Is Ruy Lopez a good chess opening? (The truth!)

If you have spent some time trying to learn some new chess opening then you would have come across the Ruy Lopez at some point, it is quite popular after all. 

The first thing that may come up on top of your head are the questions: Is this a good opening to even play? What is the point of learning this, and will it be effective? This is what this article is looking to answer.

Is Ruy Lopez a good chess opening? As a chess player here is what I know:

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most optimal openings that white can play on the 1.e4 line, most of the variations will result in white being slightly better. White will naturally have more space and active pieces on the Ruy Lopez, this is why it is preferred on elite levels.

Just for reference this is the position where the Ruy Lopez would’ve started:

After bishop b5 the position is now officially called the Ruy Lopez, the image above illustrates it.

This is a very standard opening that is even played in elite tournaments, however, it also has disadvantages that might not be suitable for your liking. With all of that in mind, let’s get started.

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most solid opening for white

The Ruy Lopez is definitely one of the most sound openings for white. It is the variation you should go for if you are not looking to play aggressively while still retaining some sort of an advantage.

When we say “sound” we are really talking about a position that doesn’t offer a lot of lines that can lead to massive disadvantage, it is quite solid and there’s not a lot of risky play involved. 

White in the Ruy Lopez position will always be better than black if played decently (not even perfect) and you will likely have a very good middlegame. There’s not a lot of ways you can lose early on with this line.

It is not like black will be completely lost in this variation, it is just that white naturally has a slight advantage since it is the color that will have more space. There’s also not a lot of traps possible.

It does allow certain aggressive lines (like the marshall attack)  and some very tricky traps but are usually those that can be avoided with decent play. You don’t have to study it in order to do well with it.

Of course you would be significantly better as white playing the Ruy Lopez but you can still have a good game even without studying it thoroughly, which may be suited for beginners.

It is pretty solid since it involves a lot of themes that you can also see on other chess openings, this may be helpful when studying other variations than just the Ruy Lopez.

The Ruy Lopez offer a lot of space and activity for white

In Ruy Lopez the white pieces will usually be more active than the black pieces (if played correctly), there will also be more space for white in this line. This makes it really easy to play.

Even if you haven’t studied the Ruy Lopez in detail you will likely have more room to wiggle into and make some sort of a play, in other words it is easier to play with white.

A lot of beginners struggle with trying to find some sort of a plan in a cramped position, it is quite difficult to weigh your options if you can’t even find a single good move. 

The Ruy Lopez ensures that you will always find something good to play (even if it is not the best move) since you just have more space as white. The pieces can get to the squares that will unleash their full potential.

Also the white pieces are going to be more active and you are going to find it easier to create a plan, this means that you are more likely to find a comfortable position that will make you play your best.

If you are a beginner that is struggling to create space and prioritize piece activity early on, the Ruy Lopez is definitely a good option for you.

The Ruy Lopez is not a bad opening just because the bishop loses tempo

This is the argument that some people give against the Ruy Lopez, which is that it loses tempo for the bishop that is being developed to b5. This is a wrong perspective however.

It might look like you are losing tempo by developing the bishop early on (since it will inevitably be attacked by the black pawns) but this is just an illusion. Pawn moves do not count as development, it can be a weakness actually.

The black pawns on a7 and b7 will get naturally get pushed as the line of the Ruy Lopez unfold, but it doesn’t necessarily make it an advantage. White pawn to a4 is usually enough to challenge the overpushed black pawns.

White’s light-squared bishop will eventually find its way back into the defense and help with the control of the center. This is always more helpful than the inactive square on f1 where it is initially placed.

It seems that you are losing tempo but you are actually just maneuvering the light-squared bishop into a more active square using the tempo of the black pawns. This is a good deal if you ask me.

The Ruy Lopez does not give too much opportunity for attacks

One of the disadvantages of playing the Ruy Lopez is the lack of opportunity to play aggressively, it doesn’t offer a lot of lines where an attack is possible. 

It is more of a solid opening that will make white slightly better than black, but not to the point where there is an unbeatable attack present, it is not that overwhelming.

White will have more space in the lines following the Ruy Lopez but there are usually not a lot of opportunity to launch an attack. This opening is not for aggressive players who are looking for tactical plays.

It is quite positional actually, using your space and slightly more active pieces in order to outmaneuver your opponent and acquire a bigger advantage. 

It can be an aggressive opening (depending on the lines that your opponent chose) but the position is silent in most cases, so this might be bad for you if you are looking to attack later down the road.

There are many other openings that cater to those who play more aggressively, you might want to look for those since Ruy Lopez doesn’t offer as many attacking games.

Final thoughts

There are many openings that you can try if you are looking for a positional game as white, the Ruy Lopez is definitely an opening that you should consider since it is so solid.

It is the opening that is played many times in elite games (I’m talking like, at every other round) and some people are actually annoyed that they have to see the Ruy Lopez over and over again.

But I think that they’re missing the point, there is a reason why elite players choose this opening with white more than any other opening out there. It is that good.

This has become one of my favorite openings to play so you should try it and see how you do with it, maybe it will become your pet line as well. That is all for this article, sleep well and play chess.