The Ruy Lopez, also known as the Spanish game, is one of the oldest openings around, dating back many centuries. Back to the time when the modern rules of chess were being slowly implemented around the world. Why has the Ruy Lopez been around for so long? Why is it still used at the highest levels?
The opening is named after a 16th Century priest named Ruy Lopez de Segura. Ruy Lopez de Segura wrote a book on chess called Libro del Ajedrez in 1561. In the book he studied the Ruy Lopez opening along with other openings. The opening has been used throughout the centuries with regularity amongst the greatest players throughout history.
Why has the Ruy Lopez been around for so long, and why is it still used at the highest levels? Because the opening is based upon sound principles for both colors, which leads to the position appearing on the board.
The opening move that leads to the Ruy Lopez is e4.
e4 is a very useful and logical move because it allows the light squared bishop to move so that the king can castle. The move also allows the light squared bishop, and the queen, to be able to influence more squares on the board, to be able to fight for control of them. The more squares your individual pieces control, the more of an effect your army can have on the board. When you want to win, this is very important.
Black's first move response of e5 is also logical, because black gains all of the same benefits as white does. E5 also fights for control of the center of the board, which is also important in chess. The advantages that are gained by controling the center have been known for a very long time.
Nf3 is white's next move
Nf3 is a logical move because it attacks the unguarded e5 pawn. Grandmasters always talk about the importance of finding a target, or creating a target, and attacking it! This opening starts right from the start following that principle, and stays in that mindset through the start of the opening. The Ruy Lopez opening also has a built in plan that is followed from the start and everyone knows the importance of having a plan, and following that plan when making moves So why wouldn't people throughout the centuries make moves when starting a game that follow such great principles of attacking targets and developing with a plan!
So why is the Ruy Lopez still a popular opening? Because of its foundation being based upon such solid concepts. It only makes sense that the opening would still be used. The real question is why wouldn't the Ruy Lopez still be used? To this question there would be no good answer!
In my following articles I will continue through the moves of this famous opening, and continue to explain the positions that are reached.
As Reuben Fine said, "one reason why the Ruy Lopez is so strong is that the most natural sequence of moves leads to an ideal position for white" (Irving Chernev, Logical Chess).