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The Italian Game Main Line

In this online chess lesson Grandmaster Mackenzie Molner analyzes the Italian Game. One of the oldest opening and still sound. The Italian Game splits of in many different variations ranging from slow and strategic to exploding and violent. This makes it a perfect opening to use as a main weapon.

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PGN ANALYSIS

The Italian Game, Main Line

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The Italian Game is one of the oldest openings in chess and for good reason; it occurs in the Göttingen manuscript and was developed by players such as Damiano and Polerio in the 16th century, and later by Greco in 1620, who gave the game its main line. It has been extensively analyzed for more than 300 years. The sound logic and reasoning behind the quick developing moves has found devoted followers for centuries. Learn the important mainlines for both colors.

Steinitz vs von Bardenleben 1895

Wilhelm Steinitz plays the Grecco Gambit in the Italian game against Curl von Bardenleben and literarily demolishes his self-esteem as he walks out of the Hastings chess tournament never to return.

PGN ANALYSIS
Cinematic Video

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jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var selector = '#' + "rpbchessboard-63e0e3a613463-2" + ' .rpbchessboard-chessgameAnchor'; RPBChessboard.renderPGN($(selector), {"pgn":"[Event \"?\"][Event \"Hastings\"] [Site \"Hastings ENG\"] [Date \"1895.08.17\"] [Round \"10\"] [White \"Wilhelm Steinitz\"] [Black \"Curt von Bardeleben\"] [Result \"1-0\"] [ECO \"C54\"] [Annotator \"Mac\"] [PlyCount \"69\"] [EventDate \"1895.08.05\"] [SourceDate \"2014.01.17\"] 1. e4 {This is one of my absolute favorite games to teach to my students. Not only is it a brilliant game with a fantastic combination to top it off, it also has a very memorable incident. Von Bardeleben was so frustrated by the end of this game that he didn’t resign, didn’t aknowledge defeat, he just left the tournament hall and didn’t come back. It was the first rage quit! Von Bardeleben would have fit in well with the age of internet players disconnecting every time they get frustrated or a lost position…} e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 (6. b4 $5 {This new exciting idea was just featured in the game between Dubov and Karjakin from the 2020 Russian Championship.}) 6... Bb4+ 7. Nc3 $6 {[#][%csl Re4][%cal Rb4e1,Yf6e4] This invites a gambit that isn’t actually that great for white, despite the fact it is seen very often in scholastic chess. At the time of the gambit, the opening hadn’t been worked out as well as it is now.} (7. Bd2 $1 {The standard Bd2 is now known as the way to go.}) (7. Nbd2 $6 {Not too bad actually but doesn’t set many challenges for black.}) 7... d5 $2 (7... Nxe4 $1 {Now this is known as the best move.} 8. O-O Bxc3 $1 {[%cal Yd7d5]} 9. d5 $1 (9. bxc3 $6 d5 $1) 9... Ne5 {I think this move is the simplest defense for black.}) 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. O-O $1 {[#][%csl Rd5][%cal Ye1e8] This creates a threat against the knight on d5. Black has to take care of that in order to castle but Steinitz next few moves are all played with tempo and ruin black’s hope of castling.} Be6 10. Bg5 $1 Be7 (10... f6 $4 11. Re1 $1 {[%csl Rd5][%cal Ye1e8,Yc4d5]} Kf7 12. Rxe6 $1) 11. Bxd5 Bxd5 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bxe7 $1 (13. Re1 $2 f6 {Now it is black that is better.} 14. Bf4 O-O-O $1 {[%cal Rd8d4]}) 13... Nxe7 14. Re1 f6 15. Qe2 (15. Qa4+ $1 {This move is also quite strong.} c6 $4 16. Qb4 Qd7 17. Rxe7+ $1 Qxe7 18. Re1 $18) 15... Qd7 16. Rac1 $2 c6 $2 (16... Kf7 $1 {[%csl Yd5][%cal Ye7d5] Black should have taken this moment to deal with the pin to their king. If the black knight can sink itself in on the d5-square black will be very solid and will have all key e and c-file squares protected.}) 17. d5 $1 {[#][%csl Ye6][%cal Yf3d4,Yd4e6]} cxd5 18. Nd4 Kf7 19. Ne6 {[%cal Ye6g7,Yc1c7,Ye6c7]} Rhc8 20. Qg4 {[%cal Yg4g7,Yg4d7]} g6 21. Ng5+ {[%cal Yg5f7,Yg4d7,Ye1e7]} Ke8 22. Rxe7+ $1 Kf8 $1 {[#][%cal Rc8c1,Rd7g4,Rf6g5,Rd7e7] This is an incredible defense that only narrowly misses the mark. White has all 4 pieces hanging right now! White can’t capture anything due to the weak back rank.} 23. Rf7+ $1 {[%cal Yf7g7, Yg7h7]} (23. Nxh7+ $2 Kxe7 $16) (23. Rxc8+ $2 Rxc8 {[%csl Rc1][%cal Rc8c1]}) 23... Kg8 (23... Ke8 $4 24. Qxd7#) 24. Rg7+ Kh8 25. Rxh7+ {Steinitz showed the crowd of players the following forced mate: …Kh8 25. Rxh7+ Kg8 26. Rg7+ Kh8 27. Qh4+ Kxg7 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qg7+ Ke8 31. Qg8+ Ke7 32. Qf7+ Kd8 33. Qf8+ Qe8 34. Nf7+ Kd7 35. Qd6# Seeing until checkmate and demonstrating it to the crowd only adds to the legend of this game. I have the moves played out on the analysis board so you can take a look for yourself.} Kg8 26. Rg7+ Kh8 { [%cal Rh4h8]} 27. Qh4+ Kxg7 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qg7+ Ke8 31. Qg8+ Ke7 32. Qf7+ Kd8 33. Qf8+ Qe8 34. Nf7+ Kd7 35. Qd6# 1-0","nboSquareSize":50,"idoSquareSize":50,"nboCoordinateVisible":true,"idoCoordinateVisible":true,"nboColorset":"greenvintage","idoColorset":"greenvintage","nboPieceset":"new-set-mac","idoPieceset":"new-set-mac","nboAnimated":true,"nboMoveArrowVisible":false,"nboMoveArrowColor":"b","pieceSymbols":"native","navigationBoard":"frame","withFlipButton":true,"withDownloadButton":true}); });

Steinitz was an important player for the development of chess understanding. Not only was he the first World Champion, he helped advance the game past the romantic players of his time period. In this game this he plays the Italian Game in the Hastings chess tournament of 1895 which featured the top 24(!) players in the world. Having a tournament like that today would be unheard of and would be unimaginably strong. Von Bardeleben was tied for second place going into this game, only half a point behind the leader. This loss crushed Von Bardeleben mentally and has been written about in chess books ever since.

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Dubov vs Karjakin 2020

Daniil Dubov and Sergey Karjakin put on quite a display on the Russian Championship Superfinal playing the giuoco piano in the Italian game. A quick b4 is played as a novelty to giuoco piano.

PGN ANALYSIS
Cinematic Video

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jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var selector = '#' + "rpbchessboard-63e0e3a613463-3" + ' .rpbchessboard-chessgameAnchor'; RPBChessboard.renderPGN($(selector), {"pgn":"[Event \"Russian Championship Superfinal\"] [Site \"Moscow RUS\"] [Date \"2020.12.16\"] [Round \"11\"] [White \"Daniil Dubov\"] [Black \"Sergey Karjakin\"] [Result \"1-0\"] [ECO \"C54\"] [WhiteElo \"2702\"] [BlackElo \"2752\"] [Annotator \"Mac\"] [PlyCount \"75\"] [EventDate \"2020.12.05\"] [SourceDate \"2014.01.17\"] {Many people are calling this the game of the year! With a title like that, there is a lot to live up to. You can be the judge yourself.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. b4 $5 {[#]A totally fresh idea. Dubov is known for playing creative openings and here in the most well known opening he is already trying something different.} (6. cxd4 {This has been played a billion times, and the mainline is well established.} Bb4+ 7. Bd2 {Now both Nxe4 and Bxd2 give black a reasonable position.}) (6. e5 $5 {This move has gained a lot more attention recently. It’s a good move and very difficult for less experienced players to handle. Black needs to play d5 here or they will end up worse.}) 6... Bb6 7. e5 Ne4 (7... d5 $5 8. exf6 dxc4 9. Qe2+ Be6 10. b5 $13 {The position is very unclear and bordering on better for white.}) 8. Bd5 { [#][%cal Rd5e4,Yd7d5]} (8. b5 $6 Nxe5 $1 9. Nxe5 d5 $1 $15 {[%cal Yd8e7,Ye7e1]}) 8... Nxc3 9. Nxc3 dxc3 10. Bg5 {[#][%cal Yd5f7,Yg5d8]} Ne7 11. O-O h6 $1 12. Bh4 { Up to here it seems as though both sides have played just about perfectly. Karjakin desides to castle kingside which is reasonable but a bit uncomfortable.} O-O (12... g5 $1 13. Bg3 Nxd5 14. Qxd5 d6 15. exd6 O-O $15 { This was probably a better way to go for black. Their king is a little airy this way but they will complete development with a slightly better position.}) 13. Re1 Qe8 14. Bb3 $1 {[#][%cal Yb3c2,Yd1d3,Yh4f6]} a5 15. Bf6 $1 {[%cal Ye5f6, Ye1e8] In for a penny in for a pound! Who cares about the pawn on b4 when the real target is the black King.} a4 (15... gxf6 $4 {This is unthinkable of course due to..} 16. exf6 {[%cal Yg3g8,Ye1e8]}) 16. Bc4 Ng6 17. Qd3 {[#][%csl Rg6] [%cal Rd3g6,Yc4f7]} d5 18. exd6 {[%cal Ye1e8]} Be6 {[%csl Re6,Rg6]} 19. Qxg6 $3 {[#][%cal Rg6g7] Boom! White doesn’t mate with this move but gets overwhelming activity of his pieces.} fxg6 20. Rxe6 {[%cal Yc4g8,Ye6e8]} Qf7 21. Bxc3 { [%cal Rc4g8,Yc3g7]} Kh8 22. Re4 $1 {[#][%cal Ye4c4]} Qf5 (22... Qd7 $2 23. Re7 { [%cal Re7d7,Rc3g7,Re7g7]}) 23. Re7 Rg8 24. Bxg8 Rxg8 25. dxc7 Qc2 26. Be5 { [#][%csl Rc7,Ye5][%cal Ye5c7,Ye5g7] This bishop reminds me of the strong bishop seen in the game by Pontus Carlsson in our archive. This bishop dominates the whole board. Black is passive and helpless to stop white’s forces.} Bxf2+ 27. Kh1 Bb6 28. h3 {A good move which removes any risk of bank rank checkmate. Now white can continue uninterrupted with his plans.} (28. a3 $1 {This was also very good. It secures the pawn before takin white’s next step.}) 28... Kh7 ( 28... a3 $5 {Black is still lost here but perhaps it would have been slightly more annoying for Dubov to deal with the pawn on a3 here.}) 29. Re1 a3 30. Kh2 g5 31. Nd4 Qc4 (31... Bxd4 $5 32. Bxd4 h5 {Black is still lost.}) 32. Nf5 Qxb4 {[%cal Rb4e1]} 33. Rc1 {[#][%cal Yc1c8,Ye5g7,Yf5g7,Ye7g7]} Kg6 34. Rxg7+ Kxf5 ( 34... Rxg7 35. c8=Q) 35. Rxg8 Bxc7 36. Bxc7 {Despite the reduced material, black’s king does not get any safer here. It’s still caught in the open board and will be hunted down by the rooks and bishop.} Qb2 37. Rc5+ Ke4 38. Rd8 { [%cal Rc5e5,Rd8f8] Black will have to give up the queen in order to prevent mate. Dubov gets a 10 out of 10 in style points and creativity. To beat a world championship challenger in such a style is almost unheard of.} 1-0","nboSquareSize":50,"idoSquareSize":50,"nboCoordinateVisible":true,"idoCoordinateVisible":true,"nboColorset":"greenvintage","idoColorset":"greenvintage","nboPieceset":"new-set-mac","idoPieceset":"new-set-mac","nboAnimated":true,"nboMoveArrowVisible":false,"nboMoveArrowColor":"b","pieceSymbols":"native","navigationBoard":"frame","withFlipButton":true,"withDownloadButton":true}); });

Daniil Dubov is a bright young player who is well known for playing surprising and daring openings. In this game he tests out his creativity and a novelty in the giuoco piano variation of the Italian game against former World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin. Karjakin is a fantastic player but in this game he is outdone by his creative and enigmatic opponent. Played in the 2020 Russian Championship, this game is getting the title of game of the year by most chess analysts. You don’t want to miss this game!

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THE OPENING IN ACTION

Steinitz vs von Bardenleben 1895

Steinitz Von Bardeleben Online Chess Course

Dubov vs Karjakin 2020

Giuco Piano Dubov Vs Karjakin Online Course

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