Chess Italian Opening - Read This To Play It Well


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The Chess Italian opening goes back to the fifteenth century, apropos it is the oldest recorded chess opening in the Göttingen manuscript. As early as the 16th century, players like Damiano and Polerio developed the game—hence also known as the Italian Game. Later, the game was improvised by Greco in 1620, who also gave the chess Italian opening its main line.

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The Chess Italian opening is well-rooted in the fundamental chess opening principles and belongs to the large family of Open Games or Double King’s Pawn Games. Chess players around the globe have been extensively using and analyzing it for more than 300 years.

Experts believe the Chess Italian opening is one of the best openings for beginners, so let’s understand the basic setup of the game and learn how to play the Italian opening—

What is the Italian Game?

The Italian Game belongs to the large family of famous chess openings and it begins with the moves: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4. The most common development of the Chess Italian opening is the attack of the white bishop to c4, popularly also known as the “Italian bishop”, to  Black’s vulnerable pawn on e5. This is basically also the goal of the Chess Italian opening—the player has to quickly take control of the chess centerboard.  This can be achieved with the way you move your knight and pawn.

How to open the Italian Game?

You can reach the chess Italian opening with five moves. Let’s walk you through them—

Step 1:  Move your king’s pawn forward to squares.

How to open the Italian Game

Step 2: Next, you move the Black's king pawn two squares forward.

How to open the Italian Game

Step 3: Now you move your kingside knight and attack the black’s pawn

How to open the Italian Game

In response, the Black may defend its pawn with his Knight.

How to open the Italian Game

Step 4: Finally, you get the opportunity to move your kingside bishop and attack Black’s king.

How to open the Italian Game

In chess notation, the above-mentioned steps of the Chess Italian opening can be written as 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4

Why should you play The Italian Game?

For starters, the chess Italian opening does not need players to study a lot of theory unlike other chess game openings like, for instance, the Ruy Lopez.

The game starts with a very strong opening for the White with Pawn e4 for Pawn on f3 knight c6 and then Bishop to c4. The bishop to c4 attacks the square on f7—a weak square for Black because the King is the only piece that defends it.

The pawn on e5 would then block pawn on e6. This makes for a strong attack and puts a lot of pressure on your opponent.

As such, the White gets to attack early on in the game and paralyze the opponent.

Main Line Variations and how to master them

If you want to learn how to play the Italian opening, let’s familiarize ourselves with all the main line variations of the game.

1. The Hungarian Defense

This chess opening does not allow the White to play Ng5 and double attack the f7 square. It begins with the moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Be7
The Hungarian Defense

The main White’s Moves can be noted as—

  • In the Hungarian Defense, the White usually castles kingside to protect its King.
  • White also tries to take center control on d4 by first moving his c pawn before he does the d4 push.

The main Black’s Moves can be noted as—

  • In the Hungarian Defense, the Black commonly wants to capture the White’s pawn on e4 with his Knight.
  • Black also castles kingside to protect his King.
  • Experts believe the correct move for the Black to expand would be through f5 as the c7-d6-e5 pawn chain points toward the Kingside.
  • Black can further attack White’s center with c7-c6 and then cxd5.

2. Two Knights Defense

In this chess opening, no one plays on the Kingside, as it can harm and expose the King on both sides. As against the title, this is more of a counterattack than defense as the Black makes the White attack its f7 pawn with 4.Ng5. The opening begins with the following moves—

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Nf6
Two Knights Defense

The main White’s Moves can be noted as—

The White is in a good place when it plays 4. Ng5 as the move may win the pawn for White.

The main Black’s Moves can be noted as—

  • To move the Knight to a5 and attack the White’s bishop, the Black needs to push the c pawn and make space on the queenside.
  • The idea for Black is to make a breakthrough on the Queenside to capture White.
  • The Black then gets a huge advantage on the queenside with Ra8-b8, a7-a6, and b7-b5.
  • White however has a powerful bishop on the diagonal a2-g8.
  • The Black can also play Bc8-e6 to exchange light-squared Bishops.

3. Giuoco Piano

The Giuoco Piano is regarded as one of the best defenses in the family of popular chess openings and is also played at the highest levels of chess. It begins with the following moves:

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

The main White’s Moves can be noted as—

  • Now, there is an ‘if’ situation here, If the Black has either castled, or moved a Knight on f6, or played d6 (the bishop can’t go backward), then the White just needs to play Bg5.
  • This move will jeopardize the Black’s Knight to his Queen. With d6, Black can’t move his Bishop and it can also not move its Queen. Because, if the White attacks, Black could have doubled pawns and a weakened Kingside.
  • The White can then move his Knight to d5 and attack aggressively.
  • The White can also take center control on d4 by moving his c pawn before the d4 move.
  • White can also put pressure on Black’s f7 square with its Queen b3 and bishop on c4.

The main Black’s Moves can be noted as—

  • In the Giuoco Piano opening, the Black normally castles kingside to protect his King.
  • The Black can also attack the White to the Queen.
  • Finally, the Black can counter-attack in the center with d7-d5 and keep away the White from taking central control.

4. Italian Game

This is commonly known as the main line of the Chess Italian opening and it begins with the following moves:

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

The main White’s Moves can be noted as—

  • The White should attempt to expand on the Queenside with c2-c3, b2-b4, and a2-a4. It can push a4-a5 or b4-b5 and gain space.
  • White also needs to slowly build up to take central control with c2-c3 and d3-d4.
  • White can also move his Bishop to c2 to protect the bishop from the Black’s knight. The White can allow the bishop to stay on the diagonal b1-h7.
  • The White can also play h3 and keep away Black from attacks on the Kingside.

The main Black’s Moves can be noted as—

  • The Black can put his Bishop on g4, and pin White’s Knight on f3.
  • If White moves c2-c3, the Black can move his Knight from f6 to h5 to f4. This move allows the Black to attack White’s d3 pawn.
  • The Black can also move a6 and give the c5 Bishop a safe square.

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