Ruy Lopez – Exchange Variation ⎸Chess Openings

Ruy Lopez – Exchange Variation ⎸Chess Openings


Hello everyone! Stjepan here. In today’s video I’m going to cover an
extremely useful, but very underrated variation of the Ruy Lopez – The Exchange Variation. If you need any more general information about
the opening, you can watch the video in which I cover all the basics and the main variations. I’ll put the link in the description below. And in this video I’m going to go into much
more detail on the Exchange Variation. The Ruy Lopez starts after white plays pawn
to e4, pawn to e5 by black, knight to f3, knight to c6, and bishop to b5. And this is now the Ruy Lopez. And each move so far was designed to increase
control over key central squares, and white is trying to push through with d4, and attack
the e5 pawn, the e5 square, and black is fighting to stop that, simply. Black’s main response to the Ruy Lopez is
pawn to a6, and that’s a move which is indirectly defending the e5 pawn and preventing the d4
break. It’s disrupting the bishop, that’s attacking
the knight, that’s defending the e5 pawn and stopping d4, which might sound complicated,
but it’s actually really simple. The opening moves of the Ruy Lopez make perfect
sense when it comes to central control and central pawn breaks. Each side is trying to get as much as possible
from the central position out of the opening. And the Exchange Variation is the simplest
approach white can take in resolving the issue which occurred; black is attacking his bishop,
which was developed to b5 to disrupt the defense of e5 and d4, so the simplest solution is
just to take the knight and weaken black’s defenses. The exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez starts
with bishop taking the knight on c6. Bishop takes the knight is removing the defender
and strengthening the central key squares in the position, and that’s the theoretical
idea behind the opening. Now, after bishop takes, black has to take
with the d pawn, he has to recapture with the d pawn, and with this move we enter the
main line of the Exchange Ruy Lopez. This position is both simple and complicated
to play at the same time, and it offers white a great positional advantage if utilized properly. What you can immediately see is that black’s
pawn structure is compromised after 4…dxc6, and he has doubled c pawns. Which means that any piece exchanges will
favor white, because in an endgame white will be able to create a passed pawn much easier. He will have a theoretical advantage in pawn
structure. And what black got in compensation for the
ruined pawns and the doubled c pawns is the bishop pair. Black got rid of white’s most dangerous
piece in the symmetrical king pawn openings – the light squared bishop. And that’s key in this position particularly
because the light squared bishop is often the piece around which the position is based,
especially in the Ruy Lopez. In many closed lines, white will spend several
moves to make sure the bishop is safe, and re maneuver it to a4, to c2 etc. And the main purpose of the bishop is to attack
black’s main weakness, the f7 square, which is going to be much easier to defend in this
position, and black will generally have an easier time defending. So after 4…dxc6, in this position, first
of all I’m going to show you one of the most common opening traps in the Exchange
Ruy Lopez. You might think that white is able to capture
the e5 pawn now, since the knight is no longer defending it, but that’s actually a mistake. If white captures on e5, then black is able
to simply play queen to d4, double attacking the knight and the e pawn, and after Nf3,
the knight retreating, queen takes e4, queen to e2, blocking the check, queen takes, king
takes e2. Of course, in this position black can’t
take the c2 pawn because the queen is pinned to the king, so he has to take. And now black stands better. The material is equal but white gave away
castling rights. So, of course, after dxc6, white can’t take
the pawn. The most common continuation for white and
what’s played in, perhaps, more than 90% of games, if not more, is castling by white. This is the main position now. This is the main line. Let me just cover quickly, after bishop takes
c6, of course, black should be taking with the d pawn. If he takes with the b pawn, then, once again,
you might think that white can capture the e5 pawn now, but once again black will have
a slight advantage because if knight takes e5 in this position, black can play queen
g5. And, after Nf3 defending, queen takes g2,
rook g1, queen h3. It’s a bit better for white than the previous
continuation, but generally black stands ok. After bxc6, even if white castles, which is
the best move, and the main move, we can see the advantage of black capturing with the
d pawn instead of with the b pawn. Because now his pawn structure is better. He did take towards the center, he will have
more central pawns, but the position after d takes is much simpler to play, and it’s
easier to defend for black. And you also get to develop your bishop quickly
and open it up on the diagonal. Once you take with the d pawn the bishop is
automatically developed. So dxc6 is the main move. And now, after castles by white, which is
the main move, if black forgets to defend his e5 pawn now, the queen maneuver no longer
works. So if black plays a simple developing move
such as knight to f6 in this position, then white would be able just to take the e5 pawn,
and there is nothing black could do about it. So, after castles, the main move for black
is 5…f6. That’s the main line and by far the most
commonly played move in this position. Before going further with the main line, I’m
going to show you some alternatives to castling that white can play. After dxc6, white doesn’t have to castle,
it’s just the best move. Another move white could try is knight to
c3, immediately developing a piece, not castling. This is basically reversing the move order,
and black still responds with f6, defending the e5 pawn. And this is one of the main lines, and almost
all the games go like this. White would now strike in the center with
d4, e takes d4, knight takes d4, c5, knight d to e2, queen takes d1, knight takes d1. And you can see, in this position, that white
still kept his king in the center, so it’s a bit less safe for the white king, but since
there are no queens on the board he has an ok position. It’s just a different approach to the position. And after Be6, bishop f4, black would generally
castle queenside, knight to e3. This position is a bit double-edged when compared
to the main line (with castling on move 5), but white is still slightly better, and black’s
pawn structure is still his biggest deficit. So let’s say knight to e7, developing, rook
to d1, rook takes, king takes, g5, Bg3, f5. And, ok, black has compensation, black has
a bit more aggressive position, but that’s because white didn’t castle. So, after d takes c6, either castles or knight
to c3. Another alternative white could play after
dxc6 is immediately striking in the center with d4. Not waiting to castle, but striking right
away. And, of course, black would have to react
with e takes d4. White would play queen takes d4. Exchanging the queens is favorable in this
position because any trades get him closer to the endgame, in which his pawn structure
would be much more significant. Queen takes, knight takes, bishop to d7 is
the main move, as black is preparing to castle queenside. Bishop to e3, castles queenside, Nc3, and
f6 in this position, or bishop to b4 can be played as well. And white has a slight edge in this position. Let’s return to the main line with white
castling, because after dxc6 castles is played in more than 90% of games. After castles, and black playing f6, which
is by far the most common move, this is now the starting position of the Exchange Variation. White’s most common move in this position
by far is d4. Which aims to strike at black’s center immediately,
and if you noticed, white now has only one move actually. There is basically no alternative to d4, and
in Live Book there is more than 2000 games with 6.d4, and around 30 games only with the
second most often played move, which is 6.d3. So this is a must play move. You are striking in the center immediately,
and immediately exploiting the weak positioning of the black king that’s still stuck on
e8. The position could become extremely dangerous
for black if he isn’t careful. E takes d4 is the only reply, and now knight
takes d4. Of course, you can take with the queen as
well, Qxd4 is also a good move, and in both variations white has an edge, but keeping
the queens on is a smart idea for white because black’s king is on e8, vulnerable to attacks. It’s much easier to create chances with
the queens on the board. The game could continue with bishop to d6,
bishop to e3 etc., and white is still better, but black could’ve exchanged queens as well,
which would have relieved the pressure on the position. After knight takes d4, the main continuation
in this position is c5. This is the main move. Immediately chasing the knight away. Knight to b3, and now black commonly exchanges
the queens anyway, so queen takes d1, rook takes d1, bishop g4, attacking the rook and
f3. This position is what you commonly get out
of the Exchange Variation. If you look at the position, if you count
the strengths and the weaknesses, you can notice, first of all, that white’s queenside
is undeveloped. He has four undeveloped pieces, ok, the rook
on d1 is developed, but it’s not doing that much, and black has a ruined pawn structure
in this position. And the c pawns will give a big advantage
to white as the pieces get exchanged. The point of the f3 move was to disrupt the
bishop and take away squares from the light squared bishop. And same as in many Pirc positions and positions
in which the queens get exchanged, such as the Berlin Defense, you are aiming to disrupt
your opponent’s pieces from moving freely. The side that can control more squares in
the center will generally be better here. King safety isn’t such an issue in this
position because both kings are pretty safe, and the only thing you have to worry about
is piece activity and pawn structure. The main continuation after this is bishop
to e6, of course the bishop is retreating. Bishop to e3 developing, now attacking the
c pawn twice. Black would have to defend with b6, and now
knight to c3. And this is actually still main line theory
and there are still a hundred games played from this position. This is the position which you have to remember. Let me just return to some alternatives for
black after white castles (5.0-0). I said f6 is by far the main move, and you
will see 5…f6 in most of your games, but after castles, black could also go for queen
to d6, which is one alternative to f6. It does defend e5, but it’s blocking the
f8 bishop. Another move black could try, instead of f6
and queen d6, is bishop to g4. This defends the e5 pawn indirectly, pinning
the f3 knight to the queen. And knight to f6 as well, which isn’t that
good, white could try knight takes e5 in this position, Qd4, knight to f3, and black, of
course, in this position can’t take the e4 pawn. Because white would simply play rook to e1. And this is the starting position, if you
remember, white wasn’t able to take the e5 pawn before black played knight to f6,
but, in this position now, after white castled on move 5, black actually has to worry about
that. He has to defend. This is what would happen if black doesn’t
defend e5. So knight to f6 would be a mistake and white
would be able to take the pawn, and queen to d4 doesn’t work because of knight to
f3, and if you take the e4 pawn then rook to e1 wins immediately. So f6 after castles for white, f6, and if
you follow the main line this is d4, e takes d4, knight takes d4, and this is the position
you have to remember. Now, from this position on, of course you
don’t have to follow the main lines with c5 for black etc., but what you have to remember
is that, if you are black, you need to gain the initiative as soon as possible and, perhaps,
you shouldn’t even worry about the positioning of your king. Because, even though your king is unsafe,
you should be the one attacking, because long term you will suffer if the pieces get exchanged. So try to attack as soon as possible. And if you are white, first of all try to
exploit the fact that black’s king is on e8. Try to create as much pressure as possible. Don’t exchange queens, and don’t allow
black to exchange queens if possible. And try to attack black as soon as possible,
and even if you don’t manage any exchanges will favor you, so if you exchange pieces
your pawn structure is much superior to black’s pawn structure. If you noticed, these pawns, black isn’t
able to create a passed pawn in this position, and white is very much able to utilize his
four to three pawn majority on the kingside. If you imagined all the pawns just moving
forward, white would be able to create a passed pawn much easier than black because black’s
c pawns are doubled and pretty useless in this position. This is the same as in the Berlin Defense. And this is the pawn structure you have to
study if you want to play the Exchange Ruy Lopez. This is the main asset white has in this position,
and if white can compensate enough with the pawns for being deprived of his bishop pair,
and relieving the pressure from black’s f7 square, then white will be much better
in any endgame. Ok, everyone! Thanks for watching. I hope you got something from this video,
and that you learned something about the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Stay tuned for more videos on chess theory! Thanks very much! See you soon. Bye!

21 thoughts on “Ruy Lopez – Exchange Variation ⎸Chess Openings

  1. ​ Hanging Pawns Thank you for this video, I have played Ruy for years and switched between exchange and the mainline. I never could fully comprehend the advantages/disadvantages of each variation until now despite the numerous amount of videos I have watched on the Ruy. I cannot wait for your Caro Kann! Maybe one on the Sicilian Kan or Najdorf as well? Or even French Winawer!

  2. At one point you say to exchange pieces and get to the end game asap, however you then go onto say white should try not to exchange queens. Great video but i think there is a contradiction. Thanks though, you have a NEW SUBSCRIBER for sure.

  3. Did you need to go to the bathroom? Wow you were speaking so fast that it was hard to keep up. The whole point of these videos is to “teach” and if you can’t keep up you are not learning. Take a breath, slow down, think of the audience and again slow down. Let the position be on the board for at least 9 seconds so that we can look at it. I viewed this 4 times before I realized that it is GREAT MATERIAL! Terrible delivery, but truly great material! Thanks.

  4. Hello! Started playing chess recently, enjoying your channel very much. I have a question, in the main line with 5. O-O, since white would like to keep his queen as long as the black king is in the center, why does he still go for 6. d4?

  5. What happens if after Nxe5, Qd4; …Nxc6 (offering the exchange for two pawns)?

    If Qxe4, then Qe2! Pinning!

    What after this? White may end up a pawn down, but he has compensation for the end game as Black’s pawn structure is damaged.

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