When I play the Ruy Lopez opening, I usually get my bishop chased all the way down to the second rank by two pawns. I don't know if this is common at higher levels of play but it seems like a pointless pursuit.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 { Spanish Game, Morphy Defence, Caro Variation } 5. Bb3 a5 6. a3 a4 7. Ba2 *

Does doing this give either player an advantage at any point during the game?

3 Answers 3


It is extremely uncommon for Black to play like this at the higher levels, and that is because, as you stated, it's pointless. Black achieves nothing in particular by this chase, and White ends up with a standard opening advantage. Worth noting, however, is that after 5...a5 by Black, White is in no way forced to play a3. A standard developing move will do, as the bishop can go to d5 if nothing else.

  • 1
    Adding to why White retains the advantage: Bishops are not necessarily "misplaced" or "badly developed" on the 2nd rank, nor even the 1st rank (a1, b1). In fact a bishop on an unobstructed long diagonal is usually a big plus. E.g. in the final position above, the a2 bishop will pin the f7 pawn if/when Black castles kingside; Black does not control d5 for the block either. Meanwhile Black's b5 is weak unless/until Black somehow gets c6 in.
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 16:51
  • Also playing c3 (a useful Lopez move for building your center) makes more sense than a3.
    – ToddM
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 18:40

After 5...a5 two better moves for white are 6.a4, stopping the black a pawn in its tracks and gaining some space and 6.c3 which prepares d4 and creates space for the bishop on c2 from where it can protect e4.

Consequently 5...a5 isn't that great for black. Better would be 5...Nf6.


Why not play 6)p-b3 (6. c3) instead of p-qr3 (6. a3)?

That is where the bishop ends up in most main lines, and then black has wasted time and weakened his pawns with that chasing.

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