The Ruy Lopez is a classic opening that remains a popular choice in chess. If you meet 1.e4 with 1…e5, it is essential to have a reliable defense to this opening.
Many variations of the Closed Ruy Lopez involve memorizing eight or nine moves to get to a tabiya, and you must consider deviations along the way.
The safe and strong Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz Defense reaches a starting position as early as the fourth move (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6).
As Black, there are only two other choices for White you need to know. The Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation (4.Bxc6) and the Steinitz Exchange Variation (4.Ba4 d6 5.Bxc6).
When learning a new chess opening it’s always a good idea to start with the mainline. In this video, GM Damian Lemos covered the typical c3 advance for White in the Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz Defense.
The Ruy Lopez Steinitz Deferred 5.Bxc6
Against the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6), recapturing with 4…dxc6 is an excellent approach by Black.
You can learn an effective system for Black in this informative article:
In the Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz chess opening 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.Bxc6
White delays capturing on c6 to deny Black the option of …dxc6. However, Black can obtain a solid position packed with potential after 5…bxc6.
5…bxc6 6.d4 f6 7.Be3 Ne7 8.c4 Ng6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.0-0 0-0
The critical move for Black in this Ruy Lopez chess opening is 6…f6 and the Ne7-g6 maneuver.
Remember, a solid position does not mean you must settle for a draw.
Use the potential attacking possibilities with the knight on g6 and the …f5 pawn break.
Another crucial idea for Black is to play …c5 to control the d4 square. Although White can play d4, it allows Black to exchange one of his doubled pawns.
Ruy Lopez Noah’s Ark Trap
Against the Ruy Lopez Steinitz Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6), one of White’s main moves is 4.d4.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.d4
The crucial difference is Black can meet 5.d4 with the immediate 5…b5!
6.Bb3 Nxd4 7.Nxd4 exd4 8.Qxd4?? c5
If the queen moves to e3, Black will trap the bishop with …c4. White can try to induce a mistake from black with the tactical 9.Qd5 threatening mate on f7 and attacking the rook on a8. 9…Be6 blocks the checkmate and allows Black’s queen to defend the rook on a8.
White can persevere with his plan and play 10.Qc6+ when 10…Qd7 is a mistake because it allows 11.Qxd7+ Bxd7 12.c3.
The correct move for Black is to block the check with the bishop – 10…Bd7. This gains a vital tempo that prevents White from playing c3.
10…Bd7 11.Qd5 c4 traps the bishop.
This trap has caught many strong players rated above 2200 Elo. Consequently, it is an excellent trap to have in your opening preparation. In this game, Tregubov had a 2588 Elo rating.
Tregubov, P. – Sek, K., 2020.02.07, 0-1
Even if White avoids the trap and plays 8.c3, Black has a perfectly playable position, as the following game shows.
Pena Gomez, M. – Fressinet, L, 2018.08.19, 0-1
Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz Defense 5.c3
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 Bd7
Breaking the pin is important because, with c3, White signaled his intent to play d4-d5. Black’s best approach against 5.c3 is a kingside fianchetto.
6.d4 g6 7.0-0 Bg7 8.Re1 Nf6 9.d5 Ne7 10.Bxd7+ Nxd7
Despite going back to the mid-1800s, the Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz is still played at the highest level today. Here is a game played in 2018 between two players rated above 2600 Elo.
Ni Hua – McShane, L., 2018.07.31, 0-1
And if that isn’t enough to convince you this is an excellent, modern chess defense, here’s a game from the world chess championship in 2017.
Karjakin, Sergey – Carlsen, M., 2017.06.25, 1/2-1/2
Wilhelm Steinitz might not be one of the names that come to mind when you think of attacking chess, but the Ruy Lopez variation bearing his name has plenty of punch. Long after being introduced to the chess world, world chess champions and their challengers still pay the variation.
There is room for transposition, making it harder for your opponents to prepare for you. You can reach the Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz Defense from the 3…g6 Ruy Lopez variation, as in the Sergey Karjakin vs. Magnus Carlsen game.
Another advantage of the Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz is you won’t need to spend a lot of time learning long theoretical lines. The plans are simple, sound, and give you every chance to play for a win with Black.
Now that you know how to meet the Ruy Lopez, it’s time to complete your repertoire against 1.e4. GM Damian Lemos’ Deep Dive series covers the mainlines and unusual openings.
Grab the 1.e5 e5 bundle today and learn to play against gambits, sidelines, the Ruy Lopez, and the Italian Game. Act now to get instant access and 50% off the Deep Dive 1.e4 e5 Bundle for Black.