In this lesson you'll learn how to use one of the most powerful weapons at your disposal.

The RUY LOPEZ or SPANISH opening.

Ruy Lopez was a 16th century Spanish priest who wrote about this opening.

He also recommended that you place the board so that the sun shines in your opponent's eyes. Excellent advice!!

It starts with these moves:

1. e2-e4 e7-e5
2. Ng1-f3 Nb8-c6
3. Bf1-b5

Tell you what - get your chess set out and play these moves on your board now.

White's third move is the usual choice of most strong players.

Learn and understand it and you'll be well on the way to becoming a strong player yourself.

Well, what's going on here?

If White moves his Bishop to c4 he's going for the King.

But by moving his Bishop to b5 he's going for a mere pawn instead.

The White Bishop attacks the Knight which defends the Pawn on e5. Very logical, I'm sure you'll agree.

But is he threatening the pawn at the moment? Let's find out.

OK kiddo! Sit up straight, pay attention, and play these moves on your board.

3... a7-a6
4. Bb5xc6 d7xc6

and if you're more intelligent than you look you might just have reached this position.

Stop for a moment and decide whether or not White should capture on e5 in this position.

The answer is that he CAN if he chooses, but it's not terribly good.

Black has several ways of winning back the pawn:

Qd8-d4 (FORKING e5 and e4) is the simplest.

There's also Qd8-g5 (FORKING e4 and g2) or Qd8-e7 (SKEWERING e5 and e4)

Play 5. Nf3xe5 Qd8-d4 on your board, giving the position on your left.

Now the game usually continues:

6. Ne5-f3 Qd4xe4+
7. Qd1-e2 Qe4xe2+
8. Ke1xe2

In this position Black has the advantage. White cannot castle and Black has a Bishop for a Knight (you'll learn in a later lesson why this can be an advantage).

So DON'T take the pawn in this position. If I see you doing that EVER AGAIN IN YOUR LIFE you'll be in a lot of trouble. OK?

White instead has several better moves. You could defend your e-pawn with Nb1-c3 or d2-d3: both these moves would THREATEN Nf3xe5.

But the master choice is to play 0-0 here. To find out what happens next step right on in!

This is called the EXCHANGE VARIATION of the RUY LOPEZ and don't you DARE forget it.

Black now needs to do something about the e5 pawn. Good choices are f7-f6, Bf8-d6, Qd8-d6 and Bc8-g4, which we'll come back to later.

But first we'll look at what might happen if Black prefers a natural developing move: Ng8-f6.

Yes, you know what to do - from the last diagram play Ng8-f6 for Black, then Nf3xe5 for White.

If you've been paying attention you'll have this position on your board.

From here, let's see what happens if Black tries the move that worked last time:

Play these moves:
Ne5-f3 (THREATENING the Queen) Qd4xe4

And in this position it's over to you to find White's next move.

I trust you got that one right!!

Yes, the White Rook PINS the Black Queen to the King.

Now you see why White wanted to castle quickly.

It's usually a good idea to castle as soon as you can in this opening.

Now go back a couple of moves, and instead of Qd8-d4 we'll play Nf6xe4, taking the pawn back at once.

For those of you who are confused by this, here's the position for you - go away and set it up correctly NOW!!

White's best move here is Rf1-e1, and let's suppose Black retreats the Knight: Ne4-f6.

Yes, that's right, play the moves out on your board.

It's time for you to do some more work. If you think you're so smart, tell me White's next move.

OK, I admit it, you're smarter than I thought!

It's an AMBUSH (remember!) - the White Knight THREATENS the Black Queen while DISCOVERING CHECK from the Rook on e1.

No matter how Black gets out of check he loses his Queen next move.

Don't forget this idea, will you? You'll meet it again in a later lesson.

Yes, you CAN play the EXCHANGE VARIATION of the RUY LOPEZ if you like.

But it's not the world's most exciting opening.

If Black knows what he's doing he can get an equal game fairly easily.

Very quickly, we'll show you one way to play for Black.

In the previous diagram it's White's move. Go to your board and play out these moves. NOW!

5. 0-0 Bc8-g4
6. h2-h3 h7-h5
This looks crazy!! Black defends his THREATENED Bishop instead of moving it.

What White SHOULD do now is carry on developing with, for example, d2-d3, when both sides have to calculate every move whether or not White can take the Bishop.

But suppose he snaps at the bait. Let's see what happens.

The game continues:

7. h3xg4 h5xg4
8. Nf3xe5

What should Black play next?

Qd8-e7 Qd8-f6
Qd8-g5 Qd8-h4

Yes, of course! 8...Qd8-h4, planning checkmate down the h-file.

White has to find a way for his King to escape, so plays f2-f4.

Now what?

g4xf3 en passant g4-g3
Qh5-h2+ Qh5-h1+

If you got that right, well played!!

Black shuts the door on the Black King by stopping him escaping to f2.

Check the position yourself to make sure there's no way for White to prevent Qh4-h1#!!

(In fact White can delay it for one move with Qd1-h5!)

There's nothing at all wrong with the Exchange Variation, but playing Bb5-a4 instead is much more interesting for White - and much more challenging for Black.

Before we take a stroll down the main line, a few points.

1. Always check to see whether you can win the e-pawn.

2. if you can't try to play your pawn to d4. Sometimes you can do it at once. Sometimes you need to prepare it with c2-c3.

3. I don't want to see you playing Nb1-c3 and d2-d3 - that's the FOUR KNIGHTS, not the RUY LOPEZ. Go for d4 instead, even if it appears to lose a pawn.

Black's most popular move now is Ng8-f6. A good alternative is d7-d6 (The Steinitz Defense Deferred). The most obvious move is probably b7-b5, but this is considered less accurate for reasons too complicated to go into here.

Now White plays 0-0, which now THREATENS to win the e-pawn safely.

In this position (the one on your left - you are still playing the moves on your board, aren't you) Black has two main choices.

He can play Nf6xe4, when White can regain the pawn with Rf1-e1 or play the more complicated (and probably stronger) d2-d4.

Or he can develop with Bf8-e7, the most popular move.

With Bf8-e7 Black blocks the e-file so now threatens to capture on e4. White must defend the pawn.

Remember, our plan is to play c2-c3 and d2-d4 at some point.

We don't want to play Nb1-c3, because it blocks the c-pawn.

d2-d3 is slow, but not bad.

The usual move, therefore, is Rf1-e1.

OK, just to check that you're still awake, it's time to answer another question.

Do you think Black should castle in this position?

Yes No
Don't know Don't care

And, if Black castles, which of these moves should White play?

Ba4xc6 Nb1-c3
d2-d3 h2-h3

Yes, indeed!

In this position White can win a pawn safely by taking on c6 and then on e5.

If you want to play this opening with either color you've really got to understand this idea.

So, going back to this position, Black has to do something about the THREAT to his d-pawn. What usually happens is something like this:

6... b7-b5
7. Ba4-b3 d7-d6 (0-0 is another story)
8. c2-c3 (preparing to play d2-d4) 0-0 9. h2-h3 (d2-d4 is possible as well, but White usually plays this to prevent Bc8-g4)

And in this position White is finally ready to play d2-d4.

You might be wondering what White's going to do with his Knight on b1.

The answer is that it's probably going to d2, then to f1, then maybe to g3 and f5, or possibly to e3 and d5.

Don't worry if you didn't understand all this. Much of it is pretty advanced - you'll learn more about this when you go to University.

Although a6 is Black's most popular third move, he has several other choices.


I DON'T recommend Bb5xc6 here - a waste of time.

I DON'T recomment Nb1-c3 here - again it's the FOUR KNIGHTS, not the RUY LOPEZ.

d2-d3, again, is OK but rather slow.

The best move is simply 0-0.

Tell me something, kiddo!

In this position, is it a good idea for Black to play a7-a6?

Yes No
Don't know Don't care

Yes, of course!!

Again, White will be able to capture on c6 and then on e5!!

You should be getting the idea by now.


Instead, Black has several options.

He can play Nf6xe4, when White can win the pawn back with Rf1-e1 or play the more complicated (and probably stronger) d2-d4. He can play a move such as Bf8-c5 or d7-d6, both leading to variations we're just about to look at!!

3...Bf8-c5 is the CLASSICAL VARIATION.

Probably not Black's best move, but not too bad.

White has two plans - to play c2-c3 and then d2-d4, or to play the FORK TRICK (Nf3xe5, and if Nc6xe5, d2-d4 - remember?).

In each case White can if he chooses play 0-0 first.

The most popular move is 4. c2-c3.

3...d7-d6 is the STEINITZ VARIATION, named after the first official world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz.

Rather too defensive (as the e-pawn, as we've seen, wasn't THREATENED) but playable.

White does best to play d2-d4 at once.

(If Black plays d7-d6 early on it's usually good to play d2-d4 in reply.)

This is the SCHLIEMANN variation.

Black offers a pawn: if White plays e4xf5, Black will play e5-e4, kicking the Knight.

White's strongest reply is Nb1-c3, but it's very complicated. A safer option is d2-d3.

Dangerous, but worth trying if you don't mind taking a few risks.

Finally, a few revision questions, to see how much you remember.

Which of these moves do we NOT recommend for White here?

Nb1-c3 d2-d3
Nf3xe5 0-0

What is White's most popular move in this position?

Nb1-c3 d2-d3
Qd1-e2 Rf1-e1

And finally, going right back to the start, which is the WORST out of these moves?

a7-a6 d7-d5
Bf8-c5 Ng8-f6

You've now reached the end of your assignment.

Click on the FINISH button to find out how you got on!

Watch out for a movie accompanying this lesson: coming to a movie theater near you shortly!