I've recently begun studying openings, and I've been practicing the Ruy Lopez.

I played a game that began as follows.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d5 4. O-O dxe4 5. Nxe5 Qd5 6. Bxc6+ bxc6 7. Ng4

Generally the black response is 3... a6, and then I can either play the exchange variation or back up my bishop to Ba4. Instead, as seen, they played 3... d5. I responded by ignoring the threat to my pawn by castling. After 5... Qd5, I decided to make the exchange and backed up my knight.

Did I respond correctly? Is there a named variation for that black response? If anything it was enough to throw me off. A few moves later I traded queens and forked his king and rook, but I can't tell if my advantage came from a bad move by my opponent or as a result of his atypical opening leaving him in a disadvantaged situation.

4 Answers 4


3... d5 is not listed here so it is a safe bet there's a problem.

It looks like an overreach, with both Black pawns being vulnerable.

I'd go for a pawn steal.

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d5
4.Nxe5 a6 5.Bxc6+ bxc6 6.Qe2 {White has better development, better pawns, and a free pawn.}

  • I imagine Black's idea when playing 3...d5? can't be 4...a6, but rather 4...Qg5.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 29, 2020 at 9:49

The variation proposed is interesting and the one favoured by the computer. I went further and thought when seeing your variation (d5) that it reminded me of certain variations of the Ponziani, with one single (huge) difference: white has not yet played c3. So, taking on d5 to implement Nc3 came to my mind, with the following variation (as a sample and not definitively concluding - and with computer assistance):

[FEN ""]

1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Nc3 Qd6 {for instance} 6. Qe2 Nge7 7. Nxe5 Be6 8. f4 0-0-0 9. Ne4 Qd4 10. c3 Qb6 11. Nc4

etc. With an advantage to white. Of course, the line suggested by Tony Ennis is less "messy" and more clear-cut but I suggest another option. It is up to you to make your choice. The variations we both propose are different in nature. Tony Ennis suggests you go for a material advantage in exchange for the bishop pair (for what it is worth without convenient development). My variation also proposes a material advantage but doesn't surrender the bishop pair. Furthermore, my variation keeps the center solid (pawns in the center), avoiding counterplay and hindering free piece play on black's part.

The idea of d5 is thematic, of course, but premature and clearly inferior but it has one advantage: you are on your own and one single misstep and problems appear. It could be interesting in blitz play but not more, i think. The positions arising after d5 should be examined by you (and possibly others) with computer assistance to refute your missteps in analysis and to get an idea of how to handle various responses.

  • I would consider this central, developing, approach to be less messy than Tony Ennis'. If anything, White also wins a good central pawn here.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 29, 2020 at 9:52

...d5 is seen in a number of variations, though not this early. Probably the earliest is in a line from Cordel’s that GM Konikowski concocted in some correspondence games (3. ... Bc5 4. c3 d5). Grab them from one of the online databases; some of them are wonderfully complex studies of the kind of pitfalls White can stumble into.

Typically, when it shows up in the early phases of the opening, the idea for Black is some enterprising piece play that can catch White unawares if he’s not careful. Typical ideas involve a Queen sortie to either f6 or g5, getting the Queen off the hot seat at d8, often with gain of tempo (from g5 she eyes g2, and from f6 she protects the e-pawn as well as defends c6). Paired with the now freed Bf8, and the light squared B on d6 or c5, White needs to be careful about trying to hard to overrun Black. The lines are highly tactical, and probably not all that sound, but if Black is sharp enough, White can often get lost in the complexities of the position. There are enough resources in the position for a good coffeehouse player to cause a great deal of trouble.

My first impression is this is too early to be really dangerous, so if you feel sharp enough, or Black is clumsy, you should be able to enter in to the melee and come out ahead. If not, straightforward development will see White through to an advantage. (That’s the main problem with attempts like this to wrest the initiative from White; White can typically ignore the bait, make solid moves, and still come out with the better position.


That 3...d5 move is terrible for black. And not many masters tried that bad move 3...d5.

replying 4.0-0 is a mistake. a bad mistake. white instead playing 4.p-d4 won every game played by masters.

I would have played 4.nxp in reply to 3...d5 which wins at least a pawn.

In one of the master games he played that knight takes move, a move later, after 4.d4 and then after black had played 4...dxe4.

I prefer my pawn structure better with the move sequence I used.

There may be a name for this somewhere by somebody but I do not know what it is other than 'irregular' defense to Ruy.

  • 1
    This answer would be much easier to read if you used standard chess notation with move numbers.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 29, 2020 at 9:51
  • I think in descriptive. Feel free to edit the answer if you think you can improve it. Jan 29, 2020 at 14:35
  • I added the move numbers. Some explanation why you consider 4.0-0 to be "a bad mistake" would help too. This definitely gives White a nice advantage, even if he might make even more from Black's mistake. It seems you reckon a lot on an opening tree or database, but statistics are definitely not the absolute truth in such sidelines with very few games played.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 29, 2020 at 15:38
  • I know what I played and also see what the engines say. o-o is just inferior to the moves the masters played in this situation. and nxp wins a pawn outright while other moves end up only with positional advantage. Jan 29, 2020 at 16:12
  • The rule of thumb is to decline gambits with which you're unfamiliar. This player seems to be a low level and this doesn't apply, but, without deep calculation, I would have suggested castling.
    – Mike Jones
    Feb 2, 2020 at 2:58

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