Andrew Martin: The Open Ruy Lopez

4/26/2012 – The Ruy Lopez is one of the most popular openings in chess, named after the 16th century Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura, who made a systematic study of this (and other) openings in the 150-page book on chess Libro del Ajedrez written in 1561. 450 years later renown chess trainer Andrew Martin provides us with full intructions on how to play the open variation. Chess Cafe review.

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Andrew Martin: The Open Ruy Lopez

Review by Steven B. Dowd

The Open Ruy Lopez (DVD) by Andrew Martin, ChessBase, Playing time: 3 hours 40 minutes. $34.95 (ChessCafe Price: $28.95)

This is another well-produced trainer, but to be fully armed in the Ruy Lopez, Martin's two other DVDs will round out your repertoire: ABC of the Ruy Lopez and the Spanish Exchange Variation.

Martin describes the Open Ruy as an active defense. The package insert notes, "White will argue that Black loosens his position in the Open Variation, but if Black takes the time and trouble to learn the ideas and tactical themes that underpin this line, he has every chance to win the game."

In that sense, it resembles the Tarrasch Defense. The same rules apply. It can be loosening, but if you know the ideas and tactical themes, you will succeed more often than you fail. In my own games, I hate reaching passive positions, which I mention only because I believe others share this apprehension. For lower-rated players, this is a particular problem, as once you are doomed to passivity, you probably don't have the positional skills to hold on. That is why I found the Open Ruy to be such a great starter opening.

In evaluating opening trainers, I pay particular attention to how well side-lines are covered. In weekend tournaments, I noted that successful players often eschewed main lines in favor of side-lines they knew well. Opening books often don't cover such lines in any depth, and in some cases, not at all. Martin usually does well in this department, and spends five games of the twenty-nine on these. He also notes that many of them are "tricky," which is precisely why you need to know them.

He does well usually, but misses on a few occasions. For example, in the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Qe2 is a move designed to not commit the rook to e1 but allow it to come to d1, 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.d4 Ne6 9.dxe5 opens the d-file. Here Martin correctly avoids the most commonly played move in this position, 9...Bc5, in favor of 9...Nd4! 10.Nxd4 Qxd4.

Now 11.Rd1 is played, and Black will have two good moves to choose from: 11...Bg4, or 11...Qg4. But Martin fails to consider Euwe's recommendation here, the prophylactic 11.h3!, which should lead to a decent game with chances for both sides. After 11.h3, the best retort is 11...Be6, allowing the black queen to go to c4 in case of Rd1. Certainly Black still has slightly better chances with the bishop-pair, but his four to three majority on the queenside is also a bit crippled.

Another tricky position comes after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.c4!? (Martin calls this move "insane-looking").

8...bxc4?! leads to 9.Ba4, and thus Martin recommends the simple approach with 8...dxc4, giving 9.Bc2 Nf6 10.dxe5 Qxd1 11.Rxd1 Nd7 and Black is a pawn up with a good game. I am not certain of this, as it looks like the pawn break 12.a4! (12.Nc3 might be good as well) will equalize. But instead of 9.Bc2 White will play 9.Qe2, retaining some attacking chances, as in the game Trindade-Grivas, Belfort 1983. Euwe, again, recommended the counter stroke 8...Bg4! Here I am also convinced this active move is more in the vein of the Open Defense, and unlike his various "distillations" in the Queen's Gambit trainer, where you can pretty much rely on him to pick the best continuation, Martin falters a bit with his coverage of these tricky lines. However, one can't expect a four hour DVD to cover everything – that is what your database is good for!

Martin's coverage of the main lines is impeccable, and I leave you with this game in which the mighty Seirawan gets beaten by an unknown. This is an example where Black's piece activity is impressive, and is the kind of game that makes you take up an opening like this. Two pieces versus a rook is not always an advantage!

[Event "Lugano op"] [Site "Lugano"] [Date "1989.03.03"] [Round "1"] [White "Seirawan, Yasser"] [Black "Zak, Uriel"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C82"] [WhiteElo "2610"] [BlackElo "2335"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "1989.03.03"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "SUI"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1994.03.01"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 {A good noncommittal move for White, waiting to see what he wants to do with his queenside pieces, and supporting the d4-square.} Bc5 {Martin recommends this over other possibilities as it is more active. The drawback is that the bishop is exposed, and might be exchanged.} 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. Bc2 Bf5 { Another recommendation by Martin (Larsen once beat Fischer with it).} ({Usual is} 11... f5) 12. Nb3 Bxf2+ ({Murey's move} 12... Bg6 {is more usual. We end up in a position similar to the Dilworth.}) 13. Rxf2 Nxf2 14. Kxf2 Bxc2 15. Qxc2 f6 16. exf6 Qxf6 17. Kg1 Ne5 18. Qd1 (18. Nbd4 {has been recommended by Korchnoi.}) (18. Qf2 {is another option, but in all cases White is under pressure.}) 18... Rae8 19. Qxd5+ Kh8 20. Bd2 Nxf3+ 21. gxf3 (21. Qxf3 $4 Qb6+) 21... Re2 {Black's rook is "supremely active on the seventh rank," according to Martin.} 22. Be1 Rxb2 23. Nd4 Qf4 24. Bg3 Qd2 25. f4 c5 26. f5 cxd4 27. cxd4 Qd3 28. f6 gxf6 29. Rf1 Rg8 30. Rxf6 Rxg3+ 31. hxg3 Qe3+ 0-1

My assessment of this product: Great (five out of six stars)


Sample lecture: Andrew Martin – The Open Ruy Lopez


Andrew David Martin (born 18th May 1957 in West Ham, London) is an English chess player with the title of International Master. He has won various national and international tournaments and has been playing for years in the Four Nations Chess League, at present (July 2009) for Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher, previously for the Camberley Chess Club. Martin received his IM title in1984. He earned his first grandmaster norm in the British Championship of 1997 in Brighton. Martin was a commentator on the chess world championship between Kasparov and Kramnik in 2000.

On the 21st February 2004 Martin set a new world record for simultaneous chess. He faced 321 chess players at the same time. His result was: 294 wins, 26 draws and only one loss. Martin is known as a professional chess teacher and head trainer of the English youth team. He trains eight schools (Yateley Manor, Aldro, Millfield, Sunningdale, Waverley School, St Michael’s Sandhurst, Wellington College, Salesian College). Martin is a chess columnist, an author of chess books and the author of various instructional videos. He was the publisher of the series Trends Publications. Martin lives in Sandhurst, England, is married and the father of two daughters and two sons. His present Elo rating is 2423 (as of July 2009).


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