The Four C's - Ruy Lopez


I felt it a good idea to examine one of the oldest openings in chess, the Ruy Lopez (or Spanish Game), using the Four C's approach. The idea is to get a sense of where the pieces want and need to move in this particular opening. As we know the f1 bishop goes to b5, but is capturing on c6 best, retreating to a4 and then some other square?

Let's examine three separate games played in the Ruy Lopez opening, one from 1800s, 1900s and 2000s, to gain an idea whether on not the Four C's mean anything at all.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5.

It is strikingly obvious that Black's pieces were very passively placed, with all but one (the f7 knight) situated anywhere near the Core.  Every other Black piece resides on the Circle squares, effectively all performing long-range duty. White, on the other hand, maintained at least one minor piece near the Core for the duration of the game - mainly Anderssen's knights - an advantage which brought about that very knight to deliver the final pin against the knight on f7. It seems to me that moves like the early ...f5 Black was tied down to the suppression of the pawn on e6 with ...Qf6 and ...Bxe6, could not castle, and the knight placed on h6 was doomed in the end. What had changed over the next 100 years, bringing us to our next game?

Let's ignore the bishop skewer on the last move. What occurred here, it seems to me, is that Black at least discovered that defending the Knight with Bd7 was better than throwing out f5 and letting it happen anyway. It appears that White in this game resorted to moves onto the Circle with his Queen and Rook (Qh5) (Rd5-a5), and Black's pieces were more effective in the ending. Similar to the first game shown it was the player whose pieces gravitated toward the edges (Circle) was left with an inferior game. Forgetting the mistake of Rxa7, from the Circle square a5 the White Rook had only two squares to access safely and those were a4 and a6... and taking a look at the e-file, it seems the rook may have been better placed on that file instead (a Core file as it were). Now onto another game, played this time in 2010, with the same opening moves 3... d6.

White won a pawn in the middle game with a crafty move 16. Qxe5 and sealed the game with the heavy pieces. Let's just take a look at the final position and get into the Four C's. White has a very nice Rook posted in Black's Center (d6), defended by a Core pawn (e5), which too is defended by a Center pawn (f4), defended by the King on the Center (e3). Black's Rook is passive on the Cage (c7), where it defends an isolated Center pawn (c6) and another Cage pawn (f7), and the poor king is completely trapped on the Center square (f5), unable to stop checkmate via Rd6-f6++. 

But what is the Four C's even about? It's an attempt to use the board as a means to improve chess strategy and tactics. By splitting the board into four distinct groupings (CORE 4 squares, CENTER 12 squares, CAGE 20 squares, CIRCLE 28 squares) and then into two factions (BLACK and WHITE), it's possible to determine (at least numerically) which side has the advantage and why. Let us examine the final position of a game played in 2012, from the Ruy Lopez again, yet this is from the Closed Positions.







So I tallied the amount of squares on each C that each side controls and compared the lists. Here it will actually show that the key difference lies on the Circle here, and not the Core, as Black actually controls more squares on the board (a total of 19), compared to White's (17). The difference is that White controls more of the Circle squares (which is where the enemy king is placed), and the majority of those controlled Circle squares are on Black's side of the board!! This is what I have been looking for; not necessarily hard proof that the Core is where the action must be, but that there is indeed a significance to these 'levels' of the board. Here is the breakdown.

CORE - White controls 1/4, Black controls 2/4   (1 - 2)

CENTER - White controls 2/12, Black controls 6/12   (3 - 8)

CAGE - White controls 3/20, Black controls 7/20    (6 - 15)

CIRCLE - White controls 11/28, Black controls 4/28   (17 - 19)

That last little bit demonstrates a numerical improvement on White's behalf of +11, greater than anything Black has here (highest was +7 in the Cage). Although White is numerically inferior to Black's controlled squares on the board, White has an effective +7 (11-4) advantage on the Circle, and Black biggest advantage can be seen on the Center and Cage, both with a +4 for Black. However, since the King is placed on the Circle and White controls more of that space, it is obvious as to WHY White won the game. 

The Four C's is beginning to make sense. I will have to continue researching the Topic. I understand if it is difficult to comprehend since its a new idea and actually is kind of a goofy projection of the chess board. However I think I have stumbled upon at least something small... perhaps the future research could bring about a method of 'seizing' the Four C's during a game. Afterall chess isnt about just getting into the center, you have to deliver checkmate or some other kind of attack.