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I just played a very short game in the Ruy Lopez, where I played white and pushed d4-d5 early, and it felt like I just gave black's knight a headstart to maneuvre into a better position where I was quickly lost. I thought that this push was common in Ruy Lopez positions so I was surprised this was so bad, and I can't find any master games in a similar position where this mistake is made (and it makes sense that I just helped black with their maneuvre), so why then is it so clearly bad here, but apparently thematic in other Ruy Lopez positions?

[Event "Live Chess"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2023.01.24"]
[Round "-"]
[White "me"]
[Black "black"]
[Result "0-1"]
[CurrentPosition "r4rk1/ppp3pp/1b1p1pn1/3Pp3/4Pn2/2P1BN1q/PPBN1P2/R2QR1K1 w - -"]
[Timezone "UTC"]
[ECO "C64"]
[ECOUrl "https://www.chess.com/openings/Ruy-Lopez-Opening-Classical-Central-Variation-Charousek-Variation"]
[UTCDate "2023.01.24"]
[FEN ""]
[UTCTime "07:21:29"]
[WhiteElo "1714"]
[BlackElo "1827"]
[TimeControl "600"]
[Termination "Black won by resignation"]
[StartTime "07:21:29"]
[EndDate "2023.01.24"]
[EndTime "07:26:39"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. c3 Bb6 5. O-O d6 6. Re1 Nf6 7. d4 O-O 8. d5 Ne7 9. Bd3 Ng6 10. h3 Nh5 11. Bg5
f6 12. Bc1 Nhf4 13. Bc2 Bd7 14. Be3 Qc8 15. Nbd2 Bxh3 16. gxh3 Qxh3 0-1
5
  • After 14... Qc8 you should have what black is trying to do with the battery. Even your Bg5 doesn't make so much sense cause it helped black to solidify their pawn structure, at first sight you might think it slightly weakens the light squares. But can you exploit it? Even it's likely that black is planning to open the f file to rook lift. Even if the sacrifice didn't work. Even you did too many bishop moves which didn't help your position rather black got a chance to place their pieces at their best squares. I am not a Ruy-Lopez player but d5 was good-looking move to me. Jan 24 at 14:31
  • Your mistake was not understanding "what opponent's plan is". Second mistake was not understanding "where your pieces will go". Jan 24 at 14:37
  • @BillyIstiak I did see the idea of Qc8... but there isn't exactly a great selection of moves to stop this plan by that time
    – Matt
    Jan 25 at 0:00
  • 1
    though the position is losing but I can show a variation, I haven't checked other options. 15. Nh2 Bxh3?? {it's a blunder I guess} 16. gxh3 Qxh3 17. Qf3. I can't see a direct attack as black for now. While writing the variation, I have seen another variation. 15. Nh2 Bxh3?? 16. gxh3 Nxh3+!? {it's a beautiful move I guess. If you play Kh1 then he will play 17... Bxe3 18. fxe3 Nf2+ wins queen. } 17. Kg2 Ngf4+ 18. Bxf4 {if knight takes bishop then you can play Kh1. There's no fork anymore but f pawn is hanging but I wouldn't mind to give the pawn} 15. Nh2 gives some hope whereas Nbd2 loses Jan 25 at 10:20
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    @BillyIstiak ah yep good one I missed Nh2. had a look with the engine and still sad but definitely more hope than alternatives
    – Matt
    Jan 26 at 2:45

1 Answer 1

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Obviously d4-d5 in your game was not successful even if you could have defended better afterwards (e.g. 11.Be3 comes to mind, to counter the beast bishop on b6).

d4-d5 is a double edge move, gaining space but removing the pressure against e5 and the possibility to open the d-file. Many strategic subtelties and tactical nuances can make it better or worse given the circumstances.

Factors than make d5 more attractive are:

  • White first plan in the Ruy Lopez is to target the Pe5 and force Black to protect it. Most often you want to wait for Back to invest time in the defense of e5 (...Re8, ...d6, sometimes Nc6-b8-d7...), or to threaten ed4 (e.g. with Nf6, Re8, Bb7 aiming at e4) before you release the pressure with d4-d5 and leave their pieces passive.

  • when Black has played ...a6 and ...b5, the square c6 is weakened and d5 puts a grip on it. Also, the Black queenside pawns are a target (exposed by a4 or b3-a4 or b3-c4) which will be more difficult for Black to defend when the Pd5 restricts their pieces.

  • if the dark squared bishop is inside its pawn chain (Be7), then d5 blocking the Pd6 will box it in and force it to remain passive for a long while (Black sometimes go for the very long plan ...Re8, ...Bf8, ...g6, ...Bg7 and eventually ...f5 to revive it). Conversively, when it eyes f2 from a7 or b6 as in your game, d4-d5 opens a dangerous diagonal where the active bishop sits very happily.

  • Black's light-squared sometimes goes to b7, trying to target White's Pe4. It would enjoy a bright future if the center opens, but d4-d5 shuts the door on its nose; ...c7-c6 would then be the only try to revive it, but it's not so easy to engineer because it weakens the Pd6 and the square d5.

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  • Instead of Pe5, I think e5 pawn would be better. I also didn't understand what you meant by Pe5. Jan 24 at 14:38

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