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Hi everybody,
This month I decided to investigate the Chigorin Variation of the Closed Spanish with 12 d5 (after 9 h3 Na5 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4 Qc7). This line was played by the young Kasparov and has become popular amongst the best players in the world recently. It has the advantage of avoiding all the sharp theoretical lines starting with 12 Nbd2. Studying such closed positions and the classical plans involved with them can be an excellent method of training. Olivier

Download PGN of August '06 1 e4 e5 games

Chigorin Variation [C97]

In general we reach positions where White tries to attack on the kingside. He has two main plans: he can play Nh2 and f4 but then Black can sometimes utilize the e5-square. He can also take space on the kingside with g4 folowed by Ng3 but he must be aware that in some cases Black can counter attack with ...h5 if this isn't well prepared.

Black has a space advantage on the queenside but has a problem with his knight on a5. He can play 12...Nc4 to bring it back to b6 or play the more flexible 12...Bd7 and in most cases the knight will then be rerouted via b7 to d8 and f7, or to c5 after an eventual ...c4. He also has to know the classical counter plan on the kingside to fight against White's offensive.

This is a typical position for fans of chess strategy in closed positions.

Part 1: Black plays 12...Nc4

In the next two games Black was crushed and so I can't recommend this line for Black:

In Topalov - Shirov, Linares 2004, Black had no chance at all. Black's knights never had the chance to find good squares. A model game that you absolutely must know!

Adams - Ivanchuk, Tripoli 2004, is a twin game with the precedent one. It is amazing to see how simple and effective White's plan is, this is the position after he plays the thematic 23 f4!:

Part 2: Black plays 12...Bd7.

This is more flexible and probably the best choice:

White then has two options, he can start with 13 b3 to be ready to answer b4 if Black plays ...c4, or he can continue with 13 Nbd2 and let Black play ...c4 and ...Nb7-c5. We will also investigate some cases where Black counter attacks with ...h5 in case of an early g4 from White.

2A) White plays 13 b3

Ponomariov - Sasikirian, Calvia 2004, is a very instructive game where Black plays with excellent timing. He defended well on the kingside and found real chances on the queenside, with 18...a5!:

This game is the reference for me and you should study it well.

Black didn't play so precisely in Karjakin - Delchev, Olympiad 2006, and tried another formation, but managed to gain counterplay anyway. Probably White should play 18 Ng3 instead of 18 N3h2 in the diagram below:

Sutovsky - Stefanova, Hoogeveen 2005, was a tough fight. On the 15th move Black reacted well with 15...h5, forcing White to close this wing. But then she made an irreparable strategic mistake when she opened up the kingside again, instead of concentrating her forces on the queenside. Then on the 25th move (in the diagram position) White sacrificed a rook:

and could have won in a study like way if he had played more directly later with 27 Ng5!.

Ivanchuk - Radulski, Antalya 2004, is an example of what White should not do:

White's last move (17 g4?) was an error, and here Black played the very good 17...h5! opening the h-file, and mated White in 30 moves!

2B) White does not play b3

Karjakin - Aleksandrov, St Vincent 2005, was a typical fight for this line and if Black had played 19...Rfb8 here he would have had a very harmonious position:

In fact, he played with fire but gained enough counterplay to equalize the game anyway.

Kozlov - Tseshkovsky, URSS ch 1985, is a model game for Black. White played too slowly and soon found himself in big trouble on the queenside:

Every part is well played by Black. This is a very instructive game that you should study.

In Megaranto - Avrukh, Amsterdam 2005, Black reacted quickly to g4 with ...h5 but the 19...h4! of the diagram position, with the idea of playing on the dark squares with ...Nh7 and ...Bg5, should be remembered:

Later White sacrificed a piece but it wasn't enough and Black defended well.

I hope you will gain a lot from all these games and that they will help you to appreciate the subtleties of the Closed Ruy Lopez.

See you next month! Olivier Renet

Please post your Kingpawn Opening queries on the 1 e4 e5 Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions.