Ruy Lopez – Ideas, Principles and Common Variations ⎸Chess Openings

Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game) is the most valuable weapon for 1. e4 players. It follows the basic opening principles and teaches you how to control the center, develop pieces and react to your opponent’s threats properly.

In this video I will be covering the main variations of the Ruy Lopez, explaining the basic principles and ideas behind each one, but each individual variation will be covered in much more detail in a separate video. Mastering the Ruy Lopez is something every string chess player has to tackle at some point and there hasn’t been a single world champion or a super grandmaster who doesn’t have it as a major weapon in their opening repertoire.

The Ruy Lopez starts after the moves:
1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6

From this position black is able to choose from two main moves, 3…a6 or 3…Nf6, each leading to completely different positions. After 3…Nf6 the positions enters the Berlin Defense:
1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bb5 Nf6, and the most common continuation ends in the so called “Berlin Endgame” after the moves:
4.0-0 Nxe4
5.d4 Nd6
6.Bxc6 dxc6
7.dxe5 Nf5
8.Qxd8+ Kxd8, a position in black has forfeited castling rights and accepted doubled c pawns in exchange for the bishop pair.

After 3.Bb5, the most common way for black to play is with 3…a6, immediately challenging the bishop and forcing it to either capture the c6 knight or to retreat. If white responds with
4.Bxc6, then after 4…dxc6 the position has entered the Exchange Ruy Lopez. Similarly to the Berlin, white is arguing that he has a better pawn structure and that any piece trades favor him.

After 3…a3, taking the knight is not as common, though, and by far the most common reply is 4.Ba4, retreating the bishop, but keeping the pressure on the knight, and from here the Ruy Lopez branches out.

The most common continuation after:
4. Ba4 is Nf6, challenging the center and attacking e4, and white continues with
5. O-O Be7
6. Re1 b5 – after Re1 this is now the Closed Ruy Lopez, the starting position of most variations played at top level, and play almost always continues with
7. Bb3 O-O
8. c3 d6 (after 8.c3, black is also able to strike in the center with d5, instead of playing the more passive and solid d6, and the variation is called the Marshall Attack)
9. h3, after which this is the starting position for 90% of high level games, and the first point at which players actually start thinking. Black is the one who gets to choose which variation to go for from here on. The most common continuations are:
9…Bb8 (The Breyer variation)
9…Na5 (The Chigorin variation)

The Ruy Lopez (also called the Spanish Game or the Spanish torture) is one of the oldest chess openings. It was named after Ruy López de Segura, a Spanish priest and chess player who lived in the 16th century. The first mention of the opening was found in Libro del Ajedrez (the book of chess) from 1561, and it has been analyzed and improved upon ever since then.


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