A Brief Overview Of The Ruy Lopez

A Brief Overview Of The Ruy Lopez

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The Ruy Lopez has a rich history in the game of chess, it's been played by every range of player and it's themes are extremely deep, but this may sound a bit daunting for new players so in this blog I wish to break down some of the basics of the opening to give you a good head start on how to play not only the opening that comes from the game, but also the middlegames that often arise from the opening!

Let's look at the first few moves of the opening to understand what's going on...

And here we are! The starting position of the ruy lopez:

As we know, the goal of the opening is to play in the center, but this move Bb5 doesnt look like it controls central squares does it? Well, there are two types of control when we talk about our pawns and pieces in chess. The first is direct control where a piece is attacking a square directly, this is an easy concept to understand. The second form of control is the indirect type of control where instead of directly attacking the center, we attack one of our opponents pieces and threaten to weaken their control of the center which when broken down, is just as important as direct central control.

Lets move on now:

Why didn't white try to take the free pawn?

This trick often comes up in the ruy lopez, it's important to note that generally the e5 pawn is impervious to attack until the e4 pawn is defended. Let's look at one of these cases:

Now, a6 isn't the only move in the position, there is also the famous "Berlin" with Nf6 which allows white to go into an intriguing endgame (maybe not so intriguing for viewers of top player games though, ha ha). Maybe if we hit my stretch goal of 1000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel I will deliver on my promise to make a 10 hour berlin ending video?  

I digress, lets get back to the main line!

When I started learning the ruy lopez for myself, I always thought c3 was a funny move. Sure, it does prepare d4 to control more of the center but this is hardly the only reason as to why the move is played. One of the biggest reasons alongside central control is to preserve the bishop pair in case of the move Na5 in which we play Bc2. Why Bc2? well as it turns out, the position is quite likely to open up and the bishops placement on c2 has great chances of eyeing down the h7 pawn for a future attack.

Now this is where I think it's a good time to end the sequences of moves as I think any deeper would be of disservice to those who are new to the opening and the game. Instead I would like to discuss ideas in point form:

  • Bring the b1 knight to g3
  • Play for the a4 and f4 breaks, timing is key here!
  • play for d5 whenever you can if it closes the center, this gives you a huge space edge
  • Maintain flexibility, with more space, you can go from one side to the other much faster than your opponent

Anyways, if you would like to see a game example as well as references to the pawn structure and several master games, check out my latest video on the Ruy Lopez! Thanks for reading