Openings for Tactical Players: Italian Game

Openings for Tactical Players: Italian Game

38 | Tactics

The Italian Game is one of the oldest opening in chess. And it's sharpest line known as 'Greco Attack" is almost 400 years old.  You might think that 400 years is enough for everyone to learn the main traps of this sharp opening and yet this dangerous attacking weapon keeps claiming new victims. Today I want to show you the main ideas and traps of this ancient opening because everyone should know them.  Some of them were analyzed by Greco himself in 1620!

Let's start with the line where Black accepts all the sacrifices.


In the next game Black played a better move 8...Bxc3, but then again got too greedy and decided to keep his extra piece.
300 years later it became clear that Black shouldn't go for the material and instead should castle as soon as possible.  But even in this case he is not completely out of the woods as the next Capablanca's game demonstrates:
Finally, almost 350 years later, the famous Hungarian theoretician GM Lajos Portish found a reliable way for Black to repel the dangerous attack.
In the game Barzcai-Portish, 1969, Black played 13...h6! and this simple move creates certain problems for White. If he moves the Ng5, then after 14...0-0 he cannot sacrifice it on h7 like in the previous game. Barzcai played 14.Bb5+ Bd7 15. Qe2 Bxb5! 16 Qxb5 Qd7 17 Qe2 Kf8! 18 Nxf7?! Kxf7 19. Re1 Ng8! and Black eventually won the game.  Even today the 13...h6! move is the best response against White's attack.  So, the question is: can White still play the Greco Attack or it is a one trick pony that works only if Black doesn't know theory? In my opinion, the Greco Attack is still a very dangerous opening, but White shouldn't burn the bridges so early and just play 7.Bd2.  After this innocent looking move White still can get a very strong attack, but unlike the razor sharp variation that starts with 7.Nc3, White hasn't sacrificed anything yet! The next game is a very good example how swift and murderous White's attack can be:
The Italian Game is a very unusual opening in the sense that it can be wild or it can be quiet - Giuoco Pianissimo ("Very Quiet Game"), but White always targets Black King! If you never played the Italian Game, then you owe it to yourself.
So, play the Italian Game and enjoy the attack that lasts 400 years!
Good luck!
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