Understanding The Spanish Game (Ruy Lopez)

1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6

The Ideas behind the Ruy Lopez

The Ruy Lopez, know in Europe and South America as the Spanish Game, is a sophisticated opening that embodies all the principles of modern chess. Other opening can be out of date, out of fashion or simply offbeat, but White's third move , 3.Bb5, begins one of the few paths in the openings where both sides seek the ultimately best moves.

This approach can be sometimes impractical, as it requires a player to consider many chess principles and know many long variations, making it easy to make a mistake or blunder. The reader will note that the variations and knowledge required to understand it can be much longer than any other of the double king-pawn openings and that the variations themselves are also longer. As the opening requires more study and effort to learn, many chessplayers choose to use an alternate opening, such as the Italian Game, (Giuoco Piano), for example for their repertoire. The effort to learn the Ruy Lopez can be minimized by choosing one specific variation, of the lines without 3a6 are particularly easy to learn. Learning the more difficult and long variations has the virtue of presenting an opponent with hard pressing problems and the enjoyment of seeing fascinating and cutting edge chess ideas.

Despite being on of the most topical opening at the start of the new millennium. The Ruy Lopez is over 445 years old, dating back to the fifteenth century. It gets its name from the Spanish Priest Ruy Lopez, (1530-1580) from Estremadura, Spain, who was the first to treat the opening systematically in his Libro del Ajedrez of 1561.

The Ruy Lopez remains one of the most popular openings, and thoroughly dominates the Open Games in both amateur and professional competition. The logic behind the opening is crystal clear, White wants to undermine the support of the pawn at e5, hopefully to win it at some point. With careful play by Black this may never happen of course, but White can exact a positional price, maintaining a lead in development and a firm grip on the center.

For over a century Black has favored 3a6, to immediately put the question to the Bishop. White can respond by capturing at c6, but giving up a bishop for a knight is hardly likely to lead to an advantage for the first player. Instead, the Bishop usually retreats to a4, where it can still keep a hungry eye on the knight, but can also be repositioned at b3 or c2 with designs on the kingside.

In most cases, White will aim for a kingside attack while Black will play on the Queenside and also prepare a central break. Sometimes Black will be content to maneuver behind solid defensive lines. We will look at some of the possibilities and others in the variations of the Spanish Game presented here.


The Variations
1. Worral Attack
2. Mackenzie Attack
3. Arkhangelsk Variation
4. Steinitz Defense
5. Schliemann Variation
6. Cordel Defense
7. Classical Variation
8. Exchange Variation
9. Norwegian Variation
10. Modern Steinitz
11. Open Variation
12. Marshall Attack
13. Closed Variation

The Games
1. Fischer - Matulovic
2. Fischer - Johannessen
3. Anderssen - Schallopp

See a beautiful Queen sacrifice by Reti.
4. Reti - De Leeuw
5. Blackburne - Skipworth
6. Alekhine - Forrester
7. Tal - Geller

Karpov's mate is similar to Reti's
8. Karpov - Leuppl

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