What to do with the Center?

  • GM arunabi
  • | Nov 7, 2011

Hi Arun and Magesh,

I have a question about the guicco piano for white. In this opening, black's main lines are all about making it as hard as possible for white to make or keep the centre with pawns e4 and d4.
For example in 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6- Black attacks the e4 pawn so that if white is to go 5. d4, he will not be able to keep the centre intact after 5.. exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ which is all covered by theory. I am fine in those main line positions I have just mentioned but what if black allows d4 and makes no attempt to break up the e4-d4 white pawn centre?

For example what if black plays 4.. d6 and not the main move 4.. Nf6? White plays 5.d4 with an unopposed e4-d4 pawn centre as no knight is attacking e4. So I play 5.d4 and after black goes 5..exd4 6.cxd4 and with either 6..Bb4+ or 6..Bb6, I have no idea what to do. I ask you here to mainly give me some typical plans and ideas in this position with the white pawn centre e4 and d4. I feel like I must be better as black has just allowed me to play what his whole plan is to stop in the main lines. So please here just give me some typical ideas and plans for white in this position.

Thanks and please answer this one- It took me 45 minutes to write!


Dear Reader,

Control of the center is one of the most important principles in the opening phase of the game. Usually it is said, the side that control the center will have the initiative.  In most of the chess openings you will find white trying to occupy or control the center and Black trying to attack them, get in control of the center or give away the big center to White and attack on the wing (eg.Sicilian). The center is usually given vital importance in the opening phase of the game, and as middlegame and endgame approaches the center usually loses its importance as the battle will be fought elsewhere. But remember any piece (except the rook) will have much better square control if it is placed in the center than in the corner.



In the above given position, Black has two ideas, Bb4 and Bb6. First we shall see the ideas for White to play against Bb4?!



Its clear that Black cannot play 6. ... Bb4 as in all the continuations he is in an inferior position.

Let us list some typical ideas for White:

a) Remember Bg5 to pin the knight which is really annoying for Black.

b) Watch out for your chance at the central e4-e5 break.

c) Since White has the center under control he can choose to attack both kingside and also the queenside. It is better to attack the kingside as Black's kingside seems more exposed.

d) Your pair of Bishops will be really useful in initiating an attack, so dont exchange them!


Next we shall see the ideas after 6... Bb6


Black is doing well after 6... Bb6. Black is managing to equalize or managing to enter complications with chances for both sides.
Some typical ideas for White:
a) dont play d4-d5 unless it is really needed, because this will limit the potential of the light-squared bishop and will lose control of the e5-square.
b) When Black takes Bxf3, remember to consider to take gxf3. White can later play Kh1 and continue his attack on the kingside.
c) This leads to slow positions, where you will have to wait patiently and play strategically. Attack will fail unless it is built upon sound strategical foundation. So dont go for an all-out attack without proper planning.
d) Dont exchange too many minor pieces. Try to avoid exchanges as much as possible.
Next we shall see another idea for White against 5... d6 that leads to typical Guicco Piano positions.
White can just continue to play with 6.d3. The position is semi closed and soon either White with d4 or Black with d5 will break the center and the position will become more complicated with mutual chances. Several top Grand Masters have played this position, although they came with slightly different move order.
So the answer to the question is 6... Bb4 doesnt seem to work as the above analysis shows. 6... Bb6 seems to be the best reaction for Black and the game gets complicated with mutual chances. If White wants to avoid complications and wants a slow game, he can choose 6.d3 and play a safe game.


  • 5 years ago


    This is very good and useful.

  • 5 years ago


    great article, I've always been unsure of how to properly play this opening!  I like how you explain the ideas for each side!  Thanks!

  • 5 years ago


    what should I do if black play Nxe4 ?
  • 5 years ago


    If it is GM Arunabi, it is worth reading for sure ^^

  • 5 years ago


    one of your best articles so far


  • 5 years ago


    Differently going to spend some time on this,

  • 5 years ago


    The giucco piano has so many variatons that this study will help me tremendously.

    I will print and study more carefully.

  • 5 years ago

    IM pfren

    4...Nf6 is the move to beat.

    Now 5.d3 is the modern handling of the position, but 5.d4 is still playable: 5...ed4 6.ed4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 (7.Kf1 is very dubious, while the classical 7.Nc3 is, more or less, a pawn down for very little. The modern 7.Nbd2 is interesting, although black has little to fear in the main line starting with 7...Nxe4) Bxd2+ (7...Nxe4 8.Bxb4 Nxb4 9.Bxf7+ Kxf7 10.Qb3+ Kf8! 11.Qxb4+ Qe7 is slightly tricky, but equal) 8.Nbxd2 d5 (8...Nxe4!? as played by Fisher ages ago, is also interesting) 9.ed5 Nxd5 and now both 10.Qb3 Na5! 11.Qa4+ Nc6 and Dzin's 10.0-0 0-0 11.Rc1!? are offering chances for both sides, but objectively white does not have any advantage.

  • 5 years ago


    very inspiring. just one thing: the name is "giuoco piano" (giuoco is the ancient word for gioco that means play; giuoco piano literally means slow, quiet play).

  • 5 years ago


    You want to prove that the control of the center will win.  But it is not fair for you to prove this by showing Black making bad moves.  You need to show what will happen if both sides play well.  For example, you have Black making the blunder 13…Be6 when White could just have won by playing 14. d5 (an obvious pawn fork even a beginner would go for) and if 14…Ne5, then d5xe6 when white gets too much material if Black takes the queen.  Also on move 11 you show Black playing Bg4 which is a useless pin when it would be better for him to just play an immediate g5 since the knight is attacking e4.  This is one of the reasons for playing h6 in the first place—so the pin on f6 can be broken if desired.  Instead of trying to force the position into a winning king attack, you should explain that with good play, you often have to just accept a good endgame.

  • 5 years ago


    fantastic, will study this in a bit more depth when i have a bit of spare time!

  • 5 years ago


    What a wealth of information for a beginner like me! Just deciphering this wonderful chess language (also in blue and red....) will keep me quite busy. Thanks you for this.

  • 5 years ago


    ECXELLENT information Arun. Thanks and Cheers. Hope you are doing well!

  • 5 years ago


    yes its vry useful

  • 5 years ago


    Currently trying 1. e4 e5 with the Black pieces, and ...Bc5 against the Italian.  In the advent of 4. d3, I guess ...Nf6 is better than ...h6?  Is there any plus at all to ...h6?  Just prevents Ng5, but you can play 0-0 and have a reasonable position.  Any comments?

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