Pavel Eljanov: The Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation

by Srinath Narayanan
11/17/2015 – How nice if one of the best players in the world explains an opening to you. Even nicer if it is a strategically rich opening that leads to interesting rich positions, and if it is an opening which you can play for a lifetime. Pavel Eljanov's DVD about the Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation offers all of this. Indian IM Narayanan Srinath felt inspired.

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Pavel Eljanov: The Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation - Review

“Never in the history of chess have so many moves been repeated so often so quickly by so many people who didn't really understand them.” - Michael Stean

I’ve always felt that mastering complex strategic openings is a bit like having Luca Brasi in your team. Or for a simpler analogy, ‘fire’. A deadly weapon in the hands of the right man though not everyone is proficient at handling such a weapon. True, to master such weapons requires a considerable investment of time and practice, but after the pain the gain becomes a lifelong companion, usable at will.

Talking about complex strategic openings, I believe the Ruy Lopez Breyer is among the top of the list here. The Breyer is a deep strategic variation. It is remarkable that in the Breyer strategic understanding is more important than memorizing forced lines – which is true for players of all levels. Such a feature is attractive, as the opening, once mastered, doesn’t have to be updated regularly, unlike, for instance, a number of variations in the Sicilian.

Among the World Champions, who were followers of this variation, are illustrious names such as Boris Spassky and Magnus Carlsen. In India, my country, grandmasters like Sasikiran and Abhijit Kunte have used this variation for years with continued success.

GM Kunte has been my coach, mentor and a regular practitioner of the Breyer variation. I’ve personally witnessed how the younger Indian GMs – despite having highly sophisticated computers and methods of preparation – decided that the best approach against Kunte’s 1…e5 would be to avoid the mainlines of the Breyer and to try lesser known variations instead. Such is the advantage of mastering a strategically deep variation over something sharper, although it’s ideal to have mastery over more than one opening variation.

The starting position of the Breyer variation

This September, when browsing the Chessbase website for the latest news, I chanced upon Pavel Eljanov’s DVD on the Ruy Lopez Breyer. It immediately caught my attention. A few weeks later, I became even more interested after I saw GM Eljanov terrorizing the field at the Baku World Cup. His sublime performance in the World Cup earned him the nickname ‘Elojanov’. I was aware that GM Eljanov was one of the seconds of World Champion Magnus Carlsen (an active exponent of the Breyer) during his match against Vishy. Curiosity was immediately aroused in me to watch the DVD and it became the first item on my to-do list. I intended to study it as soon as my series of tournaments was over.

GM Pavel Eljanov, rated 2753, No. 13 in the world

The Breyer DVD by Eljanov stands out for its sheer chess quality. The DVD has 13 video segments. I have never come across a DVD/book on the Ruy Lopez by a 2750 rated player who’s among the top 15 in the World Rankings. The lines given in the DVD are original analysis by GM Eljanov, who also makes liberal use of the Correspondence Database for instructive games. All the above mentioned factors vouch for quality of analysis and preparation.

In the initial chapters Eljanov focuses on the sidelines of the Breyer. In the first chapter Eljanov looks at the classical position of the Ruy Lopez after 9.h3, and talks very briefly about the Chigorin and Zaitsev variations. He then explains his preference for the Breyer variation, which he admits is subjective. The first two chapters cover the side alternatives for White on moves 10 and 11.

The third Chapter deals with a rather significant alternative: 11.c4. My method to watch these DVDs was to pause at the starting position and use the CB functions ‘reference’ and ‘Livebook’. For example, for the third chapter in the video, I stopped at 11.c4, and then searched the games played with that position using the ‘reference’ function. I began with the older games, which are usually simpler and then started to gradually move towards the recent ones. This helped me gain a very useful perspective on the various lines in the position and understand better why Eljanov suggests the moves he suggests. Of course such an approach is plausible only for those who have the necessary time and curiosity. For others, just watching the videos, the analysis database and the model games would suffice.

Another method I used was to cross-check with the ‘Livebook’ function. To provide a concrete example, in the second chapter, I paused at move 10 and checked my livebook. Almost everyone automatically plays 10…Nbd7 here, but Eljanov suggests 10…c5 here with some original analysis. If you play a line in which only a few games were played the chance to catch your opponent unaware increases. However, it’s not just a temporary effect, as the lines following up the less played moves are sound as well.

The Livebook

Gradually, the DVD moves up to the main lines. Just like in the first few chapters here Eljanov also often proposes moves that are played less often. However, they are sound, well analyzed and aim for positions that are equal but still have a lot of fight left in them. Eljanov also offers more than one option in the mainlines. Depending on time and curiosity the reader can either study both or just one.

An example of the lively positions arising from the Breyer

The ‘analysis’ database accompanying the DVD is a collection of analysis from the 13 video segments. The analysis is a little more elaborate than the lines shown in the DVD itself. The ‘Model Games’ database is a collection of fifty Breyer-games. These games span a period of 1955 to 2014 and paint a detailed picture of the Breyer-variation seen from both sides. There are also six quiz questions to test yourself after watching the DVD.

Although the DVD extensively covers the positions of the mainline Breyer, readers/viewers should be aware what to do if White deviates before move nine. Without this necessary knowledge, it’ll be dangerous to enter the mainlines, as the probability of reaching the Breyer mainline after 1.e4 e5 is…. not certain. However, that does not discourage me… as it’s just an excuse to familiarize myself with more variations after 1.e4 e5! It also seems a small price to pay considering the solidity of the Breyer-variation. The Breyer is, of course, not the only solid option available, but as far as I know, it’s the only line against 1.e4 which is explained by a grandmaster who is part of the World’s Top 15.

Sample video

Pavel Eljanov:
The Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation

€29.90
€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$26.99 (without VAT)

• Video running time: 5 hours 13 min (English)
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Training database with 50 essential games and analyses
• Including CB 12 Reader

This DVD can be be sent by mail or downloaded directly from the Internet

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Srinath Narayanan is a 23-year-old Indian Grandmaster. A former World Under 12 champion, at the age of fourteen he became an IM and had shown surprising and unswerving loyalty to the title ever since, until March 2017, when he crossed the 2500 mark and completed the requirements to become a grandmaster. He loves chess and likes to play in tournaments all around the globe. He is a critical thinker and enjoys to think deeply not only about chess but life itself. In 2017, he co-founded ChessMine with the mission to make chess a financially powerful sport.
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banttackker banttackker 11/18/2015 09:48
The analogy with Luca Brasi was nice.
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