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ideas behind openings

Playing Ruy Lopez: The Worrall Attack E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Thursday, 14 May 2015 00:00

ruy lopezThe popularity of 1...e5 has increased greatly in the recent years. For a long time, this response against white's move 1.e4 was considered a less ambitious option for black than, for example, The Sicilian Defense. However, times have changed, so has the way we perceive 1...e5 nowadays.

Thanks to the efforts of players like Kramnik, Carlsen, Anand and basically most of the elite players, variations like the Berlin, Breyer or Marshall Attack have turned 1...e5 into a very ambitious way of playing, aiming not only to equalize, but actually to win without giving white much chances for an attack.

In this article we would like to present an ''almost forgotten'' weapon for white as a good alternative to play from time to time: The Worrall Attack. This variation usually starts after the moves:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2

ruy lopez 1

However, white can play the move Qe2 also against the Berlin:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.Qe2

ruy lopez 2

There are several positive points to add this variation to your opening repertoire. For example:

  • White avoids the (big) amount of theory from the mainlines of the Ruy Lopez, including the Open Variation (5...Nxe4).
  •  This will reduce considerably the amount of opening study;
  • Sidestepping the Berlin Endgame;
  • Opening based on ideas, positionally sound. Doesn't rely on memory or crucial move orders;
  • Being a sideline, your opponents may not be as well prepared as you. So, even if the main recommendations result in an equal position, the line can be very difficult to remember.


In order to fight blunders, find the right plan in complex positions and improve your positional and tactical vision we recommend you to sign up for our comprehensive training course. Hundreds of chess players already benefited from our training . Don't wait, start winning chess games today.

How to study it?

When it comes to such an opening as the Ruy Lopez, it can be difficult to study it by going through the lines one by one. We recommend to first start by model games from the strong players who frequently play the line in order to grasp the ideas. Then, after some practice, the specialization can begin from analyzing your own games and your opponent's responses.

Players to look for

Here is a short list of the most notable players who have played The Worrall Attack, either against 3...Nf6 or 3...a6 4.Ba4 Nf6:

  • Nigel Short
  • Sergey Tiviakov (possibly the main specialist)
  • Vugar Gashimov
  • Michael Adams

Let’s now take a look at black’s possible set-ups.

Black develops with Bc5:

One of the ''drawbacks'' of playing Bc5 is that white can pin the f6 knight by playing Bg5. In case black prevents this idea, white should play Be3, opposing the powerful c5 bishop as seen in the game Tiviakov - Friedel.

Black develops with Be7 (Closed Spanish style):

Against the closed system, white's main plan is to play Rd1 followed by d4. Once the center is closed, he will continue to attack on the kingside. See the game between Tiviakov and Nyback.

Black plays Be7 and d5

This central rupture is always something to take into serious consideration. Black aims to either liquidate the center by capturing on e4, or sometimes push d5-d4, gaining more space and weakening white's position. However, this action is not risk free and white has many tricky ideas at his disposal. We can see this in the game between Tiviakov and Short.

As you can see, the line is quite attractive despite not being among the most played variations at top level. We hope these games serve you as inspiration and guide to take the study further and use it in your games.

If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chessyou need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:

  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

That seems to be like a lot of things, and that is. But no worries, we have made it easy for you. Our comprehensive training course covers it all and much more. Sign up for 21 Day Training right now!

About the Authors:

Raluca Sgîrcea

WGM Raluca Sgîrcea is an active chess player and teaching chess for over two years.  European champion U10, winner of several Romanian national championship medals, Woman International Master title since 2011. One Woman Grandmaster norm. Highest FIDE rating 2302.

Renier Castellanos

IM Renier Castellanos is an active chess player and trainer for over 10 years, have worked for Chessbase and done live commentary on several major events, winner of many international tournaments. One Grandmaster norm. Highest FIDE rating 2529.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 09:08

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