This article focuses on positions arising from the Ruy Lopez opening, after the Ruy Lopez exchange variation starting with Bxc6 dxc6.
This variation does not arise from the Ruy Lopez tense center, as White immediately exchanges the bishop rather than trying to keep the tension with d2-d4.
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This type of center is very thematic and has a long-term strategic feature which has to be considered at every point in the game.
Clarifying the situation
White’s first aim is to divide the board in two. This is done by playing the move d4, and forcing black to exchange his e pawn for the d pawn. Once that happens, White can start planning his strategy and advancing towards an advantage.
But the same structure can come from the Berlin defense as well.
On the other hand, in the Berlin, white has already traded queens, which lessens black’s attacking prospects significantly, and makes his bishop pair far less powerful.
Stopping black’s majority
Even if white gets everything he wants, it is important to know how to fix the queenside structure in an impenetrable way. Creating a passed pawn is the key here and White must know how to prevent Black to do so on the queenside. Two simple formations are a2-b3-c4, or a3-b2-c3. With such setups, black is unable to make progress.
If White adopts any of these pawn formations, Black cannot create a passed pawn without the help of his King.
Blockade on e5
Now it is time to look at the position from Black’s viewpoint. In the Exchange Central formations, black’s best strategy is to set up a blockade and to await his chance for counter play.
That inevitably leaves weaknesses in White’s position, and doing so before material has been liquidated can lead to sharp, attacking positions which are very dangerous for white.
Blocking with the f6 pawn
Another way for black to try and prevent the white majority from moving forward is to opt for an early queen trade and a recapture with the f6 pawn on e5.
For reference, see Kamsky vs Carlsen 2013, where Carlsen managed to win despite having given Kamsky a clear 3 versus 2 majority on the kingside by playing actively with his remaining pieces.
This concludes our overview on Ruy Lopez pawn structures. We saw together:
- the Ruy Lopez tense center
- the Ruy Lopez closed center
- the Ruy Lopez mobile center
- the Ruy Lopez symmetrical center
- the Marshall attack pawn structure
- and this one, the exchange pawn center
I hope this overview was useful and interesting to you. See you soon on another Chess article !