Understanding Ruy Lopez Chigorin

Understanding Ruy Lopez Chigorin

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 d6 9.h3

The three most common choices for Black in this position are Zaitsev, Breyer or Chigorin variations. Black knight jump to a5 represents Chigorin variation of Ruy Lopez. While Zaitsev and Breyer variations have some ‘plans in common’, Chigorin variation leads to (type of) play of its own.

9…Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4

This is the starting position of Ivan Salgado’s analyses. Ivan delves into distant past (like Bogoljubow-Rubinstein games from 1925!) and explains how ideas developed via Fischer (his games 1965–1970 period)…. ultimately ending with modern era top chess (like Grischuk-Rapport FIDE GP 2017 or his own 2018 Bundesliga game!) Play in Chigorin variation is usually not forced and emphases (of Salgado’s work) are on understanding ensuing middlegame positions. However, next to explaining the most common middlegame plans, Salgado does not shy away to provide useful opening information. This blog should help get overview of Salgado’s “Understanding Ruy Lopez Chigorin Variation” Masterclass content.

11…Qc7
[11…Nd7 has been often modern time top players choice and Salgado gives nice overview.]

12.Nbd2
[Immediate center closure with 12.d5 was choice of legendary 13th World champion and also (modern time top gun) Grischuk in his recent game 12…Nc4 13.b3! Nb6 14.a4 Bd7 15.a5 Nc8 here strategic choice of Kasparov and Grischuk differed – and Salgado explains well strategic ins & outs: 16.c4!? (16.b4!? c4 17.Nbd2 1/2 (45) Kasparov,G (2838)-Ivanchuk,V (2711), Prague 2002 (45)) 16…b4 17.Nbd2 Bd8 18.Nf1 Kh8 19.Ra2 1–0 Grischuk,A (2761)-Rapport,R (2694), Geneva 2017.]

12…Nc6
[12…cxd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 is another Black’s choice (13…Bb7?! Ivan considers a mistake and explains why!) 14.Nb3! White should keep the tension. 14…a5 15.Be3! according to Salgado the only way to White’s opening advantage and he follows up explaining on the plans (15.d5?! Nb4!). ]

13.dxc5
Bobby Fischer’s plan! Legendary American World champion loved this plan and has used it on numerous occasions. White idea is to try to exploit ‘the d5 & f5 squares’ and hence transfers his knight to e3.

[13.d5 Nd8!? is old (1925!!) Rubinstein’s plan: try to hold the queenside, place the knights on g7 and on f7 and in the right moment play f5. Rubinstein had in 1925 & 1926 theoretical debate with Bogoljubow and Salgado delves into those games! The road to White advantage Ivan shows based on his 2018 game! (13…Na5? would be like the Chigorin with 12.d5 – Black losing two tempi!) ]

13…dxc5 14.Nf1 Be6
The most natural move. Black should try to take the d5 square under control.

15.Ne3 Rad8 16.Qe2

Soviet (Russian) grandmaster Ratmir Kholmov plays it excellent and Fischer suffers one of rare defeats on the White side of Ruy Lopez!

16…c4! 17.Ng5
[Five years later Fischer (versus O’Kelly de Galway, Buenos Aires 1970) tried to improve on his play with 17.Nf5. Fischer won the game, but Salgado shows improvement for Black!]

17…h6 18.Nxe6 fxe6

19.b4?!
This runs into tactical refutation.

[Ivan Salgado explains why Fischer did not like White’s position after 19.b3 Bc5 20.Rf1 Ba7 21.bxc4 b4! ]

19…Nd4!! 20.cxd4 exd4
Black is clearly better here.

21.a3 d3 22.Bxd3 Rxd3

Black had a clear advantage and went on to win in Fischer,R-Kholmov,R, Havana 1965. This Masterclass video is defenitely a ‘must’ for anyone interested in understanding the Chigorin Variation of Ruy Lopez!