The Ruy Lopez

1.e2-e4 e7-e5 2Ng1-f3 Nb8-c6 3.Bf1-b5


In the Ruy Lopez White develops his kingside with 3.Bf1-b5 and can immediately castle short. In addition he exercises indirect pressure on the e5-pawn because the bishop is attacking the defending knight on c6.

The Ruy Lopez was analysed back in 1561 in a book by the Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura. Today it is the most often played opening after the moves1.e4 e5.

The main variation leads to strategically demanding positions which have been played in many world championship matches.

Selbst gegen Spanisch spielen


In the following diagrams you can reach the starting position with and from there move back and forward through the opening moves with the arrow keys  and .

Subsequently click on the title of the openings to receive more detailed information.

Ruy Lopez main systems

Ruy Lopez main variation: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3

The main variation of the Ruy Lopez is one of the really great classic openings in chess. For nine moves White has prepared the advance of the d-pawn into the centre and will now play it. Black has various replies here which all lead to rich and complex positions. The main variation has been much analysed, is strategically interesting and is employed by players of all classes.

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

A genuine gambit - Black invests for the long term the e5-pawn and obtains in return an attack on the king. Black's chances are so real that players like Garry Kasparov avoid the Marshall Attack and in doing so avoid the main variation. In addition, the resulting partly forced variations have been analysed in great depth - a lack of theoretical knowledge can quickly lead to tricky situations.

Open Ruy Lopez: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4

Winning the pawn on e4 is only short-lived, White soon recovers it. But the subsequent opening of the position brings Black free play for his pieces. However, White obtains a pawn majority on the kingside which can be the basis for an attack. The Open Ruy Lopez is played to this day in grandmaster tournaments but the Berlin Defence (see below) is nowadays more popular.

Berlin Defence: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6

The greatest players in the world have failed to break the Berlin Wall with White. This system is about a quick exchange of queens and Black basing his hopes on defending a minimally worse endgame with iron resilience and the bishop pair. Is that exciting? Yes. is it possible to neutralise the advantage a top player has with White? Indeed!

Archangelsk Variation: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7

The Archangelsk Variation is a double-edged line with which Black seeks to obtain active counterplay immediately. World Champion Magnus Carlsen likes to use it. The black dark-squared bishop often goes to c5 meaning that both bishops are aiming towards the king. On the other hand White can aim for a full centre with c3 and d4.

The Exchange Variation: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6

A radically simple solution> White immediately gives up his lovely bishop pair. In return Black gets doubled pawns on c6 and c7 which constitute a disadvantage in the endgame. The Exchange Variation is a good way to avoid the theoretical traps in the main variation. It was first used in a world championship match by Bobby Fischer in 1972.