Ruy Lopez – Berlin Defense ⎸Chess Openings

Ruy Lopez – Berlin Defense ⎸Chess Openings


Hello everyone! In this video I’m going to go over the Berlin
Defense in the Ruy Lopez or the Spanish game, which is one of the best defenses black has
to Bb5 on move three against the Ruy Lopez, and one of the most solid lines black could
go for if he wants to draw or have a safe, solid position. It might be considered a bit too solid, in
fact, and a bit drawing, but the position is great for black, and black has a lot of
winning chances too. The Berlin Defense occurs after the Ruy Lopez,
of course, e4, e5 by black, knight to f3, Nc6, and bishop to b5. And if you are unfamiliar with the general
theory of the opening, I would recommend watching the video I made on the basics. I will put the link in the description below. And here we are going to focus only on the
Berlin Defense. The Berlin occurs after black plays knight
to f6. This is now the Berlin Defense. Black doesn’t go for a6, which is the most
common move for black on move 3, he plays Nf6 instead. I’m going to cover two main lines of the Berlin
Defense. One will be the so called “Berlin endgame”,
or the “Berlin wall”, after white castles on move 4, and the other one will be the best
alternative to the endgame white could go for with d3 on move 4. Both positions are solid enough for both sides. Both sides have chances in both variations,
but the Berlin endgame is considered to be the best way for black to play this position. The Berlin endgame starts after white castles
on move 4. The point of black’s move Nf6 was to immediately
strike at the e4 pawn. That’s the idea of Nf6. With this move black is saying – “I’m going
to capture the pawn”, and he doesn’t play a6 and b5, he doesn’t chase the bishop away,
he simply attacks the pawn. White reasons that if black does take the
pawn, then he spent two tempi to take it, because he placed the knight from g8 to f6,
and then he took the pawn with the knight from f6 to e4, so spending two tempi. Black is already half a tempo down because
he second to move at the start of the game. So white has a lot of initiative for the pawn
if black chooses to take it, and white is able to regain the pawn anyway. After castles, black now, of course, takes
the pawn, knight takes e4, and the Berlin endgame occurs after d4 by white, opening
up the center and exploiting the fact that black’s king is still stuck on e8, the black
king is undefended, and the best way to exploit your advantage in development is to open up
the position. White does exactly that. D4, the knight has to retreat to d6, otherwise
white is threatening rook e1, knight to d6, it’s attacking the bishop on b5, so the bishop
captures on c6, white relinquishes his bishop pair, bishop takes c6, dxc6 and now white
recaptures the pawn with tempo, dxe5, the knight has to move, and now, after the knight
goes to f5, queen takes d8 and king takes d8. This is the position which is so heavily analyzed
and it’s one of the most theoretical positions in chess; the so called “Berlin endgame”,
or the “Berlin wall”. This position was introduced to high level
chess by Vladimir Kramnik, in his 2000. World Championship match against Garry Kasparov,
in which he employed the Berlin as a drawing weapon with the black pieces, and he managed
to confuse Kasparov and get him out of his game, psychologically and positionally. Because Kasparov is an attacking player, and
exchanging the queens on move 8 definitely favored Kramnik much more. Kasparov had no good answer to the Berlin
Defense, which is the main reason he ended up losing the championship and the reason
why he forfeited his title to Vladimir Kramnik in 2000., which made Kramnik the world champion. The point of this defense is that black is
exchanging the queens in the position, he is calming the position down, he is removing
most of white’s counter play. He is also relinquishing white of his opening
advantage because it’s hard to exploit your one tempo up when there are no attacking pieces
on the board. And, generally, the less pieces there are
on the board, you have more time to maneuver. Now, with the upsides and the downsides for
both players. First of all, white has conceded something. He has castled, he has a lead in development,
that’s clear. but he has one clear weakness in the position,
which makes some other factors of his pieces weaker as well. That’s the pawn on e5. The pawn on e5 is over-advanced and white
would do anything to be able to play e5 e4, backwards, or even to e3, that would be more
favorable than having the pawn on e5. Because the pawn on e5 is an easy target. It’s easily attacked, easily rounded up, and
white will have to defend it. Secondly, the pawn on e5 is reducing the scope
of the bishop on c1. The bishop would want to develop to f4, it
will in most lines too, and if the pawn wasn’t on e5, the bishop would have much more scope. That’s the second thing. Another thing is that the pawn on e5 makes
a lot of white’s light squares in the center much weaker. So, of course, in this position, black is
able to control e6, d5, as well as e4, because the pawn is on e5, and, if you noticed, white
doesn’t have the d pawn anymore, so there is no way to challenge the center further. So e5 is the main weakness for white in the
position. What he gets in exchange is that black has
forfeited castling rights, of course. The king took the queen so it’s unable to
castle anymore. And, another main downside for black, of entering
the Berlin endgame is the pawn structure. Black has doubled his c pawns, which makes
his pawn majority on the queenside, his four to three (white has only three pawns) pretty
insignificant, and it will be very hard for black to create a passed pawn later on in
the endgame. The second thing that is significant for black’s
position is the fact that he has the bishop pair. White, if you remember when he took the knight
on c6, he took it with his light squared bishop, and after black recaptured, this meant that
white relinquished his bishop pair. And usually the bishop pair is much stronger
than a combination of minor pieces, such as knight and bishop or two knights, especially
when the center of the board is open. And if you noticed, the d file is completely
free of pawns, the e file is semi open, it only has one pawn on it, so the bishops are
much more powerful than the knights in this position, and that’s one of black’s main assets. This is what they get from the position. White will, of course, because of black’s
doubled c pawns, have a very real pawn majority on the kingside, and white has a four to three
majority as well, but his pawn majority is real. If you imagined all the pieces being off the
board, then white’s pawns advancing will eventually produce a passed pawn. Inevitably. Because he has a four to three majority. If you took all the pieces of the board, as
well as the kings (which wouldn’t be a real chess position anymore, but just for argument’s
sake), then white would simply push all of his pawns, make a passed pawn and win the
game. So, what black wants to do in the Berlin endgame
is activate his pieces as soon as possible, and get the initiative with his bishop pair. As long as there are pieces on the board black
is equal or holds a slight attacking advantage, and when the pieces get exchanged, white will
generally be better. This is the main plan for both sides. Black wants to attack, and white wants to
trade off the pieces and use his pawn majority on the kingside. That’s the main plan, and all of white’s moves
will revolve around pushing those pawns to queening. At this point, after the king captures the
queen on d8, white has three moves in this position. There are more moves, but three good moves,
three responses on move 9. The oldest move in this position, which was
played before Kramnik used the Berlin Defense was rook to d1 check. Gaining a tempo on the king immediately and
developing, getting a free move virtually. He gets a free move by checking the king. After Rd1 check, the king would go to e8,
knight to c3, developing the knight and knight to e7, black is transferring his pretty useless
knight from f5 to g6 in order to be able to attack the e5 pawn immediately. H3, white is preparing his kingside pawn avalanche. Knight to g6, attacking e5, b3, preparing
to fianchetto the queenside bishop. Be7, bishop to b2. This would be sort of the starting position
of this variation, after rook to d1. The biggest problem for white in this variation,
even though he gained a tempo on the king, is the fact that the d file is now taken over
by the f rook. The rook came from f1 to d1. And ok, he gained a tempo, but the major downside
of taking with the f rook is the a rook, and the a rook now has no good squares to develop
to. The a rook would like to be on d1, and the
f rook would like to be on e1, so he would have both rooks developed on open files. This way, after playing rook to d1 check,
white will have to spend another two tempi to develop the rooks normally, so in fact,
it’s not that he won a tempo by checking with the rook on d1, he actually lost one tempo. This variation isn’t that common anymore,
ok, it’s played, but the otehr two variations are much more commonly employed against the
Berlin. The second line, after king takes d8 is pawn
to h3. This move is immediately signifying white’s
pawn majority and preparing to push the pawns, and this is probably the most correct continuation
for white, because he is immediately using his main asset in the position. His kingside pawns. The line would go king to e8, once again the
king gets out of the way, Nc3, developing, h5, black starts to slow white down on the
kingside, Bf4. Now you once again notice the downside of
the e5 pawn. The bishop has reduced scope and reduced mobility,
Be7, rook a to d1, this is the pro of not playing rook fd1 check. Now the correct rook is on the d file. Be6, developing, knight to g5, and now a very
common maneuver for black in the Berlin, and the second reason h5 was played, black is
now able to play rook to h6, developing the rook. Since he lost castling rights there is no
really easy way to get the rook to f8, and into the game, so this is the fastest way. If white should ever capture the bishop on
e6, then just rook takes e6, and black wouldn’t have an isolated pawn on the e file. After rook to h6, white will usually play
Rfe1, finishing development. This is now the starting position. As I already said, black has a clear plan
of attacking, and white has a clear plan of exchanging pieces and trying to advance his
pawn majority on the kingside. This is the second continuation, after Kxd8,
h3. The most common line, however, which was played
over 5000 times in grandmaster games, the most common continuation is, after Kxd8 to
play knight to c3. Immediately developing, challenging the center
and trying to involve the a1 rook into the game as soon as possible to be able to get
it to the d file. After knight to c3, black usually responds
with Ke8, however, there are other moves. This is just the most common one, and the
best one. H3, h5, and the position will now transpose
to the last position we saw after h3, and the position will be very similar. However, after h3, black has a few more moves. He doesn’t have to play h5, there are two
main approaches to the position as alternatives to h5. That’s bishop to e7, developing his dark squared
bishop, or bishop to e6, this is developing his other bishop. Both moves are ok, but h5 is considered to
be the most active on move 10 for black. After h5 white once more develops his bishop
to f4, and once again notice the downside of the e5 pawn, white’s main weakness in the
position. Bishop to e7, rook a to d1, getting the correct
rook to the d file, Be6, knight to g5, challenging the bishop, and rook to h6. This is the starting position of the main
line of the Berlin endgame. If you would like to study this position I
would definitely recommend looking at some games by Vladimir Kramnik, but there was a
lot of progress in theory of the Berlin, and the position doesn’t end here. The theory doesn’t end on move 13. There are lines in the Berlin which were analyzed
probably up to 30 or 40 moves in depth, and there were some lines calculated up to a draw
for both sides. The perfect example of that is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave,
who employed the Berlin with such theoretical precision several times, that he played the
games a tempo, using no time, it was all his preparation. If you’ d like to study the Berlin more in
depth I definitely recommend Vladimir Kramnik and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. However, Magnus Carlsen is playing it, Caruana
is playing it, Anish Giri is playing it, every super grandmaster today knows the Berlin,
plays the Berlin and has to know it, otherwise he would get in a lot of trouble. Now, entering the Berlin endgame for white
on move 4, with the move castles, and then going for Nxe4, d4, knight to d6, bishop takes,
d takes, dxe5, Nf5, queen takes, king takes, is one way for white to approach the position. And the major upside of the Berlin defense
for white is that he gets to choose the variation. He doesn’t have to enter the endgame, the
queenless endgame, which is favorable for white if he is playing a stronger opponent,
and he wants a passive position, however, if white is aiming to go for a win, the best
way to fight the Berlin Defense is, after Nf6, immediately after black enters the Berlin,
is not to go for the endgame, but to play the move d3. This is the main alternative to the Berlin
wall or the Berlin endgame. The move d3 simply solidifies the e4 pawn,
that’s the only purpose of the move, and it doesn’t give black a chance to capture it. It’s as simple as that. After d3, black will usually develop his bishop
to c5, before he solidifies his e5 pawn, because, in some positions, white will threaten to
take the knight and then capture e5, not yet, though. In this position, after bishop to c5, white
will play c3. The great thing about c3 is that it’s a multi-purpose
move. First of all, it’s preparing the d4 push,
which is the main idea for white in many Spanish positions, as well in this line of the Berlin
Defense. The second thing is, if you remember Ruy Lopez
lines with a6 and b5, usually after a6 the bishop wouldn’t take the knight, entering
the Exchange Variation, but it would retreat to a4. And when the bishop is on a4, and black plays
b5, in many Ruy Lopez lines, then the bishop retreats to b3, however, after white played
c3, the bishop is immediately able to c2, without wasting another tempo after b5. Which in reality means that black will have
to waste one tempo after a6 to play b5 without chasing the bishop to b3, to be able to play
Bb7, developing. C3 is a multi-purpose move and the best move
for white. After c3 both sides castle, and black plays
d6, solidifying e5, and now normal development would usually continue. Knight bd2, a6, chasing the bishop away, now
the bishop after a4 can go to c2, that’s the main benefit. Now if, for example, black would continue
with b5, then the bishop would go to c2, it wouldn’t have to waste another tempo to go
from b3 to c2 after c3 is played. And after this there are several lines both
players could go for, there are still some theoretical games from this position, and
the position is still well know. the highest rated game from this position
was Judit Polgar – Etienne Bacrot from 2006., but there were a lot of games played; David
Bronstein played this exact position against a Latvian player Janis Klovans, Onischuk played
against Mikhtariyan, etc. The main move now is Bb6 by black, retreating
the bishop in advance of the move d4, which white will inevitably play. And this is played similarly to the Breyer
Ruy Lopez. Black will actually have a plan to transfer
the knight from b8 to d7, and into the game, to control e5 some more. White will generally play rook to e1, knight
to f1, knight to g3, and control f5, try to get the knight into the f5 square. These are some common plans for both sides. The position you have to remember, if you
would like to play the Berlin with either side, and if you play the Ruy Lopez, you will
inevitably face it, is this, after Nf6 and white castling. This is the position that you will get most
of the time if you are black, because this is the most common line and the most analyzed
line. So just remember the position after the endgame. Knight takes e4, d4, Nd6, bishop takes c6,
dxc6, dxe5, knight to f5, queen takes, king takes. This is the starting position of the Berlin. One more thing I would like to emphasize is
that after Nf6, the point of knight to f6 and attacking the e4 pawn is two-fold. Another thing that black is counting on, because
he is not playing a6 and b5, chasing the bishop away, that means that the bishop is still
on b5. The bishop will remain on b5. Because of that, in this position, after knight
takes e4, after white plays d4, and black retreats to d6, he is actually gaining a tempo
on the bishop because the bishop is still on b5. If the bishop was on a4, the situation would
be much different and white would be almost winning, because he would have time to capture
on e5 with tempo, and he would have a much more favorable position. This was he has to relinquish the bishop pair
and they enter the line with the queens off. Ok, everybody, if you have any questions I
would like to see them in the comments below. You can give me examples of your own middle
games from the Berlin game, and any questions are much appreciated, so is feedback. Thanks very much for watching and stay tuned
for more theoretical chess. Thanks very much! Bye!

19 thoughts on “Ruy Lopez – Berlin Defense ⎸Chess Openings

  1. really nice channel. hope it gets more popular because you make quality content. maybe showing your face or experimenting different thumbnail pictures will bring this channel along subscriber wise. would hate to see you stop, because unfortunately sometimes quality doesn't always translate to subs.sometimes people want a little bit of pizzazz as well, i myself, however don't care. keep doing your thing

  2. I just discovered your channel now and after watching 2 videos on the Ruy Lopez, subscribed immediately. Pls do more quality content like this on other openings. Keep up the awesome work!

  3. I've played the Berlin for a long time now and i always have trouble with Nxe4 Re1 Nd6 Nxe5, most of the time white plays Bf1 and avoids the exchange, does that mean the line is very drawish?

  4. 1.Nc3 e5 2.d3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Bb4 4.g3 O-O 5.Bg2 d5 6.e3 Bf5 7.O-O Re8 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.b3 d4 10.exd4 Nxd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.Bb2 dxc3 13.Bxc3 Bc5 14.Bxb7 Rb8 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Bg2 Rbd8 17.Rae1 g6 18.Rxe8 Rxe8 19.Qa5 Qd4 20.Re1 Rxe1 21.Qxe1 h5 22.h4 Bb4 23.Qe2 Qc3 24.Be4 Bg4 25.Bf3 Bc5 26.Bxg4 hxg4 27.Qe4 Qd4 28.Qxd4 Bxd4 29.a4 a5 30.Kg2 c6 31.f3 gxf3 32.Kxf3 Kg7 33.Ke4 Bf2 34.Kf3 Be1 35.Kg2 f6 36.Kh3 Kh6 37.g4 Bd2 38.Kg3 Be1 39.Kh3 Bd2 40.Kg3 c5 41.Kf3 Be1 42.Kf4 Bxh4 43.Ke4 f5 44.Kd5 f4 45.Kxc5 f3 46.Kb5 f2 47.Kxa5 f1Q 48.Kb5 Qc1 49.Kc4 Qxc2 50.Kb4 Qxd3 51.a5 Be1 52.Ka4 Qd7 53.Ka3 Qd6 54.Kb2 Bb4 55.Kc2 Qd4 56.Kb1 {White won on time} I played as Black and it was a blitz game, but I was happy with it

  5. I just discovered at 11:00 that white instead of taking the light-square Bishop with a knight can also simply exchange Knight and a Bishop for an immobilized Rook and a Pawn playing Nf7. Only if he like to have and play with two Rooks 🙂

  6. I was alerted at 18:00 after hearing "Queen takes, Queen takes" 🙂 thats why on chess channels they say "Captures, captures" – a fault tolerant aproach 🙂

  7. Hello I just started following your channel…so much knowledge thank you for sharing. Do you offer coaching sessions?

  8. I am a low skill player now (When I was in school I went to state for chess and got second) but I play as white ursov gambit a lot which once declined I go into a sort of a ruy Lopez esk game.

    And as black I usually play a Berlin defense or 2 knights defense

    As I come back to chess I see I am struggling with games I use to be able to handle quite easily.

    As I go threw these lines my trouble is most low skill players won’t follow a predictable enough line to anticipate

    I am very skilled in opening and end games but my mid game struggles now

    Any tips on mid game in these would be appreciated

    Oh and also great quick explanation of these

  9. Playing the Berlin at the end black loses the knights pair in order to develop his rook and he has still a doubled pawn, what is the advantage for black ?

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