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Introduction to the Chess Openings: The Ruy Lopez

The Ruy Lopez, also known as the Spanish Game, is one of the most popular openings in chess, and has long been considered the best way for White to fight for an advantage after 1.e4 e5. Named after the 16th century spanish priest, Ruy Lopez de Segura, it was not immediately popular. Aggressive openings such as the King's Gambit were popular in the early years of chess, and it wasn't until the end of the 19th century when Wilhelm Steinitz demonstrated the precepts of positional play, that the old gambits were defused and more strategic openings such as the Ruy Lopez and Queen's Gambit began to take their place.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Ruy Lopez has been played by all the World Champions, most of them with Black and White (Fischer, of course, preferred his favourite Sicilian Najdorf as Black, although he was one of the foremost experts on the White side of the spanish game). For most of that time, the closed variations beginning 3... a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 have been considered the main line of the Ruy Lopez, but ever since Vladimir Kramnik used it to win the chess crown from Garry Kasparov in 2000, the Berlin variation - the so-called "Berlin Wall" - has become increasingly popular at the highest level to the point that it could now be considered the main line of the whole Ruy Lopez.

In this article, we will be looking at the following variations:

The Closed Spanish

Here are some grandmaster games to illustrate the possibilities for both sides in the Closed Ruy Lopez.

Leko vs Bruzon Batista, Wijk aan Zee 2005

Unzicker vs Keres, Hamburg 1956

The Open Spanish

Here are some victories by World Champions Kasparov and Alekhine to illustrate the chances for both sides in the Open Spanish.

Kasparov vs Anand, World Championship Match Game 10, New York 1995

Flamberg vs Alekhine, Mannheim 1914

The Berlin Defence

Here are some games to demonstrate how play can unfold in the complex Berlin endgame.

Caruana vs Adams, Dortmund 2014

Caruana vs Carlsen, Bilbao 2012

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