Open Ruy Lopez

The open ruy lopez was a career favorite of Viktor Korchnoi, who played it consistently and with success against top flight opposition. The game could not be more different from the closed, maneuvering ruy lopez of the chigorin, breyer or zaitsev variations. In the open, black places his knight centrally and looks for active piece placement to immediately apply pressure on the white camp.

Often, white will look to dislodge the posted knight on e4 with Nbd2. After the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6. 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba5 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 we reach the following tabiya.

Apparently, Korchnoi also authored an informant monograph on the open ruy lopez.  I can’t get enough of these tasty little booklets, why are they so hard to find! If you see one, email me.

This position is nicely investigated by Glenn Flear in his Everyman Chess book on the variation. In the introduction to the book he lists typical themes for both colors. For black, he provides a very useful list of the typical themes:

(1) putting the dark square bishop on c5 to bear down on the f2 square,
(2) capturing on the f2 square with the bishop and knight and following up with f7-f6.
(3) supporting the knight with f7-f5
(4) applying pressure to the e5 square
(5) playing the liberating pawn push d5-d4, which opens lines,
(6) playing for queenside expanision with c7-c5, as in other lopez lines
(7) supporting the d-pawn with Q-d7,
(8) playing the standard Bg4 pin if allowed by white
(9) pushing the a pawn to harrass the white knight which might find itself on b3 in many variations,
(10) rapid development even at the cost of a pawn or piece exchange in the center, (11) simplifying by exchanging knights on d2
(11) playing with an IQP after pushing the c pawn down the board.

One nice thing about playing the Open ruy lopez is that it tends to give black a free hand for counter play on both wings, and is an “ideas” opening, in which many different moves are playable and the flow of the game is not as forcing as in the closed. In order to demonstrate some of the interesting attacking ideas this opening makes available, play through the following Korchnoi games and note how he employs some of the above mentioned ideas.

The line that is covered in Glenn Flear’s book which interests me the most is referred to a the “Dilworth variation” and follows after (starting from our tabiya) 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 Nxf2 12.Rxf2 f6, giving us the following position as the starting point for the so-called “Dilworth Variation.”

I wonder what the overall scoring percentage is in this position? I can’t imagine black is doing well theoretically here. And yet, it’s an interesting position. Black certainly has initiative in exchange for his sacrifice, and according to Glenn Flear, should also be able to enter an ending comfortably if it comes to that. If that’s the case, what more can you ask for?

The following game is given as an invitation to try out the “dilworth” for yourself. It’s hard for me to believe this is even playable, much less that it can win as effortlessly as it does in the following game.