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Italian Game

Italian Game
a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4
ECO C50-C59
Origin 15th or 16th century
Parent Open Game

The Italian Game is a family of chess openings beginning with the moves:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4

The Italian Game is one of the oldest recorded chess openings; 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 term Italian Game is sometimes used interchangeably with Giuoco Piano, though that term also refers particularly to play after 3...Bc5. The Italian is regarded as an Open Game, or Double King's Pawn game.

The opening's defining move is the White bishop move to c4 (the so-called "Italian bishop") in preparation for an early attack on Black's vulnerable f7-square. As such the game is typified by aggressive play, where Black's best chances are often vigorous counterattacks. Most grandmasters have largely abandoned the Italian Game in favour of the Ruy Lopez (3.Bb5) and Scotch (3.d4), considering those two openings better tries for a long-term advantage, but the Italian is still popular in correspondence chess, where players are allowed access to published theory, and in games between amateurs.

Main variations


Until the 19th century the main line of the Italian Game. Dubbed the Giuoco Piano ("Quiet Game") in contra-distinction to the more aggressive lines then being developed, this continues 4.d3, the positional Giuoco Pianissimo ("Very Quiet Game"), or the main line 4.c3 (the original Giuoco Piano) leading to positions first analyzed by Greco in the 17th century, and revitalized at the turn of the 20th by the Moller Attack.

This variation also contains the aggressive Evans Gambit (4.b4), the Jerome Gambit (4.Bxf7+), and the Italian Gambit (4.d4) - all 19th-century attempts to open up the game.


The more aggressive Two Knights Defense; again, this is more in the nature of a counterattack, and some (e.g. Chigorin) have proposed it be renamed so. The Two Knights Defence contains the knife-edged Traxler/Wilkes-Barre Variation, the aggressive Fegatello (or Fried Liver) Attack, and the complex Max Lange Attack.


The Hungarian Defence, a solid, drawish game which is often chosen in tournament play to avoid the complexities and risks of the other lines.

Uncommon Black third moves


The Semi-Italian Opening, a solid positional line; this was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but hardly seen now.


The Rousseau Gambit. White does best to avoid the pawn offer with 4.d3.


This ostensibly weak third move by Black, known as the Blackburne Shilling Gambit, is a false gambit expectant upon White falling into the trap of capturing Black's undefended e5-pawn with 4.Nxe5. While generally considered time-wasting against more experienced players due to the loss Black is put at should the trap be avoided, it has ensnared many a chess novice and could provide a quick and easy mate against those unfamiliar with the line.


3...g6 allows White to attack with 4.d4 (4.d3 has also been tried) exd4 5.c3! (5.Nxd4 and 5.Bg5 are also possible) dxc3 6.Nxc3 Bg7 and now 7.Qb3 (Unzicker) or 7.Bg5 (O'Kelly).

Unzicker has analyzed 3...Qf6?! 4.Nc3 Nge7 5.Nb5 and White has an advantage.

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