The Killer Rubinstein Attack

The Killer Rubinstein Attack

Jun 30, 2016, 9:05 PM |

There are many different openings out there, each with its own different variations and plans. There are the highly theoretical openings such as the Sicilian Najdorf, King's Indian, Winawer French, etc. that offer excellent attacking chances but require you to be booked up to the teeth. And there are less highly theoretical openings such as the Nimzo-Indian, QGD, and Slav systems that don't require much study, but at times can lead to very dull positions.

Many of us love to attack. There is just something fascinating about conducting an orchestra of pieces that work in harmony with a single objective - to take down the weak enemy king. But time is not always kind. These days there are few openings that provide a chance to bridge the gap between limited theoretical demands and clear-cut attacking possibilities. Here is one of them.

The Rubinstein Attack, also known as the Zukertort setup, is a reliable, yet easy to understand line. White employs the same setup over and over against the varying black defenses, and uses a very narrow scope of overlapping ideas to take down the black king. If all goes well, a brilliant attack unfolds that brings to light the vision all of us attackers have. However, if things go bad, and we recognize that, then it is always possible to pull out of the attack and settle for a game of positional grinding. The low theory, the versatility, but mostly the overlapping ideas, make this without a doubt an excellent choice.

There are 6 main ideas that black can try to employ to stop white's initiative:

1) Getting quick counterplay in the center

This may seem like a very scary thing for white to counteract, but if white maintains a level head, and refuses to back down from his attack, then the position will still swing in his favor.

2) Castling queenside to avoid the attack

This may also seem scary because it seems that at first black is avoiding white;s entire attack. But this is actually far from true, and white gets a crushing initiative on the queenside.

3) Employing a fianchetto setup

This is without a doubt the scariest of black's options because it does in fact stop white's attack. The tradeoff is that it steers the game into strategic territory in which white undoubtedly has the upper hand.

4) Go on the Uber-Defensive

Black castles queenside and moves all his pieces to the kingside to preemptively stop white's attack. What could possibly go wrong there? As expected, black now has neglected his queenside, and white can easily take advantage of this.

5) Harass the d3 Bishop

In most of these attacks, the d3 bishop is a key to exerting pressure on the weak points in black's kingside. So black puts pressure on it and stops the attack. Simple enough right? Not exactly. The bishop is important, but the black knight that harasses the bishop can usually be kicked away, and white can then continue his attack effortlessly.

6) Attack the Queenside

This is the least scary of the bunch, as black's queenside initiative is usually far too slow to have any major effect on deterring white's attack. However, it is important to know how to play against this as white does have to make some minor adjustments to ensure that his position doesn't completely fall apart.

Here is the study if you want more detail on white's refutations:

One of the best parts of the Rubinstein attack is that it is very tough for black to go for a win against white's setup. Black can try to positionally outplay white, but fundamentally he doesn't stand better. One note of warning, however, is that most of black's wins in these types of games are when white gets too crazy and carried away in his attack. If you don't get carried away, this opening should serve you well.

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