Learning the Spanish: Adventures in the Chigorin

Learning the Spanish: Adventures in the Chigorin

May 30, 2016, 4:25 PM |


Exploring the Spanish: The Chigorin Part 1


The Spanish (Ruy Lopez) has always fascinated players. In a recent Q&A (via the Facebook page for his app) Carlsen recommended that players in the intermediate stages of their chess learn the Closed Spanish in order to improve their game, particularly if they desire a solid and interesting middlegame. IM ChessExplained on YouTube also recommended 1...e5 as a response to the king pawn opening. 


Like a lot of beginning players I started as a French Defense player, an opening that I still strongly believe in as an opening repertoire for beginning players. It has the advantage of being relatively simple for beginners to learn and consistent pawn structures, breaks and themes (particularly considering most beginners tend to play the advanced or exchanged structures with the occasional KIA)



However, I eventually grew tired of playing certain French positions, particularly against the Tarrasch where I felt white maintained a slight but consistent edge with less counter-play than I would have liked. When I hit around 1500 USCF I began playing e5 as my response to the king pawn and I haven't looked back. These are a few of my adventures in the Chigorin variation. I don't promise the moves will be the best but I will try my best to give you a sense of the opening positions, pawn structures and thematic ideas. I will also throw in a few master games and resources. 


As an intermediate player, I know learning from the masters is important but I like seeing some games as my level or just slightly higher sometimes. Some Class B, A and Master level players are sometimes nice to see such as those in Dan Heisman's book on instructional amateur games. Each post I will try to bring in at least one high level amateur or master tier game in the line we are exploring rather than facing GM after GM game where the moves are sometimes much more subtle and harder to understand. These games won't be perfect but the basic plans and structures should be apparent as well as what not to do in these positions.  


To start us off I have a game played between two 1700-1800 players from a local club game.  A few people at the club play the Spanish from black's side and after looking at this line with me a few of them played the variation we will be exploring in a classical game (90 min + 30 sec). White had consistently played the Spanish as a mainstay of his repertoire while black was a former French Defense player who was playing the Spanish, Breyer Variation before learning the Chigorin. 


As the game above demonstrates, white can often get annoyed with the solidity of black's position and often overextends his pawns (especially on the kingside) in an attempt to get play against the black position. In the game below, Bobby Fischer plays his idea of dxe5 and Ne3 only to fall prey to Kholmov's brilliant knight sacrifice. It also demonstrates that in these positions favored by Fischer, black can sometimes afford to give up the bishop pair and double his pawns. 
And with that we come to the close of our first segment on exploring the Spanish and in particular the Chigorin Variation. As promised, here are a few links and resources to look at if you want to play this line as either black or white. 
IM ChessExplained Videos: 
GM Nijboer vs. IM Sieleki OTB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ygNF45Wkr0
Don't feel like watching 30-35 minute videos explaining these lines? Like blitz? Simply search for "chessexplained ruy lopez chigorin" on YouTube and you should get some good blitz games as well. 
Sidenote: I'm a bit of an opening enthusiast. I don't work on them that much any more because my repertoire is pretty fixed and I am working on tactics, endgames. However, I still love exploring openings and the Chigorin is one of my main tools. This is the first one of these blogs I've done so if you want to see more of them or you are interested in learning with me as I explore new openings or see some errors in my thoughts please let me know. I am just an improving player like everyone else.