The Ruy Lopez Open Defense is one of the oldest and most classical of all opening systems in chess, known for its potential to lead to a rich complexity of positions.
Below we’ll look at the Open Defense of the Ruy Lopez across various dimensions.
Move Order of the Open Defense
The Open Defense emerges on the board following the moves: 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4.
Here, Black accepts a pawn deficit to gain a foothold in the center of the board.
This move order is indicative of Black’s aggressive intentions, aiming to contest White’s central control and disrupt the smooth flow of White’s development.
Theory, Strategy, and Purpose of the Open Defense
In the Open Defense, the key theory involves Black capitalizing on the time White takes to recapture the pawn, using it to establish a central presence.
Black can play with vigor and tactical acumen, exploiting the open lines and the lack of harmony in White’s camp.
The strategy in the Open Defense is a double-edged sword – Black is trying to maintain balance while throwing White off balance, whereas White seeks to regain lost material and exploit the black king’s lack of safety.
Variations of the Open Defense
Numerous variations emerge in the Open Defense, each with its unique characteristics.
6. d4 is considered the best response for white. It provides an advantage of roughly +0.40 for white.
One of these is the Riga Variation, which commences with 6. d4 exd4. This line is generally considered inferior for Black.
Another interesting sub-variation is the Howell Attack, where White uses 9.Qe2 aiming to play against d5 after Rd1.
The Dilworth Attack, with the aggressive and forcing line 11…Nxf2, is another variation, resulting in unbalanced endgames.
Continuation Lines of the Open Defense
Sample continuation lines include:
6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Bc5 10. Qd3 O-O 11. Be3 Na5 12. Nbd2 Bxe3 13. Qxe3 Nxd2 14. Nxd2 Nc4 15. Nxc4 bxc4 16. Bc2 Qb8 17. Qd2 Qb6 18. b3 Rad8 19. Rfe1 g6
6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Bc5 10. Qd3 O-O 11. Be3 Na5 12. Nbd2 Bxe3 13. Qxe3 Nxd2 14. Nxd2 Nc4 15. Bxc4 dxc4 16. Nf3 Qe7 17. Nd4 Bd7 18. Rad1 Rfd8 19. Rfe1 c5 20. Ne2 Be6 21. f4 Rd3
6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Bc5 10. Qd3 O-O 11. Be3 Bxe3 12. Qxe3 Na5 13. Nbd2 Nxd2 14. Nxd2 Nc4 15. Bxc4 dxc4 16. Nf3 Qe7 17. Nd4 Bd7 18. Rad1 Rad8 19. h3 h6 20. f4 c5 21. Ne2 Bf5 22. Ng3 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Bd3 24. Rd2
6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Bc5 10. Qd3 O-O 11. Be3 Bxe3 12. Qxe3 Na5 13. Nbd2 Nxd2 14. Nxd2 Nc4 15. Bxc4 dxc4 16. Nf3 Qe7 17. Nd4 Bd7 18. Rad1 Rad8 19. Rfe1 h6 20. f4 c5 21. Ne2 Bf5 22. Rxd8 Rxd8 23. Ng3 g6 24. h3 Rd3 25. Nxf5 gxf5 26. Qf2
History of the Open Defense
The Ruy Lopez is steeped in history and has been a favorite of many legendary grandmasters.
In the Open Defense, the famous game between José Raúl Capablanca and Edward Lasker in 1915 stands out as a historical example of the Riga Variation.
The Dilworth Variation saw prominence with Artur Yusupov, one of the few grandmasters who adopted it repeatedly.
Is the Open Defense Good for Beginners or Intermediates?
The Open Defense is more suited to intermediate and advanced players due to the level of understanding required for the variations and tactical possibilities.
It can be a formidable weapon for those willing to delve into its subtleties.
While beginners may find it challenging due to its tactical nature and the need to understand complex positional ideas, studying it can offer valuable insights into the dynamics of chess openings.
How Often Is the Open Defense Played at the Grandmaster Level?
The Open Defense is not as commonly seen at the grandmaster level as some other lines of the Ruy Lopez, like some of the Closed Defense lines or the Berlin Defense, but it has been chosen by some of the greatest players in the world.
It saw significant use in the World Chess Championship matches, with memorable games in the Karpov–Korchnoi and Kasparov–Anand matches.
Notably, Fabiano Caruana, a top player, has been a more recent proponent of this line and recommends it.
Ruy Lopez Defenses Chess TIER LIST
The Open Defense of the Ruy Lopez is a fascinating and complex variation that is seen all the way up to the top levels.
While it’s not for the faint-hearted or the unprepared, it offers the player a rich smorgasbord of positions and the potential for both explosive attacks and subtle maneuvering.