KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope: Ruy Lopez or the Spanish Game Revisited

Modern Chess Openings, 13th edition gives a good account of this ancient opening.

  • It represents the classic play of the game of chess.
  • It was first mentioned in the historical Gottingen manuscript of 1490.
  • The Spanish priest Ruy Lopez, in his Libro del Ajedrez of 1561, was first to treat it systematically and carries his name.
  • It also bears the name “Spanish Game.”

The strategic element of change historically from one of sharp tactical play, often around the focal point f7 square to one pressurizing the e5 square that wages war of long duration, finding such longterm strategy to appropriately  be named by defenders, “Spanish Torture,” has been the mainstay of the whole system by the White forces. The popularity of this opening has turned up a host of defensive systems: names with flavoring like–Cordel, Berlin, Cozio, Bird, Schliemann aka Jaenisch Gambit (see, Reithel vs Cotten for a classic example), Steinitz, and Morphy are links to the past and forward to future evaluations.

As an example, I have chosen one of my favorite players to illustrate such Spanish Torture!

          White:   Paul Keres       vs.     Black:   P. H.  Clarke    Opening: Ruy Lopez – Steinitz Defence Deferred         Hastings 1957-8

1. e4  e5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. Bb5  a6  4. Ba4  d6.

This defensive setup, if thoroughly studied prior to its use in a game, is recognized as a tough nut to crack.

5. c3  Bd7 6. d4  g6  7. Bg5

Keres steers the game from the usual 7. O-O and relies upon the element of surprise and so declines the theoretical often suggested in books as best.

7. … f6

Since g6 was played, an alternative like 7. …Be7 8. Bxe7 Qxe7  9. O-O  Nf6 10. Nbd2 makes the move g6 leaving the dark squares weak.

8. Be3  Bg7?!

I do not know if this move can be faulted but it seems like following a maxim by the famous Dr. Emmanuel Lasker which sets down a law of developing Knights before Bishops might hold here,  and increase square count that is a tell-tale sign of a better choice by 8….Nh6 attacking the square g4 and adding defense to the open square f7. Keres suggests here 9. dxe5 fxe5 10. Bg5 again, positive power in choice using my theory.  White can capitalize on opening the center further by c4 and Nc3 jump moves at the appropriate time. The quiet 8… Qe7 is unclear to me but looks plausible.

9. h4

Black finds himself in a hole of being between a rock and hard place. In a sense, he is close to a type of zugswang where an obvious move leads to problems. Thus, if he decides to block h5 by 9….h5, he gives White the powerful Ng5 after 10. dxe5 fxe5 11. Ng5! and capturing with 10..dxe5 promotes territorial gain by c4 and Nc3 hitting the center.

9. … Nh6  10. h5 Ng4 11. Bc1.

Remember my lesson about the Bishop retaining its power even if it retreats to its home base? Here is a perfect example! Again it points to the validity of my theory which one GM told me was probably not correct. I like that word “probably.”

11. … Na5  12. Nh4  b5  13. Bc2  f5

Clark makes a desperate attempt to find counterplay dismissing  13….g5 14. Nf5  Bxf5  15. exf5 Nh6.

14. exf5

Even stronger and needed to limit the coming counterattack is….14. f3!  Nf6 15. h6  Bf8 16. exf5 (Keres).

14. … gxh5!  15. dxe5  Bxe5  16. Nf3  O-O 17. Rxh5  Nf6  18. Rh3 Qe7 19. Kf1  Kh8 20. Nh4

The Knight returns with the threats of both 21. Ng6+ and 21. f4.

20.  … Rg8 21. f4! Ng4  22. fxe5  dxe5  23. Qe2  Raf8 24. Nd2  Nh6  25. Ndf3  Nxf5  26. Nxf5  Bxf5  27. Bxf5  Rxf5  28. Qe4

Centralization of the Queen is highly recommended by Nimzowitch in his treatise MY SYSTEM and PRACTICAL CHESS.

28. … Qf7

Square count now is 13/14 in Black’s favor which is illusionary and no value as White now increases his own sqct.

29. g4!  Rf6  30. Kg2! Nc4  31. Bg5 White wins.  31…Rxg5  32. Nxg5   Rf2+ 33. Kg1 and on other Rook moves, then 33. Rah1 ends the game. 1-0.

As Yogi Berra, the famous Yankee catcher, manager and baseball expert said, “It ain’t over, till it’s over!”

There is a story that a newspaper reporter asked Capablanca how many moves ahead did he visualize and plan? Capablanca said he often thought about ten moves ahead.  Then, the newspaper reporter asked Richard Reti the same question.  Reti replied: “Just one move ahead–the best one.”  Which reminds me of my advice to plan each game from move one.  Another player and American champion and Western World Champion, Samuel Reshevsky in an interview said he rarely delved deeply in opening analysis, depending upon his intuition for the proper plan and move.  Part of this may have been because he was married, had a family, and a profession as an accountant and later in real estate.

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