Thursday, March 8, 2007

Out Of Book, Episode 2

I'm still building up a head of steam for a more instructional article. For now, here's another example of why lower-level players are wasting time booking up on theory.

In the Italian (Giuoco Piano), after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 the usual move is 4.c3, to help prepare d2-d4. However, in one online game, my opponent just played 4. d4!? straight away.

This is called the Italian gambit. I have a fairly extensive openings library, and this move is not mentioned anywhere (although Google indicates that a book has been written about it, and there's brief mention of it in Wikipedia). It's pretty much assumed that d4 must be prepared first, and at the GM level this move would probably be evaluated as ?! or even ?. According to Fritz, however, this move is perfectly acceptable at patzer level. Considered best for Black is 4... Bxd4, and Chessbase gives 5. Nxd4 as the main line. However, my opponent played the standard, barbaric 5.Ng5, which pretty much compels the awkward 5...Nh6. Fritz gives Black only a slight advantage here.

In the Open Games (those beginning 1.e4 e5), many lines require White to prepare the move d2-d4. If White can break such a basic rule so early in the opening, with relative impunity (again, at patzer level), then studying opening lines to great depth is certainly not the best use of one's time.


Bill Brock said...


Nice blog! (Found you via Eschaton, frequented by many chass nerds....)

Buttinsky know-it-all comments & questions:

Fritz will sometimes make 2nd-best moves in the openings when it's out of book. I took the line out a few moves in Fritz, and I suspect its initial evaluation is wrong here....

I believe that Richard RĂ©ti discusses the position after 4...exd4 5.Ng5 in _Modern Ideas in Chess_ in order to illustrate Morphy's style as Black.

What is Black's best move after 4...exd4 5.Ng5? (Sometimes it's OK to allow a combination....)

Compare the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bc4. What is Black's best move here?

Regards, Bill

Grandpatzer said...

Woo hoo, my first comment! :D

4...exd4 is very transpositional and can lead to positions from the Scotch gambit, Max Lange, or Two Knights. I'm just learning to play 1.e4 e5 as Black, so the transpositional opportunities make my head a-splode. I'm going to be looking into some of these variations.

Searching with Chessbase, the best move after 5.Ng5 would again appear to be 5...Nh6. Mamedov-Grischuk, ICC 2003 followed this line. Black seems to be ok after 6.Nxf7 Nxf7 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxc5, as well as after 6.Qh5 Qe7, but the lines are very tactical.

Two of my three repertoire books recommend the Two Knight's defense instead of the Italian game, but tactics like these are what put me off of it. Of course, what that really means is that I should stop being a chicken, play the Two Knights, and improve my tactics.

PsiFighter37 said...

I've always intended to play the Two Nights in tournaments (when I was much more active), but I never got around to learning it because of the complexity of the main lines after 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5 c6 etc...I've never been one that's been comfortable playing down material despite having compensation in the form of a counterattack.

That being said, I did play it once in an international youth championship, and although I drew the game, I had essentially achieved a winning position before screwing up slightly.

Hat tip to finding your blog from Unstable Isotope over at Daily Kos. Will try to visit more often!

Grandpatzer said...

Hi, psifighter!

My next post will mention tricky, tactical openings. From an improvement standpoint, I think they're a good choice if you're not relying on memorization. I'm also going to be recommending Discovering Chess Openings by John Emms to people as well. Although a lot of it is really basic stuff, there's an overall theme of playing sensible moves, and of figuring out or inventing theory for yourself.

I think a lot of amateurs would best be served if they just build their own repertoire, based on moves they like to play. They can check their moves versus those given by a database and/or with a chess engine. If there's no obvious refutation or tactical problem, then they're fine.

Pilotknight31 said...

The Italian Gambit is in NO way a ?! or ?. It has much greater force than you are assuming. BTW, after 4..Bxd4, 5. Nxd4, White plays 6. Be3 (The Miami Variation). Giving White a: Gain in Time, Delayed Center Pawn Tension, Surprise, Ready Made Attack with Dynamic Play and Personality Guaranteed! I will be happy to send you a book--my complements.

George S. Laven
Author "The Italian Gambit System

Grandpatzer said...

Mr. Laven: my apologies for my delay in response. I'll take a look at these lines.

By the way, Acers and Laven's book is reviewed by Silman here.