strategy Karpov wages is to get a Knight eventually to d3 reducing some of White’s attack by blunting the w/s Bishop. Now that the c-pawn is gone, White has jump moves threats of Ra3>Nh2>Rg3 with rapid piece deployment to the K-side. Black has jump moves like Nd7>c4>Nc5 (Nd3) and defensive preparation by g6>Bg7.
At this point I close because the game lasted to move 41 when Karpov resigned. It was a titanic struggle but not within the understanding of the amateur player who may well become overwhelmed by the wizardly tactics of two of the world greatest players at the time this game was played. Karpov came up with a brilliant defensive idea and Kasparov was equal to the task in meeting it. Still, there is probably room for improvements for both sides.
The objective to show some of the ideas for both sides in just one line of play (Bb7) in the Closed Variation should provide you lots to study. As I said earlier, there are variations within variations and this one is just one of many to contemplate and stimulate you to enjoy the art of chess play.