23 October 2013

Lesson of the Week

We have been looking at the King's Pawn Opening. I recommend that beginners start their games this way. White's first move seizes ground in the center of the board, opens a diagonal for the light-squared bishop, and increases the mobility of the queen. In the starting position, White has 20 legal moves. After 1.e4, White will have a minimum of 29 legal choices for the second move.

1...e5 is Black's second most popular response. It contests White's claim on the center and increases the mobility of Black's pieces.

2.Nf3 is White's best move in the position. It immediately presents Black with a problem: how to respond to the attack on the e-pawn.

Black has a choice after these opening moves.

For 2...Qf6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (17 September).
For 2...Bd6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (23 September).
For 2...f6 (not recommended), see "Lesson of the Week" (4 October).
For 2...d6 Philidor Defense, see "Lesson of the Week" (11 October).
For 2...Nc6 3.Bc4 Italian Opening, see "Lesson of the Week" (17 October).

The Spanish Opening

2...Nc6 is by far Black's most popular solution to the problem presented by White's second move. In the sixteenth century, a Spanish priest named Rodrigo (Ruy) López de Segura sought to demonstrate that 2...Nc6 was an error. He believed that 2...d6 was superior. His refutation began with the move 3.Bb5.

Because of López's effort to analyze this opening systematically, the name Spanish Opening or Ruy Lopez Opening is used by chess players to refer to the position after 3.Bb5.

Black to move

Black has several possible responses.

3...Nf6 is the Berlin Defense, which may be the topic of a future lesson.

3...f5 is the Schliemann Defense, against which I did badly in my last tournament game.

There are several other possibilities, but the most popular response is 3...a6. Today, the opening books call this response the Morphy Defense. Paul Morphy played this move twice against Adolf Anderssen, who had been considered the best player in the world until losing his match with Morphy.

Black's third move attacks the bishop that attacks the knight that defends the pawn that is attacked. White either captures the knight or retreats the bishop. We looked at both moves in this week's lesson.

a) 4.Bxc6 appears to win a pawn, but only when analysis is shallow.

4...dxc6 5.Nxe5 Qd4 forks knight and pawn, winning back the pawn. 6.Nf3 Qxe4+ 7.Qe2 Qxe2+ 8.Kxe2

Black to move

White has given up chances for advantage in the opening. In fact, Black's pieces have greater mobility. See Hellbach -- Chigorin below.

Capturing the knight is not necessarily a bad idea. It does lead to doubling Black pawns on the c-file. But, this move does not win a pawn. After 4.Bxc6 dxc6, White should play 5.O-O.

b) 4.Ba4

Retreating the bishop while maintaining pressure on the knight is the most popular move, and offers the best prospects for continuing to apply pressure on Black's position.

4...Nf6 5.O-O

Does this move sacrifice a pawn? No. After 5...Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 White has won back the pawn. White also could try 6.Re1, which wins back the pawn in a couple of moves. However, driving the Black knight to c5 forces White to give up bishop for knight, and again White's initiative vanishes.

5...Be7 6.Re1

Now that White protects the e-pawn, the threat to win Black's e-pawn by removing the defender of c6 is a credible threat.

6...b5 7.Bb3 d6

White to move

Here White usually plays 8.c3. These are the most popular moves in the Spanish Opening, but there are dozens of alternatives along the way. One of Black's interesting alternatives is the Marshall Attack. The second reference game below was one of Frank Marshall's first efforts with the system that bears his name. Even though he lost that game, he won several other games with his system. It has become a potent weapon.

Reference Games

Hellbach -- Chigorin,Mikhail [C68]
St Petersburg, 25.01.1900

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5 Qd4 6.Nf3 Qxe4+ 7.Qe2 Qxe2+ 8.Kxe2 Bg4 9.d3 Ne7 10.Be3 Nd5 11.Nbd2 0–0–0 12.a3 f5 13.Nb3 b6 14.h3 Bh5 15.c4 Nf6 16.Bd4 Be7 17.Rhd1 Rhe8 18.Kf1 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Nh5 20.Be3 a5 21.f4 c5 22.Nc1 g5 23.Ne2 h6 24.Rac1 Bd6 25.fxg5 f4 26.Bd2 hxg5 27.Rc2 Be5 28.Bc1 Ng7 29.Ng1 Nf5 30.Nf3 Bf6 31.Re2 Rxe2 32.Kxe2 Rh8 33.Rg1 Rxh3 34.Nxg5 Nd4+ 35.Kf1 Bxg5 0–1

Capablanca,Jose Raul -- Marshall,Frank James [C89]
New York Manhattan CC New York, 1918

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 Nf6 12.Re1 Bd6 13.h3 Ng4 14.Qf3 Qh4 15.d4 Nxf2 16.Re2 Bg4 17.hxg4 Bh2+ 18.Kf1 Bg3 19.Rxf2 Qh1+ 20.Ke2 Bxf2 21.Bd2 Bh4 22.Qh3 Rae8+ 23.Kd3 Qf1+ 24.Kc2 Bf2 25.Qf3 Qg1 26.Bd5 c5 27.dxc5 Bxc5 28.b4 Bd6 29.a4 a5 30.axb5 axb4 31.Ra6 bxc3 32.Nxc3 Bb4 33.b6 Bxc3 34.Bxc3 h6 35.b7 Re3 36.Bxf7+ 1–0

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