Friday, February 26, 2016

Beginner Logic in Italian Game

Can you play chess openings using common sense? Yes, but exact knowledge of basic theory will boost your success. The move 3...h6 in the Italian Game is surprisingly common for players rated 1500-1600. How do masters respond to 3...h6?

Attack minded masters such Morphy, Steinitz, and Svidler played 4.d4 to open up the center quickly. Others such Koltanowski and Gipslis first play 4.0-0. Alekhine opted for 4.Nc3 in a simul when he was the world champion.

The Italian Game begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. How do you handle the move 3...h6 vs the Italian Game? I've always played 4.0-0 or 4.d4. Let's look at the statistics.

Black plays 3...Bc5 or 3...Nf6 92% of the time. These two moves are well established. The quiet moves 3...Be7 or 3...d6 appear 6% of the time. Our move 3...h6 is played fully 1%. Then the 22 other moves in my database account for 1% combined, including my overly aggressive favorites 3...Nd4 and 3...f5.

The beginner logic of 3...h6 goes like this. Black wants to play 3...Nf6. Then he notices White can play 4.Ng5. If Black does not know the theoretical move 4...d5 nor enjoy the gambit 4...Bc5, then preventing 4.Ng5 by 3...h6 seems reasonable, almost forced!

In the game Ray Haines vs David Hunter, we find another example of the move 3...h6. White continues with 5.d3 against his less experienced opponent. Ray Haines demonstrates solid but rapid development leads to a playable middlegame.

Haines - D. Hunter, Presque Isle, ME 05.01.2016 begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 [3...Bc5; 3...Nf6] 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 [5.d4+/= makes use of open lines.] 5...Bc5 6.Nc3 d6 7.Be3 Bxe3 8.fxe3 Bg4 [8...Na5=] 9.Qe1 Bxf3? [Black is too slow to complete his development. Now White's attack will pick up speed. Better is 9...0-0 10.Qg3 Na5=] 10.Rxf3 a6 11.Qg3 Qd7? [This loses faster than 11...0-0 12.Raf1+-] 12.Qxg7 0-0-0 13.Qxf6 Nb4 14.Bxf7 Rhf8 15.Be6 Rxf6 16.Bxd7+ Rxd7 17.Rxf6 Nxc2 18.Rf8+ Rd8 19.Rxd8+ Kxd8 20.Rf1 Nxe3 21.Rf7 Kc8 22.Nd5 Nxd5 23.exd5 c6 24.dxc6 bxc6 25.g4 d5 26.h4 Kd8 27.g5 Ke8 28.g6 c5 29.Rc7 e4 30.g7 exd3 31.g8Q# 1-0

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Sicilian (1.e4 c5)
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