Exploring the Spanish: The Chigorin Part 3
Last post I looked at the Chigorin and how badly black can misplay the position. Today will focus on how badly white can misplay and allow black all of the play in the world. Again I will start by examining another game from a local club (1650 vs. 1720). Then we will look at some pitfalls made at the IM and GM level. Rather than focusing exacting what moves got white caught into such bad games, I would encourage the reader to focus on the thematic problems that white encounters in these positions and how exactly the white players fail to meet the challenges posed by black. Let's hop into our first game...
Quite an amazing finish. If only black had found cxb2!!! The first game demonstrates three key ideas. The first is the necessity for white to either block up the queenside or exchange in a manner that favors the white position. Black was allowed a5, a critical break in these Rubenstein Chigorin positions and the queenside was quickly occupied by black rooks. The second is the key response exf4 and Ne5 to the f pawn advance. Black should almost never allow f5 as Unzicker did vs. Karpov as it leads to exceptionally cramped play. The knight on e5 serves as an excellent attacking and defensive piece. The third theme is the need for white to avoid the exchange of darksquared bishops if possible. The dark squared bishop for black is quite bad behind the pawns. Black often seeks to move the bishop via e7-d8-b6 later in the game but in this game white simply gave up the bishop which also weakened his f4 plans. The next game is a bit older...
As you can see in the above game, if the a4 break isn't played immediately and white focuses on mating the black king, he can often end up in a horrible position on the queenside. Perhaps Thomas could have played the ending better but black is playing for two results in such positions. Lastly, I have a game between IM ChessExplained and his opponent on the ICC. Note that this is a blitz game but it is very instructive. It is a slightly different variation from the normal 12. Nbd2 Nc6 line as it deals with the immediate 12. d5 after which black must play for Nb7 but we don't waste time as Unzicker did vs. Karpov in the last post.
Although the above game is certainly no masterpiece from black, it shows the key attributes of the position and how to play around slight deviations such as an earlier d5. This is also helpful because it is very similar to the related Petrosian System within the Chigorin (which starts with 12...Bd7 instead of 12...Nc6) if you ever desire to switch things up on your opponents.
The key to black's play and winning in many positions is to let white come to you. Often white will overextend and go for an attack against your solid g6, f6 h7 pawn structure backed up by your knights on g7 and f7. Meanwhile, as black you should be constantly looking at the pawn breaks you have available to you on the queenside especially. The Spanish (Ruy Lopez) when properly played by white, should be a game played on both sides of the board while the center remains locked in the Rubenstein manner (of course in other lines the center is also fluid). If white focuses too much on one flank (normally the kingside) you should take advantage on the other while relying on your solid structure on the kingside and center. Please do not mistake solidity with passivity however as this is very dangerous. Your defense must be active, constantly looking for pawn breaks such as the ones mentioned above (a5, f5 and h5). In some games, it is possible to get passed pawns via these breaks if white slowly moves around thinking you just want a draw.
As always, please let me know what you think in the comments and if there is anything you want to be improved or that you want to see in the future. As I mentioned I am a bit of an opening geek so if you have a standard opening you want me to explore in a post, please let me know.