Question about the italian game from black's perspective.


While developing my 1...e5 repertorie in response to 1.e4 ive run into a bit of trouble making concrete lines for the giucco piano. Let me see if im correct about this. After 




White has a variety of moves for example, Nc3, c3, 0-0, d3, . Is it true that against all these lines i can just proceed in the order Nf6, a6, Ba7, 0-0 set up? Does this set up work for all Italian variations by white except evans gambit and 4.d4?



Is this a universal set up against all of white's italian set ups? and what are the strategic themes like what are black's plans in these set ups?


i was very tempted. But i dont see how black can do anything after 4. Ng5. I literally think black is done after Ng5 in my opinion. Ive done extended research into the traxler and 4...d5 lines. White can get lines where there is jsut no compensation for black's lost pawn or even piece(s)


Some move orders may be slightly more accurate but I think in general those moves are good. You probably know all this but I'll verbalise anyway. Key points:

Preserving the bishops (obvious intention of a6), Ba7 is better than b6 in view of Nd2-c4. After d3 protecting the e pawn white will often drop back to b3 (later maybe c2) in view of Na5. In relation to this white has a slight advantage because c3 is more useful than a6 in the central fight.

White building a classical centre. As in most king pawn openings, a key plan for black will be to play d5 to contest the centre and open/take control of the d file.

Black's knight on c6 is already well developed. In the c3 variation it often takes white a long time to get the knight to a good square, often g3. However, if black is forced to play h6 the knight will have a good potential outpost at f5, especially if LSB's are traded. Black can also transfer the knight to g6 is he can afford the tempos.

White can attack on kingside/has central control, whereas black has to try and strike against the centre and perhaps counterattack the same side (because the position is basically symmetrical). Having said that, I play the same variation and have the same problems with formulating a plan.

HurricaneMichael1 wrote:

Anyways, you should play 3...Nf6, not 3...Bc5, more popular, better results, better move, simple as that.

This is of course a silly statement. Bc5 is a perfectly good reply to Bc4 and certainly not worse than Nf6. First of all after 4. d3 black has little better than to play Bc5 and enter the Italian anyway. Also after Ng5 you get a really complicated position where black probably has enough compensation for the pawn he will lose but probably not more than that. I personally do not fully trust the black position.

No to the other questions:

- Nc3 is not a very good move and allows black to equalize fairly easy. The white knight is actually not well placed on c3 as it blocks the pawn on c2. White wants to play c3 to either build a broad center (old way) or create room for his bishop on c2 and add extra control to d4

- On d3 the plan you suggest is good. I play the same way. Black should/could continue with h6 / Qe7 / Be6 / Rd8 / d5 atc

- c3 will often transpose to d3 but white might play d4. In that case a more active setup is needed. One that can be reached with 4. c3 - Nf6 5. d4 exd6 6. cxd4 Bb4 with a roughly equal game after Bd2 and a better game for black after 7 Nc3 - Nxe4

- 0-0 is a very sneaky move order and i would not recommand starting with Nf6 because thant d4 will give you some problems but to answer 0-0 with d6 and white has little better than to transpose to the mainline with d3.


White doesn't tend to play an early d4 though since the equalising sequence is fairly well known.


@Scottrf: The Max Lange attack (Nc3) is basiclly refuted but the Bd2 system still gives white a slight pull and it would be wise to know how to play as black there.


Sorry, I meant an early d4 supported by c3 rather than an immediate d4.


Yes and now white can play Qb3 Na5 Qa4 Nc6 with a repetion of moves. Or black can answer Qb3 with Ne7 Be6 and c6 white white does have a slight pull (though objectively black should have no trouble)


You do not always want a draw at move 10 not even with black ;)


True. I thought this line was 'known' to be equal (I guess because white wants more than a draw), but yeah perhaps black is a bit worse if he doesn't want to repeat (I'll take your word for it).

Black can't use the half open file against the isolated pawn? Looks like it might have a bit of play for both.


As Ulf Anderson used to say .. white is slighly lightly better. Black can (and should) play against the IPQ. However the dark squared bishops are exchanged and the position of the other pieces (with exception of the knight on d5) do not fight the isolated pawn.

White on the other hand can become active on the kingside quite fast if black does not take care.

The balance is certainly not broken but if black does not know what he is doing he might end up in trouble


Yeah, it's right that the more minor pieces are trades the less of a weakness the IQP is?

However, I guess white doesn't want to trade if he's going to attack with the more active pieces.


I would look more into 3...Nf6 4.Ng5 if I were you, especially if you think Black is losing. One variation that was recently suggested to me by GM Hungaski is 4...d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 (6...Bd7 is also fine) 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 (8.Bd3 is not threatening in my opinion, Black has plans based on Nd5-f4 that give plenty of play and I think full compensation, while 8.Qf3 is a minor error that can be exploited by sacrificing the c6-pawn. Notice in databases Black scores 70+% in most of these 4.Ng5 mainlines!) 8...h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Qd4!? 11.f4 Bc5 12.Rf1 and now avoid leaving the Queen on d4 in view of c3-b4, but White has to find really awkward moves to stay in the game, like king moves over toward the queenside, and Black has a lot of options.

I played a recent blitz game that shows a nice forced draw available for Black in a critical line that you can use against stronger players:


@expertise but lets admit that the 2 knights is a boat load more to learn. I really would like to play it i really want to but im so scared of the Ng5 variation. Let me put your thing on a board. 

I messed up somewhere but there is a lot of chances. 

@scott and moonie great advise! i guess i just have to prepare for the gambit line with an early d4 break at some point and the evans. 


Like I said in my post Nf6 is a respectable reply but Bc5 is certainly not worse.

There are for me personally 2 problems with 3. ... Nf6

  • White can play 4. d3 where entering the Italian is pretty much blacks best option. The result is that i have both the Italian and the very complex Ng5 variations. The options for white to avoid the d3 Italian are a lot easier to remember.
  • Like i said I do not trust the black positions and i should add personally because it probably is completely playable but the knight on a5 and the black pawnstructure makes me cry. Please not that the rest of my openings rep is openings like the Berlin defence against the Ruy Lopez and the Nimzo Indian against d4. It is not for no reason i choose these openings.

In short there is no reason for me to avoid the Italian game. Every system with a quick d4 is harmless and the d3 system is pretty much okay for black with some work. Even if i do decide to pick up the 2-knights it means still learning the Italian game because white can just play d3 instead of Ng5 forcing me to enter it anyway.

PS: Nice game btw Expertise but way to tactical for my personal taste ;)


Bc5 also has the advantage that if white enters the Ng5 line you get a free piece Wink (I have had it happen multiple times).


Hmm i actually dont mind the 4.d3 lines. Id love to play against it, id be comfortable. Yea i would use the Ng5 line for maybe 15 minute chess but never OTB. 

HurricaneMichael1 wrote:

The 4...d5 lines are fine for black, 4.Ng5 is not the best move, just look at the database friend. I know from using the Game Explorer, and from playing black.

  • I never said Nf6 was bad I said that the remaining position is not for me same goes for the sicilian btw. I said Bc5 was just as good as Nf6 after you said Nf6 was better
  • I also pointed out that after 1. e4 - e5 2. Nf3 - Nc6 3. Bc4 -Nf4 4. d3 you have nothing better than play the Italian anyways so why bother with the extra theory.
  • Game explorer is a very bad choice to base your evaluation of an opening on as is explained here more than once. For fun reasons i checked on chessbase and while on average Italian and 2 knight score about equal there if you only look at grandmaster games the Italian scores a lot better than 2 knights.
  • I still think it is playable for someone who is enterprising and wants to steer thinks up and it is a good try for an active game with black but do not say it is better than Bc5

"I believe in 1... e5, and therefore I must believe that Black can defend successfully after 3... Nf6 4 Ng5.  So I rejected the quieter 3... Bc5."

--Paul Keres, Power Chess (which I was just reading last night!)


Mihail Marin recommends Bc5 in his 'Beating the Open Games'. So there is more information there.