Italian, Two Knights Defense, Ulvestad Variation!?

Italian, Two Knights Defense, Ulvestad Variation!?


Sometimes the main line of an opening is really well known, but there is a secondary line that is very dangerous unless your opponent knows the refutation. One example is the Ruy Lopez, Marshall Attack, Steiner Variation which I wrote about here. Today I'm going to talk about another such line which is very dynamic, a lot of fun, and isn't really even refuted.

The Italian game is a perennial beginner-favorite. As is well known, it's most combatively met by the Two Knights Defense, after which White can play the aggressive "Knight Attack" 4. Ng5, which wins a pawn, but in the Polerio Defense line (5...Na5), leaves Black with the initiative:

Many people don't know that Black doesn't have to play the Polerio, but has another good option in the Ulvestad Variation: 5...b5!?.

Compared to the Polerio, the Ulvestad is much rarer. To give you some idea of the frequency of its occurrence at master-level, the opening explorer has 1488 Polerio games and only 197 Ulvestad ones. (Interestingly, in the explorer, Black scores better than white in ALL the ensuing lines!). 

Let me show you the main ideas behind this move based on IM Jan Pinski's book on the 2K:


Like in the case of the Steiner Variation, natural moves lead quickly to trouble.

Natural Move 1: dcx6?

Natural Move 2: Bxb5?

Best Play: Bf1!

If you want to know more, I recommend Roman Jiganchine's video series on the Ulvestad on Youtube:


Part 1 

Part 2 

Part 3

Part 4

If you play the Two Knights I hope you give the Ulvestad a try!