In the opening, when the black knight goes to c6 white often responds with bishop to b5. What is the purpose of this move?

For example the Ruy Lopez/Spanish opening:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5

1 Answer 1


This opening is called the Ruy Lopez or the Spanish Game.

It is actually quite logical: 2.Nf3 attacks the e5 pawn and Nc6 defends against this attack. Now Bb5 attacks the defender, which renews the attack on e5. For tactical reasons the threat of taking on c6 and then taking on e5 isn't acute yet, but the idea is nonetheless to exert pressure on the black pawn on e5.

Additionally 3.Bb5 makes it possible for white to castle in one of the next moves. This is another motivation for an early kingside development.

  • Ok, I get it! Thamks. But i this scenario, isn't the Bishop in a weack defensive position? I mean, it is very easy to put a threat on the bishop...
    – J.L
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 11:30
  • 1
    Yes, you are completely right. Very often black plays a6 and after Ba4 he attacks the bishop again with b5. But this kind of queenside extension also creates strategic weaknesses … so all these moves have pros and cons and it is difficult to distill an uncomplicated "truth" about such lines. Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 14:43
  • I would urge you to watch this: chessopenings.com/ruy+lopez. Really helpful beginner videos on openings
    – xaisoft
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 16:44
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    Just to add on a7-a6 and b7-b5. Pawns cannot move backwards. That is why they create permanent weaknesses when they move forwards. It may sound trivial, but it is the key to positional understanding. Cheers.
    – user2001
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 1:37
  • Yes, the bishop is easily kicked by ...a6 but think about it this way: white wastes a move by having to move the bishop again but black had to use a move making white do that, so black didn't actually gain anything. Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 11:57

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