In this article, we are going to learn how to play Italian game chess opening. You will learn different black’s responses and how to play against them. You will also learn which options leads to sharp tactical positions and which options leads to more calm positions.
Italian game chess opening initial moves
Italian game chess opening starts with the move 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4
White simply develops his light squared bishop to c4 and gets ready for short side castling. From c4, bishop is targeting f7 pawn and in 1.e4 e5 games f7 is a major weakness in black’s position.
This opening can lead to both sharp, aggressive positions and calm, strategical positions also.
Against Italian game chess opening, black has mainly two ways to deal with it. Black can play 3…Nf6 leading to two knight’s defense or black can play 3…Bc5 which is known as giuoco piano defense.
Against both of these defense, I will show you two variations each. Variation 1 leads to calm and strategical positions while variation 2 leads to more aggressive and complicated positions.
Against two knight’s defense: variation 1
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 is two knight’s defese.
If you want a simple and calm position then you should develop your b1 knight to c3, c1 bishop to g5 and go short castle; you get good position in Italian opening chess.
Line: 4.d3 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.Nc3 d6 7.Bg5
All of your pieces are on the best possible squares and next you can develop your queen and put your rooks on the central file.
Against two knight’s defense: variation 2
If you like to play complicated positions then this second variation is for you. It starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5
White is immediately trying to exploit the weakness of f7 pawn. Now both of white’s pieces are attacking the f7 square and black has no direct way to defend it. If black wants to save f7 pawn then black needs to block the diagonal of white’s light squared bishop.
That’s why black played 4…d5 5.exd5 and now there is a Trap!
If black knows the theory then black will play best and slightly unnatural move 5…Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 and the position is dynamically balanced because black has some activity for the pieces.
If black is not an expert player of this opening, then black will play the natural move 5…Nxd5 immediately recapturing the pawn and that’s a trap. Now you can play the shocking move 6.Nxf7!! sacrificing the whole knight. After 6…Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3 and white will regain the piece with strong attack on black’s king.
If you play this aggressive variation of Italian opening chess then you will find yourself in this position many times and you will get this aggressive position against black.
Against Giuoco piano (3…Bc5)
If black plays 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 then this is known as Giuoco piano and I will show you two ways to play against it.
First is 4.c3 with the idea of expanding in the centre. This leads to strategical positions in Italian opening chess.
Second is 4.b4 this is Evan’s gambit, it is aggressive opening where you sacrifice a pawn for the rapid development of your pieces.
Central expansion variation:
It starts with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3
white’s idea is to play 5.d4 and expand in the centre. After 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 now if black plays a natural move like 6…Ng4 then after 7.cxd4 Bb6 8.h3 Nh6 9.Bxh6 white has managed to ruin black’s pawn structure so white is positionally better.
If black knows the theory then black will play 6…d5 counterattacking the bishop 7.Bb5 Ne7 8.cxd4 Bb6 and this position is balanced where both sides have good chances.
This variation of Italian game chess opening focuses on central part of the board and the strategy revolves around the central squares.
It starts with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
This aggressive gambit was a popular choice of attacking players in pre computer era. After the arrival of chess engines, black players found precise lines to achieve equality and thus the popularity of this gambit declined but I suggest you keep this gambit in your opening repertoire because black needs to play extremely precise moves to achieve equality. If black makes slight inaccuracy, then you will immediately get good attacking positions.
Let’s see a concrete line 4…Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 and now instead of capturing the pawn, you should simply castle to quickly develop your pieces. 7.0-0 Nf6 Now you play 8.Ba3 to stop black from going short castling 8…d6 9.e5 and you get attacking position in return for two sacrificed pawn.
Even if black plays different moves, your general plan is the same: sacrifice couple of pawns, rapidly develop your pieces and open the lines to attack the opponent’s king.
If you consider yourself an attacking player this gambit is for you.
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Italian game chess opening: Rare 3…Be7
Against Italian game chess opening, black has one less popular option that is logical and you should know how to play against it.
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 if black plays 3…Bc5 then white can play aggressive Evan’s gambit and if black plays 3…Nf6 then white can play aggressive 4.Ng5 so black players found a different idea.
Black can also play 3…Be7. This move stops 3.Ng5 attack and white cannot play Evan’s gambit anymore. Next black will play 4…Nf6 and go short castle with a good position.
Against this line you should immediately strike in the centre with 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 d5 6.Nxc6 bxc6 white is slightly better in this position but black’s position is fully playable. Next, you will go short castling and develop your queenside pieces.
If you are playing from black side and you are facing Italian game chess opening, then I suggest you give this unexplored line a try.
Black is slightly passive but black has avoided a lot of opening theory and if you understand the resulting position well then in the middlegame you can play for equality. White has slight advantage in this variation of italian game chess opening but that’s it, there is no immediate attack from white side on black’s king.
Italian game chess opening is one of best chess opening for white against black’s 1.e5. It is popular at both club level players and at Grandmaster level players. Italian game chess opening is also one of the best chess openings for beginners.