The Modernized Italian Game for White
The Modernized Italian Game for White for more than a hundred years, nothing threatened the
leading role of the Spanish Opening among the open games. In the old Ruy Lopez, White always
managed to develop long-term strategic pressure on the opponent.
Such was Black’s discomfort, that at the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian master Semyon
Alapin even proposed rearranging the initial position so that the black pawn stood on a6 rather than
a7, just to prevent the white bishop from coming to b5, and grandmaster Savielly Tartakower called
the Spanish Game ‘a cow that White can milk forever’!
The Modernized Italian
But things are changing. In recent years, something incredible has happened: the brilliant Spanish
has been edged out by an old Renaissance opening; the Italian! Almost the entire world, all the way
from those competing in world championship matches and elite events right down to players in
amateur competitions, began to place their light-squared bishop on c4 on the 3rd move.
We should note that the romantic times of the Greco Attack and the Evans Gambit are gone forever.
The modern treatment of the Italian Game is filled with the ideas gleaned from the Spanish. White
prefers the modest pawn advance d2-d3 as opposed to the rapid d2-d4, after which they often send
their queen’s knight along the Spanish knight’s tour b1-d2-f1-g3.
Game for White
It is no wonder that such an interpretation of the opening was dubbed the Italian/Spanish Game by
the experts. In fact, in the notes of the Italian masters of the 17th century, the line of the Italian Game
with d2-d3 was named the Giuoco Pianissimo, or the “quietest game”, which conveys its character
with surprising accuracy.
The reason why the strongest modern chess players have adopted “the quietest game”, is quite banal.
At the top level, it has become increasingly difficult to play ‘real’ chess – if combative opening lines
are chosen as the field of theoretical discussion – as the importance of engine-assisted preparation is
simply too high.
So grandmasters have had to find pastures new! As Sergey Karjakin noted, ‘In our time, the theory of
the Italian is only being developed, and everyone arranges the pieces as they want. Probably, this is
one of those rare openings where you can still improvise from the very beginning with both colours,
without much damage to the position.
For chess lovers, such a change in the opening views of the strongest players is a real success! A club
player, having neither the time nor the ability to master the fashionable theoretical lines, has been
previously forced to be content with choosing some solid opening systems, which are not very
popular amongst the grandmasters. Yet now the situation has changed dramatically.