Ruy Lopez – Archangel (Arkhangelsk) Variation ⎸Chess Openings

Ruy Lopez – Archangel (Arkhangelsk) Variation ⎸Chess Openings

Hello everyone! Stjepan here. In today’s video I’m going to go over
one of the most aggressive defenses black could choose to the Ruy Lopez by white. That’s the Archangel or the Arkhangelsk
Defense, in Russian. A defense which was named after a city in
which supposedly, the Russian grandmasters devised the defense and how to play it. It occurs after, of course, e4 e5, knight
to f3, Nc6 bishop to b5, the Ruy Lopez or the Spanish game. Once again, if you lack general knowledge
in the opening, and would like to learn the common theory, you can watch a separate video
on the basics. I will put the link in the description below. But today we are going to focus on the Archangel
Defense. So a6 by black, the ost common response. Chasing the bishop away. Bishop to a4, Nf6 and castles in this position
by white. And now the common way for black to play in
this position would be to play bishop e7, and that would enter the Closed Ruy Lopez,
and after that the position would branch out into many different openings. The Archangel is the most aggressive way to
play and that’s b5 immediately by black. What b5 does, it neglects black’s king safety,
it leaves the king in the center, but in exchange for that, black gets immediate development
and very much initiative. When compared to Closed Ruy Lopez lines , such
as the Chigorin or the Breyer. In this position, of course, white retreats
the bishop, and now black immediately plays bishop to b7. You can notice that the bishop is very active
on the long diagonal already, and if compared to some other Ruy Lopez lines, where instead
of these two moves; b5 and Bb7, black would have played Be7 and castle, than you can immediately
see that black’s position is much more active in the Archangel Defense. So, after bishop to b7, white now most commonly
plays d3, solidifying the center. But that’s not the only response. Equally good is rook to e1, defending the
e4 pawn as well. But, the e4 pawn doesn’t really have to be
defended. D3 is just the easiest way to open up the
position, to open up the bishop, to give two squares to the knight on b1, and to just solidify
e4. If white, let’s say, after bishop to b7 doesn’t
defend e4, and he just plays h3, I’ll give him a nothing move, then it’s not as advisable
for black to take on e4, anyway. If he takes here, with Nxe4, then rook to
e1 by white, the knight would have to retreat, and now both the e5 pawn and the knight are
attacked because the rook is staring at the king too. So knight to c5, attacking the bishop, and
now not taking the pawn with the knight, and just exchanging pieces, but a very aggressive
ove by white – d4 in this position. Of course the pawn is pinned, it can’t take
the d4 pawn, and the knight is attacked, so the knight has to capture the b3 bishop. And now knight takes e5, not taking with the
pawn, and now threatening a discovered check by the rook. The best move for black would be bishop to
e7, covering the discovered check, axb3, knight takes e5 and dxe5. This position is supposed to be slightly favorable
for white, but I must say I prefer black’s bishop pair in this position. I think the bishop pair is extremely strong
and especially if you picture this bishop coming to the a7-g1 diagonal, then black would
have a really strong attack. But, white has compensation because he has
the open a file, he has a bit more active queen and rook in the center, and his king
is safer. The position is equal. So after Bb7, white has four moves; d3, rook
to e1, or some other developing moves, I just have h3 as a nothing move, but he could play
Nc3, a4, etc. After d3, black will most commonly reply with
bishop to e7, starting to develop his pieces, and the most common reply for white would
be knight to c3, developing further on. Instead of Be7, in this position, after d3,
black could go for a much more aggressive try, which I mentioned earlier – bishop to
c5. That’s immediately developing the bishops
on the strong diagonals. This is, I would say, the best way for black
to fight in the Ruy Lopez. This is, in general, when you consider every
variation of the Ruy Lopez, this variation of the Archangel is a great way for black
to fight for a win. In this position white would almost always
continue with Nc3, he has to develop his queenside, black would castle. And now a4 by white would be the most aggressive
way. Now we are following several high level games. I’ll mention them a little bit afterwards. So knight to a5 in this position, of course,
black could also go for b4, but knight to a5 is a bit more precise, axb5, knight takes
b3, cxb3 and axb5. And in this position there are still 70 games,
the highest rated one is the one between Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik from their 2000. World Championship match, that was a draw. There is also a game from 1998, in which Garry
Kasparov drew Alexey Shirov, there is a draw between Anand and Shirov from 1998 as well,
between Topalov and Shirov, so you can see that the top players in the world preferred
this variation sometime in the late 90-es. It’s still very popular, but it was replaced
by the Berlin Defense, after Kramnik invented it in the World Championship match against
Kasparov. So the Berlin actually took over from a lot
of minor variations such as the Archangel, which is a shame because the Archangel is
a much more fighting defense, and you can see that the position is much more active
than in the Berlin endgame in which the queens get exchanged off. But, let’s get back to the theory. After d3, bishop to e7, or bishop to c5. And bishop to c5 is much more aggressive,
but Be7 is the common move to play. White now plays Nc3, developing, black castles,
and Bd2. This is the position, after black castles,
this is the starting position of the Archangel Variation, which you will most commonly get
in all of your games. The important thing to see is that black was,
actually, developing his pieces instead of castling, and getting his king safe, just
to gain some more initiative. And his position is active. He actually can push b4 in this position,
he can push further on after b4, with a5, a4, so black has a great position and great
attacking prospects. You can check out the video n the Breyer variation
of the Closed Ruy Lopez, I’ll also leave the link in the description. You will see the difference between the attacking
chances for black, because the Breyer is much more passive, and it’s a maneuvering positional
approach, while the Archangel Variation is very aggressive way to fight against the Spanish
for white. After black castling, white has four or five
different plans in this position. I will show you the sidelines first. the first sideline is h3, which is preventing
the knight from coming to g4, and reducing the scope of black’s pieces, but, most importantly,
it’s preparing to play, in some positions, bishop to e3, knight to h2. And then to push with f4 and to open up the
kingside. Because, if you can see, white is, actually,
able to close down the queenside with playing a3 and Ba2, and just not giving black almost
any counter play. And if he can manage to push with f4, he would
be better. That’s the point of h3. After castles, another move is rook to e1,
which is a fairly simple move, preparing to push d4, and the e4 pawn would be sufficiently
defended, because the bishop is now indirectly attacking e4 as well. So it has to be protected. That’s rook to e1. And after castles, one of the most aggressive
moves is Nd5, which is aiming immediately to exchange the knights and in some positions
even after knight takes to retake with the pawn, because the c6 knight would have to
move, and after a move such as c4, and after black takes, white takes, he would have a
strong outpost for all of his pieces, and a passed pawn in the center almost, if black
makes a mistake. This is an aggressive continuation, not the
most precise. The most common move is bishop to d2, after
black castling, because that’s a simple developing move. By the way, if you develop the bishop to e3
then knight to g4 could cause some problems, so h3 is advisable if you want to play Be3. But the bishop is much more active on d2 anyway
because, if you imagine this knight moving, then the knight coming to a5 to attack the
bishop would open up the diagonal from d2 to a5 and attack the knight. So, bishop to d2 has its advantages despite
being seemingly less active. After castles, Bd2 would be the most common
reply, the safest reply, trying to develop your pieces, but the most active one, if white
wants to go for a win would be a4 in this position. Immediately crashing through on the queenside,
and using the fact that black played b5. And b5 is a weakening move in the Ruy Lopez,
and the point is that white is able to open up teh a file at his own leisure with a4 and
there isn’t much black can do. The only reply black has, which keeps the
position equal, is to just push b4. And that’s the best move. Because the knight is still on c3. And if you remember positions from the Closed
Ruy Lopez, from the Breyer, Chigorin etc., then the knight would usually be maneuvered
from b1 to d2 and then to f1 and then to g3. So it wouldn’t be on c3. And in this position black can use the fact
that he can gain a tempo on the knight, which is still stuck on c3. So he plays b4. After b4, of course, the knight has to move. Retreating would be absurd, ok, going to e2
and to g3 would give white some attacking prospects, because the knight could aim at
the f5 square. Especially because the bishop is now not on
c8, so it’s not controlling f5. But a much more active plan is to just transfer
the knight to the central square d5. So knight to d5. And in this position black wouldn’t be bothered
capturing, he would just play Na5, attacking the most important piece in white’s position,
the bishop on b3. And now knight takes e7, getting rid of black’s
bishop pair, queen takes e7, he was in check so he had to capture that. Bishop to a2, saving the bishop, and now d5. This would be the most aggressive continuation
for black. You can see that actually both sides have
prospects. I would say that the most important piece
in white’s position is the bishop on a2 now, which is striking through to the f7 square,
the weak f7 square around the king. And after that, white could even increase
the pressure with Ng5, which is also attacking f7 etc., so white has attacking chances. He also has a very active queen and bishop
which are looking at these diagonals, so white has a great position. Black, on the other hand, has a very strong
knight on a5, even though it’s on the rim it’s doing a lot more than it seems. And black is actually threatening to push
c5 and break through completely and gain a massive advantage in the center. Another thing is that black never really wants
to push with d4 in this position, because then the bishop on b7 would e completely blocked
and just dead. So black has a plan of advancing his c pawn,
breaking through on the queenside, centralizing his rooks and pushing through white’s position. After castles, this is the position you really
have to study. And this is where most of the games branch
out from. This is, basically, the starting theoretical
position of the Archangel. So just decide if you are white what are you
trying to do, and if you are black decide the plan of attack and decide how are you
going to push through in the center or on the queenside. Ok, everyone! I hope you got something from this video about
the Archangel Variation, and I hope you learned something about the Ruy Lopez. Thanks very much for watching and see you
soon with more chess analysis and chess games. Thanks very much.

8 thoughts on “Ruy Lopez – Archangel (Arkhangelsk) Variation ⎸Chess Openings

  1. 6:30 The comment here is a bit of a shock to me, given the history of the variation. Older books used to spend the most coverage on 7.Re1 and 7.c3 (arguably the most direct attempt to refute the variation). The variations with 7.d3 parallel the Anti-Marshall. Some variations even directly transpose: 7.d3 Be7 8.a4 0-0 9.Re1 is a common transposition to the 8.a4 Anti-Marshall. A few older sources even omit 7.d3 Be7, claiming it is a transposition to another opening! Mikhalchisin's ChessBase DVDs are the most recent sources for Black that I recall other than encyclopedias references and survey articles. 7.c3 and 7.Re1 leads to some wild tactics, but seems like Black has held his own in the complications leading White to choose the more positional options with 7.d3. Seeing this video feels like watching a video on the Marshall, but only seeing Anti-Marshalls even if it reflects current practice. Without historical context, one could face many unpleasant surprises! (I know it's a long time ago, but even Khalifman recommended the sharp 7.c3 at the dawn of the 21st century. :P)

  2. Great video. You are the best site on youtube I've found for going deep into opening theory.
    Request — could you please do one on the Modern Archangel?

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