Title: Play the Ruy Lopez

Author :  Andrew Greet

Publisher : Everyman Chess

Genre: Openings

Level: Beginner-Intermediate


Quote #1:  “If I am going to write this book, how am I going to make it stand out from all the others on the market?” (pg 13)

Quote #2:  “Better to do one thing properly than to spread yourself too thinly.”  (pg 243)




* chessbug@chessbug.com


Table of Contents:

Foreword by Nigel Short (3 pgs)

Bibliography (2 pgs)

Acknowledgements (1 pg)

Introduction (8 pgs)

Part 1: Variations without 3...a6

  • Introduction (2 pgs)

  • Unusual Third Moves (8 pgs)

  • Fianchetto Defence (...g6) (10 pgs)

  • Cozio Defence (3...Nge7) (18 pgs)

  • Steinitz Defence (3...d6) (25 pgs)

  • Bird Defence (3...Nd4) (21 pgs)

  • Classical Variation (3...Bc5) (16 pgs)

  • Schliemann Variation (3...f5) (20 pgs)

  • Berlin Defence (3...Nf6) (16 pgs)

Part 2: 3...a6 Ba4: Fourth Move Alternatives

  • Introduction (1 pg)

  • Unusual Fourth Moves (4 pgs)

  • Deferred Fiachnetto (4...g6) (3 pgs)

  • Deferred Cozio (4...Nge7) (4 pgs)

  • Deferred Classical (4...Bc5) (8 pgs)

  • Deferred Schliemann (4...f5) (14 pgs)

  • 4...b5 5Bb3: Unusual Fifth Moves (3 pgs)

  • Norwegian Variation (4...b5 5 Bb3 Na5) (14 pgs)

  • Deferred Steinitz (4...d6) without 6...f6 (16 pgs)

  • Deferred Steinits (4...d6): 6...f6

 Part 3: Worrall System (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2)

  • Introduction (3 pgs)

  • Unusual Fifth Moves (9 pgs)

  • Black delays ...b5 (9 pgs)

  • 5...b5 6.Bb3: Unusual Sixth Moves (5 pgs)

  • Anti-5.Qe5 Variation: 6...Bc5 (18 pgs)

  • 6...Be7 7.0-0: Unusual Seventh and Eighth Moves (4 pgs)

  • Closed Worrall (7...0-0 8.c3 d6 9.Rd1):Introduction (16 pgs)

  • Closed Worrall (7...0-0 8.c3 d6 9.Rd1): 9...Na5 (20 pgs)

  • Open Worrall (7...0-0 8.c3 d5 9.d3): Introduction (17 pgs)

  • Open Worrall (7...0-0 8.c3 d5 9.d3): 9...Bb7 (17 pgs)

  • Open Worrall (7...0-0 8.c3 d5 9.d3): 9...Re8 (12 pgs)

Index of Variations (3 pgs)



My early experiences with the Ruy Lopz (or Spanish Opening, as it is known among most European Chess players) led me to think that White neglects to develop the queenside, giving Black good chances for equal play. This misunderstanding is the primary reason why, for a long time, I stayed away from learning what can probably be called the“King of all chess openings.“ When I finally realized the deeper strategic meaning behind the 3.Bb5 pin and the different setups and plans that White and Black can follow I changed my mind on the Ruy Lopez. I started to immerse myself into the theory of the closed Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 b5 6.Bb3 d6 etc.) when I was at USCF playing strenth of about 1700, and was only able to employ it once in tournament play. (My opponent, however, opted for the Marshall Attack... and scored the point). My exposure to the intricacies of the closed Ruy Lopez has biased me somewhat, which should be kept in mind while reading the review of Andrew Greet's book Play the Ruy Lopez.

Andrew Greet’s goal is to present a book on the Ruy Lopez that is catered to players who play the White pieces. As most opening books go – those that advertise supposedly adventageous lines for one side - Play the Ruy Lopez tries to build a complete repertoire that should give readers of this book an edge against their unsuspecting opponents, regardless of what Black plays. Greet presents the reader with variations that are mainly based on his own analysis, which can be real asset if you have read the book and studied the novelties that are presented (and your opponent has not). But I should mention that at least for me this approach to chess does not make much sense. The reality of chess is that some openings (and specific lines) are favorable for White or Black, but there is no "guaranteed" way of winning (or getting an opening advantage) regardless of which opening you choose. From this perspective, Play the Ruy Lopez reminds me of the Colle System setups (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nbd7 5.Nbd2 g6 6.Bd3 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0), which seems to be favored by players who are reluctant to learn theory and instead want to hammer out their first 10-15 moves without spending much thought or understanding on it.

For me chess starts at move 1, and any book that tells you to restrict your opening knowledge to just a few lines (see Quote #2 above) because they are supposedly favorable is like trying to cheat on an exam, which ultimately only hurts your own long-term understanding of the game. Greet presents several different lines that Black can play, and for each gives a continuation that should at least be equal for White. However, White deviates early in some of the more popular lines (such as the Berlin Defense) in order to avoid theory. This was probably the most disappointing part of the book. While most of the moves and analyses in Play the Ruy Lopez are new, it reads more like a cheat sheet than a book on Chess openings. Furthermore, Greet usually does not analyze beyond move 15, which might give White a slight edge in the presented variations (according to the author), but after that the better player still decides the game.  If you use Play the Ruy Lopez as your only source of knowledge about 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, then you might find yourself stranded in a middlegame that you do not understand, not to speak of the resulting pawn structures, typical plans, and endings. 

On the positive side of things, the book is very easy to read, has large font (!) and features many diagrams that help in explaining the concepts of the differnt lines. As this boook is targeting beginning and intermediate players, it does an excellent job at conveying the main points.  Greet writes in an easy to understand manner and makes the reading interesting in many places. The foreword by Nigel Short is also quite informative and features his view on his win against Anatoly Karpov in the 1992 World Champion Candidates Semi-Final, where he successfully employed the Worrall attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Qe2).

A big part of Play the Ruy Lopez is based on the Worrall attack, which is Greet’s main recommendation for White players.  Black has several ways of fighting for counterplay, either in the closed or open Worrall.  After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7. 0-0 0-0 8.c3 d6 9.Rd1 Na5 10.Bc2 c5


Black enjoys a space advantage on the Queenside and, arguablly, more active pieces, but the dynamic character gives White excellent chances of play.  White will play 11.d4 to bust open the center much like in the Closed Ruy Lopez (but with a tempo loss, which is usually spent on h3 to prevent the Black bishop to pin the f3-Knight with Bg4).  Black has a choice of exchanging on d4 or playing 11...Qc7, after which White should push for 12.d5, which gains space and leaves Black with a difficult choice to either relocate his knight with Nc4-b6, or play 12...Bd7. In either case, the knight remains Black’s problem-piece and is often the main reason why White is superior in these type of positions in the Ruy Lopez.

Overall, I think that Andrew Greet does a good job at explaining the concepts and opening plans for White in Play the Ruy Lopez.  I would have liked to see much more coverage of main lines especially in the Closed Ruy Lopez, but Greet’s goal was to present something playable off the beaten path, which is mainly based on his own analyses (which is quite an impressive feat for an IM).  Given that Play the Ruy Lopez is really about the Worrall attack and early ways for White to chicken out of the main variations, I think that the book title is a misnomer and should be more appropriately called „Play the Worrall Attack and other interesting side lines if you don’t want to or cannot understand the chess theory of the Classical Ruy Lopez.“  While Greet is an excellent writer and Everyman Chess allowed him to publish a very readable book, I feel like much more could have been achieved if Greet had written a volume on the Closed or Open Ruy Lopez. As far as the Worrall attack goes, I think that it will only surpass the Closed Ruy Lopez’ popularity for players intimidated by lots of theory and those who wish to score a quick point without understanding why or how they did it. After Nigel Short used the Worrall against Karpov in 1992, he had the opportunity to do so again when playing Kasparov in the final championship match in 1993, but refrained from doing so.  Possibly because he knew that it is only a one-time surprise weapon and not suitable for regular tournament play at highest levels.

The Good Things:

  • Very easy to read and understand
  • Lots of diagrams and text, not endless variations
  • Many of the analyses are indeed new and based on the author’s own analyses

 The Bad Things:

  • The book lacks depth and promotes chess for people who do not really want to learn it
  • While many of the variations are new, they are only analyzed to the 15th move
  • Biased towards White and rarely objective

 The Bottom Line:

  • Recommended for players of beginning-intermediate strength (USCF 1400-1600) who are looking for a cheap way to get points without improving their game.

Rating: 7.0

Review written by Stephan Dickert.

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