TEST YOUR CHESS: OPEN RUY LOPEZ
The following is a game designed to test some of your chess skills, including: opening knowledge, positional understanding, tactical sight, and endgame know-how. The idea is to play through the moves below belonging to an annotated game. YOU WILL NEED A CHESS BOARD AND ANYWHERE FROM A HALF-HOUR TO AN HOUR. I've tried doing it every way but this seems easiest, until this server improves on the functionality of its diagrams. Move through the game as you please, read where you feel necessary. HOWEVER STOP WHEN YOU REACH THE HIGHLIGHTED TEXT! At this juncture you will be asked a question based on the position after the move just played. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN too far, or you will run into the answer for the question. Try to use 5 minutes for each question. There are 12 questions throughout the game, so it should take a maximum of just over an hour. Tally your score at the end, and if you are brave enough, give your rating (either OTB or here at chess.com) and the number of points you achieved as a response. Good luck!
Spoelman,Wouter (2493) - Mikhalevski,Victor (2608) [C82]
10th European Individual Championship Budva (5), 10.03.2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5
John Emms: "It goes without saying that White must act energetically in the diagrammed position, else Black could easily take over the initiative once he has completed his development." Easy Guide to the Ruy Lopez, Everyman Chess 1999.
So we have arrived at the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Black enjoys active piece play at the cost of some weakness in his structure. Note how the d5 pawn is a target as long as it is not supported by a ...c6 push. Note also how Black's Queenside pawns are potential targets for attack.
This is a move designed to prevent the Dilworth Attack. Now Black can only develop with 9...Bc5 at the cost of entering a worse ending (see variation).
By retreating the knight, Black has freed his d-pawn of its defensive duty and now threatens to push it forward, disrupting the enemy camp.
9...Bc5?! (Note that Mikhalevski avoids this line). 10.Nxe4 dxe4 11.Bxe6 Qxd1 12.Rxd1 fxe6 13.Ng5 0–0 14.Nxe4 Bb6 15.Kf1 Rf5 is slightly better for white. McShane-Skembris, Greece 2002. McShane went on to convert his slight endgame advantage.
White fights for the d4 square as best he can and provides an escape route for his bishop to c2.
QUESTION 1: Is it in Black’s best interest to swap his knight on c5 for your bishop immediately, thus winning the “minor exchange”, OR is he better off simply developing with 10...Be7 and letting your bishop live to see another day after the response 11.Bc2?
10...Be7 (1 point)
10...Nxb3 (0 points) This might make sense to those of us who are all about getting the bishop pair as early as possible, but it ignores what is the crux of the Open Lopez, control over d4. White gains excellent play following: 11.Nxb3 Be7 12.Nfd4! White puts his control of d4 to immediate and good use. 12...Nxe5 13.Re1 Ng6 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Nd4! A clever attacking move with a dangerous point. 15...Nf8 (15...e5 16.Ne6 Qd7 17.Qxd5! Qxd5 18.Nxc7+ Kf7 19.Nxd5±) 16.Qg4 h5 17.Qxg7 Bf6 18.Qg3± When Black's position was in ruins. Kuzman-Beliavsky, Baku 1977.
QUESTION 2: A very intimidating moment. Aren't we afraid that a ...d4 push is coming down the pipes? Knowing this is a serious threat and that your Nf3 is pinned, how should you react?
12.Re1 (1 point)
This is the critical, fearless move that needs to be played here! It says to Black "Push d4 if you dare". Other moves tend to over-react to the artificial pressure of the situation, but nevertheless two moves can gain some points because they are infrequently tried at master level (2300+).
12.h3 (0.5 points)
12.Qe1 (0.5 points)
Black is an expert in the Open Ruy and is not going to try anything so foolish as to pull the wool over the eyes of his opponent. Instead he prepares to add more support to his d-pawn, the d-file, and hopefully the d4 square. However, a very powerful player turned World Champion once tried to pull the wool over the perfectionist eyes of Geller with the variation 12...d4
QUESTION 3: To play the last move - 12.Re1 - you MUST have come up with a good response to this move (12...d4). What response did you come up with? Is it one move, a couple of moves, or a deep variation?
13.Nb3! (1 point) The response I could not fathom. Suddenly the d4 pawn is attacked 3 times! Black must now decide as to whether he wishes to liquidate this pawn or continue to try and tear apart White's pawns. Unfortunately for him, neither answer will really suffice for equality.
13...d3 14.Bb1 Nxb3 15.axb3 Bf5 It may look as if Black has lodged a bone in White's throat here, but once again it all comes down to losing control of d4. Once Black loses control of d4, white can come up with clever ideas like cutting off the pawn's support after: 16.Be3 0–0 17.Bd4! (1 additional point for making it this far) A lovely interferance move, which is not easy at all to see. 17...Qd5 18.Re3 Rad8 19.Bxd3 Nxd4 20.cxd4+-
13...dxc3 14.Nxc5 Bxc5 (14...cxb2?? 15.Bxb2 Bxc5 16.Be4 Bd7 17.Qc2 Qe7 18.Rec1 and White wins due to the unbearable pressure on the c-file and the two poorly supported Black minor pieces.) 15.Be4! (1 additional point for making it this far) Qxd1 16.Rxd1 Bd7 17.bxc3 0–0–0 18.a4 bxa4 19.Bg5 Ne7 20.Rdb1
13.Nf1 Rd8 14.Ne3 Bh5 15.Nf5!?
Spoelman deviates from what is most frequently played in the position. This is the second most popular choice of masters, and I quite like it based on its active and very troublesome looking appearance. Black must react to it right away, as there is a threat to g7. In addition White has ideas like supporting the knight with a g4 push, after which if Black's light-squared bishop swapped for it, there would be a deadly duo of White pawns on e5 and f5!
For those of you who think that theory is everything, I would like you to consider that Mikhalevski, who has been a player of the Open Ruy Lopez for 30 years, had not yet faced this move (his own admission).
15.b4 Is the main choice here, and a subject for another game.
15...0–0 Is the main line, when play usually continues: 16.Nxe7+ (16.a4? Does not work in this variation. 16...bxa4 is no good; the White bishop is overworked keeping an eye on both f5 and a4. 17.Bxa4) 16...Nxe7 17.Be3 (17.b4 Is a real alternative here, and one that Kortchnoi has had trouble facing.) 17...Na4 18.Qd3 Ng6 19.b3 Bxf3 20.gxf3 Qh3! Van der Weil-Hjartarson, Rotterdam 1989. White's pawn structure was damaged enough to provide full compensation for the two knights, including some very weak squares in the White camp on the f and g-files.
QUESTION 4: How did Spoelman prove Black’s last move to be inaccurate?
16.a4! (1 point)
White exploits the lack of a presence of a knight on c5 and is allowed to make this initiative seeking move.
16...0–0 17.axb5 axb5 18.Qd3
Question 5: What is Black’s paramount concern here?
Black’s paramount concern is tactical, namely the threat of Nxe7+ followed by Qxh7 mate (1 point).
White takes his pawn and now the battle will revolve around trying first to consolidate and second to convert this concrete material advantage.
Question 6: At this point Mikhalevski missed playing the cunning 19...Nxe5. What variation did he miss at this point? How deep does it go?
The variation beginning with 19...Nex5 wasn’t really missed by Mikhalevski (sorry guys, a little deceptive) but instead he saw a tactical flaw after:
19...Nxe5? 20.Qxd7 Nxf3+ 21.gxf3 Rxd7 22.Ba4! (2points if you saw everything up to here, 0 otherwise) Attacking the defender of Black's dark-squared bishop. Now there is little better than 22...Bxf5 23.Bxd7+- When White is up an exchange for nothing.
20.Bxf5 Nxe5 21.Qxd7
Question 7: Does it make a lick of difference if Black tosses in the intermezzo 21...Nxf3+?
This move is forced here; can you see what would happen with another of Black's more forcing alternatives?
21...Nxf3+?? 22.gxf3 Rxd7 23.Rxe6! (and of course not the simple 23.Bxe6??)+- (1 point for the whole variation)
22.Bxe6 fxe6 23.Rxe6 Bd6 24.Bg5
White plays surprisingly aggressively, but also invites his opponent to do the same.
24.Re1! When I first saw the position and was predicting my way through the game this was my natural reaction. White begins to consolidate and is ready to answer counterplay attempts on both open files.
Spoelman is not so interested in consolidating as he is in playing actively.
25...Nc5 26.Re2 Ne4
Question 8: How should White continue, how deep can you see?
27.Be3?! (1 point)
According to Mikhalevski, it is this move that contributes to Black's increase in drawing chances. A good question here is why this natural looking move is a mistake. This may leave most of us scratching our heads, but the reason soon becomes clear.
27.Rxd5 is better according to Mikhalevski, and it’s easy to see why, the activity of the White rooks can easily take over the game. 27...Ra1+ 28.Ne1 (1 point if you made it here) Nxf2 (28...Bc5 is slightly better looking since the White rooks end up just a tiny bit less active. However, it should amount to about the same thing. 29.Bh4 Bxf2+ 30.Bxf2 Nxf2) 29.Be7! (An additional 1 point if you made it here). I can only suppose that Spoelman did not easily find this move when he was calculating, and that may have deterred him from entering this line. 29...Bxe7 30.Rxe7± When White has much better chances of converting in the ending with his outside passer and active rooks.
Not a difficult move to find, since Black is forced to play actively and create problems or simply be worse.
A very tricky line to enter, since White has to stave off Black's attack on the Queenside pawns with precision to maintain anything.
28.Kf1 Is another way to prevent tactical disaster on c3 and e2. However, it may be inferior based on the following line: 28...Rb8 29.Bc1 Ra1 30.Ree1 and white becomes tied to defence.
28...c5 29.Nb5 Be5 30.g3
30.Bxc5? Lets everything slip away. 30...Nxc5 31.Rxe5 Rxb2
30...Nxc3 31.Nxc3 Bxc3 32.Bxc5
32.Rxd5 c4 33.Rc5 Rxb2 34.Rxb2 Bxb2 35.Rxc4 Would lead to a similar ending.
32...Rb8 33.Rxd5 Raxb2
Question 9: How should White continue in this ending with a pawn up? Here we shall ask the general question as to whether White should immediately initiate exchanges of his pieces or not.
White should in general avoid exchanges of pieces(1 point). Note that this should not be taken to extremes however, as a lone king and pawn ending could easily win for him.
34.Re7 R2b5 35.Red7 Rc8 36.Be3
36.Rd8+ Rxd8 37.Rxd8+ Kf7 38.Rf8+ Ke6 39.Be3 Black's King becomes active, but is separated from its pawns. Black should be ok here.
36...Rxd5 37.Rxd5 Bf6 38.Rd7 Rd8 39.Rb7 Bd4
Question 10: What does your gut instinct tell you White should do here? Why?
Get the bishop out of the way of being exchanged (1 point)! In a pure rook and pawn ending the chances to draw are incredibly high with all pawns on one side of the board, even if White is up a pawn.
40.Bf4 Rd5 41.Kg2 h5 42.Kf3
42.h4 Was the move I preferred here, I don’t know if it has any real advantage over the text.
42...Ra5 43.Be3 Bf6
A practical decision on Black's part.
43...Bxe3 44.fxe3 must be White's idea, when a passed pawn seemingly creates havoc for Black. In fact after predicting my way through this game I read Mikhalevski's notes and he is not particularly afraid of this ending either - he considers it drawn.
White is in no real hurry, if black overextends his pawns without support of his King, things could turn very ugly.
44...g6 45.Ke4 Re5+ 46.Kd3 Rd5+ 47.Ke4 Re5+ 48.Kf3 Rf5+ 49.Ke2 Ra5 50.Rd7
50.Kd3 Rd5+ 51.Kc4 Rd1 52.h4 Kf8 53.Bc5+ Ke8 54.Ra7 Rd8 55.Kb5 Rd7 56.Ra2 Kf7 57.Kc6 Rd3 The Black rook can cut off the White King in this manner if he chooses to try and go around.
50...Ra2+ 51.Kd3 Ra4 52.Ke2 Ra2+ 53.Kf3 Ra4 54.g4 hxg4+ 55.hxg4 Be5 56.Rd5 Bf6 57.Kg3 Ra3 58.Rd7 Be5+ 59.Kh4 Bf6+
White's king is trying to weasel its way up the board, but Black will have none of it.
60.Bg5 Rf3! A lovely defensive move which asks just how White avoids trading down any further.
Question 11: Is the correct technique here to activate the King with 62.Kg5, or return and come up with a new plan with the move 62.Rd2?
62.Rd2 (1 point)
62.Kg5?! (0 points) Rxf2 63.Kxg6 Rf8= Drawing does not come any simpler than this - the plight of a knight pawn.
62...Kg7 63.Rd7+ Kg8 64.Kg3 Ra6 65.Kf4 Rf6+ 66.Kg3 Ra6 67.f3 Ra4 68.Kh4 Ra5 69.f4 g5+!
A little bit of flashiness from the rather defensive Mikhalevski, but there is no question he understands his endgames.
QUESTION 12: Now for a minute, pretend you are at the board, anxiously hoping your opponent makes a serious error in judgement in what looks to be a position he completely understands. Assuming you know and understand both the 3rd rank/6th rank defence , and the 1st rank/passive defence, which would you hope your opponent plays for?
The answer has to be you hope your opponent plays for the passive defence (1 point) but can you see the idea which makes this defence fail? If you cannot imagine it, have a look at the variation below for a clearer idea.
Black sets up the third/sixth rank defence, which is entirely adequate, even against doubled pawns. Note that back rank defence would fail miserably here.
70...Ra8? 71.Kh5 Rb8? 72.Kh6 Rc8 73.g6 Rb8 74.Rd6 Rc8 75.g7 Rb8 76.Rf6! The winning idea. White will sacrifice his lead pawn to allow time for his king to get into a position to push past the trailer. 76...Rc8 77.Rf8+ Rxf8 78.gxf8Q+ Kxf8 79.Kh7 Kf7 80.g5 and White wins.
71.Kh5 Rb6 72.Ra7 Rc6 73.g6 Rc1!
Just as if the trailing pawn was not there, Black follows the winning recipe for the Philidor defence.
74.Kh6 Rh1+ 75.Kg5 Rb1 76.Re7 Ra1 77.Re5 Kg7 78.Rb5 Rc1 79.Rb7+ Kg8 80.g7 Rc5+ 81.Kh4 Ra5
This seems the cleanest way to draw, but Black can also simply drop back.
81...Rc1 82.Kh5 Rc5+ 83.Kg6 Rc6+ 84.Kh5 Rc5+ 85.g5 Rc6! 86.g6 Rc5+ 87.Kh6 Rh5+! 88.Kxh5 is stalemate.
82.Re7 Rb5 83.g5 Rb4+ 84.Kh5 Rb6! 85.Ra7
85.g6 Rxg6! 86.Kxg6
85...Rc6 86.g6 Rc1 87.Kg5
There is nowhere to hide from checks. ½–½