The Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez is a chess opening that begins with the moves:
- e4 e5
- Nf3 Nc6
- Bb5 a6
Black may recapture on c6 with either pawn; although 4…bxc6 is playable, 4…dxc6 is almost always chosen at master level. Black has gained the bishop pair at the cost of a weakened pawn structure, having doubled pawns on c6 and c7. White aims to reach an endgame with a superior pawn structure, which may become an important factor. Thus, Black is compelled to strive for an active position, generally avoiding piece exchanges. The variation was introduced into grandmaster play by Emanuel Lasker, and later invigorated with new ideas by Bobby Fischer.
The Exchange Variation can be a powerful psychological weapon. Black is forced to play actively, which is psychologically difficult if all one needs is a draw. Lasker’s famous win against Jose Raul Capablanca in the St. Petersburg 1914 chess tournament is an example of this. With a lead in the tournament, Capablanca was intent on simplifying the game to obtain a draw, but faced with the Exchange Ruy Lopez he played too passively and was routed by Lasker as a result.
Baklan – Mikhalevski (1-0)
Shirov – Adams (1-0)