The Ruy Lopez is one of the most difficult lines for me to play against. I just can't hold my position when I play as black. If I move 3... Nd4, I always get a draw at best, and usually take a loss. How can I improve my chances of winning in this situation?

After I looked up the answers which were given to me, I found one solid win for black with the Cordel Defence that I found in Shredder Computer Chess if you insert this FEN to it.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. c3 Bb6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Nce7 7. d5 Nf6 8. Nc3 O-O

Can someone show me, at which point does black take the initiative from white??


  • 1
    I used to prefer A6 and then continue.There are some good GM games from which you can learn how to tackle with this.Aren't there with me right now.
    – Rusty
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 10:38
  • 3
    3...f5 can be a fun line to play.
    – Akavall
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 17:14
  • @sammath I always mess up when played with A6 Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 2:16
  • @akavali I not a good gambler.. ^^ Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 2:16
  • @anyone I found an interesting opening as Ruy Lopez#Cordel Defence since it is fit with my knowledge that bishop is more worthed to captured than knight and since white bishop in Bb5 is not very dangerous bishop. all of you can see at my EDIT label Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 3:28

6 Answers 6


The Ruy Lopez is probably one of the most analyzed openings in chess. You can find plenty of resources on the Internet. (Wikipedia's article on the Ruy Lopez is a good point to start).

I would recommend that you not go searching for "winning lines". You first need to understand the principles that lie behind each move of this opening. Once you have that understanding it is easier to examine variations and choose the one that best suits your needs.

For example, if you are an aggressive player and your chess level is average, you might wish to consider the Open Defense and the Marshall Attack.


A "chance to win" with Black against the Ruy Lopez isn't necessary dependent on variation. Yes, there are aggressive lines, the most notable being the Archangel Variation, but having a better understanding of the opening line that you play will result in improved results. I would research other lines by using the Shredder Opening Database and see what other people are playing. Then, I would go online and play a few games in each variation to get a feel of the resulting middlegame positions and see which one is the best fit for me.

  • thanks for the links, I will compared with the other variation first.. Commented Jun 8, 2013 at 2:29

Frankly, I don't like my chances of winning with Ruy Lopez as Black. When faced with 1. e4, I "never" reply with 1... e5 (except as a "surprise" - then I play 2... Nf6, the Petrov Defense, but mainly to draw, rather than to win.)

I prefer 1... c5 (Sicilian Defense) or 1... e6 (French Defense). These are "double-edged" openings that allow both Black and White to win OR lose.

I like your variation better than most. After your 8... O-O, White will play 9. O-O, and you can play 9... Ng6. That leads to a position somewhat like my French defenses (with White's center pawns on "reversed" colors). It's a tough, but by no means unplayable game that gives White fewer attacking chances than a conventional Ruy.

I've lost a few games with the Ruy Lopez playing White. But that was basically due to my ignorance of the opening more than anything else.

  • I hope you meant 2. ... Nf6 instead of 2. ... f6, since that would be the Damiano defense, and be a very dubious response on your part.
    – David Liu
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 21:42

Thanks for all of you who have been give me the answer, and I realized that Classical Defence as Ruy Lopez variation fits me than the others variation.

From the latest FEN that I have been edited (and based from @Tom Au answer), normally White player will choose to castle his king, so it will give Black opportunity to neutralize centre with 9. O-O d6.

After I analyzed, 7. d5 is just bad idea from White player that give advantages to Black. It means, Black knight in 7. ... Nf6 is in the right place at the right time.


The classical/cordel is a very good choice against the Ruy Lopez. I switched to the sicilian for exactly this reason but this is what I would play if I hadn't .Black avoids the main lines but gets an active position. I think 4...Nf6 is the most natural choice here. Black develops a piece, prepares to castle and attacks the e4 pawn. 4...Bb6 doesn't really accomplish anything.

"Can someone show me, at which point does black take the initiative from white??" It's difficult to take the initiative if white doesn't make a mistake. This line though avoids theory and puts pieces on active squares. You are positioning yourself to pounce on the first white mistake. That's the best you can hope for as black.


After 3. Bb5, black plays

  • a6
  • Nf6


a6 puts the question to the bishop. If he takes your knight, recapture with the d pawn. Black has a very strong game at this point. Normally you capture toward the center, but in this case, you can play c6 to c5 and control the d4 square. d4 is very important to control in the Ruy Lopez.

What you see most often after a6 is the bishop retreating to a4. White may play c3 later in the game to give his bishop a square (c2) to back up into. You see the same thing happening on the other side of the board with f3 in the Queen's Indian, giving white's bishop on g5 the option to back up to Bh4 and then retreat to Bf2.

(White playing c3 also prepares for the d4 push, common for white in the Ruy Lopez. c3 protects the d4 pawn.)


You're probably going to see Nf6 eventually. After Bb5 you might see it right away. Or you'll see it after 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6. What does Nf6 do for black? It attacks the unguarded e4 pawn with the knight. But white doesn't have to worry here. Instead, white castles O-O. Why?

Take a moment to play this out on a board:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6  5. O-O Nxe4 6. Re1

Black is screwed after Re1. Notice that the rook is staring down the king. The pawn/knight are pinned. If black retreats the knight back to Nf6, now white takes the knight. Black recaptures the bishop. Now the pawn on e5 is unguarded. Nxe5 and you have a deadly discovered check on black's king when the knight moves.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6  5. O-O Nxe4 6. Re1 Nf6 7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Nxe5 

it's all over for black.

That's how Capablanca describes the Ruy Lopez in his book Chess Fundamentals (if I remember correctly).

  • 6
    No. Black is not even remotely screwed in the line you give, unless he just sits there like a stuffed dummy ignoring the discovery threats. 8. Nxe5 Be6 is entirely safe, and Black has easy development and two bishops to compensate for his doubled pawn. That's why 6. Re1 is generally not played when Black eats the e4-pawn; the main line is 6. d4, and White will get the pawn back but must still work to secure an advantage. Taking the pawn with 5. ... Nxe4 is a completely sound move played many times by grandmasters in serious matches, and it's flat wrong to claim that it loses by force. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 3:06
  • 2
    As Evan said, 5...Nxe4 is a perfectly good move that is frequently played at the highest level. The variation is called the Open Ruy Lopez. 6.Re1 is not even that good (although it's not terrible); Black plays 6...Nxc5 and has a fine game. A better try for White is 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6, and we have reached the main tabiya (standard position) of the Open Ruy.
    – dfan
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 18:30

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