Ruy Lopez with 3...a6 and 4...Bc5 - Complete Repertoire for Black
The Spanish Opening is one of the oldest main openings. It was briefly examined in "Libro de la invención liberal y Arte del juego del Axedrez" written in 1561 by the Spanish priest (and apparently strongest chess player in Europe for about 20 years) Ruy Lopez de Segura. It is worth mentioning, though, that Ruy preferred the King's Gambit!
It is remarkable that even in such an ancient opening there are possibilities to step away from the well-known paths. In this database, I will examine a system that enjoys some popularity lately, its main advocate being Nihal Sarin.
The database consists of 15 theoretical chapters, 15 interactive test positions, a Memory Booster, and a Video Version (approx.2h Running Time)
The main topic of the database is the position arising after 3...a6 4.Ba4 Bc5
When talking about developing the bishop on c5, the modern (or Modern Chess) reader may first think of the Neo-Arkhangelsk system, while I am still nostalgic about the classical Arkhangelsk.
There is a third possibility, though: Black can deviate from these by developing his knight to e7. This has been first played in the '30s but started its modern trend with two games played by Mihail Rodin in the first decade of the third Millenium.
One typical aspect is that in the beginning engines seem to be very critical about this setup, but after the game advances a bit they start approving Black's strategy.
In principle, White can choose between lively piece play, with chances for both sides and the classical solid approach, leaving Black with a solid and flexible position, with good chances for reaching counterplay by manoeuvring accurately.
Since White's only possible deviation after 3.Bb5 is 4.Bxc6, I have also examined it in this database, to provide the reader with a complete repertoire. More about the exchange variation in the introduction to this section. For now, just the variation tree: After 4...dxc6, White's most popular continuation is 5.0-0 (I cover the alternatives as well).
At this point, my suggestion would be 5...Bg4 6.h3 h5 when we reach one of the most interesting tabiyas of the Exchange Variation, leading to entertaining play and approximately equal chances.
Now, let's get back to the main line. After 4...Bc5, White's main option is 5.0-0.
A flexible move, maintaining the possibility of switching to either of the approaches mentioned above at a later point.
One should not confuse 5.Bxc6 dxc6 with 3...Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6. In our line, the knight can do better than going to f6, ensuring Black's play a higher coherence. A possible continuation would be 6.0-0 f6 7.d3 Be6
The next moves will be ...Qd7 and ...Ne7-g6, when I would prefer Black, at least slightly.
Another deviation on move 5 is 5.d3. In this case, Black will answer with 5...Nge7
The move 5...Nge7 yields Black comfortable play. He will continue with ...d7-d6, ...Ng6 with chances to set up kingside pressure. This is the point behind ...Ne7, the knight gets closer to the squares on f4 and h4.
An interesting direction is 5.c3 Nge7 6.d4
This is a clear invitation to concrete play. It can lead to a relatively wide range of interesting structures. Black should answer with 6...exd4 7.cxd4 Bb4+ followed by ...d7-d5.
In the introduction to the current course, I also explain why 5.Nxe5 and 5.Nc3 do not create any problems for Black.
After the main move 5.0-0, Black continues with 5...Nge7.
White's critical continuation is by far 6.c3.
Analysis and practice suggest that 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.d4 b5 8.Bb3 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 d6 is entirely viable for Black.
The critical position of the database is being reached after 6.c3 Ng6 7.d4 Ba7
From a classical point of view, this should be the main tabiya of our system. White has played in the spirit of the classical closed lines, while Black has built up a solid, but at the same time flexible, a fortress.
It's important to mention that instead of 7.d4, White can try to fight for an initiative by means of 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.d4 Ba7 10.dxe5 Qe7
The position is very complicated with chances for both sides. My analysis shows that keeping the pawn by White can backfire.