Destroy the Italian Game! Chess Openings for Black

Beat the Italian Game With Ease blog image

Every player who meets 1.e4 with 1…e5 must know how to meet the Italian Game chess opening.

This classic chess opening begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 and is extremely dangerous for the unprepared chess player.

Many players with the Black pieces underestimate how dangerous the Italian Game can be when White plays the quiet d3.

One of the best ways to defend against the Italian Game in chess is 3…Bc5, which avoids the complications of the Fried Liver Attack.

After 3…Bc5, Black has a simple and effective opening strategy to take the sting out of the Italian Game chess opening.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

A Solid Strategy for Black in the Italian Game Chess Opening

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

Italian Game 3...Bc5
Italian Game 3…Bc5

The Quiet Italian Game is reached after 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a6

Italian Game 5...a6
Italian Game 5…a6

Instead of 5…a6, Black can play 5…d6, which is necessary even though Black will look to play …d5 later.

By playing …d6, Black defends the e5 pawn and allows …Na5 exchanging the White bishop or the option to play …Ne7-g6.

The move …d6 frees the c8-bishop to go to g4, after White castles short, or e6 to challenge the bishop on c4.

The move c3 created a retreat square for the White bishop, and Black will create a retreat square for his bishop with the move …a6.

Allowing White to capture the Black bishop on c5 or b6 will make it impossible to play …d5 without severely weakening Black’s pawn structure.

Another crucial move in Black’s strategy is to play …h6 before castling to prevent Bg5.

Once Black has castled, breaking the pin is difficult because after …h6 Bh4 …g5 White can sacrifice his knight with Nxg5.

The turning point in my career came with the realization that Black should play to win instead of just steering for equality blog image

Before Black can consider the d5 advance, he must free the c-pawn to advance to c6.

This is done with the Ne7-g6 maneuver, which brings the knight to a square where it defends the e5-pawn.

On g6, the knight helps defend the Black king and can become an attacking force if it reaches the f4-square.

The advantage of playing 3…Bc5, and 4…Nf6 in the Italian Game is Black can castle short at any time.

Because the center is closed, Black does well to delay castling to avoid giving White a target to attack while keeping the option to attack the king if White castles early.

The Quiet Italian Game Chess Opening 6.Bb3

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a6 6.Bb3

Italian Opening 6.Bb3
Italian Game 6.Bb3

In this position, White takes time to safeguard his bishop by moving it closer to the c2 square.

From c2, the bishop supports e4 and attacks h7 if Black gives White the chance to play exd5.

Black has the choice between the prophylactic chess move 6…Ba7 or the standard 6…d6.

There is little to choose between the moves since 6…Ba7 is often followed by 7…d6.

For example, 6…Ba7 7.0-0 d6 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.h3 h6 10.Re1 Re8 11.Nf1 Be6

Italian Opening 11...Be6
Italian Game 11…Be6

Here is how Mamedyarov played this position against strong chess grandmaster Nisipeanu, rated 2683 Elo.

Nisipeanu, LD. – Mamedyarov, S., 0-1, 20th European Teams, 2015

The Quiet Italian Game Chess Opening 6.0-0

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a6 6.0-0

Italian Game 6.0 0
Italian Game 6.0 0

Where 6.Bb3 is often followed by 7.0-0 you will often find 6.0-0 followed by 7.Bb3.

These similarities in variations help you by ensuring the positions remain familiar and the strategies stay the same. 

However, in this variation, the Black queen can take a more active role by developing to f6, which supports the knight going to f4.

This is a perfect square for the knight if White exchanges dark-squared bishops on a7.

The queen is a powerful defender, so keeping it close to your king is a good strategy!

6…Ba7 7.Bb3 d6 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.h3 h6 10.Re1 Nh5 11.Nf1 Qf6 12.Be3 Nf4 13.Ng3 g6

Italian Game 13...g6
Italian Game 13…g6

By playing g6, Black keeps control of the vital f5-square and limits the knight on g3.

Black is not concerned about the loss of tempo in this closed position if he recaptures on a7 with the rook.

The rook will soon quickly enter the game by going back to a8, and the loss of tempo is compensated by access to the f4-square.

In the next game, Zoltan Almasi shows us the power of a good bishop versus bad knights.

Black’s space advantage severely restricted the White knights, and only two of Black’s seven pawns were on squares of the same color as the bishop when the game ended.

Prusikin, Michael – Almasi, Zoltan, 0-1, Mainz Ordix op 13th, 2006

When playing Black against the Quiet Italian Game, it’s important not to let the name mislead you.

Take a look at how dynamic and exciting the Italian Game chess opening can become in this game between two 2700 chess grandmasters.

Jobava, Ba – So, W, 2016.10.17, 0-1

In Conclusion

The Italian Game in chess is a sound opening choice for White that you must not take lightly.

This opening has become very popular at the top levels of chess today for a good reason.

White often enjoys a space advantage in many lines, and the solidity of his position allows him to wait for Black to make a mistake.

Many games are won by White against lower-rated opponents because the Black player felt he had to make something happen.

Trust in the strength of your strategies and the solidity of your position as Black, and you will hold your own against the Italian Game chess opening.

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