The Italian Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4
The Italian Gambit arises from the
standard Giuoco Piano, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 (unlike the
previous gambits considered, this cannot arise via a 2.d4 move-order) 2…Nc6
3.Bc4 Bc5, and now 4.d4!?. Jude Acers and George Laven gave this line an extensive coverage in their book The
Italian Gambit and a Guiding Repertoire for White- E4!, which is well worth
buying for those interested in taking up the system (and indeed for those who
are just after a light-hearted tour of various 19th-century gambits- Acers has
an extremely enthusiastic writing style).
There are a few holes in their coverage, though, and I have endeavoured
to patch these up in my coverage of the system.
Notes on the move-order with 4.0-0 intending
move-order has received a fair amount of attention in recent years and often
transposes to the same positions. Lev Gutman has given this move-order a thorough coverage in Kaissiber volumes 23 and 24. These are well worth picking up if you are
interested in a really thorough analysis, as I provide a relatively thin
coverage focusing mainly on the critical lines.
In Kaissiber 25 Gutman then addressed the problematic line 4...d6,
recommending a positional approach, and Stefan Bücker summarised
and improved on parts of his analysis at http://www.chesscafe.com/text/kaiss14.pdf.
advantages of this move-order are that after 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d4 exd4, White gets
into the Max Lange Attack with 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.fxg7 etc,
and that 5...Nxd4?! is weak because 6.Nxe5 Qe7 doesn’t work as White has
already castled. However, as noted
above, White has to play a positional line after 4...d6, as 5.d4?! exd4 leads
into a bad variation of the Scotch Gambit.
Since the 4.d4
move-order has generally received less attention, and Stefan Bücker has noted (in his aforementioned online article)
that it is debatable as to which is better, I have chosen to cover the 4.d4
Notes on 4.d4
4...Nxd4!? is much better than its reputation, as 5.Nxe5 (probably best) is met
by 5...Qe7. White’s best is then 6.Bxf7+
(rather than the obvious 6.Nxf7), a possibility which I first found out about
at the Avler Chess messageboards,
and it leads to interesting and equal play.
4...exd4 leads to an important line of the Scotch Gambit: 1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 (or 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6) 4.Bc4 Bc5.
the most critical continuation. White
usually plays 5.Nxd4 (though 5.0-0 followed by 6.Nxd4 will usually transpose to
5.Nxd4, 6.0-0 lines). 5...exd4 is then
dubious, offering White an improved version of the Göring Gambit, so Black should
At this point,
6.Be3!?, suggested by Acers and Laven in their
Italian Gambit book, appears to be a fully viable alternative to the main lines
with 6.0-0. Their analysis holds up
pretty well (if anything I think some of their lines can be improved further
for White). For those interested in
taking up this line, the 4.d4 move-order is certainly the way to go, as 4.0-0
Nf6 5.d4 denies White this possibility.
After 6.0-0, as
Stefan Bücker notes, Black has the independent option
6...d6 7.f4 Be6!? 8.Na3 (I don’t trust Acers and Laven’s
suggestion 8.Bxe6 Nxe6 9.f5 Nc5) 8...Qe7!?, though I don’t think this is too
much of a problem for White. Instead
6...Nf6 leads to the main lines that follow 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d4 Bxd4 6.Nxd4
Nxd4. White’s best continuation is
probably the main line with 7.f4 d6 8.fxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5, with Nb1-a3 to follow in
most cases, which appears to give White enough compensation for the pawn, while
7.Bg5 also appears sound. However, I
have to agree with Lev Gutman that 7.f4 d6 8.c3, the
line recommended by Acers and Laven following 6.0-0
Nf6, is looking dubious for White.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d4
Italian Gambit coverage
4th, 5th and
4...Bxd4 5.Nxd4 Nxd4 6.0-0