| 7 | Middlegame

This is the final game on the Open Ruy Lopez I plan to investigate, and along with the other two examples this should provide the reader with a good introduction into the typical themes and plans in this slightly unorthodox opening. For instructions on TEST YOUR CHESS please see the previous article. I hope everyone enjoys and learns from this game as I did.

Good Luck!

Stellwagen,D. - Ernst,S.

Corus Tournament, Wijk aan Zee 2005


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 d4

This move feels like someone is trying to put a knife into the heart of the White position.


Question 1: How would you react to the dreaded ...d4 push?





 11.Bxe6 (1 point)


11.Ng5!? (1 point) Mikhalevski believes the text (11.Bxe6) to be the superior try, although he goads us a little by calling it quiet. It has certainly been outscoring its rival 11.Ng5. If you are a little confused looking at 11.Ng5, don’t worry – I think everyone is when they first see it. A topic for another game.


11.cxd4 (0 points) This trades down too much material, and White's space advantage looks overextended in the resulting simplified position. 11...Nxd4 12.Nxd4 Qxd4 13.Bxe6 Nxe6 14.Qf3 Rd8 Black is just fine in the resulting position, and he also has very active pieces.


11...Nxe6 12.cxd4 Ncxd4


Question 2: There is some tension in the center. Should White resolve the tension with exchanges?









(1 point) This is a good move to try and play for the opening advantage in this position. We saw this thematic push in a previous Open Ruy game where Mikhalevski got into trouble (see TEST YOUR CHESS: RUY LOPEZ).


13.Nxd4 (0 points) is a rare master try, and was sadly still my first instinct in this position as I began predicting my way through this game. It has been used the least frequently of all the big three options here for master chess.  13...Qxd4 14.Qf3 Rd8 15.a4 Bb4! Black's activity is quite alarming and he may already be better. 16.Qc6+ Ke7 17.Nf3 Qd5 18.Qc2 Qd3 19.Qc6 Qd5 20.Qc2 Qd3 21.Qc6 Qd5 ½–½ Sprenger,J-Acs,P, Germany 2005.


13.Ne4 (1 point) is also a perfectly valid attempt for an opening advantage. However, just like Emms, I think White should set about giving Black some opening problems to solve. Especially at amateur level – these are essential.




13...Be7 is the main move at this point, although it’s not a great favourite over the alternatives. Black's bishop move can be thought of as slightly passive. 14.Nxd4 Nxd4 (14...Qxd4?! 15.axb5 Qxe5 16.bxa6 0–0 17.Qa4±) 15.Ne4 0–0 16.axb5 Nxb5 17.Be3 Qc8 18.Qd5 Interested readers who want to work towards construction a full repertoire against the Open Ruy should have a look at the game Chandler,M.-Jussupow,A. Hastings 1989.


13...Bb4 14.axb5 Nxb5 15.Qa4 Be7 16.Ne4 0–0 17.Rd1 Qc8 18.Bg5 Nxg5 19.Nexg5 Svidler,P-Sokolov,I Wijk aan Zee 2005.


13...Rb8 is another frequently played move.


Question 3: Returning to the game (13...Bc5), how should White continue his development?






(1 point) White centralizes with gain in time and avoids any exchanges, an important point when he has such an advanced e-pawn.


14.Nxd4 (0 points) is a weaker choice which violates the principle that the side with more space should avoid exchanges.


14.Nb3 (0 points) Here I will give no points because you are not making a conscious effort to avoid exchanges and use the strengths of your space advantage. Silman (now a member of this site!) points out one of the big advantages of space is the ability to manoeuvre your pieces easily. Start manoeuvring and stop exchanging! 14...Nxb3 15.Qxb3 0–0 16.axb5 Qb8 17.Be3 Bxe3 18.Qxe3 Qxb5 19.Nd4 Nxd4 and the players agreed to draw in Lutz,C-Landa,K, Germany 2004.


14...Bb6 15.Re1!?

A novelty at the time. It develops, avoids exchanges, and reinforces the space gaining e-pawn. More typically White plays one of the following alternatives:


15.Be3 Simply developing, I favoured this choice.


15.Nfg5 A surprising choice.


15.Nxd4 You can guess why I don’t think this move is what we're looking for.



Question 4: How does White continue?









(1 point) A difficult move to understand at first site. White’s hope is black will somehow weaken his Kingside to push away the knight. Should Black exchange on g5 immediately then white will lose no time after his bishop comes in with a threat to the black queen. As we shall see, this all ties in with white’s plan of attack.


16.Qd3!? (1 point) I tried this move here, avoiding exchanges, and developing a piece, and pressurizing b5. But perhaps Black can now prove the Queen move as wasted after: 16...Nxf3+ 17.Qxf3 Bd4 18.Qg3 Kh8


16.Be3 (1 point) is a sound developing move and should be fine here too, though it really lacks a purpose.



A little bit of weakness can go a long way.


16...Nxg5 17.Bxg5 Qd7 and white starts to generate some kingside pressure.


17.Nxe6 fxe6!?

Black voluntarily damages his pawn structure to gain activity against white's castled position. Now the f2 square is particularly sensitive with a black bishop and rook zeroing in on it from afar.


17...Nxe6 was more solid, if less active.



White has decided which side of the board he wants to play on. He now closes the Queenside in preparation.



Question 5: Now, putting together all the hints about Kingside play and closing the Queenside, how did white continue here?









(2 points) Not easy to see, but I doubt you'll forget it any time soon. In Kapuskasing 2003 I remember attending a lecture by GM Larry Christiansen. Besides being a terrific lecture, I learned a very important thing. Christiansen said the difference between class players and experts was that class players didn't know how to bring their rooks into the game. After he told me that I won my next game with just that - an important rook lift!


19.Be3 (0 points) this mundane development would make Silman frown, I think. He teaches us that development must occur with a plan in mind. This just brings out a piece.


19.Qg4 (1 point) Is also good, beginning to pressure the kingside.



A powerful central post for the queen, who is not going to be kicked away from it any time soon.


Question 6: How do we react to the threat on the e-pawn?









(2 points) I’d love to say more about this move here, but can’t give away anything about what is next!


20.Ng3?? (0 points) Not only is this move lame, it actually gets White into big trouble after: 20...Rad8 Now White must stop the threat of ...Nf3+ winning material. 21.Rd3 Ne2+! 22.Rxe2 Qxd3 23.Qxd3 Rxd3–+


20.Bxh6 (1 point) also shows you are on the right track. 20...gxh6 21.Rg3+ Kh8 22.Qh5 Nf5 23.Rg6 (an additional point if you saw this far) White has an attack and black is already in trouble.


20...gxf6 21.Bxh6 Kf7??

Ernst is under pressure and makes a very big mistake. As mentioned earlier, that’s why it’s a good idea to pose your opponents problems – it gives them a chance to err.


21...Nf5 was essential for defensive purposes, when white maintains an edge.


Question 7: How would you continue?









(1 point)



Question8: Now how do we continue the attack?









(1 point)


23.Bxf8+?? (0 points) exchanges a useful attacking piece for a purely defensive rook. It shows that the white player is too eager to make material gains. 23...Rxf8 24.exf6+ Kxf6 and the attack is all but gone.





23...Rxf6?? 24.Qxd5+-


Question 9: Now how would you continue?









(1 point) This is a pretty move, but it’s nowhere near the devastation of 24.Bg7+ (see below). It seems that Stellwagen is more apt to see a decoy if he has a clearer target. Aren’t we all.


24.Bg7+! ends the game in lightning quick fashion. The black king is unable to run away due to the powerful potential pin on the e-file. However, I can’t give you any points for this move yet, since there are a series of only moves you had to see, otherwise your move is busted. 24...Kxg7 25.Rg3+ only move number one. 25...Kf6 26.Rg6+ only move number two. (3 points if you made it this far, very well done indeed). 26...Kf7 27.Rg5+ Kf6 28.Qg6+ Ke7 29.Rxd5 and the game is over.



Under huge pressure Ernst again falters, though it’s hard to blame him.


24...Qd6 is better. 25.Rae3 Ke7 and Black fights on, although he will probably still be in for some bad news.


25.Bg7+ Kxg7 26.Qxe5+ Kf7

From a materialistic point of view, one could almost see why Ernst entered this line. For a queen and a pawn, he has a knight, bishop and rook which would leave him ahead if all other things were equal. However... yeah, you guessed it: not equal.


Question 10: How does White continue?









(2 points) Very strong. Now White's attack is irresistable.


27.Qxc7+ (1 point) is ok as well, but white is going to have to bring the rook over at some point.


27.Rg3 (1 point) Is nowhere near as good, but at least white keeps the advantage after 27...Nf5 28.Rf3



Question 11: Now how does White continue?









(2 points) This is easily best.


28.Rh7+ (1 point) This is less accurate but still enough to maintain a winning attack. 28...Kg6 29.Rxc7


28...Rg8 29.Rh7+ Ng7 30.h4

A little on the slow side, but still very good.



Question 12: And now Stellwagen's tactical sense must have been screaming like mad at him. Do you see the tactic he used to finish the game?








31.Rxg7+ Rxg7 32.Qe4+

(1 point if you made it to here from Question 12)


32...Kf7 33.Qxa8 Rxg4+ 34.Kf1 1–0

It seems that White was always a bit better. Add to that attacking chances and you have to be happy entering such positions as the first player.

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