A Ruy Lopez ... without the theory?
Picture - with Laptop camera, 2015.

A Ruy Lopez ... without the theory?

NM FLchessplayer
Sep 3, 2016, 6:57 AM |

Everyone knows the "Ruy Lopez" ...
(also called "The Spanish Torture!") ... ... ...
it was GM/World Champ Bobby Fischer's favorite opening. 
(See some games in this opening.)


It begins with: 1.e4, e5;  2.Nf3, Nc6;  3.Bb5. 
(See the diagram just below.) 


Many of the world's best players have used this opening ... some of the RL's top exponents are/have been ... the following famous GM's:

  1. Bobby Fischer,
  2. Garry Kasparov,
  3. Efwim Geller,
  4. Magnus Carlsen,
  5. Viswanathan Anand,
(These are not necessarily these player's best games, just examples of their prowess in the Ruy Lopez ... and hopefully these particular examples were chosen because I hope that they are games that you do not see in the average Ruy Lopez book or internet {game} collection.)  
The Ruy Lopez - along with the Queen's Gambit - are some of the most popular of all chess openings and they are played by both amateurs and masters alike ... {and} and the Ruy Lopez is still being played today by some of the world's best players.  
(Traps in chess openings.) 
A master that I met in New York City - many years ago - stated that one of the first things you should do, when you are tryng to learn a new opening, is to memorize all the traps in that particular opening ... and there are at least 50 basic traps in the Closed Ruy Lopez alone. Not only this, in order to play the Ruy Lopez in chess tournaments, you have to know some of the following lines: The Open System, The Closed, (5-7 major lines here, with literally dozens of branches); The Marshall Gambit, The Berlin Wall ... the list is very long, and these are just a few examples. (Mine the links for the chess traps very carefully, there are several items of note, including a free book on traps in the popular Adobe format!) 
You can quickly see - as a beginner or a player who is just starting out - that the amount of material that you need to cover in order to really learn the Ruy Lopez ... and play it reasonaby well in a serious chess tournament ... is a very daunting task! 
But what if I told you that you DON'T have to learn all the theory, it is possible just to learn a few basic lines and play a system that often gets to positions like the Ruy Lopez but avoids 95% of the opening theory? (Heck, this isn't even my idea, GM Andy Soltis wrote a book about this novel concept close to 20 years ago.)
OK, let's dive right in. The basic idea is for White to play the following moves: e4, Nf3, Bc4, 0-0, c3, d4, Re1, Bb3, etc. The idea is that these are all natural developing moves that conform to the basic concepts that govern the opening phase of the game, and if executed properly, will lead to a standard type of Ruy Lopez position, but bypass nearly all of the cheap tricks, traps and complicated opening lines that Black may have at his disposal.

Let's take a look at just one line: 


Both sides have good play. White usually plays in the center and on the Kingside, while Black goes for Q-side expansion. (Before playing d3-d4, I advise that White at least get his QN into the game, a standard method is Nbd2-Nf1-Ng3.)

Now that you know the basic moves, this approach will also work when your opponent plays the Sicilian, eg: 1.e4, c5; 2.Nf3, Nc6; 3.Bc4, etc.

I even have a 'YouTube' video on this subject: Spanish/Ruy ... no theory! 

BTW, I have used this idea myself in at least a 1-2 dozen (OTB) tournament games ... and in hundreds of speed games ... and literally thousands of on-line blitz and bullet games.

Well, I promised to show you a game I played in 1997. (I saved into a book, later it was transferred to my ChessBase files - this is the only reason that I still have a copy of it.)

First of all, I have to set this game up. The time control was "Game in 30 minutes," and it was played with the older clocks, (Wind-up, tick-tock, analog face with a flag that phyically fell, NO five-second delay!!!); digital clocks had not yet become standard in 1997. My opponent was a brash young man from the Northeastern United States. He bragged how he was "used to killing masters and experts," and sure enough, we met, both 4-0, in the last round of a five-round (one day) swiss. (If I remember correctly, his teacher was a master in NYC.) I remember having an incredibly tough game with Alabama-chess-legend, Joe Jurjevich in the third round ... the game went some 80-90 moves. (Both of us stopped recording the game around move 50-something.) Anyway, I had - thus far - one of the best tournaments I had ever played. I had the White pieces, and my brash, seemingly super-confident young opponent seemed completely unconcerned that he was playing a master in the last round. I had noticed - since he had played many games of blitz before the first round and during the day - that he seemed to know his opening lines well past move 10. Thus, I decided on an approach that I hoped might cause my opponent to consume some clock time to figure everything out. (At least I was familiar with all the ideas, I knew where my pieces would end up, what the general tactics and strategies were, etc. I could only hope that my opponent was not as familiar with the overall concepts ... or, at the very least, he lacked my insight and study into this particular opening system.)    

If the game seems like something of a let-down, that was my thought(s) immediately after the struggle had concluded. [I had used less than 10 minutes, while my opponent used nearly all of his time.] Also, my opponent complained bitterly after the game, especially because of my refusal to accept his draw offer around move 16, calling me all sorts of names, including "unprofessional," and "unsportsmanlike." (I started to get mad at one point, but the TD - Jack Mallory - told me to ignore him and that it was just "sour grapes" since he had lost.)  

Well, once I add a few notes to the game above, this blog is a wrap! I hope that someone out there will benefit from this advice, especially if you are looking for an opening system that does not require years of study to play reasonably well! 


Ruy Lopez links
One fan e-mailed me and asked me to provide a few games {for this blog} that were contests in the Ruy Lopez / Spanish Opening.
All of the games below come from my fairly well known "Game of The Month" website.

  1. Morozevich - Sasikiran; Chess Festival, 2004. (Go here.) 
  2. Leko - Aronian; Super-GM / Linares, 2006. (Go here.)
  3. Topalov - Anand; M-Tel Masters, 2006. (Go here.) 
  4. Kamsky - Bacrot; World Champ. Candidates; Elista, RUS / 2007. (Go here.)  
  5. Carlsen - Baramidze; 3rd Grenke Chess Classic / Baden-Baden GER, 2015. (Go here.) 
  *****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****  
And one game from my older/transplanted "GeoCities" chess website.

Drum roll, please! The inaugural game for the much-feared Marshall Gambit ... many respected masters consider this to be one of the finest games that Capa ever played!!!

Jose Raul Capablanca - Frank J. Marshall;
Manhattan CC Masters / New York City, NY (USA) 1918.  (Go here.)