Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ruy Lopez as black: the Zaitshall Attack

I have banged my head for a few months now trying to find how to play against the Ruy as black. Frankly, there is nothing that doesn't have some problems, but I really wanted something that would create a more dynamic, open, tactically challenging game. Hopefully the following summary of my findings will help other patzers out there trying to navigate the crazy world of the Ruy from Black's perspective.

A. Berlin
The Berlin defense starts out 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6:

I originally thought, hey, why make an early pawn push when I can simply develop? Unfortnately, this position commonly ends up looking a lot like the exchange variation of the Ruy, which I just find not too much fun. In most lines, white takes the night on c6 with his Bishop, so white ends up with a better pawn structure. Not enough fireworks for me (and this is representative of pretty much every suggestion in Kaufman's The Chess Advantage in Black and White, which could be called 'Playing for a draw as black and white'). The obvious option for black if he wants dynamic play is the open Ruy.

2. The Open Ruy
This arises after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Nxe4.
This certainly looks open and exciting, and white's "best" move is 6. d4! which leads to fun and dynamic play for both sides. Unfortunately, I tried out the Open Ruy as black for a few weeks and in ZERO percent of my games did my opponent play d4. They always (100%) play Re1. This is certainly playable, but again leads to exchange-like positions, as white almost always ends up taking the Knight on c6 with his Bishop at some point after the Knight moves out of the way of the impending rook. White quickly gets his pawn back, and we are in another sort of slow exchange-like game. Also, all the material I have on the open ruy spends maybe one or two paragraphs on the Re1 variation! I want something where there is more guidance, more out there at the GM level that I can study so I don't have to do all the thinking (after all, I want most of my time to be devoted to tactical training and playing, not studying openings!).

So, no Open Ruy for me, at least until I am good enough that my opponents don't wimp out and play the quiet line. So now my main option is either some kind of closed Ruy (Chigorin or Zaitsev) or the Marshall attack. I'll look at the Marshall attack first.

3. Marshall Attack
We reach the Marshall after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3 d5!
Now this is what I'm talking about! Crazy, open, gambit, sharp, fun line for black. It is such a dangerous weapon in skilled hands that Kasparov never allowed it, playing the anti-Marshall line 8. a4 every time he saw 7...0-0 (frankly I'm still not sure why it is anti-Marshall and why black can't just go ahead with 8...d5: feel free to tell me why in the comments). Note that the correct line for black against the anti-Marshall is 8...Bb7, which will become important below.

The Marshall. That's what I want. My coach is excited by this decision, thinks it will spice up my Ruy, and that it is an extremely solid opening. Unfortunately, there are a couple of hitches. As I said above, I want something for which there is a lot of guidance. The Marshall Attack books are not complete repertoires: they start out with move 8 from white! There are tons of possibilities before move eight, especially at my level.

So it isn't enough just to book up on the Marshall. The first seven moves are standard Closed Ruy fare. Hence, I want material on either the Chigorin or the Zaitsev that will help me out with these earlier move orders. Unfortunately, there is no black equivalent of Greet's miraculous Play the Ruy Lopez, but there are a couple of books out there that have helped me make up my mind.

4. Closed Ruy Lopez
The closed Ruy starts with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 0-0 9. h3, and the next move determines whether you will end up in the Chigorin (9...Na5) or Zaitsev (9...Bb7):
Both of these moves have their strenghts and weaknesses. In the Chigorin the Knight on a5 ends up looking rather silly and can become a liability, but in the Zaitsev white often plays d5, which makes the Bishop look silly. Both systems are strong, both are used at the upper echelons of chess praxis, so you can grow into them.

The question is, which will fit in better with the Marshall attack? I alluded to this above. First note that to play the Marshall I won't actually play 7...d6, but 7....0-0, preparing 8...d5! However, if black plays the anti-Marshall 8. a4, then Bb7 is the best response. Lo and behold, this sets up a position quite similar to the Zaitsev in its overall structure, with similar strengths and weaknesses.

This rather transparently suggests what my plan should be. I am going to aim for the Marshall attack, but if white doesn't let me then I will continue on with a more standard Zaitsev repertoire in this new book (note, Marin's new book is based on the Chigorin (I ordered it direct from the publisher as who knows when Amazon will have it)).

I baptize this mongrel repertoire The Zaitshall Attack.


Blogger Temposchlucker said...

You have promised me a position from the Kieseritsky

6/23/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

You are biased against the Scandinavian?

6/23/2007 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo: yeah, that would be the easy way out :) I like the variety that comes with e5. I actually like struggling to come up with a cool opening repertoire.

6/23/2007 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Marshall has 4 gambits named after him. One of them is 1.e4 d5 2.Nf6. The position don't look as rough as the KG:)

If you need the pgn-files of this Marshall gambit, now you know.

6/23/2007 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Sträter said...

8. a4 and of course you have to do something about the threat axb5 (cannot take back, because the rook is hanging). So either b4, Rb8 or probably best 8...Bb7. After that white usually plays 9.d3, taking the sting out of d5 and your bishop has moved from the c8-h3 diagonal, which is important in the typical Marshall Attack pattern.

I think you have made a very decent choice. In most anti-Marshall games, black equalizes quite easily.

6/23/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Fierabras: contrary to what I said in my post, I just read up on the suggestions in the Zaitsev book I have, and they recommend 8. b4, which transposes into a line in their game.

Tonight I'm finally starting to actually enter this stuff into my book...Exciting. Once I get to this level, I usually stop fearing an opening and really want my opponent to play it!

6/23/2007 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

On the downside, between anti-Marshalls, the exchange variation, and normal patzer non-critical deviations you won't get to play your Marshall that much.

On the plus side:
1. I think playing these lines will help your chess overall

2. I found out today that, if you encounter a Worrall player, that the main line for black is very similar to the Marshall

3. I really think "boring, positional" vs. "exciting, tactical" openings don't mean that much at lower level. Once someone leaves theory, craziness usually ensues and there's plenty of opportunity for fireworks.

If you want crazy, you could check out the Schliemann or Deferred Schliemann (...f5). That would require cajones. What about Moller, Classical, Arkhangelsk, or systems with a kingside fianchetto (Smyslov 3...g6, or Cozio with ...g6)? I can't recall ever facing ...g6 in the Spanish, so that would have to be a surprise for your opponent.

Anyhow, I applaud your willingness to play the main lines. They'll put hair on your chest. I'm still in the early stages of figuring out the open sicilian, which from my praxis is an unsound gambit of the e4 pawn. If I can learn how to keep it from disappearing from the board, I'll be in business.

6/24/2007 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

GP: It should be fun, but I agree at my level I won't play the Marshall much (maybe 1/15 or 20 games).

6/24/2007 03:12:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

BDK Nice information well presented. You might find the following game interesting> I think that 15... g5 is played to present 16 Rh4. I have missed playing this and ended up with whites rook starting an attack on my castled king.

Marshall makes for an interesting game. I play the marshall and did a survey on my chessgames database. I have played 22 games as black and won 9 tied 1. I don't have a clear understanding as to what to do when white avoids it.

I also had a fellow at the chess club play a countergambit 9 d4 and it was unclear to me how I should proceed.
I also had this same fellow play 14 h3 against me which I thought was a clear win for me after sacking Bxh3 but lead to a draw by repetition.

6/24/2007 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

Alternate eight moves played against me in this position are 8 Nc3 and 8 a4

6/24/2007 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger JuliaKM said...

Tak: why am I not surprised that you play the Marshall?

I made the plunge and ordered ECO Volume C. The Ruy is too complicated, and there are just no good comprehensive refs out there for the Ruy for black. Since my coach and I use ECO I have realized how kick ass it is.

I also want to get a kick ass database to just quickly work through a bunch of games in variations I'm playing. I don't want to spend 300 bucks, so I'll probably go for Patrick's free setup described over at chess for blood.

6/24/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Umm, that julia is me. I am on my wife's computer and didn't see that it had her automatically logged in .

6/24/2007 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS Tak, all those variations you mention are in Nunn and Harding's book on the Marshall attack.

6/24/2007 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

GP it took me longer to reply to another bit of your comments:
If you want crazy, you could check out the Schliemann or Deferred Schliemann (...f5). That would require cajones. What about Moller, Classical, Arkhangelsk, or systems with a kingside fianchetto (Smyslov 3...g6, or Cozio with ...g6)? I can't recall ever facing ...g6 in the Spanish, so that would have to be a surprise for your opponent.

Thanks for the ideas. First, the ones I know I don't want to play.

I don't want to play a g6 Ruy, as I just don't like the fianchetto openings: don't like the spatial concessions it usually entails, and just a brute personal preference like my taste in food). So no Smyslov.

I tried the Cozio for a while and just don't like it: using the Knights like that to protect each other is very nice for avoiding exchange-like positions, but is a pretty passive use of the knights. Plus, despite what I said, I actually WANT to play the exchange sometimes (to learn about that pawn structure, for variety, etc), just not all the bloody time.

I considered the Archangel variation and it looks very cool but there seem to be no good references on it. Usually just a little book chapter or something, and from white's perspective.

The Classical....That, ironically, is one I haven't given much thought to. Especially with f5 thrown in, which looks truly crazy and fun. Plus, any good repertoire book should include a lot of early deviations from white. I will consider it! Any good books on this one?

The Schliemann also looks very interesting! Any good books on it?

6/24/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo: you know what, I want to try the Scandy (the Qd6 variety). If you have anything on it.... :)

I'm fucking sick of trying to defend against the Ruy!!!!! I want to bring white into MY book for a while.

6/24/2007 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I just did some research: the Classical, it turns out , I did study, but I didn't like the looks of things after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. Nxe5 Nxe5 5. d4! falling into the fork trick.

But it turns out there are actually some good responses to this fork trick. Not great, but good. I will have to reconsider this committment to the Zaitshall. The classical is certainly a lot less work!!!

But I'm actually thinking maybe Tempo is right!

6/24/2007 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Or you could just play the French. . .

6/25/2007 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Schereschevsky said...

Blue, more coincidences. My coach also recommend me to play bullet in order to get a lot of experience. I also play 1.e4 e5 and started playing marshal some month ago by recommendation of my coach. I'm learning a lot of ruy with it if don't get to the line, and when we get to the marshal line, I most of times have a puzzles book in my on-line game. Go with marshal, practice in bullet or blitz, spend some time analyzing postmortem with rybka on fritz interface :).

6/26/2007 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that the move 8.a4 is considered the anti-marshal move but what about 8.a3? How is that different from white playing C3? I'm trying the marshal gambit in an online game today following the 8.a3 move.. lets see whether it works or not.

1/15/2008 03:38:00 PM  

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