No More Old Stodge!

This club is a GP-free zone

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.d3 d6

[No more Old Stodge!]

Support the campaign for d2-d4

by playing 4. c3, 4. b4 or 3. d4!

The position above is the Giuoco Pianissimo.

 "Giuoco Pianissimo" is an old Italian phrase meaning "very quiet game"; if you can't remember that you might prefer if we just call this line "Old Stodge"...

  It's probably one of the most common ways for games to start, and I think it's one of the worst. What's the problem?


[cool cat says:] "A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play. This is a rule which has stood its test in chess history and one which we cannot impress forcibly enough upon the young chess player.
"A beginner should avoid the Queen's Gambit and French Defence and play open games instead! While he may not win as many games at first, he will in the long run be amply compensated by acquiring a thorough knowledge of the game."
- RICHARD RETI, Masters of the Chessboard

  Beginners (and others) should play open games:

  • open games are more lively and more fun because of all the tactics
  • open games are easier to get ideas in because of all the tactics
  • open games are better for learning about the game because of all the tactics
Open games, with open lines, require the exchange (or sacrifice) of Pawns. White can play for d2-d4 (the easiest and best break) in a variety of ways and this is generally the best plan in the King Pawn openings.

 Whatever is happening in Old Stodge, it is most unlikely that lines are going to be opened very soon. Both sides clamp down on the opponent's Queen's Pawn, preventing the opening of the game. The whole position gets bogged down in sticky toffee and both players are often bored and confused by the positions that come about.

  It's enough to put you off chess! The position is blocked, the sides are equal and it's hard to get things going. It can take a long time to beat worse players because things are so solid. Also, it may be that almost every game you play ends up something like this, and perhaps you would like some variety.

 In fact, probably the best plan in the standard Old Stodge position is to aim for d3-d4 after a sequence like:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. Bg5! h6! 7. Bxf6! Qxf6 8. Nd5 Qd8 9. c3! [see the document on The Italian game] So, if you are going to play d3-d4 eventually, why not go for a more open game from the start?
This document is about, is describing how to try and get an open game, with Pawn exchanges, with either colour.

Securing an open game as White

Play the main line Giuoco Piano
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 play 4. c2-c3 and open up the game or take over the centre with 5. d2-d4. This is an easy way to get an open game with White.

[More? See the document on The Italian Game]


Play the Evans' Gambit
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 play 4. b2-b4. After 4...Bxb4 you can open up the game AND take over the centre with 5. c2-c3 and a later d2-d4. You pay for getting both at once with a Pawn.

 [More? See the document on The Italian Game]


Play the Scotch Game
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 play simply 3. d2-d4. After 3...exd4 you can play a nice open game with 4. Nxd4, or you can play one or two interesting gambits with 4. Bc4 [Scotch Gambit] or 4. c2-c3 [Goring Gambit]. This is perhaps the easiest way to get an open game as White.

 [More? See the document on Playing Black against 1.e2-e4]

Securing an open game as Black

... is more difficult.


Play the Two Knights' Defence
After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 play 3...Nf6. White cannot head for the GP by 4. Nc3 because of 4...Nxe4!, although 4. d3 is pretty dull (4. d3 d5!? is the right attitude but maybe the wrong move)

  Some Black players are frightened to play the Two Knights' because of 4. Ng5 but Black can get an open game by sacrificing material in one of three ways:,

  • play the main line with 4...d5 5. exd5 Na5!...
  • or the Ulvestad Variation with 4...d5 5. exd5 b5!...
  • or even the wild Traxler (or Wilkes-Barre) Variation 4...Bc5!?.
[More? See the document on Playing Black against 1.e2-e4]


Play the Petroff Defence
After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 play 2...Nf6!. The main lines with 3. Nxe5 d6! 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Be7 and 3. d4 d5! are both much more open than the Old Stodge.

  There is a slight problem if White is frightened into 3. Nc3 because of course we are half-way towards Old Stodge again. Black won't mind if after the obvious 3...Nc6 White opens the game with 4. d4. We have already seen that 4. Bc4 fails to the trick 4...Nxe4!, so the only other try is 4. Bb5, which of course makes it difficult for Black to play ...d5 because of the e-Pawn, and theory suggests that the lively 4...Bc5?! is not very good for the same reason. One safe move for Black is 4...Bb4, but to me that looks like another version of Old Stodge, so you might like to try 4...Nd4!?. According to theory there is no way for White to punish Black for this unusual move, and it may be a way of mixing things up a little. If all this seems a bit much the simple 3.Nc3 Bb4!? is probably OK.

 [More? See the document on Petroff's Defence]


Play the Centre Counter [Scandinavian] Defence
After 1. e4 play 1...d5!. This used to be described as "sucking all the life out of the position", and it's absolutely true that I can't bear playing games with 2. exd5 Qxd5 - White can gain a move by kicking the Queen about with 3. Nc3 Qa5 but Black tends to play a solid set-up with ...c6 and ...e6, which can be tough to break down.

  But recently Black players have had a few new ideas in the line with 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6!

  One idea is to play the "Icelandic Gambit" with 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6! 3. c4 e6! The idea is that if White grabs a Pawn with 4. dxe6 Bxe6, White will have a difficult game because of the backward d-Pawn (5. Nf3 c5!), unless White plays 5. d4 Bb4+ e.g. 6. Bd2 Qe7 7. Bxb4 Qxb4+ 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Nc3 O-O-O, when Black has raced to nearly complete development, while White has yet to get anywhere near castling. [This is pretty fashionable at club level at the moment.]

  Another idea, if White is not so greedy, is to play the Jadoul Variation with 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6! 3. d4 Bg4! which can be another gambit with 4. f3 Bf5 5. c4 e6 or a better version of the 2...Qxd5 line after 4. Nf3 Qxd5 5. Nc3 Qf5 (or 5. Be2 Nc6 6. c4 Qd7) because the Black Queen doesn't get in the way of developing the light-squared Bishop.

 If your opponent is really determined to be stodgy, 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6! 3. d4 Bg4! 4. Be2 Bxe2 5. Qxe2 Qxd5 6.Nf3 is quiet enough, although you may be able to castle Queen's-side, and then throw your King's-side Pawns up to open lines against their King.

  White can avoid these lines with 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6! 3. Bb5+, or after 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6! 3. c4 e6 playing 4. d4, but in both cases we have a more open game than Old Stodge.

 [More? There are lots of new books recommending the Scandinavian these days, including the patchy Keene/Levy An Opening Repertoire for the Attacking Player, and the more sound John Emms' The Scandinavian]

Chess Quotes

"If you have any doubt what to study, study endgames. Openings teach you openings. Endings teach you chess."
— Stephan GERZADOWICZ, Thinker's Chess.