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 Post subject: Beginner's Ruy Lopez Analysis
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:10 pm 
Here's my analysis of some popular Ruy Lopez variations. All feedback is welcome:

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The move (1. e4) is the most common opening move for white because it gains center control and gives the bishop and queen room to maneuver.

Black will often respond with (1. …e5) to get the same advantage.


White plays (2. Nf3) to develop a minor piece and attack black’s pawn on the e file at the same time.


Black plays (2. …Nc6) developing a minor piece and defending the e pawn and preventing white from playing d4. This move blocks black’s own c pawn from advancing which creates a disadvantage that white will try to exploit, but it is still black’s most common response. d6 is a good alternative, but does not prevent white from advancing the d pawn.


(3. Bb5) defines the Spanish Game. It threatens to capture the piece defending the e pawn in addition to creating a pin as soon as the d pawn moves. However, white is not actually threatening to win material because: (4. Nxc6 dxc6 5. Nxe5 Qd4). With the move Qd4, black forks white’s knight and e pawn, white does not win material and the position looks dangerous for white.


Morphy Defense
Black’s most common response is (3. … a6) so that, after white retreats the bishop, black will have the option to play b5, eliminating any pressure on the knight.


(4. Ba4) White retreats the bishop while still maintaining its attack on the knight.


Black now plays (4. … Nf6), which develops a minor piece and attacks white’s e pawn.


(5. 0-0) White can castle instead of defending the e pawn because black does not win material even if the knight takes on e4. White will eventually be able to move the rook to the e file and create a pin that wins back the lost material. (see Open Morphy Defense)


Closed Morphy Defense
(5. … Be7) If black is looking to play a conservative, tactically solid, closed game, black will usually develops its bishop to e7. This opens the space for black to castle, which will bring black’s rook closer to the game. Another logical square for the bishop to develop to is c5, but it less common because of the line (5. … Bc5 6. Nxe5 Nxe5 7. d4) and white forks black’s bishop and knight. This variation is rare, but known as the Møller Attack.

(6. Re1) White brings the rook to the center file, and threatens to take black’s e5 pawn by defending the e4 pawn. Now that e4 is defended, white threatens to play (7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Nxe5) and since the pawn is defended, (8. … Qd4) is not a fork anymore because white can play the move (9. Nf3) forcing the queen to retreat.


In order for black to defend the e pawn, black can play (6. … b5) which prevents white from playing the move (7. Bxc6) and forces white’s bishop to move away.


White’s only safe move is (7. Bb3). Now white’s bishop is attacking black’s kingside as well as black’s weak f7 pawn.


Black can now play the solid move (7. … d6). This defends the e5 pawn, gains some center control, and opens up space for black’s light squared bishop to come out. It also improves black’s pawn structure. Ideally black would have preferred to move to d5, but after (7. … d5 8. exd5 Nxd5) black’s e pawn is hanging and white can take with the knight on f3.


From here white would love to play d4 for center control, but this leads to the Noah’s Ark Trap: (8. d4? Nxd4 9. Nxd4 exd4 10.Qxd4 c5). In this position, when white retreats the queen, black can play c6 and white’s bishop is trapped. Instead of immediately playing d4, white has to play (8. c3) first. This move also gives the white bishop room to escape if black ever plays Na5.


Now black will usually castle to protect the king and move the rook closer to the center file.


Open Morphy Defense
A strong alternative to the more traditional line (5. … Be7) is (5. … Nxe4). This variation is known as the Open Morphy Defense. If black likes to play a more direct open game, this is a great option. Right from the start it takes off one of white’s center pawns which will be a weakness black can try to exploit. White may be less familiar with this variation, and therefore may be more likely to make a mistake. For this reason, it is a good variation to study.


(6. d4) is white’s best response. It attacks black’s e pawn, gains center control, and prevents black from playing Nc5 and winning the bishop. If black plays (6. … exd4), white can play (7. Re1) pinning the knight and forcing black to defend awkwardly while white can inevitably win back lost material.

Black can play (6. … b5) removing the future pin on the knight, and taking away white’s option to capture it.


(7. Bb3) White retreats the bishop to its only safe square.


Black wants to defend knight and gain center control with (7. … d5). This position is not nearly as common for black because it feels riskier and less tactically sound, but it is a sound, perhaps underexplored opening.


Berlin Defense
The Berlin Defense, defined by the move (3. … Nf6), is an alternative to Morphy Defense, but runs into a lot of similarities to the Open Morphy Defense. It is a very strong defense to play for a draw, especially if black’s opponent loves to play with a bishop pair.

(4. 0-0) White castles knowing that they will be able to win back lost material if the knight takes the pawn on e4.

Unlike in the Morphy Defense, in this position black will almost always take the e4 pawn so that black can eventually exchange a knight for white’s bishop (one of black’s main reasons for playing this opening is to get rid of white’s strong light squared bishop). The move (4. … Nxe4) also gets rid of one of white’s center pawns and opens up the game.

(5. d4) attacks black’s e pawn, gains center control, and prevents black from playing Nc5 and winning the bishop. If black takes the d4 pawn, white has the same pin with Re1 as in the Open Morphy Defense. When white pins the knight, black is forced to defend awkwardly while white can inevitably win back lost material.

(5. … Nd6) attack’s white’s light squared bishop.

(6. Bxc6) White is forced to give up the light squared bishop, but will double up black’s c pawns.

(6. … dxc6) Now black has no center pawns, but a lot of open space for its bishop pair to maneuver.

(7. dxe5) winning back material and threatening the knight on d6

(7. … Nf5) retreating the knight to a strong square controlling the center

(8. Qxd8+) White trades queens and forces black to take with his king. Now black will be unable to castle, and as a result black’s king will either remain exposed or waste moves escaping to a safe position.

(8. … Kxd8) is black’s only move. Black may be unable to castle and have bad pawn stucture, but black does have the advantnage of having a bishop pair in an open position with space to move around. Black will always have an easier time playing for a draw with the extra bishop because of its control of the light squares.


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