Ruy Lopez Explained – Remote Chess Academy

Named after a Spanish priestand also called the Spanish Openingthe Ruy Lopez is one of the most frequently played openings, especially amongst top-level Grandmasters.

The Ruy Lopez offers both players an opportunity to create positions that suit their playing style, be it positional or tactical. It is almost every beginner’s favorite start as well.

As a complement to this lesson, you must learn the 5 Best Chess Opening Traps in the Ruy Lopez.

Initial Structure of the Ruy Lopez Opening

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5

The Ruy Lopez starts after 3.Bb5. This move threatens 4.Bxc6leaving the e5-pawn undefended. What makes this opening unique is that the threats on the d5-pawn can always be defended by the queen.

Ruy Lopez Variations

The following are some variations that can arise from playing the Ruy Lopez and how one can approach them in a careful manner:

Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense

Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense


Here Black’s plan is very clear: they are planning on casting to ensure the king’s safety and also planning to launch an attack on the e4-pawn.

4.Nc3: This protects the e4-pawn, while also finding White develop a minor piece, which is a rule that is part of the opening fundamentals.

4.d3: Simply just protecting the pawn and also opening a path for the dark-squared bishop to travel its way to either the e3 or g5-squares.

4.d4: On this move, White gambits the pawn, creating a similar structure to the Rio Gambit. If it is accepted, this will leave White with developmental advantages, which come from attacking Black’s developed minor pieces.

Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense

Ruy Lopez, Morphy Defense


In this variation, made famous by Paul MorphyBlack challenges the bishop on the b5square as to where it will move to.

4.Ba4: White decides to keep on pressurizing the knight on the c6-square, with the threat still being Bxc6leaving the white pawn on the e5-square with less protection.

4.Bxc6: Here White immediately eliminates the main defender of the e6-pawnthough the pawn is not free because of 4…dxc6 5.Nxc6 Qd4and Black gains back their pawn.

4.Bc4: This finds White using the bishop to focus on the weak f7-pawnforcing Black to find ways to protect the pawn from future attacks, mainly by casting. Again, the position will look like a transposed delayed Italian Opening.

4.Be2: Here White just goes back and plays a more reserved role giving Black the chance to launch an attack or improve their position. This move also will be an outlook for the queen in case Black plays Bg4pinning the knight.

This variation offers both players a dynamic positionwhere they can implicate multiple ideas depending on their playing style.

In this video lesson, GM Igor Smirnov will share with you a dangerous opening weapon for White against the first moves, 1.e4 e5, which is one of the most common responses of Black. It is the Scotch Gambitwhich is closely related to the Ruy Lopez:

Ruy Lopez, Rio Gambit (Berlin Defense)

Ruy Lopez, Rio Gambit (Berlin Defense)

3…Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4

Black accepts the gambit, and this gives White a chance to be ahead in development, and there are a few paths that can be taken to achieve this.

5.d4: This transposes the whole position to be open with no one having central control.

5.Bxc6: This removes the protector of the e5-pawn putting pressure on Black to find a way to protect it while making sure the king is also safe.

5.Re1: Here White just continues to put pressure on the center, Black can continue this by playing 5…Nd6while White will have central control.

The bishop on the d5-square will have pressure from the black knightsforcing White to either exchange it or move it away into a space where it will be less effective.

Ruy Lopez, Closed Variation

Ruy Lopez, Closed Variation

3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7

In the closed variant, this is whereby Black chooses to ensure that the king is safe before launching any attacks.

White has multiple moves that they can play to try and push the position in their favor.

6.Bxc6 dxc6: While White might have damaged Black’s pawn structure by doubling the pawns, this also opened space for the black queen to operate in that situation. White can also play 7.b3, 8.Bd2 to put some pressure on the d5-pawn.

6.Re1: This protects the e4-pawn, also giving the white rook more squares to operate with.

For Black, the main ideas will be to castle and implicate moves like e6 just to have a solid center, and also prevent White to have massive activity in the center. The other option is also b5just to ensure that the bishop is not threatening to destabilize the center.

Ruy Lopez, Cozio Defense

Ruy Lopez, Cozio Defense


Black plans to keep a knight on the c6-square with 4.Bxc6 Nxc6. This ensures that the e5-pawn always has a knight as the one defending it.

4.c3: White plans to eliminate the e4-pawn with 5.d4. If by any chance exd4 occurs, there is cxd4, also giving White some central control. Black can probably fianchetto the bishop on g7 and castle.

4.0-0: Here White chooses to go for the safe option of ensuring the king safety first. This will leave all the pieces on the queenside with the option of just attacking.

Black has the option to either play 4…d5 and break down the center by poking the e5-pawn or simply just play 4…g7again preparing to fianchetto and castle.

4.d4: This is a normal move that basically signifies that White is fighting for the center. Black can play 4…exd4and then focus on ensuring that the king is safe by castling.

There are some quiet and some aggressive lines in the Ruy Lopez. Follow the link, to learn a Hidden Line in the Ruy Lopez Opening to Win in 9 Moves!

Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense

Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense


The Schliemann Defense finds Black aggressive by opening up their kingside with the f5-pawn.

While it’s not advised to damage your kingside, this is actually a comfortable position for Black to be in, no matter which strategy White may implicate going forth.

4.exf5: This is considered to be the Jaenisch Gambit Accepted. While it might look like Black is losing a pawn, this is temporary as the minor pieces develop. Black is basically exchanging a pawn for developmental gain.

The sharp continuation that Black can do is 4…e4 5.Qe2 Qe7 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Nc3 Nh6. Black just continues piling pressure on the f5-pawn and it will fall soon with Black having a better open position.

4.Nc3: White focuses on developing their minor pieces while offering Black to have center compensation with the d5-pawn.

Black will probably continue with 4…fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5. This is considered to be the Dickhoff Variation.

The other option is to continue with 4…fxe4 5.Nxe4 Nf6which is considered to be the Tartakower Variation.

4.d4: Going into the Schönemann Attack, this move just causes commotion in the center with both players fighting for it.

Black’s main option is to exchange all the pieces with 4…fxe4 5.Bxc6 bxc6 6.Nxe5 to create an open game.

Ruy Lopez, Rotary-Albany Gambit

Ruy Lopez, Rotary-Albany Gambit


Black opts to make their light-squared bishop the main priority with the options being to either fianchetto it or if the b5-bishop moves out of the way, take control of the a6-square, also targeting the f1square.

White going forth has many options and they all have to do with playing style.

4.c3: This move has the same ideology that you get from the English Opening, where White hopes to use the c3-pawn to replace the d2-d4 pawn in case it is captured.

4:d4: This move basically finds White trying to remove the only pawn that Black has in the center.

The problem with this is that the light squares will be potentially exposed in the long run because d3 would not be there in case that Bc8-a6 is happening.

4: Bxc6: Rather unorthodox, but here White delivers a double pawn position for Black. If 4…Ba6 is to occur, then there is 5.d3.

Ruy Lopez, Vinogradov Variation

Ruy Lopez, Vinogradov Variation


Here Black tries to go for a closed game with the fianchettoed bishop on the g7-square coming, while being followed by Nf6then 0-0.

4.0-0: This is the best move for White, simply making sure that the king is safe before trying to break open the center with moves like d4 and c3. Again, it allows for the rook to play on the e1-square in the future.


The Ruy Lopez offers both players various attacking positions. If not prepared, players can run into some trouble mainly because of minor pieces and pawns in complicated positions.

This is specially because this opening has many traps that could be set in it because it is a positional or tactical opening with a lot of variations that allows players to set various dangerous traps.

For White, the main priority is to build up a great center, keeping an eye on the e5-pawn as a potential weak point.

As for Black, the main priority for it is to ensure that the king is safe before going for any counterattacks. This is where the opening principles help at an early stage of the game.

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