Fighting the Ruy Lopez is what the author had hoped it would be: a serious book.
The tone is set early on, on page 5 in fact, where we are told that one should not ‘expect to find instant solutions inside a book – amongst other things chess is a process of continual learning.’ A good sign, for it indicates that there won’t be any easy answers here, or any simplistic remedies. Pavlovic has written a repertoire book which provides a complete Black response to the Ruy Lopez. As such, it does not present a total solution to the perennial problem of how to meet 1.e4, but it takes you a long way down that road.
The centrepiece of the proposed repertoire is the Marshall Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5), thoroughly covered in Part 1 (chapters 1-7). It should be pointed out that, in the main line of the Marshall, theory often extends past move 20, so you must be prepared to follow another player’s moves for quite a long while. The second part (chapters 8-11) covers various Anti-Marshall lines, and it is interesting to note that Kasparov never allowed Black to play the Marshall; he always avoided it with 8.a4 or 8.h3. One curious omission here is 8.a3, Suetin’s move; it is a minor option, but still… Together, these first two sections make up the bulk of the book, while part three (chapters 12-15) covers early white deviations. These include the Exchange Variation (4.Bxc6), the Worrall and Centre Attacks (6.Qe2 and 6.d4), 6.Nc3 (a move which Keres had an inexplicable fondness for) and the rather dreary DERLD (6.Bxc6). Against each White system, Pavlovic gives just one Black choice (e.g. 5 … Bd6 versus the Exchange Variation after 4 … dxc6 5.0-0), generally an active line, principled and sound, and therefore in keeping with the overall character and tenor of the Marshall Attack.
Milos Pavlovic plays the Marshall himself and has contributed to its theory. In each chapter, he sets out the material well, highlighting the strategic themes and outlining the various typical plans and schemes of development for each side, before examining the theory in depth. Although an advocate for the Black side, his appraisals and evaluations strike one as being honest and objective.
There are pros and cons to adopting any mainstream opening line. To play it well, you need to make a substantial investment of time and effort. It is likely to be time well spent in this case, mind, for the Marshall gives good winning chances and is generally reliable, being the choice of many elite players. This book is an excellent place to start if you are thinking of taking up the Marshall Attack, though while bearing in mind the author’s words of caution about not expecting ‘instant solutions’.
The publisher’s description of Fighting the Ruy Lopez can be read here.
By Milos Pavlovic
Everyman Chess, 2009