The Powerful Berlin Defense


Berlin defense

The Berlin defense is one of the most popular moves against the Ruy Lopez opening for black. It’s the favorite line of pretty strong chess masters like Vladimir Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen, and others.

It has become quite usual this variation because it is known as a really solid opening for black, good defense. The masters who play the Berlin opening are always looking for specific positions.

The thing is that a low of theory has been discovered for this variation. It may look like a really simple system, but there are a lot of subtleties. You can have a hard time understanding the first moves by theory, so we will explain them today.

It’s really easy to fall for a trap in these positions, and the games are positionally sharp, waiting for the right time to blow up with tactics. This is a good option to play for a win, learning a specific line of the Berlin defense with black can give you a great advantage.

If you want to master the Berlin defense you should really read this post, we will explain step by step how to play it.

The mainlines of the Berlin defense


First of all, we have to enter the Ruy Lopez opening, the Berlin defense is a variation of the Ruy Lopez:

We are in the Berlin defense.

The idea behind this move is very interesting, and it sticks with the weird sacrifice of the e5 pawn. But this is something normal about this variation, which can go to many other different variations.

First, we are going to clarify this easily, taking the e5 pawn is not a good idea for white, and the opening plays with this idea. If Nxe5 Qd4 regains the pawn because attacks the knight and the pawn on e4.

The main moves for white are the following:

  1. 0-0
  2. d3
  3. Nc3

The first move 0-0 has many interesting variations, the game could follow like this:

\n\n1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 *","pieceSymbols":"native","navigationBoard":"frame","withPlayButton":true,"withFlipButton":true,"withDownloadButton":true,"nboSquareSize":64,"nboCoordinateVisible":true,"nboTurnVisible":true,"nboColorset":"original","nboPieceset":"cburnett","nboAnimated":true,"nboMoveArrowVisible":true,"nboMoveArrowColor":"b","idoSquareSize":64,"idoCoordinateVisible":true,"idoTurnVisible":true,"idoColorset":"original","idoPieceset":"cburnett"}); });

And you reach a well-known endgame out of the Berlin defense, used if you want to get a draw.

The second move d3 is quite more interesting and is more popular because it doesn’t give the option to play Nxe4. It looks like a quiet move, but it actually has very aggressive ideas behind it, solidifies the center to attack in the kingside.

The game could follow:

And you have a regular king’s pawn system. These positions tend to blow up with tactics all around the board at the end.

Finally, there is the old Nc3 line, which was popular a couple of years ago, it is straighter, simply develops a piece This is interesting if you want to play actively in the center, a quite powerful plan for white, but black has resources.

For example:

With a whole game that still needs to be decided.

Plans and ideas in the Berlin defense


The thing with the Berlin defense, and all of the variation of the Ruy Lopez in general, is that is very unpredictable. There are many possibilities, even if the theory is great about the opening, there are millions of plans.

One of the reasons why is very popular among elite chess players is because is kind of like a creative opening. The thing is that there is never a lineal game in the Berlin defense.

Let’s state some plans for both sides:

The Berlin defense for white

  • White maneuvers the b1 knight to d2-f1-e3 or g3
  • White can castle long in some variations to attack in the kingside
  • It’s possible to play in the center with c3 and d4
  • We can keep the static center with d3 and play h4-h5 and g4-g5
  • We can play f4 in some positions

The Berlin defense for black

  • Black can counter-attack in the center with c5
  • Black could undermine white’s center with f5
  • You can play a6, b5 and maneuver the knight to the c4 square
  • You can castle long in some lines and attack in the king side

Sample game in the berlin defense


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