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    Entries in Berlin Defense (13)

    Wednesday
    Nov132013

    World Championship, Game 4: Carlsen Comes Close, But It's Another Draw

    The match is heating up! Game 4 was the best of the bunch so far, an exciting struggle that saw Magnus Carlsen come very close to taking the lead. Viswanathan Anand had White, and in keeping with match "tradition" got nothing or even less than nothing from the opening. Carlsen played the Berlin Defense, and Anand found it necessary to sac the a2 pawn to obtain any sort of play at all.

    Objectively his compensation was inadequate, but from here the game got good and very exciting. Anand sacrificed a second pawn and headed for lines where even more sacrifices were possible. Carlsen missed a number of unobvious opportunities (...a6 on moves 27 and 28, 36...Rd8!) and as a result Anand's dynamic defense was rewarded: he achieved equality at the end of the first time control.

    Unfortunately for the champion, he jumped back into the frying pan immediately after the time control with 41.Kc3. 41.Ke3 instead would have sharpened the struggle, but Anand was apparently satisfied with a draw and thought his move was the most effective way to achieve it. What Anand underestimated was just how many tricks Carlsen could come up with to keep the play going, and in the end Anand had to really sweat it out in the second time control to save the draw. The third time control would have no further adventures, and the draw was finally agreed, keeping the match level at 2-2.

    Tomorrow (Thursday) is a rest day, and game 5 is on Friday. The game can be replayed here with light notes (subscribers have been sent full analysis and a video - it's not too late to sign up!), and the website's commentary can be viewed below.

    Monday
    Jul022012

    A Review of Lysyj and Ovetchkin's The Berlin Defence

    Igor Lysyj and Roman Ovetchkin, The Berlin Defence (Chess Stars, 2012). 276 pp.

    Garry Kasparov may have been more popular than Vladimir Kramnik and the Najdorf more popular than the Berlin, but at the moment Kramnik's approach has carried the day. Many top GMs include the Berlin as a regular part of their repertoire, and while it has been a while since I've seen a new Najdorf book, I can think of at least five recent works that focus on the Berlin either exclusively or at least in large part.

    The work under review is co-authored by a pair of Russian GMs: Roman Ovetchkin (2501), who works primarily as a trainer nowadays; and Igor Lysyj (2632), who is still fairly young (24 or 25) and trying to make his way in competitive chess. They have offered a very helpful book that to my mind strikes a good balance between detail and usability. Make a book encyclopedic and only professionals and addicts will get their money's worth; too simple and it won't be of much use against anyone but the weak and those who avoid all research.

    As is customary with Chess Stars' opening works, each chapters comprises three parts: a "Quick Repertoire" section outlining the main paths and offering some general explanations, a "Step by Step" section that fills in the important details, and then "Complete Games". In some Chess Stars book the latter can also be used to fill in more theoretical details, but for Lysyj and Ovetchkin the games' function is clearly illustration.

    At 276 smallish pages, there's enough material for the reader, but it's too short to be some sort of encyclopedia on the Berlin. Thus in the 95 or so pages devoted to the Berlin Ending (i.e. the one arising after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8) Black has many plans to choose from.

    One fundamental question is what to do with the king: there are plans where Black plays ...Bd7 and ...Kc8, hoping later to play ...b6 and ...Kb7; and there are plans where the king goes to e8, often intending to connect the rooks after a later ....Ke7 (say, after White plays Bg5 and meets ...Be7 with an exchange).

    Another question is what Black will do with the h-pawn. Sometimes it goes to h6, keeping both White's knights and bishop off of g5. (A bishop on g5 covers d8, preventing Black from achieving his common ambition of swapping off at least one pair of rooks, while a knight on g5 can harass or exchange Black's best minor piece, the light-squared bishop, when it comes to e6.) If the pawn is on h5, however, it restricts White's inevitable kingside expansion and clears h6 for a Black rook (or h5 in case the pawn continues to h4). This is useful and logical - if Black's king sits on e8 the queen's rook can often make it to d8 easily enough, but the king's rook can't get across to the open file if Black's king can't make it to e7.

    There are other "parameters" as well, and since it's a repertoire book rather than an exhaustive survey the authors had to choose. The plan they recommend has for its tabiya the position resulting from the further moves 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 h5. For those who remember my review of Leonid Kritz's ChessBase DVD/download on the Berlin, his main line for Black was 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 and then 10...Be7, keeping White's bishop off of g5 and preparing to swap knights with ...Nh4. A drawback of sorts with that line is that after 11.g4 Nh4 12.Nxh4 Bxh4 Black can't realistically hope for more than a draw. Kritz feels comfortable enough about the ease with which Black can obtain that draw, but that isn't ideal for those who aren't in a situation where a draw is a fully satisfactory result. The Lysyj and Ovetchkin approach avoids the problem with 10...h5, in that 11.g4 is premature here: 11...hxg4 12.hxg4 Nh6 forces White into one awkward concession or another. (To wit: sac the pawn for inadequate compensation, give up the second bishop, or play the horribly anti-positional 13.g5.)

    Naturally, this doesn't mean that everything is perfect for Black after 10...h5: it's a matter of picking one's preferences at the buffet rather than finding a needle in a haystack. Still, we can ask how the proposed repertoire fares nowadays and how it holds up against the challenges of other recent products on the market today.

    As a representative example, let's have a look at Vassilios Kotronias' excellent, advanced work The Grandmaster Battle Manual (Quality Chess, 2011). It isn't primarily a book on opening theory, but the Greek GM does delve deeply from time to time. In the chapter "Beating the Wall-Y Structures" he investigates the Berlin from White's point of view (deeply - 42 pages' worth!), and from the tabiya after 10...h5 recommends 11.Rd1 Be7 12.Bg5. Lysyj and Ovetchkin don't examine 12.Bg5, but do look at 11.Bg5 Be6 12.Rfd1 Be7, which transposes to Kotronias' line after 12...Be6 in the latter's move order. At this point Kotronias considers three moves: 13.b3 (he thinks it's good for a slight edge), 13.g3 (allows Black to equalize), and his preference of 13.Rd2 (which he naturally thinks offers White an advantage). (Curiously, he doesn't so much as mention 13.Rd3, which he played against Mastrovasilis in a tournament in 2010.)

    Turning to Lysyj and Ovetchkin, they cover those three moves, plus 13.a3, 13.Ne2, 13.Ne4 and 13.Rd3. In the case of 13.b3, their line doesn't quite match up with Kotronias's, but I think their suggestion is close enough at one key point and the approach they take is more sensible for Black than Kotronias's offer. 13.g3 isn't really a threat as far as Kotronias's analysis was concerned, but given its high pedigree (Grischuk, Svidler and Anand are among the players who have tried it) Lysyj and Ovetchkin give it a lot of attention. Their analysis immediately diverges from Kotronias's, but they likewise conclude that Black keeps equal chances.

    Finally, 13.Rd2. Kotronias claims that 13...Rd8 is "box", i.e., forced, but Mssrs. L & O obviously disagree, as they offer the untested 13...Rc8!? as an improvement. They examine 13...Rd8 as well and agree that White obtains an edge, though on move 16 they offer a different route to that end. About 13...Rc8, they write this: "It is a nice prophylactic, since he protects in advance his c7-pawn and thus neutralizes the effect of White's doubling of his rooks on the d-file." (This slightly awkward prose is typical of Chess Stars - a little amusing but rarely an impediment to understanding.) There's about a page and a half of analysis; I'll offer only their main line, with their punctuation: 14.Rad1 f6 15.Bf4 Kf7 16.Ne4 Bd5! 17.Re1 b5! 18.Rde2 Bb4 19.c3 Ba5, with counterplay.

    I noted above that of the book's 276 pages only 95 are devoted to the Berlin ending, leaving 181 on everything else. Happily, while I've seen other books cop out and avoid discussing 4.Nc3, Lysyj and Ovetchkin don't - it's covered here. There are 85 pages on the increasingly popular 4.d3, as ever more players with White prefer to avoid all the finesses of the ending and prefer to reach a "normal" Ruy position. The authors take the principled approach here, recommending 4...Bc5, but I'll leave further details to interested readers.

    All in all, it's a very competent effort, and I can warmly recommend The Berlin Defence to those who play the Berlin or are interested in doing so, and many who face it could benefit as well. I think players around 1800 and up could use it profitably; for players below that point, there's probably too little forest and too many trees. As usual, Chess Stars has done a good job!

    Thursday
    Jun072012

    Play the Berlin, or Beat It?

    Keeping up with theory is a thankless task: there's so much to learn, and what's worse is that “helpful” chess publishers support your side today before rearming your opponent tomorrow. It hardly seems fair, but that's our plight. As long as we play chess, we must make our peace with the situation and decide what to do.

    When we're young and ambitious, we're ready, willing and able to jump on the treadmill without a second thought. It's fun, it comes easily to us, and we're rewarded with great positions against many of our theoretically unsophisticated elders.

    At some point, however, unless we're professionals, we can't keep up. (Another, subtler problem is that we must not only continue to assimilate new information, we must unlearn what we thought was true but wasn't. That's a discussion for another day.) So we might react in one of several ways. We can try to keep up, but only in a limited sphere. (Even Garry Kasparov did this, when he decided he couldn't maintain a suitable standard of preparation for both the Najdorf and the King's Indian Defense, and bid the latter goodbye.) We could start hanging out on sidestreets, looking for variations that are sound but a bit off the most beaten paths. Or we could go even further on the path to obscurity, playing and specializing in dodgy lines. Or, finally, we can decide not to worry about it, play what we want, and simply do our best. Occasionally we'll lose badly (see the preceding paragraph), but most of the time we'll get a playable position against our peers and the better player that day will be successful.

    Of course, publishers have no interest in seeing us reach that final stage, and will do their level best to persuade us that opening success is just one more book away. There are books (and DVDs and other media) that are bold: “Winning With the ____”. Other books have more modest titles, but the marketing prose on the cover and the website offer similar promises. And then still others promise resurrection – or is it a sort of reincarnation? - by bringing you back to the starting line. “Tired of bad positions? Try the main lines!”

    Many of these are excellent works in their own right. But really, can an author legitimately promise that we will win with a certain opening? And what are we to do, a year or six months or three months later, when another author (or sometimes even the same one!) writes a tome promoting the other side? It's wonderful that chess is so rich that even the combined efforts of hundreds or thousands of authors and their electronic henchmen can't send it into extinction, but the question remains: what are we to do? To learn fully “responsible” openings takes an awfully long time, and by the time we've succeeded our knowledge is out of date.

    Fear not, trusty publishers have another solution. Rather than presenting second- (or third-, or fourth-) best openings with manageable amounts of theory or first-rate openings in encyclopedic fashion, there's another way: very carefully narrowed presentations of first-rate lines. Maybe those lines will go out of business in a year or two, but no matter: the time investment is small and you can get another quick fix then. It's a lot faster to build a raft or a canoe than on ocean liner, and while the canoe might capsize there's no guarantee that the Titanic will complete its voyage either.

    So let's have a look at a couple of rafts, or maybe we should say one raft (Kritz's work) and one canoe. Both examine the Berlin Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6, which often heads for the Berlin “Wall” endgame after 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8), with Leonid Kritz advocating it for Black and Alexei Shirov advising its opponents.

    We'll start with Kritz's work, “Being Safe in the Berlin Defence”, which exemplifies the sort of approach mentioned two paragraphs ago. Kritz, a strong German GM originally from Russia, attempts to offer a short and simple repertoire for Black. It's one in a series of DVDs by ChessBase offering repertoires in (about) 60 minutes. Breadth and depth are sacrificed, but in return the material is very manageable. After a very short introduction (two minutes), Kritz first examines 4.d3 (about 14 minutes), then 5.Re1 (about 18 minutes), various 6th move alternatives (approximately 12 minutes) and finally the Berlin Endgame (about 18 and a half minutes). Thus in just over an hour the key lines are covered and the viewer is ready to go out and play the Berlin.

    Bearing in mind that Kritz is not offering encyclopedic coverage, we can evaluate the material on three levels. First, is it easy to master the material he offers? Second, are his lines sound, as far as they go? And third, how likely is it that you'll get the positions he offers?

    To question one, I think the answer is a clear yes. Kritz does a good job of keeping the quantity manageable and the ideas clear. So far, so good. Likewise on question two: Kritz plays the Berlin and plays the system he advocates, and so do many other titled players. Nor have I found any path to a significant White advantage against his proposals. Finally, while there are some gaps in his coverage of the sidelines, he hits the main moves in the endgame. Further, because the system he recommends is largely conceptual – do x, y and z – the need for encyclopedic coverage is reduced. Much of the time, though not always, it's enough to evaluate White's moves by how they try to interfere with Black's plans.

    On the opposite side in more ways than one is Alexei Shirov's DVD, strangely titled “Beating the Berlin Defence”. I say “strangely” not because of any personal attachment to the Berlin or because I believe it's impregnable, but because the optimistic title doesn't seem to reflect Shirov's attitude or stated position; indeed it's not even clear that he believes White can obtain an edge. It's not for want of trying, as Shirov spends nearly four hours on 11 clips (10 games plus the intro) on the Berlin ending. I wouldn't say that he despairs of finding an advantage, but nothing in what he says suggests that he has found one. The title is likely the idea of ChessBase's clever marketing people and not Shirov's fault, and while I understand the temptation to label products with terms and expressions like “Beating” and “Winning With”, it's both ridiculous when it comes to mainstream openings and, in the case of this product, a misrepresentation of what Shirov is doing.

    This isn't Shirov's fault, and it's not by itself a reason to avoid this product. But given that Shirov doesn't yet have the ultimate refutation of the Berlin, is it a waste of time and money for Ruy Lopez players to get this? I don't think so. One doesn't get the key to the Rosetta Stone, but Shirov presents a large number of diverse plans – for both sides – and as a result players on both sides will understand the Berlin far better than they did before. And that, I think, is more valuable than a transient novelty that promises White a slight edge today and nothing tomorrow.

    Let me offer some specifics about both products. First, on Kritz. There are many ways to play the Berlin endgame, and his choice in the video is for 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 Be7. Black's aim is to play ...Nh4, exchange a pair of knights, exchange a pair of rooks on the d-file, bring the king to e6 and live the good life. It sounds too simple to work, but it's a standard plan, it has fared pretty well, and in fact Kritz himself had good results with it. There is a downside, however, and it's that it's a pretty drawish setup. Levon Aronian once famously said that he played the Berlin when he needed a win (as opposed to his other main 1...e5 system, the Marshall Gambit), but the setup Kritz chooses offers practically no winning chances against certain standard White plans, e.g. after 11.g4 Nh4 12.Nxh4 Bxh4 13.Kg2.

    Likewise, Kritz seems content with many positions in the 5.Re1 variation being “drawn”, but admittedly it's hard to give good advice there. Those positions are pretty flat, and at the GM level there would have to be a significant disparity in strength for one side to win. On the other hand, let me offer my readers some hope. To test all the Berlin products I've received lately, I've been trying to play it online at almost every opportunity. Since the Kasparov-Kramnik match, I've found the Berlin endgame remarkably rich, and after a few years off from the “Wall” I was looking forward to trying some new and unfamiliar plans. I'd love to tell you how it went, but all I see is 4.d3 and 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 – alas! Anyway, while there are some razor sharp lines in the 5.Re1 variation (many of which completely backfire against White) I've generally seen the dry as dust lines. My results have been excellent, so don't worry too much about weaker players using 5.Re1 to get a cheap draw.

    In some ways, it's akin to the Exchange French. White is admitting failure from a theoretical standpoint, and often from a competitive standpoint as well, implicitly accepting a draw as the height of his ambitions. Thus Black is starting from a good position both theoretically and competitively, and more than that, by heading for an endgame, at least in the Berlin, White is entering Black's territory. Berliners are endgame players “by occupation”, so for Black it's business as usual, while White has forfeited his hopes of avoiding what he perceives to be the Berliner's rut. So be not afraid: once you've gained a little experience you will start obtaining a plus against the anti-theoretical approaches.

    The 4.d3 line is another story – I wouldn't call that anti-theoretical, just anti-endgame. And speaking of this line, you'll see it an awful lot if you take up the Berlin, and it should be noted that there's a gap in Kritz's coverage. After his recommended 4...Bc5 (not the only option, but the one generally considered best by Berlin experts) 5.Bxc6 dxc6, Kritz suggests meeting 6.Be3 with 6...Bxe3 7.fxe3 Bg4. No problem – and that's one reason why 6.h3 is a pretty popular move. Alas, he doesn't cover it.

    Now for a few words about Shirov's disc. He doesn't spend any time to speak of on lines other than the Wall endgame, asserting in the intro that neither 4.d3, 5.Re1, 6.dxe5 nor 6.Bg5 offers White any advantage and leaving it at that. So what you get is a series of long clips, featuring both his games and those of others (he was especially impressed by several of Vugar Gashimov's white games against the Berlin) trying to break down various Black setups. Were this a true “beating the Berlin” presentation, you'd expect one video for White per setup, but that's not what you get at all.

    The first two videos (not counting the brief intro) examine the line 9.Nc3 h6 10.h3 Bd7 11.b3 c5 12.Rd1 Kc8 13.Nd5 a5 14.a4, with the first video exploring 14...Ne7 and the second 14...g5. Case closed, on to the next Black system? Not exactly! The third clip see White playing 12.Bb2, while the fourth presents 12.Nd5. Likewise, while the fifth and sixth videos show White meeting 9...Ke8 with 10.h3, he found Gashimov's 10.Ne2 interesting enough to show in a later clip. As you long as you consider the Shirov disc an education on the Berlin rather than a guide on how to beat it, you won't be disappointed. More importantly, you'll learn a lot, whether you play the white or the black side of the Berlin endgame.

    A criticism of both products: when presenting a line, both Shirov and Kritz sometimes forget to promote a certain variation in the notation page. For those of you unfamiliar with ChessBase software, what I mean is this. Let's suppose you're entering your black repertoire against 1.e4 in a single database entry (we're keeping things simple), and you consider the Ruy Lopez the most important opening you have to face. What you would normally do is make 3.Bb5 the main line, and cover third move alternatives (3.d4, 3.Bc4, etc.) in parentheses. This is a general principle: the most important or best line should be outermost relative to less important or weaker tries. In general, both Shirov and Kritz arrange the games that way, but not always. Of course it's easy to tell what's what when you're watching the video, but if you want to come back to it later it's easy to be confused by the notation. (Worse still, though this only happened once or twice: sometimes a wrong move is accidentally entered, and then the presenter entered the new move without overwriting the mistaken one. Unless the user creates his own version, he might look at it sometime later and think that the unerased error represents another option.) So to my dear friends at ChessBase: please tidy up the players' notation and put the cleaned up version in a separate analysis entry! There you can organize things properly, put in the evaluations they state but don't insert, and in so doing really tidy things up and make the product more user-friendly.

    The need to do this is a nuisance, but it's not a reason to forego either product. If you're curious about the Berlin, at least as an occasional weapon, Kritz's product isn't bad. If you're a stronger player who already has some familiarity with the Berlin on either side, Shirov's work is particularly valuable. Both are recommended. (Ordering info on the Kritz DVD/download is here, Shirov's is here. And a heads-up: I'll be reviewing more products addressing the Berlin very soon.)

    Finally, let me come full circle in my discussion of opening theory. In the intro I presented the task of keeping up with theory as a burden and a nuisance. But there's another way to look at it. Rather than thinking of it as an odious and expensive task, one can view it as a chance to broaden one's horizons. It's fun to learn new things and visit new places – metaphorically in this instance, but the principle applies! Taken as a job or duty, keeping up with theory is a pain in the neck; as a small-scale adventure, it can be most pleasant. It can also help your chess in general, both by helping you to avoid the staleness that results from playing the same few openings over and over again, and by teaching you some new positions and thereby broadening your general understanding. So every now and then, dive in to a new opening, whether it's the Berlin or the Najdorf or something completely different.

    Sunday
    May062012

    Kramnik on the Berlin, vs. Aronian

    You can find a short video here with Vladimir Kramnik discussing the Berlin Defense in the context of his match with Levon Aronian. One especially insightful remark notes that just because someone (e.g. Aronian) plays an opening successfully with one side doesn't necessitate being adept at that same opening (e.g. the Berlin) from the other side of the board. With some openings it's probably not so difficult, but with others, like the Berlin, he's probably spot on. I played a few Berlins with Black and felt pretty comfortable there, but it didn't translate into much when I played White. Conversely (and at a much, much higher level) I recall that for all the time Garry Kasparov put into meeting the Berlin with White, he was beaten badly when trotting it out against Judit Polgar. Considering both her generally less than sterling opening preparation (compared to Kasparov) and Kasparov's colossal plus score against her in their other head-to-head games (an otherwise undefeated 14-2 in his favor), Kramnik's comment is worth thinking about. Maybe we assume we'll know what to do when confronted with our own favorite openings, but this assumption might be misguided.

    Saturday
    Apr282012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 6 and the Match Drawn

    The finale of the Aronian-Kramnik match was an exciting draw that was generally in balance until, where both sides had some chances (especially perhaps Kramnik). Levon Aronian stuck to his great 1.e4 experiment, and Vladimir Kramnik stuck to his trusty Berlin Defense. Rather than banging his head against the Wall endgame a third time, though, Aronian switched to 4.d3. For a while it was a calm maneuvering struggle, but not for long. Kramnik's plan for ...d5 started making things interesting, and then Aronian's 19.a5 sharpened the game further.

    A complicated and roughly balanced endgame ensued shortly thereafter, but after Aronian's 30.c4?! Rd3 31.b4? Rxe3! he was suddenly in trouble. He drew with some work after 32.Rxe3 cxb4 33.Rg3 e3, but had Kramnik chosen instead 33...Ne7! 34.Rxb4 Bc7! White would have been in huge trouble.

    After missing his one chance, Aronian was able to save the position, and so the game finished peacefully, as did the match as a whole. A good show for the spectators, and hopefully the players got most of what they hoped for as well, too.

    The game, with my comments, can be replayed here.

    Wednesday
    Apr252012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 4 A Quick Draw; Aronian Wins the Rapid Game

    Perhaps still smarting from yesterday's defeat, Levon Aronian didn't undertake too much against Vladimir Kramnik's Berlin Defense and the game was drawn fairly quickly and comfortably by Black. That leaves the match tied 2-2, and after the rest day tomorrow they'll finish with games on Friday and Saturday.

    The players decided before the match that in case of a draw lasting fewer than three hours they'd play a rapid game with colors reversed, and so they did. The game was for purely exhibition purposes, having no relevance to the match score or prize fund or anything else, so they could have some fun - and they did. Kramnik played 1.e4 and went on a bit of an attacking spree; unfortunately for him and the spectacle, he failed to follow up with the right move at the critical point. (The move in question is 25.Ne5, which he saw, as they immediately started analyzing it after the game, but rejected for some reason.) Aronian went on to win the entertaining game with a nice finish.

    Here are both games, with my comments.

    Sunday
    Apr222012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 2 Drawn (Updated)

    Vladimir Kramnik recovered somewhat from yesterday's loss with the white pieces, drawing the second game of his match with Levon Aronian in a well-played Berlin Defense. Aronian innovated first and had some slight pressure throughout, but Kramnik rose to the challenge and with accurate play neutralized White's initiative and held the draw.

    You can replay the game with my notes here; meanwhile, we're hoping that they'll play an exhibition rapid game. Match rules state that a game that finishes in a draw in three hours or less will be followed by a rapid game that doesn't count for the match scores; unfortunately, Aronian (deliberately?) dragged the game out to the 3:05 mark. The commentators think they might agree to play such a game anyway, but we'll see.

    UPDATE: There's no game today (Monday) - after every second game they have a rest day. Thus they'll play Tuesday and Wednesday, take Thursday off, and then finish Friday and Saturday.

    Saturday
    Jul232011

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: The Berlin Finale

    The series on the "Quick" Ruy moves on, but our look at the Berlin ending comes to a close in this week's show. Rather than plow through all the theory on the non-...Kc8 lines, I highlight one particular approach that has seen some very high-level tests the past year or two, and that's 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 h5. I survey the different plans available there and show how superstars like Carlsen, Anand, Kramnik and Shirov have handled the position for White and/or Black. This should help make it a bit more accessible, I hope!

    The video is here and is free, as always (free registration is required for first-timers), and available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Friday
    Jul082011

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: The Quick Ruy, Part 8: Part 2 on the Berlin Ending

    Our ironically titled series on the Ruy Lopez has reached the Berlin Ending (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8), and after our overview last week we turn now to details. This time around, we examine systems where Black meets the standard 9.Nc3 with 9...Bd7, aiming to get his king out of the way on the queenside by moving it to c8 and often b7. We also look at the practically (but not at all structurally) related 9.Rd1+, when White forces 9...Ke8 at the cost of misplacing the rook. Objectively speaking, it's not very promising, but it's important for 9...Bd7 Berliners to know it as it takes them out of their favorite setup.

    The show is here and can be watched on-demand for free for the next month or so (free registration required).

    Thursday
    Jun302011

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: The Quick Ruy, Part 7: Intro to the Berlin Ending

    We resume our series on the Ruy Lopez this week with our first look at the Berlin endgame that arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8. In subsequent shows we'll cover some of the key variations in this ending (or queenless middlegame), but in this show, by way of an overview, we introduce the "cast". Every piece and pawn, for both sides, is discussed: what it does, where it's likely to go and why, and - at least as importantly - when it will go there.

    By having an idea of what jobs each piece has, and by having some context about the timing of the various pieces' moves, following the variations in the weeks to come will be much easier than it might otherwise have been.

    The show is here, it's free (free registration is required), and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.