Ruy Lopez – The Most Popular Opening in Chess

Ruy Lopez offers some practical chances to both sides to get a better position. Ruy Lopez is considered as the best, the most popular, and the most scoring response against the King’s Pawn Opening, which is 1.e4 e5. Ruy Lopez has a very deep and extensive theory which both players need to prepare well.

Here, white has a lot of choices in opening to get a better position. In the last 50 years, the theory has been developing very fast for both sides. In this article, you will get detailed information about Ruy Lopez and responses to Ruy Lopez.

Main Lines in Ruy Lopez

Currently, there are hundreds of variations available in Ruy Lopez. Some of them were not popular in the 1980s, but thanks to players who played the best games in that variation. Ruy Lopez is continuously developing, and because of this, we see a lot of changes are happening year to year. Some of the lines which are considered as main lines have disappeared now.

Let’s see the five most popular main lines:

Exchange Variation

In Exchange Variation, white takes black’s knight on move number four. The core strategy of white is to ruin black’s pawn structure and then keep playing in the center for advantage. Those players who want to play safe can play this variation.

Black also get very comfortable positions and equal chances of winning. As per the database, white has 53% of winning chances, and black has 47% winning chances. Black gets two bishop advantages and decent counterplay if white plays on in an ambitious way.

Modern Arkhangelsk Defence

Black develops his bishop from c5 and captures an a7-g1 diagonal. This variation gives black some good play, but at the same time, white also gets h4-d8 diagonal and good positions. Both players fight for a win in this variation. Fabiano Caruana is one of the most notable players of this variation.

Open Defense

Black plays Nf6 and takes the pawn on e4. This variation is one of the most popular in Ruy Lopez and perfect for black players who want to win. Both players have very asymmetrical structures. This variation is played by former world champions Viswanathan Anand, Garry Kasparov, and Anatoly Karpov.

Chigorin Variation

9.h3 Na5 – Mikhail Chigorin was a famous chess player in the 20th century who popularized this variation. White focuses on attacking the kingside, and black focuses on the queenside. Both players get great chances in this variation. But due to black’s night at a5, this variation is not popular.

Breyer Variation

9.h3 Nb8 – The only difference between Chigorin and Breyer is black plays Nb8 instead of Na5. Black’s main plan in this variation is to play c5 and then Nd7. The critical difference in Breyer and Chigorin Variation is black knight placement. This variation became very popular and played by top GMs such as Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.

Berlin Variation

Berlin is one of the main lines in Ruy Lopez. Before the 1980s, Berlin Variation was not very popular, but when Vladimir Kramnik started playing Berlin regularly on the top level, at that time, it gained popularity.

How to prepare against Ruy Lopez

To prepare against Ruy Lopez, you will need a lot of time and effort. Ruy Lopez has a lot of variations that have a lot of theory involved. I will suggest you can prepare the sidelines; then, you can prepare the main lines.

In mainline, first start with 4. Bxc6 and then prepare 4.Ba4. Also, if you are a sharp player, then you can prepare a Marshall opening. However, most of the players will not allow marshall in-game.

If you are a positional player, then I would recommend you to go with the Berlin defense.

Tips for playing against Ruy Lopez

  • Playing against Ruy Lopez is not easy. You need to have intensive preparation before your game. As we have already discussed many factors associated with it, here are some valuable tips for Ruy Lopez.
  • Stick with only one variation. Don’t prepare multiple variations, which will only confuse you.
  • Play main lines and open lines. This will help you in your future career immensely.
  • Play practice games with your friends or on any online websites.
  • Follow the latest opening trends, novelties.
  • Create a database and update it every week. You can update by adding the latest games, new novelties, etc.

How to avoid Ruy Lopez?

If you want to avoid Ruy Lopez, you have two options, i.e., you can play Petroff or Philidor Defense. However, Philidor is not that famous as an opening to avoid Ruy Lopez.

I recommend that it is always better if you prepare extensively against Ruy Lopez and face it rather than relying on either of them to avoid it. Petroff and Philidor will not be helpful in the long run against it.

All our articles are reviewed and edited by GM Marian Petrov, a top level GM coach, theorist, mentor and and former Bulgarian champion, as well as winner of many open tournaments around the world.

Learn Chess for Free

helping you

Learn Chess

We are here for serious chess learners. Our mission is to promote the game of chess through a complete, easy-to-understand database of tutorials on literally every opening in Chess.