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Giuoco Piano
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Giuoco Piano

The Giuoco Piano is a chess opening beginning with the moves:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5

White's "Italian bishop" at c4 prevents Black from advancing in the center with ...d5 and attacks the vulnerable f7-square. White plans to dominate the center with d2 d4 and to attack the Black king. Black aims to free his game by exchanging pieces and playing the pawn break ...d5, or to hold his center pawn at e5.

Common alternatives to 3...Bc5 include 3...Nf6 (the Two Knights Defence), 3...Be7 (the Hungarian Defence), or 3...d6 (the Paris Defence).



The Giuoco Piano (Italian: "Quiet Game") is the oldest recorded opening. The Portuguese Damiano played it at the beginning of the 16th century and the Italian Greco played it at the beginning of the 17th century. The opening is also known as the Italian Game , although that name is also used to describe all games starting with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4, regardless of Black's third move . The Giuoco Piano was popular through the 19th century, but modern refinements in defensive play have led most chess masters towards openings like the Ruy Lopez that offer White greater chances for long term initiative. Anatoli Karpov used it against Viktor Korchnoi twice in the 1981 World Championship tournament, with both games ending in a draw. Gary Kasparov used it against Jo l Lautier at Linares 1994, resigning after 26 moves.


The main continuations on White's fourth move are:

  • 4.c3 (the Greco Variation), see below.
  • 4.d3 (the Giuoco Pianissimo, Italian: "Quietest Game"), see below.
  • 4.b4 (the Evans Gambit), in which White offers a pawn to speed his development. This opening was popular in the 19th century, more than the standard Giuoco Piano.
  • 4.d4 (the Italian Gambit), in which White opens up the center avoiding the quiet lines of the Giuoco Piano and Giuoco Pianissimo.
  • 4.O-O, often with the intention of meeting 4...Nf6 with 5.d4, the Max Lange Gambit, with similar ideas to the Italian Gambit but with some transpositional differences.
  • 4.Bxf7+? Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 (the Jerome Gambit), an extremely dubious opening where White sacrifices two pieces in the hope of exposing Black's king and obtaining a mating attack.
  • 4.Nc3 (the Four Knights Variation).

Main line

In the main line (Greco Variation) White plays 4.c3 in preparation for the central advance d2 d4. Black can try to hold a strong point in the center at e5 with 4...Qe7 or he can counterattack with 4...Nf6. The center-holding line can continue 4...Qe7 5.d4 Bb6 6.0-0 d6 7.a4 a6 8.h3 Nf6 9.Re1 0-0.

The more aggressive 4...Nf6 was first analyzed by Greco in the 17th century. In the Greco Attack White uses a major piece sacrifice to create a trap. Play continues:

4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4

White can also try 6.e5, a line favoured by Evgeny Sveshnikov, when play usually continues 6...d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6, with approximate equality. Instead, White has a gambit alternative in 6.0-0, which Graham Burgess revived in the book 101 Chess Opening Surprises; the critical line runs 6...Nxe4 7.cxd4 d5 8.dxc5 dxc4 9.Qe2. The other alternative 6.b4 is refuted by the strong piece sacrifice 6...Bb6 7.e5 d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.b5 0-0! according to Jeremy Silman.

6... Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Nxe4 (see diagram)

Greco encouraged an attack on White's a1-rook with 8.0-0, allowing 8...Nxc3!? (9.bxc3 Bxc3? 10.Qb3. Now if Black takes the rook with 10...Bxa1, White wins the black queen with 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Re1. This trap is now well-known, and Black can avoid it by playing 10...d5, or earlier, 8...Bxc3.) After 8...Nxc3 9.bxc3, best for Black is 9...d5! 10.cxb4 dxc4 11.Re1+ Ne7 12.Qa4+! Bd7 13.b5 0-0 14.Qxc4 Ng6!
In 1898 the M ller Attack revived this line; Danish player J rgen M ller published analysis of the line in Tidsskrift for Skak (1898). In the M ller Attack White sacrifices a pawn for development and the initiative:

8. 0-0 Bxc3! 9. d5 (9.bxc3 and 9.Qc2 are both fine alternatives) Bf6

9...Ne5 is also interesting; a possible continuation is 10.bxc3 Nxc4 11.Qd4 f5 12.Qxc4 d6.

10. Re1 Ne7 11. Rxe4 d6 12. Bg5 Bxg5 13. Nxg5 h6!?

13...0-0 14.Nxh7! is considered to lead to a draw with best play, although Black has many opportunities to go wrong.

14. Bb5+

After 14.Qe2 hxg5 15.Re1 Be6! 16.dxe6 (White also can try 16.Qd2 c6! 17.dxe6 f6 18.Bd3 d5 19.Rg4 Qc7 20.h3 0-0-0 21.b4, attacking) 16...f6 17.Re3 c6 18.Rh3 Rxh3 19.gxh3 g6 it is doubtful that White has compensation for the sacrificed pawn, according to Grandmaster Larry Kaufman; 14.Qh5 0-0 15.Rae1 Ng6! also favors Black.

14... Bd7 15. Qe2 Bxb5 16. Qxb5+ Qd7 17. Qxb7

17.Qe2 Kf8 wins a second pawn.

17... 0-0

and Black is at least equal.

If White does not want to gambit material, instead of 7.Nc3 he can play 7. Bd2, which can continue 7... Bxd2+ (Kaufman recommends 7...Nxe4!? 8.Bxb4 Nxb4 9.Bxf7+ Kxf7 10.Qb3+ d5!? [10...Kf8 11.Qxb4+ Qe7 12.Qxe7+ Kxe7 is safer, reaching an equal endgame] 11.Ne5+ Ke6! 12.Qxb4 c5!?) 8. Nbxd2 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Qb3 Nce7 (10...Na5 is an alternative, inviting a repetition of moves after 11.Qa4+ Nc6 [threatening 12...Nb6] 12.Qb3 Na5) 11. 0-0 0-0 12. Rfe1 c6. In this position White has more freedom, but his isolated d-pawn can be a weakness. Note: 7.Nd2 is also a viable choice of move for white, although this still only offers approximate equality. It has not been a popular choice among human players, but it seems to be recommended by computer engines.[1]

Giuoco Pianissimo

With 4.d3, White plays the Giuoco Pianissimo (Italian: "Quietest Game"). White aims for a slow buildup deferring d2 d4 until it can be prepared. By avoiding an immediate confrontation in the center White prevents the early release of tension through exchanges and enters a positional maneuvering game. If White plays c2 c3, the position can take some characteristics of the Ruy Lopez if his bishop retreats to c2 via Bc4 b3 c2. Despite its slow, drawish reputation, this variation became more popular after being taken up by John Nunn in the 1980s. The common move orders are 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3, and the transposition via the Bishop's Opening: 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Bc5 5.c3.

ECO codes

Codes from the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings are:

  • C50 Giuoco Pianissimo and some other minor King's Pawn Game openings
  • C51 Evans Gambit
  • C52 Evans Gambit, with 4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5
  • C53 Giuoco Piano:
    • without 4...Nf6
    • with 4...Nf6 without 5.d4
    • with 4...Nf6 5.d4 exd4 without 6.cxd4
  • C54 Giuoco Piano, with 4...Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4


  1. World Computer Chess Championship 2011

ca:Giuoco piano de:Italienische Partie es:Giuoco piano it:Partita di gioco piano ja: nl:Giuoco Piano pt:Abertura Giuoco Piano ro:Giuoco Piano zh:

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