Is the Italian game a good chess opening? (The truth)

Upon seeing some of the elite games played online, one of the openings that you will see consistently is the Italian game. It hosts some of the most favored variations at the top of the rankings.

A lot of really good players prefer it more than any other opening out there, which may be for a reason right? That is going to be the point of this article.

Is the Italian game a good chess opening? Here are my thoughts:

The Italian game is a good opening for white. The positions can either be positional or tactical. It ensures equality for the white pieces by controlling the center. A player can go for the fried liver attack or the evan’s gambit if they want to attack. It is played by supergrandmasters.

If you have no idea what the Italian game even looks like, here is a good picture of it:

After bishop to c4 the position has officially entered the Italian game, the picture above illustrates it.

I want to discuss this since I have seen many players play this throughout the years, I know that it is quite popular. 

I know that I am going to serve a lot of people by covering this particular opening more than any other. I am hoping to achieve it with this article. Without further ado, let’s get started.

The Italian game is a good opening if you prefer open positions

The Italian game ensures that the position would be open and not closed by some strange pawn structure, this may be good to you if you are not used to dealing with cramped positions.

What I mean by open is there’s a lot of space for the pieces to impose their influence on, it has something to do with the pawn structure. The one that is open ensures that there’s a lot of space.

The opposite will be a pawn structure that is closed (cramped) this is when both sides lock their pawns together making a breakthrough quite difficult.

A lot of beginners struggle with playing in cramped positions since the moves available are more on the slow/maneuvering side. An open position is easier to play (usually) since many things can happen.

Games that are played in the Italian game rarely ends up becoming closed/positional, which means that the players can focus on getting their pieces developed.

If you are struggling with playing in closed positions the Italian game is a good opening choice for you. It doesn’t have a lot of variations that offer cramped positions so you will be more comfortable.

The Italian game is a good opening if you want to play tricky

Another good reason to prefer the Italian game would be the existence of Evan’s gambit and the fried liver attack. If you are looking for something tricky this might be a good option for you.

What I mean by tricky are lines that are usually hard to solve on the spot and need some thinking in order to do well against. This applies to Evan’s gambit and the Fried liver attack.

These options in the Italian game lead to positions where black will be better if it can be played correctly, however, the edge would be on white if black fails to counter the ideas.

This is incredibly risky to play, but just having these options available is a good thing to have at the back of your mind. When playing the Italian game you can switch the battle plan immediately.

At the last second you can pull an Evan’s gambit or Fried liver attack even if you didn’t intend to play aggressively at first. This is one of the perks of the Italian game, it gives the option to go for these lines.

The Italian game is a good opening if you don’t have a specific plan

The Italian game is the kind of opening that you would go for if you don’t have any particular plan for the game. A lot of lines played in this variation can quickly transition into aggressive or silent.

This is the point that I have talked about above but I think that it will need a bit of elaboration, since there are many situations where this is useful.

An example would be playing against an opponent that prefers playing positionally, they may expect a slow maneuvering game but you can shock them with the Italian game.

If you decide to play aggressively and go for either the Evan’s gambit/Fried liver attack they would have no way of avoiding it. 

They can either go for Nf6 and face the fried liver, or go for Bc5 and face the Evan’s gambit. There is no way to play around it (they would have to go into an aggressive line).

Another situation where the Italian game might be useful in this aspect is during an Armageddon game in which black only needs a draw in order to win.

They may expect something positional, but you can hit them with either of these variations (Evan’s gambit/Fried liver) and stir things up. 

There are of course many other situations where this can be useful but these are just the examples that I have chosen.

The Italian game can be a bad opening since black will be fine in most lines

The primary downside of the Italian game will be that black will usually have a good game even being slightly worse, the position is playable in most lines of the Italian game for black.

It is not an opening that you should go for if you’re looking for a huge advantage right off the bat, it is a good variation to play if you want to keep your options open.

There is no doubt that white will be slightly better in the Italian game, however, the lines that black can go for are also pretty solid. It is not like the position will just be terrible for black.

Even at the Fried liver attack/Evan’s gambit, black can go for a good counter variation like the Traxler counter-attack/just by generally playing good moves against the Evan’s gambit.

In the majority of the cases the position will be more or less equal in the middlegame if the Italian game is played. The exception of course will be when a gambit is played over the board.

It is a good opening since the variation will promote a lot of space that will make the game easier to play, but it is not like black will struggle too much when playing against it.

Final thoughts

The Italian game is probably one of the most optimal openings out there along with the Ruy Lopez, it is played on elite levels for a reason. It keeps your options open when making decisions.

The Italian game is one of the most optimal opening that a player can go for with white, it is played a lot in elite levels.

It can either be silent and positional or risky and aggressive (by going for the fried liver attack/evan’s gambit). It has a drawish reputation but can also convert at times.

You can easily shift your approach during the game if for some reason you change your mind on a whim, it doesn’t lock you into a particular style of play.

I suggest that you should go for this if you are looking for a silent game that is more likely to be a draw, or you want to surprise your opponent into thinking that you want a silent game (and instead go for the fried liver attack).

There are also many ways you can be creative with his opening , you might want to consult the computer on that one. That is all for this article, sleep well and play chess.