The mainline of the the Guioco piano begins with the moves 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5
The Giuoco (known outside the English-speaking world as the “Italian Game”) is a fifteenth century opening that has stood the test of time. The name means quiet, or mild, game in contrast to various gambits White can play.
Yet this is misleading, as the type of game that arises depends on the temperament of the players involved. If White is an exponent of hand-to-hand combat he plays lines like the Moller At-tack, trying to blast through the center.
Those seeking quiet positional maneuvers prefer the lines with d3 and c3, postponing aggressive action until the middle game. Many of the world’s best players (Kramnik, Gelfand, Ivanchuk and even Kasparov) use the opening occasionally, and several grandmasters, such as Kudrin, use it routinely, in preference to the Ruy Lopez.
Black’s 3…Bc5 in answer to 3 Bc4 is an attempt to retain parity in the center. If White is to achieve control and/or occupation of d4 he will have to fight for it.
Black is trying to keep the balance rather than counterattack immediately, as in the Two Knights’ Defense. Specialists on the Black side of this opening include Karpov, Portisch, Korchnoi and Yusupov.
Mainlines of the Giuoco Piano
In this article, I’ve organized all the mainlines of the Giuoco Piano in columns numbered 1 through 18.
First on our list is the The Moller Attack. The Moller Attack is 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Nc3 (columns 1-6), in which White offers a pawn for open lines and development. Black has a variety of defenses in this wide-open position, but most reliable is 7…Nxe4 8 0-0 Bxc3 (columns 1-2). White can avoid a gambit with the conservative 7 Bd2 (column 7), which leads to equality.
The Cracow Variation, 7 Kf1 (column 8), is probably too risky. White can deviate from the main lines with 6 e5 (column 9), which also leads to about even chances, but with lively play. The Strongpoint Defense, column 10, is slightly passive. 4…d6, column 11, may be better than its reputation.
Columns 12-16 cover the positional lines. To play them propery one must understand the subtleties. Does Black play …a6 and … Ba7, or . . . Bb6? Does he play …a6 in response to a4 or … a5? When does White play a delayed d4 or Black a delayed …d5? These questions are answered in the columns.
The Canal Variation, 4 d3 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 (column 17), is generally out of favor, although the great Ivanchuk employed it frequently in his career. Column 18 is an interesting gambit with surprise value.
Tables Showing Mainlines of The Giuoco Piano Opening
Mainline#1 (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Nc3)
Mainline#2 (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3Bc4 Bc5 4 c3)
Mainline#3 (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3Bc4 Bc5)