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# Tension in the centre in the closed Ruy Lopez

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In the closed Ruy Lopez (which I don’t play with neither B or W), e.g. in the Chigorin variation, there are two main methods to resolve the tension in the centre.

One is along the lines of Karpov-Unzicker with d4-d5 ( the Ba7! game ), which Fischer also followed in the rematch with Spassky ( the famous tripling on the a-file, this one was a Breyer ).

The other way to resolve the tension is along the dxe5 (or dxc5) lines. Ruy games in Fischer’s my 60 memorable games resolve the tension in this fashion.

The two approaches naturally result in different play. If my memory doesn’t fail me, Kasparov in his predecessor series is assessing d4-d5 as the better method of resolving the tension, without however really commenting as to why he believes so.

So, is there a theoretical preference for the d4-d5 resolution to the tension ? if so, why?

While there are many Chigorins there I'm not referring to the current opening theory of the Chigorin, e.g. there's a Breyer in one of the above games. It's the theme around how to best resolve the central tension that's of interest.

@1

"So, is there a theoretical preference for the d4-d5 resolution to the tension ?"
++ It depends on small details in the position.
In Karpov - Unzicker there is a black knight on c6, so d5 wins a tempo.
In Fischer - Spassky there is a black bishop on b7, so d5 blunts it.
With a white bishop on b3, d5 blunts the own bishop.
With the white bishop on c2, d5 makes more sense.
After d5 the center is closed and the confrontation happens on the wings.
So the question is who is better placed to do that or counter that.
After dxe5/dxc5 the position is more open and central play happens on the open d-file.
The question is who is better placed to do that or counter that.
Here is another Fischer game
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1008423

I cannot speak on a theoretical preference, but I will say that I tend to block the center with d5 if either they have played Bb7, or if I anticipate being able to block play on the queenside and I have performed the Nb1- d2- f1- (g3) maneuver, as I then may look to attack on the kingside. Otherwise, I would try to keep the tension for as long as possible. While I can't speak as much on specific things I'd look for when deciding to exchange, for some reason I would feel more inclined to when the wings of the board are still very mobile- again can't explain quite why.

There is another great game with this idea that I think belongs here:

ssctk wrote:

So, is there a theoretical preference for the d4-d5 resolution to the tension ? if so, why?

d4-d5 was one of the earliest methods tried. I recall Robert Byrne in a 1970s Chess Life & Review discussing this and saying nobody played that way anymore because black's defensive scheme (Rubinstein came up with ...Nc6-d8-f7 and ...Nf6-e8-g7) had been perfected by the Yugoslavian masters. It's like a Czech Benoni where black already has "everything" on the queenside and just needs to resist on the kingside.

So I guess Karpov's wrinkle was, instead of playing for mate with g2-g4 on the kingside, continue to play on the queenside. It wasn't supposed to work (or rather it was only supposed to work if black had misplaced one or both knights), but chess is complicated. Plus Karpov was (maybe still is) a positional genius at chess.

Engines love a space advantage like the one after d4-d5, but that's just prejudice. An engine isn't a positional genius like Karpov. The point is, nowadays people analyze with an engine all the time, so you can expect to see d4-d5 played in more positions, even when it's not necessarily the best procedure.

A good book with some decent historical background is Marin (2007) A Spanish Repertoire for Black.

https://www.qualitychess.co.uk/products/1/5/a_spanish_repertoire_for_black_by_mihail_marin/

yetanotheraoc wrote:
ssctk wrote:

So, is there a theoretical preference for the d4-d5 resolution to the tension ? if so, why?

d4-d5 was one of the earliest methods tried. I recall Robert Byrne in a 1970s Chess Life & Review discussing this and saying nobody played that way anymore because black's defensive scheme (Rubinstein came up with ...Nc6-d8-f7 and ...Nf6-e8-g7) had been perfected by the Yugoslavian masters. It's like a Czech Benoni where black already has "everything" on the queenside and just needs to resist on the kingside.

So I guess Karpov's wrinkle was, instead of playing for mate with g2-g4 on the kingside, continue to play on the queenside. It wasn't supposed to work (or rather it was only supposed to work if black had misplaced one or both knights), but chess is complicated. Plus Karpov was (maybe still is) a positional genius at chess.

Engines love a space advantage like the one after d4-d5, but that's just prejudice. An engine isn't a positional genius like Karpov. The point is, nowadays people analyze with an engine all the time, so you can expect to see d4-d5 played in more positions, even when it's not necessarily the best procedure.

Thanks for the historical background, very interesting. I tried to find Byrne's article online to no avail. Do we know anything about the background to Karpov's plan? Was it e.g. Furman or Geller that did the idea generation for this?

I get the argument that engines and their biases would, to a large extent, drive today's choices for elite GMs as they use them for openings preparation, but Kasparov would surely know that, plus Predecessors were written in a time when commercial engines had just leaped above top GMs.

I'm sure Kasparov's view was not based only at what Fritz or Shredder said back in the day.

I reopened predecessors 5, he cites Stein (!) - Ivkov as the point for revival of interest in 13. d5, so maybe it's simply that one line that was out of fashion became fashionable and stayed fasionable, while the other one went out of fashion. Unless there is some concrete evidence that dxc is less ambitious, I don't see why one plan should be deemed superior to the other.

tygxc wrote:

@1

"So, is there a theoretical preference for the d4-d5 resolution to the tension ?"
++ It depends on small details in the position.
In Karpov - Unzicker there is a black knight on c6, so d5 wins a tempo.
In Fischer - Spassky there is a black bishop on b7, so d5 blunts it.
With a white bishop on b3, d5 blunts the own bishop.
With the white bishop on c2, d5 makes more sense.
After d5 the center is closed and the confrontation happens on the wings.
So the question is who is better placed to do that or counter that.
After dxe5/dxc5 the position is more open and central play happens on the open d-file.
The question is who is better placed to do that or counter that.
Here is another Fischer game
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1008423

I don't believe d5 was done merely for the tempo gain in the case of the Chigorin with the Black knight on c6 - btw in the same position as Karpov-Unzicker, with the Black knight on c6, Fischer had opted for 13. dxc5, as opposed to Karpov's 13. d5.

Kasparov attaches an exclam mark to 13. d5, thereby clearly preferring it to 13. dxc due to the space advantage, he prefers it thematically to dxc.

13 d5 has become the preferred approach based on Karpov's games. Have been looking at the recent book "Road to Reykjavik" by Tibor Karolyi, were annotates the Fischer v Keres game mentioned above, and the author comments that if Fischer had a coach, would have been playing d5 by the time of this game.

ssctk wrote:

In the closed Ruy Lopez (which I don’t play with neither B or W), e.g. in the Chigorin variation, there are two main methods to resolve the tension in the centre.

One is along the lines of Karpov-Unzicker with d4-d5 ( the Ba7! game ), which Fischer also followed in the rematch with Spassky ( the famous tripling on the a-file, this one was a Breyer ).

The other way to resolve the tension is along the dxe5 (or dxc5) lines. Ruy games in Fischer’s my 60 memorable games resolve the tension in this fashion.

The two approaches naturally result in different play. If my memory doesn’t fail me, Kasparov in his predecessor series is assessing d4-d5 as the better method of resolving the tension, without however really commenting as to why he believes so.

So, is there a theoretical preference for the d4-d5 resolution to the tension ? if so, why?

While there are many Chigorins there I'm not referring to the current opening theory of the Chigorin, e.g. there's a Breyer in one of the above games. It's the theme around how to best resolve the central tension that's of interest.

thanks for posting.

TwoMove wrote:

13 d5 has become the preferred approach based on Karpov's games. Have been looking at the recent book "Road to Reykjavik" by Tibor Karolyi, were annotates the Fischer v Keres game mentioned above, and the author comments that if Fischer had a coach, would have been playing d5 by the time of this game.

Interesting, I have the Karpov and Petrosian books by Karolyi, I find him very diligent, he is aware of existing analysis and adds his own, previously unpublished, analysis in his books as well. I don't have his two books around Fischer though.

How does Karolyi justify it? Does he share details as to why dxc/dxe is an inferior approach?

I can imagine a coach being helpful for everybody. A coach watches trends, takes note of important games, adds analysis to them etc. Specifically to d4 vs dxc though, it can't be that Fischer had missed Stein's Ruy Lopez game, Fischer was known for going through all sorts of chess publications and Stein was a player he respected a lot, he must had seen that game.

@10

"Fischer was known for going through all sorts of chess publications and Stein was a player he respected a lot, he must had seen that game."

++ Fischer looked at all games and remembered them.
It is telling that in the 10th match game against Spassky in 1972 he preferred 18 bxc5 dxc5 19 dxe5 over 18 d5.

tygxc wrote:

@10

"Fischer was known for going through all sorts of chess publications and Stein was a player he respected a lot, he must had seen that game."

++ Fischer looked at all games and remembered them.
It is telling that in the 10th match game against Spassky in 1972 he preferred 18 bxc5 dxc5 19 dxe5 over 18 d5.

The situation at move 18 of that game is different

White has already committed a2-a4-a5 and the Queenside can close completely, so White playing for 18. d4-d5 doesn't make much sense, as the "Karpov plan" is typically followed by invasion on the Queenside ( and later potentially by play on both wings ). In all other games the White pawn was not on a5. The 10th game of the world championship match doesn't look relevant for the purposes of evaluating d5 vs dxc/dxe

@ssctk - I don't know what year/issue Byrne wrote that article.

When I wrote "people analyze with an engine all the time" I wasn't thinking of top players, Kasparov in Predecessors, etc. Of course GMs do analyze with an engine, but GMs also can figure out when it's better to keep the tension or resolve it some other way than d4-d5. I was thinking of lesser players like the ones we face. They will switch on an engine and see that it typically wants to play d4-d5 in these structures because "space", so they will just parrot the engine. In our games as black we can expect to see d4-d5 a lot....

There are also a number of ways for Black (not White) to resolve the central tension in the Ruy Lopez.

One interesting method is for Black to play ... exd4 < cxd4 > c7-c5 which can lead to a Blitz Benoni formation if White answers with d4-d5.

Pawn skeleton:

The Pawn formation in the center is IDENTICAL to that usually found in a Modern Benoni:

yetanotheraoc wrote:

@ssctk - I don't know what year/issue Byrne wrote that article.

When I wrote "people analyze with an engine all the time" I wasn't thinking of top players, Kasparov in Predecessors, etc. Of course GMs do analyze with an engine, but GMs also can figure out when it's better to keep the tension or resolve it some other way than d4-d5. I was thinking of lesser players like the ones we face. They will switch on an engine and see that it typically wants to play d4-d5 in these structures because "space", so they will just parrot the engine. In our games as black we can expect to see d4-d5 a lot....

I will try to find it thanks, a friend has kept old issues of Chess Life.

Indeed some, even book authors, may make the decision on engine recommendation which will be space driven, as it's Kasparov's evaluation though he will have more insight into it, in MGP he doesn't expand more on this unfortunately, maybe Chess Life will justify it more.

blueemu wrote:

There are also a number of ways for Black (not White) to resolve the central tension in the Ruy Lopez.

One interesting method is for Black to play ... exd4 < cxd4 > c7-c5 which can lead to a Blitz Benoni formation if White answers with d4-d5.

Pawn skeleton:

The Pawn formation in the center is IDENTICAL to that usually found in a Modern Benoni:

There's also ..cxd followed by cxd, with yet another structure. King had a good book on the Ruy structures, I don't recall him discussing the shift to d5 from dx ( been quite a bit of time since I read it though ).

ssctk wrote:

There's also ..cxd followed by cxd, with yet another structure. King had a good book on the Ruy structures, I don't recall him discussing the shift to d5 from dx ( been quite a bit of time since I read it though ).

Are you referring to "Mastering the Spanish" by King and Ponzetto? If so, that was an excellent book, as were several others about various openings in that series. They addressed openings through the various pawn structures that could arise from them, and explained the tactical and positional themes for each structure. Best way to learn an opening, IMO. Unfortunately, all the books in the series have long been out of print and can cost hundreds of dollars for a used copy.

If it helps, all back issues of both Chess Life and Chess Review have been scanned and are available on the USCF web site uschess.org
OldPatzerMike wrote:
ssctk wrote:

There's also ..cxd followed by cxd, with yet another structure. King had a good book on the Ruy structures, I don't recall him discussing the shift to d5 from dx ( been quite a bit of time since I read it though ).

Are you referring to "Mastering the Spanish" by King and Ponzetto? If so, that was an excellent book, as were several others about various openings in that series. They addressed openings through the various pawn structures that could arise from them, and explained the tactical and positional themes for each structure. Best way to learn an opening, IMO. Unfortunately, all the books in the series have long been out of print and can cost hundreds of dollars for a used copy.

Yes that's the book, it's a very good one, I have this and others in that series since the 90s ( I think I have them all ex-French), though they are in some box, somewhere at my parents house, very good books. It's the only way to learn an opening, plus learn the endgames as with Shereshevsky's two volumes.

Laskersnephew wrote:
If it helps, all back issues of both Chess Life and Chess Review have been scanned and are available on the USCF web site uschess.org

It helps! Thanks 🙏, will find them !