Your Spanish is Fab! (Part 2)

by Tanmay Srinath
2/20/2020 – Many people aim for perfection in their chosen field. However, only a select few ever reach the pinnacle of achievement. As far as chess is concerned, Fabiano Caruana is one of the rare few who has, giving the chess world new ideas and beautiful games for years. TANMAY SRINATH reviews the second volume of Caruana’s FritzTrainer trilogy, and comes out amazed, yet again! | Photo: David Llada

Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.2 Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.2

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.


Reviewing Vol. 2

It is wonderful to see Fabiano deciding to bring his vast knowledge to the grassroots level with over 16 hours of dedicated coverage of one of the most ancient and classical openings in chess — the Ruy Lopez.

In the first part of this three-part review, I covered in-depth the lines given and also the additional features offered in the new FritzTrainer version. This time, I shall not waste the reader's time and head straight in to the volume's contents.

The second volume covers three key defences and one relatively rare sideline. It starts with the Open Defense of the Ruy Lopez, one of the sharpest and most concrete lines after 3.♗b5.


Caruana mentions that the only way to avoid this is to play 5.d3, but that is already a concession, as White avoids many critical lines, and in general gives up the fight for the opening advantage in favour of a complex game where he hopes to outplay his opponent. Such an approach is unnecessary, especially if the only thing we tend to avoid is the Open Spanish. One advantage that Black has in this setup, compared to others, is that he forces White into basically only one path, and thus there is no need to prepare from move five for White's various tries. The catch is that this opening system is not so positionally sound — more often than not Black severely weakens his dark squares, and Fabiano's repertoire suggestion aims to exploit that; he suggests a trendy variation with ♕e2 and ♖d1.


One thing I like about his suggestions is that they don't require a lot of memorization, and play is, in general, positional in nature. This is a very important factor, as it means that the engines can't "solve" the positions to a draw. It might show an '=' evaluation, but this is rather misleading, as more often than not White has significant pressure, and Black has to make 30-35 precise moves to hold, which is not possible most of the time. Here is one position where Caruana shows his class:


Believe it or not, capturing away from the centre with cxb3! gives Black a lot more headaches than the positional axb3. Such moments make this series a treat to watch, as important positional decisions are explained in a very understandable manner, which is very useful for improving players. More than the lines (which a computer can give) it is explanations about why a certain move is correct that is most beneficial for all of us.

Let me show you one position just to make my point clear:


This is a position from Giri vs Mamedyarov, a blitz game, and one of the cornerstones of Fabiano's recommendations. He says that Black can make a draw in correspondence chess maybe (or if he is a superhuman!) but in practical play it is impossible for him to avoid going wrong here! This is another pearl of wisdom, showing us which kinds of positions we should aim for — ones where we can improve while our opponent can't!

I guess the readers are starting to salivate by now! Here it comes then — the bane of chess and the most boring opening of all: the Berlin!


Of course, going into the endgame might be an option, but there is a lot of theory there, so Fabiano recommends this rather subtle move 5.♖e1.

I have to admit that this is the part of the video series that I was most eager to watch. Again, Caruana didn't disappoint! He shows some fascinating stuff, most of it good versions of the Petroff main line of 5.d4 (both these openings have only one open file and symmetrical pawn structures). There is one important thing that I learnt from this — if you have one bad piece your whole position is bad!


I was happy to know that Fabiano decided to recommend 9.d4 as the critical try for White, a conclusion which I'd reached on my own too. Here he comes up with a safe and solid improvement for White. Can you find it?

In general, I was very happy with his recommendations here. Some of them are of a very high level, and sometimes I had to rewind and watch just to make sure I didn't miss anything. Sometimes the positions appear deceptively simple, but Black is suffering, and there is a reason why the Berlin is no longer played as regularly as it was a few years ago.

Fabiano Caruana and Oliver Reeh are the hosts of the FritzTrainer

Now, onto the Modern Archangelsk, another sharp and tactical system:


Recently, in an effort to build a more solid opening repertoire, I turned to this system on the advice of my coach, and I have to say that this is the most challenging system I face as White — Black often is positionally deficient, but it is so irritating to find a move that doesn't give him play! Having struggled against this system as white, I was wondering what Fabiano recommended against it. It turns out that it is the very same system my coach played with white!


The positional system with 9.♗e3 is, in Caruana's opinion, the best way to neutralize the b6 bishop, the bane for White in the Archangel!

Here is where for the nth time I saw an improvement coming very late into the game:


Find the best way for White to continue

Don't get me wrong — the Archangelsk wasn't refuted. However, in these lines, it is infinitely easier for White to play, and that makes a lot of difference in practical play.

The last video deals with a system that I haven't faced in praxis util now — the Averbakh variation with 6...d6. Against it, Caruana recommends a quick ♗xc6 and d4 — making the Black dark-squared bishop suffer a lot!


With two bishops and a half open b-file, I was initially inclined to take Black here. A masterclass with Caruana taught me otherwise! Here, the structure plays a much larger role, as Black is never comfortably open to release his two mischief mongers called light and dark! White is comfortably better in a lot of lines, and it shows why this line isn't played much these days.

For those still on the fens, I can anticipate some questions that sound somewhat like this: If I only want an antidote against the Marshall, why should I buy the whole set? The answer lies not in the lines that an individual volume offers, but in the person who is teaching them! It is invaluable to get 16+ hours of insights from the brain of one of the most adroit theoreticions of our time, learning how he constantly solves problems that IM Oliver Reeh gently poses for him. This is the part that no coach in the world can replicate. I can heartily say that this FritzTrainer is a must-watch!

Contents of Vol.2

New and improved layout of the ChessBase DVD

You can see the menu on the left with the topics covered in the FritzTrainer. The Introduction video gives you an idea of what the series is all about.

Open Defence


Black's best moves in this position are ♞c5 and ♝e7 and Caruana covers both of them in depth

Berlin Defence


An antidote against the Berlin

Modern Archangelsk


The Be3 system against the Modern Archangelsk

Averbakh Variation


The Averbakh system may seem passive, but it is a valid way for Black to play

Repertoire Training

An effective way to remember all the lines discussed on the DVD

Practice Positions

Practice positions is another feature that helps you become an expert


Bonus material which includes games of Caruana and also complete analysis

Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.2

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.

Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.

The final review will cover the contents of Navigating the Ruy Lopez, Part 3, and provide a conclusive answer on the effectiveness of the repertoire.


Tanmay Srinath has been writing for ChessBase India since quite some time now. His tournament reports and depth of analysis have been widely appreciated. Pursuing a full-fledged career in engineering Tanmay doesn't get enough time to pursue chess, but he loves to follow top-level encounters and analyzes those games with his Fat Fritz engine. We hope you find his analysis useful in your games.


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