Everything Openings #5: The Breyer: Why Soundness Matters
Welcome to Everything Openings #5 and the potential end of this first batch of posts, where today I'll dive into my current defense against 1.e4: the Breyer. I won't go into critical theory, as there isn't much of that, instead showcasing Black's various plans and ideas with the help of a couple of my own games and a few Amazon previews.
Through my limited materials, I'll attempt to show you why I like the Breyer so much.
The Ruy Lopez is a funny opening. Beloved by masters, yet scorned by beginners. So simple on the surface, but so complex underneath. So theoretical, but so non-theoretical at the same time. Above all, it's funny that out of all of White's possibilities after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6, the bishop move 3. Bb5 gives White the best central control, even when the bishop is kicked back to b3.
Although beginners avoid the Ruy Lopez for fear of masses of opening theory and endless repetition of the same plans, strong players fall in love with it for its endless variety (including something like 35 different pawn structures) and its abundance of difficult, instructive decisions.
I know that I initially avoided the Ruy for these same reasons: because of theory at about 1200 and because of repetition as late as 1400. But I've come to really appreciate it for what it is now, and there are a few reasons why:
First-rate objective soundness. As much as people say this is overrated at the class level, it's important. Playing the Black side of the Ruy not only gives me a good chance at equality, but also the assurance that there are no dangerous lines and nothing which is disproportionately hard to play for Black. In other words, every single line White can throw at me will be one in which I have my fair share of chances.
Playing an opening as sound as the Breyer means that you can't be bombed and you can't be beaten by sheer practicality either. What's more, even when you do get destroyed, there's always an easy improvement which steers away from all of that trouble, as we see in this game:
I lost in terrible fashion here, but there was an easy, safe alternative in the form of 15... Qc8!, after which I would take Black any day. Being assured that there's a simple fix every time you get destroyed is a serious asset, and one that not every opening features.
An abundance of patterns and plans to follow. The same book preview which included about 35 different pawn structures included roughly 75 different examples of piece play. Granted, this is in the whole of the Ruy Lopez, but about half of these patterns apply directly to the Breyer. I'm going to annotate the following (ongoing) game in a slightly different way, alluding to typical plans instead of characteristics or evaluations of the position. Please note that due to the fact that the game is ongoing, any comments analyzing the end position will be deleted.
A notable lack of not only wild tactics and worse endgames, but also uncomfortable positional pressure. If you've read my Why Players Plateau series, you'll know that these are the killers, and what's more, they all bleed into each other, with one leading to the next until my game has completely collapsed. With the Caro-Kann, I struggled with the last two, losing dozens of blitz games and a couple of 90 30s when White stuck a Knight on e5 and reinforced it.
But the Breyer magically avoids all three of these due to its closed center. Wild tactics are nonexistent save for the occasional piece sacrifice on f5, h5, d5 or e4. Worse endgames rarely ever happen due to the sheer length of time pieces stay on the board, and even when they do happen the position is usually closed enough to make the endgame hard to butcher outright. Even uncomfortable positional pressure is notably absent as although Black's position is slightly cramped and he occasionally has to deal with annoying kingside threats, he has a decent place for all of his pieces if not an optimal one.
These three reasons are why I really like the Breyer: in short, it is as good as openings get, both objectively and practically, as well as for improvement reasons, by allowing me to play full, rich games time after time after time.
What's your favourite Lopez? Comment below.
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My next post will either be the finale of this set of EO posts or a new standalone post between series.
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