Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Question of Style

As a comment to my entry 'A Grossly Unfair Test', a reader has sent the following question:

"In your book, 'The 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 (Dia) 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?"

Actually the decision to recommend 8...d5 was not mainly a result of any dissatisfaction with 8...d6 or Davies' analysis of the move. The two moves have a roughly equal theoretical status so our choice was more a matter of taste and of finding a move that fitted into our general repertoire. Space considerations also was an issue as the Worrall clearly had to be considered a minor line - even more so before the arrival of Greet's book.

It must be taken into consideration that Davies and Marin both are recommending a Chigorin based repertoire where 8...d6 followed by ...Na5 and ...c5 fits very nicely in - the main strategies are the same whether White's rook is on e1 or on d1. We, however, offer a Zaitsev based repertoire. That doesn't totally exclude Chigorin like lines but it would require extra space for strategical explanations. Another factor is more subjective: we chose to recommend the Zaitsev variation because it involves rapid and natural development. Correspondingly we avoided the Chigorin because we were not really happy with the knight excursion to a5. It is a fact that Black often finds it quite hard to activate this knight in the Chigorin. These considerations apply in the diagram position too.

So, why didn't we recommend a Zaitsev development scheme with ...Bb7 and ...Re8 then? That is indeed a good question and this should have been stated clearly in our book: Against the Worrall attack, 8...d6 9.Rd1, 9...Bb7 doesn't seem to be working very well, as 10.d4 creates threats to e5, thanks to the pin in the d-file.

Fortunately this isn't a great problem as 8...d5 is an active and strong move which fits well with the general philosophy behind the Zaitsev. It takes a bit more theoretical preparation than 8...d6 but once Black masters a few sharp lines he can expect quite a pleasant life against the Worrall. This claim has to be backed up by analysis (and in our book we supply some). But to some extent it can also be supported by visual evidence.

If you compare these two diagrams which shows the positions after 11 moves in the two mainlines there can be no doubt that Black appears more active in the second:
  • In the first diagram (arising from 8...d6 9.Rd1 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7) White has achieved an central advantage (e4&d4 vs. e5&d6) while Black's knight on a5 appears somewhat misplaced.
  • In contrast White in the second diagram (arising from 8... d5 9. d3 Bb7 10. Nbd2 Re8 11. a3 Bf8) has spent a move on the modest a3 while Black is almost fully developed (Zaitsev style!) and has even taken the active stance in the centre (e5&d5 vs. e4&d3).
Obviously this doesn't prove that 8...d5 is better than 8...d6 but I think it shows that 8...d5 is a more ambitious approach (and consequently better if it actually works).


Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find someone who has the book Play the Ruy Lopez to see how does Davies' and Marin's analysis compares to Greet's Play the Ruy Lopez. You are the only one I know that has it. Can you compare the analysis for us?


Sverre Johnsen said...

Is there any particular variation you have in mind? Greet recommends a repertoire for White based on the Worrall attack.

Anonymous said...

The particular variation I have in mind is 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 d6 9 Rd1 Na5 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4 Qc7. This is recommended by Davies' and Marin. How does their analysis of this line compare to Greet's.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Greet recommends 12.d5, so there isn't much to compare with Davies who only mentions 12.dxe5. Marin then recommends 12...Bd7 and only analyses 13.Nbd2? (which Greet also briefly mentions) 13...Nh5!. Greets recommendation is however 13.b3 which he explores over almost 4 pages.

Anonymous said...

You said greet recommends 13 b3 and that Marin only analyses 13 Nbd2 but Marin does analyze 13 b3. It's in the notes. Page 195 note 31. How does their analysis on 13 b3 compare?

Sverre Johnsen said...

Well, first of all Greet's book is a repertoire book for White, so he covers most of Black's sensible replies to 13.b3 (13...c4, 13...h6, 13...g6, 13...Kh8 and his main line 13...Nb7).
Secondly after Marin's 13...Ne8, he follows the game Matikozian-A.Stein, Santa Monica which continued 14.Nbd2 g6 15.Nf1 Ng7 16.Bh6 f6, and now instead of 17.h3he suggests 17.a4 or 17.N3d2.

If you plan to play the Worrall as White, Greet's book is indispensible. If you only need to prepare against it as Black, Marin's book may be adequate (Davies' book isn't sufficient unless you are able to handle a surprise with your own brain power).