Breyer Variation / Chigorin Defense

  • #1

    Hi, I'm debating on whether to play the Breyer Variation or the Chigorin Defense as black in the closed Ruy-Lopez. What are the main ideas in the Breyer Variation?

    Here is what I usually face in the Breyer Variation: 

    And the Chigorin Defense:

    In both these lines I am having difficulty gaining an advantage or just playing an even game (I want to avoid quick forced draws)

  • #2

    I don't think most players generally know any openings 20 to 24 moves deep, I'd say there is a rather low chance of you reaching these specific positions

  • #3
    MervynS wrote:

    I don't think most players generally know any openings 20 to 24 moves deep, I'd say there is a rather low chance of you reaching these specific positions

    I think all of that is theory... I am talking about playing at a high standard (2300+)

  • #4

    I'm rated 1500 and reached a very similar position as white, didn't even realize I was playing against the Chigorin defense, just knew the first 8 or so moves of the closed Ruy Lopez.

    I wouldn't have the best answer for you, but if I were to guess, if you're playing against the closed Ruy Lopez as black then it's going to be hard to get more than a draw. Maybe need to do a different opening with black like the Sicilian or something more risky.

  • #5

    I did a little research and there's an interesting variation called the Marshall Gambit you can try on move 8, something I'd consider trying myself. Just my thoughts. Here's a one of the many youtube videos on the variation...

  • #6

    The idea that a certain position at move 24 will be reached routinely honestly makes me smile. In a very tactical and forcing line it might happen, but in this kind of strategical line not even 2700+ GMs might expect to play the same 24 moves all the time. There are just too many alternative move orders and plausible deviations (this being particularly true in the breyer, which is possibly the less forcing line in the whole ruy lopez).

    Anyway, the two variations share the idea that black has to play actively on the queenside, often by pushing his c pawn, and to do so has to move the queen knight out of the way. The most natural and classical way to do so is with 9...Na5, since it comes with tempo on the white LSB. On the other hand this leaves the knight out of play for several moves (and possibly forever if black makes a wrong step in the very decicate following moves). The Breyer is a  more recent (relatively speaking, since I think it still dates back to the 1930s) idea. Black reasons that, since the position is quite closed, he doesn't really care about gaining a tempo on the bishop and prefers to regroup the knight to a good square with the time consuming Nb8-d7. To a certain extent the idea behind the breyer is "I don't really have a definite idea". In the chigorin, black just has to play c5 in short order, otherwise the knight on a5 is just silly. In the breyer black is much more flexible: he will sometimes play c5 like youdidin your game, but sometimes he will rather keep the pawn on c7 for the time being, or put it on c6 to support d6-d5. The bishop might go to b7, but in some lines he will remain on the c8-h3 diagonal. Similarly, the Be7-f8-g7 regrouping is common but my no means forced. This flexibility in black setup is extremey useful to a super GM trying to outplay a mere 2500, but i'm not sure it's really a clearcut gain for a the average club player. Black has to choose between a wide variety of setups, and needs to make very subtle positional decisions; for a club player this means he has a lot of room for making deadly positional mistakes.

    The chigorin is also a positionally difficult line, and not easy to play at all; yet black is walking a narrower path than in the breyer and has to choose between fewer plans; this makes life for the amateur playing black a bit easier (he has less room for making stupid decisions). I think it would be a wiser choice for the average player.

  • #7

    Wow A+ explanation from bresando.

    Marshall gambit is a good drawing weapon.

  • #8

    Not really, just a few vey basic ideas you can find in any roy lopez book. I actually fear the OP was looking for more detailed advice, but I don't think anything less that a good-sized book can really give a real idea about the strategic themes in the breyer.

    By the way i think the marshall is not that drawish at club level (I wonder how many white players are really prepared for facing it OTB; I certainly am not). The real problem in my view is that playing the marshall means having a ton of concrete and savagely tactical theory to learn by heart for a line most club playes will avoid with an early d3. It's a lot of effort for very little reward.

  • #9

    None of these lines are easy to play or easy to learn. In the Breyer do you know why 19...h5 is considered almost forced? In the Chigorin, do you have an opinion on the exchange sacrifice 16...f5 17. Ng3 f4 18. Nf5 Rxf5? Do you intend to boot the knight with 18...Bd8 followed by g6?

    Don't try learning these lines yourself without a significant book.

  • #10

    It's a bit off topic, but Isn't saying that19...h5 is "almost forced" a gross exaggeration? According to my main source on the ruy it's merely "the modern preference" and it's considered somewhat better than 19...Kh7 since it may be useful to have the f7 pawn defended in some variations, and to probe black kingside with h4 in others (the fact that the often useful idea Nh2-g4 is prevented is another bonus) . However it also has some drawbacks (it weakens g5 and the kingside in general; brutal Nxh5 sacs have won many games for white).

    In fact the alternative 19...Kh7 has been played even in recent years by several GMs, it can hardly be worse than +=.

    Nevertheless, I think your example is a very good illustration of the positional complexity of this line. The fact that a subtle and rather unnatural move like 19...h5 is black best in that position shows exactly how this line is hard to master.

  • #11

    It is not that much of an exaggeration. Black can always play 19...Kh7 20. Nh2 Nfd7 21. Rf1 Qh4 when 22...Nf3 involves a change of plans and 22. Ng4 Bg7 23. Kh2 Rf8 24. f4 h5 25. Nf2 exf4 26. Bxf4 Be5 is comfortable for Black Bittencourt-Mecking, Rio de Janeiro 2009. I would not go pogo sticking around in a line where 23...h5 24. Nh6 Qf6 25. Nhf5 gxf5 26. Nxf5 followed by f4 gives White compensation. I probably should check the piece sacrifice with a computer, but it is thematic. 

    Calling 19...h5 forced would be a gross exaggeration. 

    19...h5 20. Bg5 Bg7? on the other hand, allowes White to simply play Nh4-f5 with a very strong attack.

  • #12

    Breyer is more versatile and harder to play against as White.  Karpov showed how to dismantle the Chigorin.  

  • #13

    I don't know why the Breyer is called more versatile. It may be less commital, but the mainline is longer and there are fewer branches. In the Chigorin Black has the Romanishine (11. Bb7), Keres (11. Nd7), Petrosian (12. Bd7), and various systems that involve 12...cxd4. With the Breyer White for the most part, chooses the line. 

  • #14

    As Black, I prefer to enter the Ruy Lopez Breyer variation from the KID - London System. You can often end up a few tempi ahead that way.

  • #15

    For us amature players this is a lot of hullabuloo about nothing.  In the end you just have to decide which sort of position you're more comfortable playing and forget what the GM's and superGMs are doing.  You will play better in positions that "suit your eye" better.  You will play better in positions that are most familiar to you.  So in the end it's not a question of whether or not "h4 is practically forced" or not (or whatever) it's a matter of what you prefer.  So keep it real and decide which you like and then choose.  If you can't find a line that you feel happy playing then try some other variations or choose a different defense more suited to your goals.

  • #16

    I find the weirdest part is that the guy expecting to play this at the 2300 level is asking to have the ideas behind an opening explained to him.

  • #17

    There are people who don't play the Berlin Wall after 3.Bb5 ?

  • #18

    I prefer not to play the Berlin Wall against easier players although it is in my repetoire although I have not studied the endgame extensively (there are too many options).

    Thanks for the help to others.

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