What is the Berlin Defense, Rio de Janeiro Variation?
The Berlin Defense is one of the most solid of all responses to the Ruy Lopez opening.
1 .e4 e5
The Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
The Berlin Defense was out of favour for a very long time (Black preferred other lines, starting with 3…a6) but was resurrected by Vladimir Kramnik in his 2000 World Championship match against Garry Kasparov. Kasparov, the defending champion, could not break down Kramnik’s ‘Berlin Wall’. Kramnik won the match and the Berlin Defense has remained popular ever since.
The main sequence of moves is:
White can defend the e-pawn with 4.d3 or 4.Nc3 instead of castling, but this is the most testing move.
White is trying to open the centre before Black has the opportunity to castle. It is easy to see that the rook can move swiftly to e1, lining up with Black’s king.
Black’s most popular response is to follow in Kramnik’s footsteps with 5…Nd6, after which play continues: 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8. This is Kramnik’s favourite variation. It is good to play this way against dangerous attacking players, as Black’s position is extremely difficult to crack, especially as the queens have been exchanged.
However, not everyone likes to give up the right to castle.
The Rio de Janeiro Variation
This move, which heralds the arrival of the Rio de Janeiro Variation, still allows the queen exchange but Black no longer has to recapture with the king.
The Berlin Defense, Rio de Janeiro Variation
The point of the move is shown after the following, natural moves.
Black can castle in this line and his bishop pair have every chance of becoming strong in the middlegame.
White has different ways to play after 5…Be7, but this line shows the major differences between the Rio de Janeiro Variation and the more famous Berlin Endgame. Players with Black will find pre opportunities to play for the win – especially against slight weak opposition – because the king’s position is no longer compromised.
New Chessable Course
Our new Chessable course, From Berlin to Rio: 1.e4 e5 for Black, examines the variation in great detail, as well as providing a complete repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5.
Click on the images for further details.
More Chess Opening Basics
Here are links to the other parts of our series on Chess Opening Basics. More openings will be added soon.