Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Key Opening

I refer to the Giuoco Piano. To my knowledge, it has never been stated forcibly enough that this opening is an integral part of every chess player's development. When I started the game I was naturally told all about piece development as a first step. The openings, as such, were presented to me as a separate issue, on the lines of "here are some openings, some more popular than others - choose the weapon that suits your style". Of course I had no "style" - I was just starting out, so this last advice didn't help me.

What someone should have told me is as follows. Yes, of course they should begin by telling me about the importance of developing all my pieces, not wasting time in moving any of them twice (except in exceptional cases which they would advise me to leave for later consideration), getting castled and trying to control the centre of the board. That's all fine - but what is the next logical stage? Inarguably it would be to demonstrate these principles in the particular opening which embodies them best - the Giuoco Piano would seem to be the only choice. There is no logical alternative.

It aims directly at the centre of the board with e4, followed by preparation for d4. There are no indirect attacks on the centre either by advancing bishop pawns or pinning knights (which are protecting the centre) with bishops placed on the b or g files. Then a knight and a bishop are developed, followed by moves to either develop or pressure the centre - and so on.

So why are the openings presented as a separate issue? Why confront the beginner with a forbiddingly large selection of openings when they have no means of knowing which are the most suitable for a style of play that they have yet to develop?

Of course Giuoco Piano no longer poses as much of a threat as it used to - except in the hands of certain top players who continue to find new lines with which to irritate their opponents (these days it even has surprise value). It can often be dismissed as being drawish. However, I maintain that any such arguments for not recommending it to novice players on that basis are spurious.

Omitting the opening from a chess teaching programme is, in my view, a little irresponsible. In my own case, I was lead directly from my new-found knowledge of piece development to the search for a "nice looking" opening - I plumped for the Polish and the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit! Yes! Unbelievable isn't it? I thought that these were suitably eccentric and would perhaps help me to catch my opponent out. I reasoned that, as a beginner, my opponent would be acquainted with all the 'standard' openings and that the best thing to do was use something obscure.

It is only recently that I discovered the error of my ways - on my own initiative I may say. Here are two games in which I tested out the opening in Blitz games - more recently I am venturing to play them in my rated ICC correspondence games. In fact, poor old "toad" (my ICC handle) was up against two stronger players here ...

Game 1:

Well, after all my brave comments about how to cope with losing in a previous post - here is a rather unfortunate loss which was a little bit hard to get over. I lost on time - having worked very hard against a stronger player to gain a clearly winning position. Never mind, I was pleased with some of my moves and I "gave as good as I got"! I hope you enjoy them ... and if you haven't already given some time to the Giuoco Piano - maybe now is the time to think about so doing?



Before going on to the next game, let me quote from Watson's (see my GoodRead recommended books list) excellent text (Page 99, Volume 1). It is useful to remember the following possibilities, thus:

"Black secures the e5-pawn against threats such as b4-b5. Here is a general warning for Black: you shouldn't be in too great a rush to play the tempting ... d5, because your centre can become too vulnerable; for instance, 5 ... d5?! 6 exd5 Nxd5 7 b4 (7Qb3 is also dangerous) 7 ... Nb6 8 b5 Na5 9 Nxe5. Notice that the pin on the knight by 9 Qe7?! means nothing after 10 O-O! because 10 ... Qxe5?? loses to 11 Re1.

Also weak would be 5 O-O 6 O-O d5?! 7 exd5 Nxd5 8 b4! followed by 9 b5. These lines show one of the benefits that White gets by playing c3".

Game 2:

Sometimes you can fool the opposition into thinking that you know what you are doing ...


Having surveyed some of the literature relating to the Giuoco Piano, I would recommend having a look at the useful and very readable review of "Italian Game and Evans Gambit" (Jan Pinski) by Rick Kennedy at Chessville.


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