How to Counter Ruy Lopez

How to Counter Ruy Lopez Opening?


Ruy Lopez is one of the best chess openings against King’s Pawn Opening. It’s not easy to counter Ruy Lopez without preparation. You need to learn basic fundamentals, plans, and strategies on How to Counter Ruy Lopez.

In this article, we will see how to counter Ruy Lopez. I am going to suggest you 3 variations against it which are quite popular and also played at the top level.

What is Ruy Lopez?

Ruy Lopez starts with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5. White’s main aim is to open the bishop, do a short castle, and then start an attack in the center. However, it’s not easy as it seems. Black can give strong resistance, and also, black has many options to play.

Ruy López de Segura made a systematic study of chess openings, including Ruy Lopez and other chess openings. Because of this study, this opening is known as Ruy Lopez.

Ruy Lopez is played by almost all top chess grandmasters, and it’s the best chess opening which has no good alternative. Some people play Scotch opening, but their main repertoire is based on Ruy Lopez. 

How to counter Ruy Lopez?

To counter Ruy Lopez, you have some very good variations, which are played on the top level. By following this variation, you can easily counter Ruy Lopez and aim to beat stronger chess players.

The best way to counter Ruy Lopez is Berlin Defense. This got popularized by GM Vladimir Kramnik. Berlin Defense is a very solid variation that gives immediate equality for black in many variations. 

If you want to go in sharp openings, there are variations like Marshall Attack. In Marshall Attack, black gets very sharp play, and hence many times, white doesn’t allow Marshall Opening. White usually plays early d4 to avoid Marshall Setup.

Best openings to counter Ruy Lopez’s Opening

There are various openings that can be played to counter Ruy Lopez’s Opening, but these three are sustainable and strong. Also can be followed by any chess player.

Berlin Defense

Berlin Defense became popular when GM Vladimir Kramnik used it against Garry Kasparov in the World Chess Championship Match. Berlin is played on a top-level quite often.

Following is the move order of the Berlin Defense

E4 e5

Nf3 Nc6

Bb5 Nf6

After this, white has 2 options, either to defend the pawn on e4 by playing d3 or just do short castle. After 4.d3, black develops the bishop from c5, and then the position becomes very complicated for black. 

In the main line, after 0-0, black takes the e4 pawn, and this main line has many variations which you need to study deeply. I am recommending the following books and courses which you can purchase to learn Berlin Defense from Black Side.  

Marshall Attack

Marshall is the most attacking chess opening against Ruy Lopez; in Marshall Opening, black aims to checkmate the white’s king with a dangerous attack. 

Although white can choose to avoid Marshall opening, instead, white plays early d4 or a4, which is known as anti-Marshall. Even a main line in a marshall opening gives a slight advantage for white.

Apart from the above cons, Marshall is a completely playable opening. If a black knows everything, it’s hard to play with the white side. Also, when someone is on the attacking side, they always get a slight edge.

Following is the move order for the marshall opening

1.e4 e5 

2.Nf3 Nc6 

3.Bb5 a6 

4.Ba4 Nf6 

5. O-O Be7 

6.Re1 b5 

7.Bb3 O-O 

8.c3 d5

To play anti-Marshall, white plays the 8th move, d4, preventing black’s d5 move.

Jaenisch Gambit

Recently GM SP Sethuraman recorded an entire course on Janiesh Gambit from the black side. In Jaenisch Gambit, black plays 3…f5, which at first sight seems a very odd move.

Usually, in Ruy Lopez, white’s plan is to do slow development. By playing Jaenisch Gambit, black creates some dynamic play in the game.

Although this opening is not a great recommendation for a classical chess game, you can definatly prepare and play this in Bullet, Blitz, Rapid, and Classical tournaments. 

You can check out GM Sethu’s course on Jaenisch Gambit by clicking here.

How to prepare against Ruy Lopez?

Following are a few steps to prepare for the Ruy Lopez opening.

  • Choose an opening that fits according to your style of play.
  • If you are an attacking player, choose Jaenisch Gambit or Marshall attack.
  • If you are defensive or a solid player, play Berlin Defense.
  • After choosing an opening, buy a chess course or a chess book on a relevant chess opening.
  • You can also hire a chess coach who can teach you the opening.
  • After learning the basics of opening, start playing games with your friend or online games.
  • Analyze all the games you played and learn from your mistakes.
  • Expand your opening repertoire.


What variation is good against Ruy Lopez?

It depends on various factors such as your strength, style of play, weaknesses, etc. If you are an attacking player, you can play marshall opening, but if you are a defensive player, you should play Berlin Defense.

Ruy Lopez is a very complicated chess opening, and even you can avoid it completely by playing Petroff.

Why do grandmasters play Ruy Lopez?

Ruy Lopez is a good chess opening that has been popular for the last 500 years. There is not a real good alternative to Ruy Lopez, and hence many grandmasters choose to play Ruy Lopez.

Also, Ruy Lopez gives a slight advantage for white every time if white is well prepared. It’s also very hard to break, and that’s why top players prefer Ruy Lopez over any other options.

Is the Italian game better than Ruy Lopez’s opening?

Italian is also a strong alternative to Ruy Lopez. Honestly, you don’t get variety in Italian game as you get in Ruy Lopez. Italian is a good opening for beginner chess players who have just started chess or top-level chess players.

Sometimes, Italian gets too boring to play, and it becomes very difficult for white to get a better position. It’s better to choose Ruy Lopez over Italian Game.

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