Monday, April 23, 2007

A Grossly Unfair Test

A couple of reviewers have compared our "The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black" (RLGB) with Greet's "Play the Ruy Lopez" (PRL) by checking the line where our black repertoire meets Greet's white repertoire. This of course is a test we are doomed to lose, or in Watson's words: "Taking this as a 'test' would be grossly unfair to Johnsen & Johannessen, who must spend the bulk of their efforts to justifying Black's position against the many mainstream attacks against the Ruy Lopez; hence they are hardly about to invest a lot of time and space into addressing the Worrall System."

But as two reviewers have already had problems getting this comparison right, let's go through the exercise anyway. It's the PRL-guy with the white pieces against the RLGB-guy, and there is no doubt about the first moves:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.0–0 d5 8.d3 0–0 9.c3 Bb7 10.Nbd2 Re8 11.a3 Bf8
Here RLGB runs out of theory, as only 12.Ba2 and 12.Rd1 are given. Giving up White’s central foot-hold doesn’t seem very desirable and there is only one game in MegaBase 2006 with this move: Summerscale-Mannion, Dublin 1993. But let’s assume that the game doesn’t end there, and Black plays the natural recapture:
The PRL-guy is still not out of book, and flashes out:
This activates White's queen-side, but isn’t really forcing. Black seems to have several playable alternatives. However, one move that completes development stands out as particularly natural:
This is the main-line in PRL, so White’s reply again comes instantly:
With some luck ‘our’ man will now discover that he’s back in book. This position can be found in RLGB under the move-order 10.Re1 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a3 Qd7 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Ne4. That is not a trivial transposition but the RLGB-guy’s odds are considerably improved by the fact that there’s a diagram with the exact position at page 160.

Now Black has three alternatives that are listed in the same order in both books:
a) 14...Na5?!, which both books give as leading to an advantage for White.

b) 14...Rad8, which in RLGB gets 10 lines of analysis and seems to be fine for Black. This move is however shown to be dubious by some quite impressive analysis by Greet where he improves on Short-Almasi, Wijk aan Zee 1995.

c) After 14...f5!?, both books offers the drawing line 15.Ba2 Kh8 16.Nfg5 h6 17.Qh5 fxe4 18.dxe4 Nf6 19.Nf7+ Kh7 20.Ng5+ 1/2–1/2 of Tiviakov-Grischuk, Linares 1999, and RLGB stops there. However, this obviously isn’t theoretically satisfactory for White (although it may have great practical value), so PRL offers two pages of analysis on 15.Ng3!?. The move in itself isn’t very impressive, but Greet’s analysis beginning with 15...g6 16.Bg5 quickly gets sharp, and it cannot be denied that the RLGB-guy will have a tough task for the next dozen moves if he stumbles into Greet’s mainline. Whether White objectively has any advantage is another question. Let me suggest the natural 16...h6 17.Bf6 Bg7!?, which Greet doesn’t mention. Whether this will be sufficient for equality I cannot really tell. Most analysis engines indicate that White has a very small plus but for a further evaluation I would have to consult my GM co-author.

Conclusion: A RLGB reader will have more of a challenge than a PRL reader reaching the position after 14.Re1. If he does reach it, he could get into trouble if he choses option b), the natural looking 14...Rad8. If he instead plays option c) the risky-looking 14...f5, he may have to accept a quick draw or face the unknown, but not too dangerous looking move 15.Ng3.


Anonymous said...

In your book, A Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black, you recommend the move 8...d5 after the moves 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 Qe2 b5 6 Bb3 Be7 7 0-0 0-0 8 c3 and you say that "the more conservative 8...d6 9 Rd1 Na5 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4 Qc7 leads to standard Chigorin positions where white's chances should be slightly preferable. The 8...d6 line is recommended by Nigel Davies in Play 1 e4 e5!and by Mihail Marin in A Spanish Repertoire for black which came out after your book. You have play 1 e4 e5! in your bibliography so you must have thought that white has improvements over Davies' lines. What do you think about Marin's analysis of this line? How does both books analysis compare to Greet's Play the Ruy Lopez?

Sverre Johnsen said...

Thank you for a question I can answer without contacting my co-author and without worrying about my contract with Gambit Publishing!

An answer will appear in a main entry quite soon.