Chapter 6 of Move Two! introduces the Giuoco Piano. Chapter 2, you will recall, taught the Giuoco Pianissimo, which has led over the years to many dull games at junior and novice level. “Old Stodge”, EM Forster called it, quite rightly. It’s dangerously easy to play the opening but hard to play the middle game because of the closed nature of the position and the lack of suitable pawn breaks. Because children have no problem learning the moves, playing like this is superficially attractive and many of them go for years without trying anything else before giving up the game out of sheer boredom. You just need to know how to play it with Black, and to recognize from a long way off the idea of pinning the knight, attacking the pinned piece and doubling the pawns in front of the king.
But children will only make real progress when they learn to calculate: and one way of learning this is by playing open positions. The open lines of the Giuoco Piano are ideally suited for this purpose. Theoretically, it’s not dangerous for Black, but at lower levels this really doesn’t matter. Children will move on to the mostly quieter, but more subtle, waters of the Ruy Lopez when they’re ready to do so.
So we start with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3. Important point: many novices fail to understand how the c-pawn can be used in fighting for the centre, only moving their e- and d-pawns at the start of the game. I can feel another article coming on: think of the Queen’s Gambit, the Sicilian Defence and the English Opening, not to mention the Ruy Lopez. We then travel down the main line: 4.. Nf6 5. d4. Another important point: the strength of the pawns on e4 and d4, and the concept that, if after 1. e4 your opponent plays a move that doesn’t prevent or discourage 2. d4, that’s the move that should be played.
After 5.. exd4 (we consider some of Black’s undesirable alternatives here) 6. cxd4 White has constructed the ideal centre. Black needs to challenge this so gains time by playing a check: 6.. Bb4+. Now White has a choice. 7. Bd2 is solid and, as long as Black challenges the centre with 7.. Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 d5, he will reach an equal position with White having an IQP (Isolated Queen’s Pawn) – another important topic for later discussion.
Instead White may prefer the gambit lines starting with 7. Nc3. This has been considered theoretically dubious for many years, but, at this level, no matter. Open positions where rapid development and precise calculation are necessary are ideal for developing tactical ability. Unless s/he knows the theory, Black is unlikely to find the correct moves. For example. after 7.. Nxe4 8. 0-0, as we’re taught to prefer bishops to knights in open positions, 8.. Nxc3 is more intuitive than 8.. Bxc3, but it’s the latter that gives Black chances of an advantage while the former favours White. Anyone playing lower level competitive chess who learns the material in this chapter will surely score well with it as very few of their opponents will know the theory.
The Activities section then presents a short selection of quick White wins in this opening. This is a feature which will eventually be expanded as the material is developed. It’s infinitely easier now than it was 20 years ago when Move Two! was written to find suitable games, and we can easily arrange for them to be playable online to assist the student.
Masters of the Universe, our exploration of the history of chess through its world champions, reaches Alexander Alekhine in Part 6. We take a brief look at his life and career and demonstrate two games, one from his teenage years, and one from towards the end of his career. The name of Alekhine’s opponent in the first game is given as Rozanov and Romanov in different sources. On writing this I just noticed something that hadn’t occurred to me before: both games conclude with 26. Qg5xg6.