Openings – Giuoco Piano
We’ll explore four lines that follow the opening called Giuoco Piano. The Giuoco Piano begins with the following moves.
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5
We’ll look at four paths off of 4 c3 Nf6 today. All of these are pretty boring in my opinion, as there is little room for really big errors unless they’re blatant.
The first is “the old main line which peters out to equality” according to Modern Chess Openings by Nick de Firmian. It goes as follows.
4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 Bxd2+ 8 Nbxd2 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 Qb3 Nce7
The Möller attack would be using 7 Nc3 instead. The game would remain just as equal if black went with the queen attack 10… Na5 here also. Another line off of 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 goes as follows.
6 e5 d5 7 Bb5 Ne4 8 cxd4 Bb6 9 Nc3 0-0 10 Be3 Nxc3 11 bxc3
How about 5 d3 rather than 5 d4?
4 c3 Nf6 5 d3 d6 6 h3 0-0 7 0-0 a5
Finally, let’s look at the unusual 5 b4. This is referred to as Bird’s attack.
4 c3 Nf6 5 b4 Bb6 6 d3 d6 7 0-0 Ne7 8 Nbd2 c6
Modern Chess Openings goes into detail with 65 different lines involving the Giuoco Piano and that is not even close to exhaustive. I prefer Winning Chess Openings by Yasser Seirawan, as that only explores a few different lines of play which is good enough for the beginning to intermediate player.
Puzzle – Back Rank and Pin
My favorite puzzle of the week was puzzle 833 in 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners by Franco Masetti & Roberto Messa. The title of the post is a pretty big hint. In this puzzle, it is black to move, and there is only one good move. Can you find it?
Notice that white is two pawns up currently. However, this position with black to move gives black a 3 pawn advantage. There is another big hint!! Solution is next, so continue to try and find the best move if you don’t think you have already.
The solution is Rook to c5. Notice that after this move, if white tries to take the rook with dxc5, then black has queen to d1 checkmate! And, if white tries to take the queen with Rxd7, then black has rook to e1 checkmate! So, what is white’s best move after this?
It is to take the rook. Yes, white loses a queen, but with a few extra pawns, white could fight their way out with near perfect play and any future mistakes by black.
Endgame – The Lucena Position
The Lucena position is an endgame in which one side has a rook with a non-rook pawn on the 7th rank with its King on the promotion square while the other side has a rook only. Here is an illustration giving the idea of the Lucena Position. This was taken from Silman’s Complete Endgame Course.
We start with something like 1 Rf2+ and black answers with either 1 … Kg7 or 1 … Kg6. The idea to promote the pawn is simple, as we just need to get our king out of the way and then promote the pawn. But, the idea is much more simple than the practice, which is why it is worth the study.
According to Silman, we need to use these winning ideas:
- Force the opposing king away from the action (which is what we did with the first two moves)
- Prepare the rook to use what Silman calls a bridge building agent by playing Rf4.
- Move the king out from behind the pawn.
- When the time is right, use the rook to block the opponent’s desperate attempts to check.
When playing an engine, you may notice that another strategy may have to unfold that involves allowing an early promotion that will then allow you to steal the rook afterwards. White must be careful to not move the king too far away from the pawn. The goal is to eventually use the rook to build a bridge like the following diagram.
This leaves nothing more for black to do. The best black can go for in the original Lucena Position (when white knows what they’re doing) is to exchange the pawn (promoted or not) with the rook and leave white with a rook and king. This, as we know, is a losing position.