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How to open a chess game with the "ruy lopez"

White's most famous opening in chess, the Ruy Lopez, begins with pawn to e4.

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e4. Remember: coordinates always refer to white's perspective. The far left corner is a1; far right is h1.

e4. Remember: coordinates always refer to white's perspective. The far left corner is a1; far right is h1.

Standard black reply is Nc6.

Standard black reply is Nc6.

Nf3 gets the knight involved in the center square action to follow, and it makes way for the eventual king-side castle.

Nf3 gets the knight involved in the center square action to follow, and it makes way for the eventual king-side castle.

Aggression, in chess, is winning chess.

Aggression, in chess, is winning chess.

Black has several options, and developing the knight (f6) is fairly aggressive - naturally, I quite like it. There are others to consider that might be fun to think about / try later...

d5, the "Queen's Gambit". The Gambit can be "accepted" via e4xd5, creating an open center; it can also be "declined" via d3.

d5, the "Queen's Gambit". The Gambit can be "accepted" via e4xd5, creating an open center; it can also be "declined" via d3.

Or, e5 equalizes control over the center and develops bishop / queen diagonals.

Or, e5 equalizes control over the center and develops bishop / queen diagonals.

Many people like g6... It sets up a "fianchetto", which I'll explain.

Many people like g6... It sets up a "fianchetto", which I'll explain.

Let's move on from g6...

White plays Bc4. Can you see why Bb5 would be problematic? Too early in the game to invite harassment...

White plays Bc4. Can you see why Bb5 would be problematic? Too early in the game to invite harassment...

Bg7 tucks the bishop into the long, powerful diagonal. That is now the strongest minor piece on the board.

Bg7 tucks the bishop into the long, powerful diagonal. That is now the strongest minor piece on the board.

0-0, white castles kingside by moving 2 squares towards the Rook. Snug as a bug!

0-0, white castles kingside by moving 2 squares towards the Rook. Snug as a bug!

That's the Ruy Lopez! Black will likely continue the fianchetto...

...with Nf6, attacking the e4 pawn.

...with Nf6, attacking the e4 pawn.

d3 is traditional, though it cuts off the bishop.

d3 is traditional, though it cuts off the bishop.

Alternatively, Re1 could follow.

Alternatively, Re1 could follow.

By convention, black also castles, and the fianchetto is complete.

  • Any FREE chess player
  • Basic chess knowledge of coordinates