The Berlin Variation is by far the most popular top-level player's weapon against Ruy Lopez. Nevertheless, the vast majority of chess fans are not familiar with the subtleties of the arising positions. In his newest opening project, GM Kiril Georgiev builds a complete Berlin-based repertoire against Ruy Lopez. He covers this extremely topical opening in two databases.
The present database features the famous Berlin Endgame. In his analysis, GM Kiril Georgiev provides us with a new conceptual framework of this endgame. This database contains everything you need when studying an opening - detailed explanations, an original choice of lines and plenty of novelties.
Preview by GM Kiril Georgiev
The so-called Berlin Endgame arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8 Kxd8
We reached one of the most complicated endgames in the chess theory. Let's try to evaluate the situation from a positional point of view by describing the strong and weak points of both sides:
It's obvious that White's pawn structure is better. Black's doubled pawns on the c-file depreciate his queenside structure while White has an extra pawn on the kingside. Very often, especially in the endgame, White manages to win the game by creating a dangerous kingside passed pawn.
Also, one shouldn't underestimate the importance of White's space advantage. The e5-pawn restricts Black's minor pieces and at the same time makes a room for further maneuvering. Quite often, White generates a considerable pressure by making simple moves like Rad1, Rfe1, Nc3-e4 and Bf4.
Despite the abovementioned considerations, I am convinced that White's biggest advantage is Black's difficulty to connect his rooks. As you will see later, in a number of positions Black solves his problems when he manages to bring his rooks into play.
After taking into consideration White's advantages, we should point out that Black has his own triumphs.
The bishop pair is an important asset for him. In an open position, black bishops could be extremely dangerous. Despite the limited space, there are no weaknesses in Black's position. Even his doubled pawns couldn't be considered as a weakness because the c6-pawn controls the important squares "d5" and "b5". Please note that in a number of endgames, White's e5-pawn could turn into a weakness.
Now we are going to take a look at White's possible options starting from this position.
First of all, it's important to point out that it's not advisable to study the Berlin move by move. Sometimes, we can realize a given idea by means of several move orders. In order to become a successful Berlin player, you should learn the general patterns of the arising positions. That's the reason why I focus on studying White's different plans. Of course, after getting familiar with a concrete plan, we pay attention to different move orders connected with it.
WHITE PLAYS Bf4
This is the most popular plan for White. Please note that, in most of the cases, the move Bf4 is played after 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 h5 11.Nc3
After this move, the e5-pawn is protected and the f3-knight has a room for maneuvers. Moreover, in a number of positions, White is ready to make use of Black's coordination problems by opening the center with e5-e6 ( In this case, the pawn on "c7" will be hanging) . The main drawback of the move 11.Bf4 could be explained by the fact that now White's f-pawn is blocked and he couldn't easily execute his kingside pawn expansion.
Despite the fact that, after 11.Bf4, Black's most popular option is 11...Be7, I advocate the rate 11...Be6. As you are going to see from my analysis, this approach is much more flexible since black dark-squared bishop could be developed via e7 or b4 depending on the concrete circumstances. Nevertheless, I also provide the reader with a backup repertoire based on the main move 11...Be7.
Please note that sometimes White plays 10.Bf4 without h2-h3. After the normal 10...Be6, we have the following position:
Here, the vast majority of the games transpose into our main line after 11.h3 h5. Sometimes, however, White tries to make use of the fact that Black hadn't played h7-h5 yet. In this line of thoughts, the most direct approach is to launch a kingside expansion by means of g2-g4. Nevertheless, my game against Naiditsch proved that White's activity is premature.
All the plans based on Bf4 are covered in CHAPTERS 1, 2 and 3.
WHITE PLAYS Ne2
Almost always this move is played after the inclusion of 10.h3 h5
White is planning to transfer his knight to "f4" and only later he will clarify the position of his dark-squared bishop. In a lot of positions, the f4-knight in combination with Re1 supports the central break e5-e6. Nevertheless, Black has enough resources to hold the equality. In CHAPTER 4, I recommend the move 11...Be7 which I played against Eltaj Safarli in 2013. My analysis of this game shows that, with a precise play, Black equalizes rather easily.
WHITE PLAYS b2-b3 FOLLOWED BY Bb2
In the Berlin endgame, b2 is not a very comfortable square for the bishop. White dark-squares bishop is restricted by his central e5-pawn and contrary to the lines where the bishop is on f4, here, the advance e5-e6 is not a threat ( c7-pawn is not hanging ). In CHAPTER 5, I demonstrate that Black obtains an extremely comfortable position after 10...Ne7 followed by Ng6 and eventually Bg4.
WHITE PLAYS Rd1 + Bg5
Here, the main question is whether White should play Rfd1 before Nc3 (while black king is still on d8) or not. I am convinced that it's more precise to play it when black king is still on d8.
White's main point consists in restricting Black's choice. Now Black king is forced to go to e8 and White doesn't need to study the positions arising after Bd7 followed by Kc8. On the other hand, the move 9.Rd1 has an important disadvantage. Later, Black will experience difficulties connected with the activation of his a1-rook. In order to place his rooks on e1 and d1, he must waste one more tempo. Recently, this approach became very popular thanks to the efforts of the great Berlin expert GM Gata Kamsky (on the picture below)
The most important position of the variation arises after the moves 9...Ke8 10.h3 Be7 11.h3 h5 12.g3 Be6 13.Bg5
In this position, I recommend the idea 13...Rg8 followed by f7-f6. Generally speaking, in Berlin, I always try to neutralize the move Bg5 by means of f7-f6. Arising positions are very complex and we should know a number of positional subtleties in order to handle them in the best possible way. Nevertheless, I have managed to prove that Black is doing well with a precise play.
Given the fact that this is one of the most important types of position, I analyze it in CHAPTERS 6, 7 and 8.
In the last two chapters, I provide you with two model games which illustrate some typical Berlin ideas. After studying them, you will not only better understand the strategy in the Berlin endgame, but at the same time you will know which pieces to exchange and which ones to keep on the board. In this way, you will combine a deep theoretical knowledge with an excellent positional understanding on the Berlin.
Now I would like to provide you with CHAPTER 1 as a free sample.