Repertoire Against Ruy Lopez - Breyer Variation
GM Michael Roiz
The Ruy Lopez remains one of the most popular chess openings, both at club level and among top players.
According to many grandmasters, this is the most complex opening in chess. Almost all world champions played it with both colours. Studying this opening will not only provide you with a repertoire but will increase your general chess understanding.
In his two-part series, the renowned theoretician GM Michael Roiz is providing us with a complete repertoire for Black against it.
The author explains all strategical and tactical subtleties and proposes many fresh and unexplored ideas.
In this first part, GM Roiz analyzes the Spanish main line while in the second database he deals with all sidelines.
This database covers the positions arising after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3
Let's discuss the diagram position which is the main tabiya of Ruy Lopez.
White is already preparing to go for the standard plan - d2-d4, Nbd2-f1-g3, Bg5, etc... with an attack on the kingside. Also, a2-a4 is a common way to attack the pawns on the queenside where Black's structure is already slightly weakened.
On the other hand, Black has many possible setups. The main question is where to put the queenside knight which is not very well placed on the c6-square. Historically speaking, the most popular line is 9...Na5 followed by c7-c5 (Chigorin Variation). It is a well-known variation which was popularized by the great Russian Master Mikhail Chigorin in the 19th century. There is nothing wrong with this line, but in recent years White found some interesting ideas. The other popular line is 9...Bb7 (Zaitsev Variation). Black keeps the knight on c6 for the moment, completes the development with Re8 and Bf8 and keeps all options for the knight open (Na5, Nb8, Nb4). This line was highly popular at the 80'es, mainly because of several clashes between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. Even at that time, this line was considered to be quite risky for Black and White won several beautiful games. Finally, we come to move to 9...Nb8 which will be the topic of this database.
The variation was discovered by the Hungarian Master Guyla Breyer at 1911 but becomes popular many years later, mainly because of the efforts of Lajos Portish, Boris Spassky, Karpov, etc... It the recent years, this is the main line for Black and even Magnus Carlsen has more than 20 games in it. The main advantage of Breyer Variation is the flexibility. The pawn structure is not determined and Black always has different options. The arising positions are quite complex and there is no easy way for White to dry the position and make a draw.
Let's discuss Black's plans and ideas. It may look like 9...Nb8 is a waste of time, but as I mentioned before, the knight on c6 is dominated by the pawn on c3 and is not well placed. So, Black transfers the knight to the d7-square and opens the a8-h1 diagonal for his light-squared bishop. As long as Black manages to keep the position closed, the waste of time is not crucial. Black's scheme of development is quite easy - ...Nbd7, ...Bb7, ...Re8, ...Bf8, ...g6, etc...
The database contains: 12 Theoretical Chapters and 15 Test Positions
Chapter 1 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d3
This modest-looking move isn't without venom. Since the pawn on e4 is currently covered, White can safely transfer his knight on g3 without retreating his light-squared bishop. On the other hand, Black also has more activity than in the main lines of Breyer. Black should continue developing by 10...Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Nf1 and then 12...Nc5! is the strongest move. Black is trying to stop d3-d4 and transfer the knight to the e6 square. This line is considered harmless for Black and is not a regular guest in the tournament practice.
Chapter 2 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.c4 - Part I
This aggressive move was successfully introduced by one of the greatest players in the past Efim Geller. In comparison to 11.Nbd2, White has more control over the centre and the dark-squared bishop remains active. On the flip side, White delays his development and reduces the control over d4. Black should continue 11...c6!
The purpose of this move is to take the important d5-square under control and to protect b5-pawn. Black keeps open all the options of changing the structure. This chapter will deal with the main reply for White - 12.Nc3 (all other options will be discussed in Chapter 3) 12...b4! 13.Na4 c5 14.d5
We reached the main tabiya of 11.c4 line. This closed structure is typical for King's Indian Defence and is very well explained by GM Grigor Grigorov in Modern Chess Magazine. Black has no weaknesses but sometimes struggles to find a good place for his minor pieces. On the other hand, White has space advantage, but the knight on a4 and the bishop on b3 are misplaced. All pieces and pawns are on the board so the position is full of play and the one who knows the typical ideas and maneuvres has the advantage. Objectively speaking Black equalizes with precise play.
Chapter 3 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.c4 c6 Part II
This chapter covers all White's options on move 12 with the exception of 12.Nc3.
Probably the most dangerous one is 12.a3, but also 12.c5, 12.Nbd2, 12.Qc2, 12.Be3 deserve attention.
Black reacts to each move differently so let's not go into the details. Black needs to do his homework here, but all those White's attempts fail to pose any serious problems.
Chapter 4 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.a4
This natural move has a clear drawback when White's bishop is still on b3. Black should continue 12...c5! 13.d5 c4! (winning an important tempo) 14.Bc2 Nc5.
A general rule in this structure is that Black's position is very good if he manages to put the knight on c5 before b2-b3.
Chapter 5 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.b3
This natural move is known since 1960. Apart of preparing the fianchetto, White also aims at biulding up a strong pawn centre with d4-d5, followed c3-c4. The main line continues 13...Bf8 14.d5 (14.a4, 14.Bb2 are also analyzed) 14...c6! 15.c4 Qc7!
The lack of harmony in White's camp makes it difficult to cover the c2-bishop. That is why Black starts putting pressure along the c-file. The practice shows that Black has enough counterplay in this line.
Chapter 6 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.b4 Bf8 14.Bb2
This setup was tried by such great players like Tal and Shirov. Still, by deviating from a2-a4 White heavily limits his active possibilities on the queenside and makes it easier for Black to reach equality. The key maneuver which you should remember is 14...Nb6! followed by 15...Nfd7.
Chapter 7 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.a4 Bf8 14.Bd3
The main continuation. By attacking b5, White forces Black to lock the b7-bishop. In this way, the e4-pawn would be no longer under pressure. After 14...c6 15.b3 we reached one of the main tabiyas in Breyer Variation.
The most common and flexible continuation. White's dark-squared bishop might be placed either on b2 or a3, while c3-c4 break is still in the air. In this position, GM Roiz suggests the following plan 15...Qc7 followed by g6 - Nh5 - Nf4.
Chapter 8 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.a4 Bf8 - Alternatives to the Main Line
In this chapter, GM Roiz analyzed the alternatives to 14.Bd3 and 15.b3.
White sometimes tried the immediate 14.b3, 14.b4 or 14.Bd3 followed by 15.Qc2.
All those moves lead to structures which are already discussed in the previous chapters.
The only important resource which the reader should remember is that 14.b3 runs into 14...b4! 15.cxb4 exd4 16.Nxd4 d5! and Black regains the pawn in a favourable situation.
Chapter 9 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Bg5
This move was first seen in 1960, but it became popular mainly due to the brilliant Vugar Gashimov, who passed away 5 years ago. In comparison to 14.Ng3, the bishop can retreat on h4, so pinning the f6-knight is more effective now. However, as the practice proves, the e4-pawn is under strong pressure. That is why in some cases White would be forced to exchange it. The main line continues 14...h6 15.Bh4 g6
as usual, this advance limits White's attacking potential and makes Black's setup more harmonious. White tried several moves here, but neither of them leads to the advantage.
Chapter 10 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 g6 15.b3
This is White's second most popular choice according to statistics. At some point, this move even became the main preference of the top players. In comparison to 15.a4, White isn't focused on attacking the b5-pawn. He mainly aims to seize more space in the centre by advancing d4-d5 and c3-c4.
GM Roiz suggests a very rare move here - 15...a5!
This move was introduced in 2007 by one of the leading Breyer experts Gata Kamsky. Black leaves the dark-squared bishop on its initial spot for a while, so the d6-pawn remains protected. Moreover, the potential b5-b4 advance might undermine White's control of d4 and offer Black good prospects on the queenside. Many setups are possible for White here. The Israeli GM analyzes 16.a4, 16.a3, 16.Bd3, 16.d5 and 16.Bd2 and proves that Black has equal chances against all of them.
Chapter 11 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 g6 15.a4
This is by far the most common move in the position. By attacking the b5-pawn White is trying to provoke c7-c6, that would release the pressure on e4 and make Black's setup rather passive. The main line continues 15...Bg7 16.Bd3 and then GM Roiz suggests a rare idea 16...exd4!?
A relatively fresh idea. Once the position opens, Black could benefit from completing development. This unexplored position is full of resources and both sides can play for a win.
Chapter 12 - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 g6 15.Bg5
This natural developing move is introduced in the middle of the 1950'es. The main idea behind it is provoking the somewhat weakening h7-h6. In this way, White would have better attacking prospects. Black should continue 15...h6 16.Bd2 Bg7 followed by ...exd4 or d6-d5.
This section includes 15 interactive test positions which allow you to test your understanding of the theoretical positions. Below, you can try to solve 5 of them.