Ruy Lopez – Ideas, Principles and Common Variations ⎸Chess Openings

Ruy Lopez – Ideas, Principles and Common Variations ⎸Chess Openings


Hello Everyone! This is Stjepan and welcome to Hanging Pawns! In today’s video I’m going to go over
the basics of the Ruy Lopez or the Spanish Game, which is one of the strongest weapons
you could add to your opening repertoire. And while most other openings come and go,
drop in popularity, and then make a comeback when a novelty is discovered, the Ruy Lopez
or the Spanish Game is the best and most solid choice for 1.e4 players, from beginner to
super GM level, and that will never change because the idea of the opening follows the
best opening rules and principles, and it just can’t grow old. I’m going to go over the main variations
briefly in this video, but each one will be covered in detail in an individual video. The opening starts after 1.e4 by white, challenging
the center and attacking the f5 and the d5 squares. Black replies with 1…e5, stopping white’s
main plan, which is to push his queen’s pawn from d2 to d4, which would create a formidable
center and give white an advantage. White now replies with the second move 2.Nf3,
which is challenging the e5 pawn, attacking the e5 pawn, and supporting d4 once again,
so simply continuing to push his idea of creating a strong center, and black one again has to
stop that with the most logical move, Nc6. Once again stopping the d4 push and defending
the e5 pawn. And white now puts more pressure on both squares
indirectly, by challenging the c6 knight. He plays Bb5. And this is now the Ruy Lopez. This move is attacking the defender of e5
and d4, so it’s indirectly forcing the d4 push and the capture of e5, and this is now
the starting position of the opening. All the moves make perfect sense, but it’s
important to understand what the idea behind each move is in order to be able to follow
the variations. From this move on the opening branches out
into three main variations; the main lines which lead either to the closed or the open
Ruy Lopez, the Berlin Defense, which starts after 3…Nf6, and the exchange variation. And black is the one who chooses now, and
he has two main moves here. The first one is 3…a6, and it’s by far
the most common one. This move is challenging the b5 bishop immediately,
and the bishop only has two options in this position. Retreating back to either c4, d3 or e2 would
be a waste of tempo because wouldn’t keep the pressure on the c6 knight, so the most
common idea is to go back to a4, which is still putting pressure on the c6 knight. That’s the starting position of most lines
in the Ruy Lopez. Another way white could react to 3…a6 is
by simply taking on c6, without retreating, so Bxc6, and this is the easiest variation
to learn I would say. This is the Exchange Variation of the Ruy
Lopez. In this position white is simply saying: “Ok,
I’m going to put pressure on e5 by removing the defender, simply removing the defender.” And after 4…dxc6, one common idea of this
opening is that white is counting on his “pawn majority” on the kingside, which is far
superior to black’s “pawn majority” on the queenside. He just has four against four on the kingside
as opposed to black’s “three” to four on the queenside. Black will be unable to force his pawns forward
and white will be able to perhaps even create a passed pawn after some central pawns get
exchanged. This means that in any endgame white will
have an advantage. Despite an equal number of pawns, white has
a better pawn structure. In this position, of course, white can’t
take the e5 pawn, which, perhaps you might have thought was possible after he took the
knight on c6. If he takes, then black is able to simply
respond with Qd4, and this is one of the most common opening traps in the Ruy Lopez. And after the knight retreats, the queen simply
takes and black will have equal material with a better position. After the exchange happens, white has forfeited
castling rights and black stands a little bit better. But after 4…dxc6, the position is still
very complex. There are a lot of lines in the Exchange Variation
of the Ruy Lopez and I will be covering them in a separate video. But this is the second way to react, so after
a6, white either takes the knight or plays Ba4. Ba4 is the most common move and after this
black has a few ways to continue playing, but by far the most common one, and how 99%
of games are played, is with black continuing with Nf6, simply putting pressure on e4. White castles. The pawn on e4 can’t be taken because white
would be able to play Re1 and pressurize both the e4 knight and the e5 pawn, so black continues
with Be7, and after Re1 this is the Closed Ruy Lopez. And, once again, 99% of games continue with
6…b5, the bishop retreating to b3, castles, c3 and d6. And this position now is , I would say, the
starting position of the closed Ruy Lopez, and this position can be seen in probably
20% of grandmaster games which start with 1.e4 e5. And this position, the Closed Ruy Lopez is,
with the Berlin Defense and the Marshall Attack, the third most common line after 1.e4 e5. White, I this position, has one more move
which simply has to be played. That’s h3. And after h3, white has completed the first
plan of his plan, and he is now letting black choose how to continue the game. The arrows here are indicating the most common
plans for both sides. First of all, white’s main plan in this
position, and from the start of the opening, from 1.e4, 2.Nf3 and 3.Bb5, the point of each
of those moves until now was to push the d pawn forward and to create a strong center
with d4. That was the purpose of the move c3, that
was the purpose of every move so far. To push the d4 pawn. Black is, in a way, trying to stop that, but,
he also has plans of his own. The second plan by white is to transfer the
undeveloped b1 knight to the g3 square. And this is one of the most common maneuvers
in chess, and almost every Closed Ruy Lopez game sees that maneuver happen. The point is to transfer the knight to d2,
to f1 and then to g3, and from this point on white is able to start an attack. And black, on the other hand, has a few plans
of his own. Firstly, he might try to get the knight out
of the way for the f pawn to move, which is black’s pawn break in the position. Another idea is to push the c pawn, but for
that to happen the c6 knight has to move. It will either go to a5 or to b8, or perhaps
even waste a few more tempi to maneuver and to let black be able to play c5, or c6 in
some positions. Black is also attempting to play d5 in some
positions, and to break in the center himself. But, from this position, the black side has
to choose how to continue. There are two main variations from this position. The first one is 9…Nb8, which is the Breyer
Variation of the Closed Ruy Lopez. The point of this variation is that black
is trying to re maneuver his knight to a much more useful square, which is d7. From d7 it’s making room for the c pawn
to move and to break in the center, and it’s also defending the e5 pawn which is making
the main push for black, d5, a real possibility. From this position white is able to continue
in several ways, black as well. I will cover the variation in a separate video
too. After 9.h3, the second most common variation
black could go for is the Chigorin Variation, which starts with 9…Na5. The point of Na5 is that black is gaining
a tempo on the b3 bishop, which has to retreat to c2. Which is why white played c3 in the first
place, along with pushing the d4 pawn, the point was to give a retreat square to the
bishop. After the bishop retreats in this position,
black plays c5. And that’s the point. He got to play c5 with tempo, and he got to
re maneuver his knight back into the game with tempo. I will just give a nothing move for white
just to show the point of that; black is now able to put the knight back into the center,
on c6. And, if you noticed, the pawn is no longer
on c7, it’s now on c5, and black has definitely gotten something out of the position, and
he made the white bishop retreat as well. These are the two main variations from the
Closed Ruy Lopez. But this is the position you have to remember,
because many games, and almost all the games in the Closed Ruy Lopez will look like this. If you were watching the Candidates Tournament,
which just finished two days ago, there were, I think, seven or eight games which started
from this position. The players would get to this point playing
“a tempo”, wasting absolutely no time, and then they’d start thinking. The other variation which doesn’t go into
the closed lines, after 3.Bb5, the other most useful variation to know is the Berlin Defense. I’m sure you heard about it as the variation
gained so much in popularity in recent years, that it’s becoming one of the strongest
weapons for black, especially when he is trying to draw a stronger opponent. The variation is so well analyzed and so well
known that it’s very hard to surprise your opponent even at lower levels. And you absolutely have to know it if you
play 1.e4, or if you play e5 in response to 1.e4, because if you don’t know the theory,
the chances are that you are just going to lose. The Berlin Defense doesn’t start with 3…a6,
which is the most common move in the Ruy Lopez, but black plays 3…Nf6 instead. This is now the Berlin Defense. Once again, this variation has a few lines
white and black could choose, and I will show them in a separate video when I will do the
detailed analysis of the Berlin Defense. But the most common line, the so called “Berlin
Endgame”, goes like this: white castles in this position, Nxe4, d4, Nd6, attacking
the bishop, bishop takes c6, dxc6, dxe5 chasing the knight away. And after the knight goes to f5, the queens
get exchanged. And this is the starting position of the Berlin
Defense. This position was introduced to high level
chess by Vladimir Kramnik in his 2000. World Championship match against Garry Kasparov,
in which he actually managed to defeat Garry Kasparov using the Berlin as a surprise weapon. After the match, when Kramnik won, people
just realized that if Kasparov could lose to this, then it must be really strong despite
looking kind of weird for black, and it seems that white has a big advantage. The point of this position is, even though
black has forfeited castling rights, he has the bishop pair. He has the possibility of creating a stronger
attack in the middlegame, and if he manages to get something from the initiative he is
able to create, he will be better. In exchange for that, white has a much better
pawn structure and, of course, castling rights. So, the point of the position, and there were
recent games, for example Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a game with 20-30 moves of theory,
in which every move was analyzed to perfection, and the point is that white is trying to create
a passed pawn on the kingside. And all of these pawns are free to move and
he has a four to three pawn majority on the kingside, so white is realistically able to
create a passed pawn. While black, on the other hand, has a pawn
majority on the queenside, but if you notice the c pawns are doubled, so there isn’t
really a chance for him to create a passed pawn. In theory, any piece exchange favors white,
because with less pieces on the board, the pawns become more important. If you imagined all the pieces being off the
board, white would be clearly winning, because he’d be able to create a passed pawn. And, therefore, black has to create something
with his bishop pair and he has to gain some initiative before exchanges happen. The opening is so well analyzed and there
are so many lines, that I can’t even begin explaining them now. I will go into much more detail in a separate
video on the Berlin. Ok, I would like to go over a few more variations
of the Ruy Lopez which are worth knowing. In the main position after 4.Ba4, bishop retreating,
going for the Closed Ruy Lopez lines, 4…Nf6 and castles, instead of Be7, going for the
Closed Ruy Lopez, black is able to play two more variations which are really strong and
much more offensive to white than the closed lines. The first one is the Archangel Variation which
starts with 5…b5. Immediately pushing the white bishop away
to b3, and black now develops with Bb7. And this position is trying to catch white
off guard, one could say, and to gain quick development for black. And if you noticed, the black king is still
in the center, bishop from f8 hasn’t moved yet, but black is creating a lot of pressure
on the e4 pawn with the bishop on b7, and he is starting to create an attack early on,
as opposed to getting into the closed lines, which, after this position, look a bit more
passive for black, and they are actually giving white a free hand in the center and letting
him push the d4 pawn in exchange for something else for black. After castles, the Archangel Variation is
5…b5, and another variation black could go for is 5…Nxe4, and this is the so called
Open Ruy Lopez. Same as the Archangel variation, the Open
Ruy Lopez gives a lot more attacking chances for black, but it also means that white is
able to attack much sooner because the black king is still in the center. One more very important variation, after castles,
black is going for Be7, main Closed Ruy Lopez lines, Re1, b5, Bb3, castles and c3, from
this position, black doesn’t have to play d6, which is going for the Breyer, the Chigorin,
the Karpov variation, and so on. Black is able to play a much more aggressive
move, d5, striking in the center immediately. This is called the Marshall Attack. And, in recent years, this has become the
most aggressive weapon black has against the Ruy Lopez, but sadly it’s been considered
a drawing weapon, as some lines are analyzed up to 30 or 40 moves deep, and they have been
calculated up to a forced draw, however, the position creates a lot of imbalances and gives
attacking chances to both sides. The point of the variation is that black is
sacrificing a pawn for the initiative. The main line and the only line that’s played
after d5 is exd5, knight takes d5, and now white is able to go a pawn up and take a central
pawn by playing knight takes e5, knight takes e5, and rook takes e5. And in this position, if you noticed, white
has seven pawns, black has six pawns, but the attacking chances for black are much better
and black is able to create a lot of initiative in just a few moves. He has to defend the knight first with c6,
d4, and now bishop to d6. And in this position you can see what black
sacrificed the pawn for. If you noticed, whites queenside pieces; the
rook, the knight, the bishop and the queen are still completely undeveloped, stuck on
their original squares, and black is starting to create a menacing attack using his bishop
pair and the queen. If you imagined the queen coming to h4, which
is actually what happens in most Marshall Attack games, then black has a lot of compensation,
and even more than enough for the pawn he sacrificed. And in most games white is actually forced
to give material back just to be able to survive. But, as I said, the variation is so well analyzed
that now, on top level, it usually ends in a draw. Ok, so just to recap; the Ruy Lopez, after
3.Bb5, is one of the most common openings in chess, and it’s actually the most solid
opening and it’s considered that you can’t become a good player unless you know it perfectly. That’s partly true, because in the Ruy Lopez,
the better player wins. That’s the common rule and there aren’t
any surprises, attacking gambits, there are no sacrifices, it’s just that you have to
know how to play positional chess, you have to know how to re maneuver your pieces, you
have to understand squares, weakness of squares, you have to understand outposts. And only a player who is well versed in chess
principles and opening principles is able to understand the Ruy Lopez. That’s why studying this opening will develop
each part of your chess skill and I think it’s absolutely essential. All the variations which I have shown now;
the Berlin Defense, the Exchange Variation, the variations in the Closed and the Open
Ruy Lopez, will be covered in a separate video, one video for each, and I will go into a lot
more detail on each variation with sample games and much more information on each one. Ok, everyone! I hope you liked this video on the chess opening
Ruy Lopez or the Spanish Game, and see you soon with more chess videos.

80 thoughts on “Ruy Lopez – Ideas, Principles and Common Variations ⎸Chess Openings

  1. Again, an excellent video. I really look forward to your opening series, as your method of instruction is very logical.

  2. I'm sorry but how does playing 1…e5 STOP white from playing 2.d4? The centre counter opening does just that!

  3. 4:35 My classmate is an unorthodox player, he plays b5 instead of knight challenging the bishop and if I try to save the bishop he will continue to develop his pieces which is a disadvantage for me. What should you think the best move/ should I do?

  4. I've been leisurely playing chess since I was a child but have recently taken a keener interest in the game and have decided to study chess to become a better player. This video was very helpful and has given me many things to contemplate. I have been playing the RL and really like the games that arise from it. Thank you!

  5. Excellent video! I have been watching agadmator, finegold and SLC videos for a couple of years and have been one of their early subscribers. They are great for learning about and enjoying famous games and lines, but for a person who wants to learn chess, your channel seems to be doing the best job so far! Your video is very methodical, keep up this approach. Subscribed 🙂

  6. @ Hanging pawns Thanks for uploading these opening tutorials, I only learn chess last month, you videos help me get 1400 ratings at lichess, Thanks!!! I hope a new opening video will come out because those last ones are about magnus vs caruana the championship, thanks😁🇵🇭👍

  7. Awesome and logical explanations of Spanish opening ideas in general ,awaiting your next videos separately in details for each variations, keep it up and thanks for sharing

  8. Finally I found a very good channel that gives me correct idea in opening👍👍👍
    Really this video is super👌👌👌
    Thanks a lot🙏

  9. WoW! Just discovered your channel and I loved it. I have watched many chess channels but the way you explain chess, its beautiful. I have played chess for a few years now, and I have just started a chess club for my students (am teaching Mathematics and Science at high school). I will definitely give them your videos for instruction to complement what I teach them. Keep this up!!!

  10. Very nice explanation of the eternal Ruy Lopez. Slight coverage of the Noah's ark trap in Ruy Lopez would have given a nice touch to it. Appreciate your videos!

  11. The most tired opening in chess. A good way to get an easy win out of me is to open with the rug Lopez. I'll just resign. No satisfaction in winning that game.

  12. This is the 1st video of yours that I've seen. I like how you covered the main variations without going too deep, and followed up with more videos covering the variations in more depth. I'm looking forward to watching the rest now. Nice job!

  13. Great video! This will really help a lot since the Ruy Lopez is the most common opening 🙂

    Perhaps do something very interesting after you've covered all the basic openings. The Halloween Gambit is very interesting!

  14. Really like the video, but why does black only recapture the white bishop with the d pawn and not the b pawn, because then black can challenge white’s kingside/ center.

  15. Excellent video…. also very clear idea for new players…..and the markers help to understand the plans for both sides alot…. I'm subscribing….and plz….keep up the good works…. ❤️❤️❤️

  16. Your claim that 6 or 7 games in the last candidates reached the Ruy Lopez starting position shown in the video is simply false. Yes, there were quite a few Ruy Lopez games in the Cadidates, but none of them reached the main starting position, they all deviated earlier. For instance, white played d3 instead of Re1 in many games, white also played a4 isntead of c3 sometimes, black played the Marshall once, among other variations.

  17. An in-depth analysis of a Ruy Lopez (Berlin Defence) game between Strelka 5.5 and Komodo 12.3.
    https://www.chess.com/blog/jishnuplayschess/komodo-12-3-plays-the-ruy-lopez

  18. isn't it better to NOT move your bishop to b6? if youre not planning to take the Knight and force them to cross pawns it seems pointless to move there then move back to A4 … if you do this you're just giving them a free go limiting the reach of your bishop by putting it at the side …

    am I right or wrong?

  19. What do u do , if after queen to d2 your opponent stands up and smashes the board onto the ground with all the pieces and then threatens to rape you??????

  20. First video I saw of yours, I thank the youtube algorithm for suggesting it to me! Great explanations and clear concepts, I really appreciated your video!

    One thing I would like to ask: do you use a particular program for the coloured squares that appear when you are going to move a piece (e.g. at 3:49)? I believe they would be quite helpful to understand where a piece should be developed/moved.

  21. I really like the ruy lopez openings so much opportunity to attack and defend very well. I'll post my game using this opening and beat my opponent. thank you

  22. How did I not find this channel earlier???

    You're giving out free professional courses…. Thank you so very much.

    In amateur chess as soon as you move bishop to a4 they push b5….how to punish or refute that?

  23. Looking back at this video it shows how far you've come since. This video goes in much less detail and it ignores so many lines compared to your recent videos. I would really enjoy seeing a remake of the Ruy Lopez videos someday in the future.

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