The Italian Game


Overview

The Italian Game is a chess opening when the following moves are played:


The idea behind the Italian Game is:

White developed his Bishop to c4 to target Black’s f7 pawn, the weakest point in Blacks position (being only protected by the King).


The Italian Game is divided into three major categories based on Black's response

  • The Hungarian Defense
  • The Two Knights Defense
  • And the Giuoco Piano


In the Hungarian Defense, Black plays 3...Be7, mainly to prevent White from doing a Fried Liver Attack.



In the Two Knights Defense, Black lets White go for an attack with 4. Ng5 but can gain the initiative.



While in the Giuoco Piano, Black and White both have imbalances they try to exploit.




What is The Italian Game?

The Italian Game is a popular chess opening that consists of five moves.


How To Reach The Italian Game

You can reach the Italian Game opening by making five moves.

  1. First, move your king’s pawn forward to squares.
  2. Then move Black's king pawn two spaces forward.
  3. Then move your kingside knight to attack black’s pawn
  4. Black should respond by defending this pawn with his Knight
  5. Finally, move your kingside bishop to attack Black’s king

In chess notation this is written as:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4

See what it looks like below:



Why Play The Italian Game

Unlike the most popular alternative to the Italian Game opening (The Ruy Lopez), this opening requires very little theory to study.

By developed his Bishop to c4, White target Black’s f7 pawn, the weakest point in Blacks position (being only protected by the King).

This allows White to get a really strong attack early.


Every move explained

Hungarian Defense

How To Reach It

The Hungarian Defense is a chess opening that begins with the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Be7

See these moves played out below:

Why play the Hungarian Defense

The idea behind Hungarian Defense is to prevent White from playing Ng5 and double attacking the f7 square.

White's Moves

Castle Kingside to Protect the King

Normally in the Hungarian Defense, White castles kingside to protect his King.

Push c3-d4 to gain control of the center

White typically wants to gain center control on d4 by first setting up his c pawn before he does the d4 push.

Black's moves

Attack pawn on e4

Black typically wants to attack White’s pawn on e4 with his Knight.

Castle Kingside to Protect the King

Normally in the Hungarian Defense, Black castles kingside to protect his King.

Expand on Kingside with ...f5

Since the c7-d6-e5 pawn chain is pointing toward the Kingside, the correct way Black should expand would be through f5.

Break White’s center with ...c6

Black can break apart White’s center with c7-c6 and then cxd5.

Even if White takes back on d5, it is good to exchange pieces and pawns when you have less space.

Two Knights Defense

How To Reach It

The Two Knights Defense is a chess opening that begins with the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Nf6

This is known as the Two Knights Defense.

See these moves played out below:

In this opening, neither side plays on the Kingside, since it can lead to significantly harming and exposing your own King.

Why play the Two Knights Defense

The Two Knights Defense is actually more of a counterattack than a defense.

Black invites White to attack his f7-pawn with 4.Ng5, since when he does, the game becomes extremely tactical

White's Moves

Play 4.Ng5

As White, it is best to play 4. Ng5 since with best play, you will end up winning a pawn.

Though you have to accept that the game will quickly become tactical and Black will gain the initiative.

Black's moves

Play Nc6-a5 then ...c5

The idea here is to move the Knight to a5 to chase White’s bishop away. This then makes room for pushing the c pawn which gains space on the queenside.

Counter attack on the Queenside

Black should breakthrough on the Queenside to counter White.

Black gets a queenside advantage with Ra8-b8, a7-a6 and b7-b5.

Exchange Light Squared Bishops

White has a powerful bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal.

Black should play Bc8-e6 and try to exchange light-squared Bishops.

Giuoco Piano

How To Reach It

The Giuoco Piano is a chess opening that begins with the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Bc5

This is known as the Giuoco Piano.

See these moves played out below:

Why play the Giuoco Piano

The Giuoco Piano has the reputation of being one of the best defenses against 1.e4 e5 and is played at the highest levels of chess.

White's Moves

Pin Knight if Black castles, then put Knight on outpost

If Black has

  • Castled
  • Placed a Knight on f6
  • Played d6 (which makes it so bishop can’t go backwards)

A really good plan for White is to just to play Bg5.

This will pin Black’s Knight to his Queen.

Since black has played d6, he can’t use his Bishop to break this pin (since it blocks the path going backwards)

Black can’t afford to move his Queen, since if White takes, Black will end up with doubled pawns, which would severely weaken his Kingside.

Then White can move his Knight to d5 to really cause some damage.

Push c3-d4 to gain control of the center

White typically wants to gain center control on d4 by first setting up his c pawn before he does the d4 push.

Push c3-b4-a5 to gain Queenside space

A really good plan is to gain Queenside space by pushing c3-b4-a5 and then swinging the bishop over to a3, which can cause black a lot of problems when trying to castle.

This plan was used successfully against Ruy Lopez de Segura

Avoid exchanging material and avoid going toward an endgame

White has the initiative here and should be putting pressure on Black’s f7 square with his Queen and bishop. By exchanging pieces, White will lose that initiative.

Put pressure on f7

White should put pressure on Black’s f7 square with his Queen b3, together with the Bishop on c4.

Black's moves

Castle Kingside to Protect the King

Normally in the Giuoco Piano, Black castles kingside to protect his King

Pin White’s Knight with Bishop

Normally in the Giuoco Piano, Black pins White’s to the Queen

Exchange material and go toward an endgame

White has the initiative here and should be putting pressure on Black’s f7 square with his Queen and bishop. By exchanging pieces, White will lose that initiative.

Counter attack with d5

Black should counter-attack in the center with d7-d5. This prevents White from having central control.

Italian Game

How To Reach It

The Main Line Of the Italian Game is a chess opening that begins with the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Bc5
  4. c3

This is known as the Main Line of the Italian Game.

See these moves played out below:

Why play the main line of the Italian game?

White’s aim is to slowly build up the position.

Some of the most common ideas are to open the centre with c3 and d4, to expand on the Queenside with a4 and b4, and to bring the Bishop from c4 to c2 via b3, in Ruy López style.

White's Moves

Expand on the Queenside

White should expand on the Queenside with c2-c3, b2-b4 and a2-a4.

Potentially push a4-a5 or b4-b5, with the idea of gaining space and creating a passed pawn.

Take Control of the Center

White should take control over the central area of the board with c2-c3 and d3-d4, after developing pieces and castling.

Retreat the Bishop

White should retreat his Bishop to c2 for two reasons:

  1. It protects the bishop from potential attacks from Blacks knight
  2. Allows the bishop to be on the b1-h7 diagonal (to directly attack Black’s king)

Play h3

White should play h3 to prevent Black from getting any attacking chances on the Kingside (protects the g4 square)

Black's moves

Pin White’s Knight on f3

Black should place his Bishop on g4, since this will pin White’s Knight on f3.

Knight to f4

If White plays c2-c3, then Black should move his Knight from f6 to h5 to f4. This allows Black to attack White’s d3 pawn.

Play a6

Black should play a6 to prevent White from putting pieces on his Queenside and provide the c5 Bishop a safe square to retreat to.