The Ruy Lopez is one of the most popular openings for White. It is one of the most heavily analyzed openings. A very popular choice for Black on his third move is a6. White must either exchange or retreat with the bishop. For decades the most popular reply to the Morphy Defense has been 4. Ba4. Very often the pressure on Black’s e pawn leads Black at some point to play b5. That renders Black’s queenside pawns more susceptible to attack. So that is one of the advantages of 4. Ba4. The other choice is 4. Bxc6. It has long been established that Black cannot get equality if he answers bc. His only good choice is dc. If White so chooses he could then continue with 5. d4  ed; 6. Qxd4 Qxd4; 7. Nxd4.  White has a potential passed on the e file. As long as Black’s c pawns remain doubled he has no potential passed pawn. The practical difficulties of exploiting the potential passed pawn are great. Black has the theoretical advantage of the bishop pair which is part of the difficulty for White. To increase the pressure White could try 5. O-O or 5. Nc3 rather than playing d4 immediately.

Another common choice for Black is the Berlin defense. White often plays 4. O-O. Black then has the choice between Nxe4 or Be7. On Nxe4 White’s main choices are 5. Re1 and 5. d4. Historically 5. d4 has often been recommended as best. Both moves pose some problems for Black.

Less common but playable choices for Black include Bird’s Defense (3.– Nd4), the Steinitz Defense (3.– d6), and the Classical Defense (3.– Bc5).

Ruy Lopez - Morphy Defense Ruy Lopez - Berlin Defense


For information about the items below please click on an image or the blue text below the image.

Starting Out: The Ruy Lopez – Shaw

Ruy Lopez Main Line – Flear

Guide to the Tkachiev Ruy Lopez – Shirov

Ruy Lopez Exchange – Panczyk

Winning with the Ruy Lopez 1: Berlin Wall and others – Bologan