No more Old Stodge! (2)

This club is a GP-free zone

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

[Giuoco Pianissimo]

Support the campaign for d2-d4 by playing 4. c3, 4. b4 or 3. d4!

Giuoco Pianissimo " is an old Italian phrase meaning "very quiet game"; if you can't remember that, you might prefer if we just use EM Forster's name for 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? It's totally the wrong sort of position for you, that's what!

"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. Also, with open lines, you have play for the Rooks.

+-----------------+
|r+b+q4k+|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n0.h.+|
|+.g.0.G.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.HP+N+.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$.+QI.+R|
v,./9EFJM

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 position is blocked, the sides are equal and it's hard to get things going. None of the pieces get any scope, the Rooks lack open lines, the whole position gets bogged down in sticky toffee and both players are often bored and confused by the positions that come about. 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.

It's enough to put you off chess!

This document is about how to try and get an open game, with Pawn exchanges, with either colour, and a bit about what's going on in the Old Stodge in case you are tricked into it.

We'll look at Old Stodge first.

Playing Old Stodge positions

Giuoco Piano

Giuoco Piano means 'quiet game', most popular in the 1800s, and is indeed quieter than the bloodthirsty openings like the King's Gambit and other lines that were being played then.

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+n4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.+.+|
|+.g.0.+.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.+.+N+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

The Giuoco Piano is defined by the following sequence:

1 e4, e5; 2 Nf3, Nc6; 3 Bc4, Bc5. 

The idea is to develop naturally and quickly, attacking the important weak point on f7. 

This is a fine opening for juniors to play.

But after

4. d3 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6

we have:

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n0.h.+|
|+.g.0.+.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.HP+N+.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$.GQI.+R|
+-----------------+

Old Stodge

This is a rotten variation for juniors to to play! - stodgy and difficult. But just in case you get tricked into it, there are some ideas for White and Black that you should know:

 

`

(1) The plan with Be3

(2) The plan with O-O

(3) The attack with Bg5/Nd5

(4) The Canal variation

(1) The plan with Be3

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n0.h.+|
|+.g.0.+.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.HPGN+.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$.+QI.+R|
+-----------------+

One idea here is to tempt Black to exchange, 6...Bxe3 . After 7.fxe3 White has a half-open f-file and can think about moves like O-O and Nf3-h4-f5. The square f5 is still good for White, since Black will be cautious about playing ...g7-g6.

Black should not exchange but instead quietly play 6...Bb6.

After this White can continue with Qd2 and 0-0-0.

(2) The plan with O-O

This is actually a risky move! If you are not careful, you will face a ...Bg4 move from Black, when you cannot chase the Bishop in the way you would like with h3 and g4, because of the sacrifice ...Nxg4!

+-----------------+
|r+.1k+.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n0.+.+|
|+.g.0.+b|
|.+B+P+n+|
|+.HP+N+P|
|P)P+.).+|
|$.GQ+RI.|
+-----------------+

This is very dangerous for White. Black threatens all sorts of things like ...Nd4 and ...Qf6 although you might be able to survive with Be3 and Kg2.

Some players have even experimented with

6. O-O Bg4, 7. h3 h5!?

Probably White can survive this too, but if a natural move like castling is so risky for White here, this can't be a good line to get into! Let's see a dramatic example of this:

Knorre-Tchogorin, 1874

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5

White has castled early and is trying the Bg5 plan. They do not mix well. Black, who has not castled, chases the Bishop with his King's-side Pawns:

6...h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 h5 9.Nxg5 h4! 10.Nxf7 hxg3!

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+.4|
|0p0.+N+.|
|.+n0.h.+|
|+.g.0.+.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.+P+.0.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$N+Q+RI.|
+-----------------+

Black ignores White's attack on the Queen because he can see a way to get to the King!

11.Nxd8 Bg4 12.Qd2 Nd4 13.Nc3 Nf3+ 14.gxf3 Bxf3 15.hxg3 Rh1# 0-1

But perhaps this line gives us a clue to the best plan for White at move six:

(3) The attack with Bg5/Nd5

[Of course, Black can play the same plan with ...Bg4/...Nd4]

Play might go:

6. Bg5 O-O 7. Bd5 h6

+-----------------+
|r+b1.4k+|
|+p0.+p0.|
|p+n0.h.0|
|+.gN0.G.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.+P+N+.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$.GQI.+R|
v,./9EFJM

Black is in trouble here. After:

8. Nxf6+ gxf6

Black's King position has been opened up.

9. Bh6

Now White has big threats, like Nh4-f5, Qg4/h5.

So, after 6.Bg5, Black should play 6...h6 straight away.

White might retreat with 7. Bh4 but then Black can break the pin forever with 7...g5.

Forever? Well, again, not if White is brave and plays

8. Nxg5!? hxg5 9. Bxg5.

This would be even stronger if Black had already castled, because White would have an attack against the Black King.

Usually White does not play like this if Black hasn't castled, because Black can survive the threats. So, if Black hasn't castled, after

6. Bg5 h6

White should probably play

7. Bxf6

Instead, after 6. Bg5 Black can remove White's proud Bishop on c4 with

6...Na5

or block the Bishop attack with

6..Be6.

(4) The Canal variation

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! So, if you are going to play d3-d4 eventually, why not go for a more open game from the start?

Old Stodge is a difficult and unpleasant variation for both sides, where the Rooks are hard to develop and natural moves sometimes turn out badly. In fact, it's nothing like as safe for either side as you might have thought! You should aim to play a much more open game where it's easier to understand what is going on.

 

Securing an open game as White

Play the modern main line Giuoco Piano with 4.c3

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 play 4. c2-c3

This is an easy way to get an open game with White.

This move has the immediate threat to take over the centre with 5. d2-d4 . Black must react quickly and with the right moves - or else get into big trouble early on here.

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+n4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.+.+|
|+.g.0.+.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.).+N+.|
|P).).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

4. c3 Nf6

must be right.

5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4

Now if Black retreats:

6...Bb6 7. d5

and Black is being forced back.

Black should go forward:

6...Bb4+

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+.4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.h.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|.gB)P+.+|
|+.+.+N+.|
|P).+.)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

Now

7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 d5!

Is about equal, and

7. Nc3!?

is a risky gambit for White after

7...Nxe4! 8. d5! Bxc3+!

 

The modern Giuoco Piano sets Black problems from the first moves. You are bound to get an open game and perhaps chances to win quickly. All the variations of the Modern Giuoco Piano are open and exciting, and you should never get bored!

 

Play the Evans' Gambit

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 play 4. b2-b4

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+n4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.+.+|
|+.g.0.+.|
|.)B+P+.+|
|+.+.+N+.|
|P+P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

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.

Is this good value? Kasparov thinks so!


Kasparov,G - Anand,V [C51] Tal Memorial Tournament, Riga (4), 1995

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Be7 6.d4 Na5 7.Be2 exd4 8.Qxd4 Nf6 9.e5 Nc6 10.Qh4 Nd5 11.Qg3 g6 12.0-0 Nb6 13.c4 d6 14.Rd1 Nd7 15.Bh6

Black grabs a second Pawn.

15...Ncxe5 16.Nxe5 Nxe5 17.Nc3

(develop before attacking with a move like Bg7)

+-----------------+
|r+b1k+.4|
|0p0.gp+p|
|.+.0.+pG|
|+.+.h.+.|
|.+P+.+.+|
|+.H.+.!.|
|P+.+B)P)|
|$.+R+.I.|
+-----------------+

17...f6 18.c5 Nf7 19.cxd6 cxd6 20.Qe3 Nxh6 21.Qxh6 Bf8 22.Qe3+ Kf7 23.Nd5 Be6 24.Nf4 Qe7 25.Re1

an amazing destruction of the current world No.3 and his PCA championship challenger

[25.Re1 Qd7 (25...Re8 26.Nxe6 Qxe6 27.Qxe6+ Rxe6 28.Bc4; 25...Bh6 26.Bc4) 26.Bb5 Qxb5 27.Qxe6+ Kg7 28.Nd5 Qb2 29.Rab1] 1-0

Evans' Gambit is a sharp attacking line where White gives up a Pawn for a strong attack. The Pawn is important only in the endgame, and Black might not survive that long!

 

Play the Scotch Game

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 play simply 3. d2-d4

+-----------------+
|r+b1kgn4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.+.+|
|+.+.0.+.|
|.+.)P+.+|
|+.+.+N+.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$NGQIB+R|
+-----------------+

After 3...exd4 (forced) 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].

The Scotch Game opens up the play straight away, and there are some exciting gambits as well as straightforward developing lines for White.

 

Securing an open game as Black

... is more difficult.

Two Knights’ Defence

+-----------------+
|r+b1kg.4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.h.+|
|+.+.0.+.|
|.+B+P+.+|
|+.+.+N+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6

This is another nice way for Black to avoid White's intentions.

White may be surprised into playing

4. Nc3?

After

4...Nxe4! 5. Nxe4 d5!

Black gets the piece back and is assured of an open game and easy development. You must play this sort of trick if you get a chance.

4. d3 is pretty dull ( 4. d3 d5!? is the right attitude but maybe the wrong move)

The main line involves a gambit:

4. Ng5

+-----------------+
|r+b1kg.4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+n+.h.+|
|+.+.0.H.|
|.+B+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

White moves a piece twice, which is usually a waste of time, but White has some reason here.

Some players are scared to play the Two Knight's Defence because of this Ng5 move. It's not that strong, but it is tricky.

4...d5

Not forced: the risky 4...Bc5 is also played.

5. exd5

+-----------------+
|r+b1kg.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n+.h.+|
|+.+P0.H.|
|.+B+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

Now Black has four choices:

5...Nxd5?

5...Na5!

5...Nd4!?

5...b5!?

+-----------------+
|r+b1kg.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n+.+.+|
|+.+n0.H.|
|.+B+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

After:

5...Nxd5?

White can play the

Fried Liver Attack

6. Nxf7

This can be shocking if you haven't seen it before!

Lots of people know the name, but may not know exactly which variation it refers to. Even if you know the moves, you may not know that Black shouldn't allow it - and, if allowed, White shouldn't play it!

What’s the idea?

6...Kxf7

White forks King and Knight with

7. Qf3+ Ke6 8. Nc3 Nce7

with an attack.

Why shouldn't White play it, though? Well, if Black can get this far, we might see ...c6, ...Kd7-c7 and Black will have a safe King and an extra piece!

So, why should Black not allow it? White has a better choice at move 6:

6. d4! (Lasker) threatening Nxf7 and opening up the game. White is better here.

So, at move 5, Black is forced to sacrifice.

+-----------------+
|r+b1kg.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n+.h.+|
|+.+P0.H.|
|.+B+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQI.+R|
+-----------------+

5...Na5!

is the main line of the Two Knights' Defence:

6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Be2 h6 9. Nf3 e4 10. Ne5 Bd6 11. f4 0-0 12. 0-0 Qc7

Black's development is worth a pawn, but the Knight on a5 is not well placed for a King's-side attack at the moment.

Instead:

5...Nd4!? and

5...b5!?

are less well-known moves which are just as good for juniors, I think. In fact, these lines all mean that White has to defend, so if you are ever faced with the Two Knight's Defence, I recommend that you play 4.d4!

The Two Knight's Defence is a fine variation for Black. After 4.Ng5 White starts an attack, but soon it is Black who is doing the attacking! You should only play 4.Ng5 if you are the sort of player who likes to try to hang on to a Pawn hoping to survive an attack. If you like doing the attacking, you should hope your opponent plays 4.Ng5 against you!

 

Play the Petroff Defence

After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 play 2...Nf6!

+-----------------+
|rhb1kg.4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+.+.h.+|
|+.+.0.+.|
|.+.+P+.+|
|+.+.+N+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQIB+R|
+-----------------+

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. Some people think the Petroff is a bit stodgy, but the fearsome Frank Marshall used to play the Petroff to win:

Janowski - Marshall 1912

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.c4 0-0 8.cxd5 Bb4+ 9.Kf1 Qxd5 10.Qc2 Re8 11.Nc3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Qxf3

+-----------------+
|rhb+r+k+|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|.g.).+.+|
|+.)B+q+.|
|P+Q+.)P)|
|$.G.+K+R|
+-----------------+

13.cxb4

[13.gxf3 Bh3+ 14.Kg1 Re1+ 15.Bf1 Rxf1#;

13.Bxh7+ Kh8= 14.cxb4 g6 (14...Bh3; 14...Nc6) ]

13...Nc6 14.Bb2 Nxb4 15.Bxh7+ Kh8 16.gxf3 Bh3+ 17.Kg1 Nxc2 18.Bxc2 Re2 19.Rc1 Rae8 20.Bc3 R8e3 21.Bb4 Rxf3 22.Bd1 Rf6 0-1

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!?

+-----------------+
|r+b1kg.4|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+.+.h.+|
|+B+.0.+.|
|.+.hP+.+|
|+.H.+N+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$.GQI.+R|
+-----------------+

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.

5. Ba4 Bc5! 6. Nxe4 O-O!

+-----------------+
|r+b1.4k+|
|0p0p+p0p|
|.+.+.h.+|
|+.g.H.+.|
|B+.hP+.+|
|+.H.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$.GQI.+R|
+-----------------+

Greedy White may be punished here.

If all this seems a bit much the simple 3.Nc3 Bb4!? is probably OK.

Petroff's Defence gets White thinking right away and the main lines are nice and open. Some people say the Petroff can be dull, but sometimes it is not as dull as White might hope!

 

Play the Centre Counter [Scandinavian] Defence

After 1. e4 play 1...d5!

+-----------------+
|rhb1kgn4|
|0p0.0p0p|
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.+p+.+.|
|.+.+P+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQIBHR|
+-----------------+

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!

+-----------------+
|rhb1kg.4|
|0p0.0p0p|
|.+.+.h.+|
|+.+P+.+.|
|.+.+.+.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|P)P).)P)|
|$NGQIBHR|
+-----------------+

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

+-----------------+
|.+k4.+.4|
|0p0.+p0p|
|.+n+bh.+|
|+.+.+.+.|
|.1P).+.+|
|+.H.+.+.|
|P).!.)P)|
|$.+.IBHR|
+-----------------+

when Black has raced to nearly complete development, while White has yet to get anywhere near it. [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.

+-----------------+
|rh.+kg.4|
|0p0.0p0p|
|.+.+.h.+|
|+.+.+q+.|
|.+.).+b+|
|+.H.+N+.|
|P)P+.)P)|
|$.GQIB+R|
+-----------------+

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.

The Scandinavian Defence forces the game open immediately. This is a trendy line at the moment, but if you like it why not give it a try? Again, there are quiet lines and gambit lines to choose from, but they are all more open and more natural than Old Stodge.

Summary

This document is about how to try and get an open game, with Pawn exchanges, with either colour, and a bit about what's going on in the Old Stodge in case you are tricked into it.

Old Stodge is a difficult and unpleasant variation for both sides, where the Rooks are hard to develop and natural moves sometimes turn out badly. In fact, it's nothing like as safe for either side as you might have thought! You should aim to play a much more open game where it's easier to understand what is going on.

The modern Giuoco Piano sets Black problems from the first moves. You are bound to get an open game and perhaps chances to win quickly. All the variations of the Modern Giuoco Piano are open and exciting, and you should never get bored!

Evans' Gambit is a sharp attacking line where White gives up a Pawn for a strong attack. The Pawn is important only in the endgame, and Black might not survive that long!

The Scotch Game opens up the play straight away, and there are some exciting gambits as well as straightforward developing lines for White.

The Two Knight's Defence is a fine variation for Black. After 4.Ng5 White starts an attack, but soon it is Black who is doing the attacking! You should only play 4.Ng5 if you are the sort of player who likes to try to hang on to a Pawn hoping to survive an attack. If you like doing the attacking, you should hope your opponent plays 4.Ng5 against you!

Petroff's Defence gets White thinking right away and the main lines are nice and open. Some people say the Petroff can be dull, but sometimes it is not as dull as White might hope!

The Scandinavian Defence forces the game open immediately. This is a trendy line at the moment, but if you like it why not give it a try? Again, there are quiet lines and gambit lines to choose from, but they are all more open and more natural than Old Stodge.

Chess Quotes

"On a motif such as was indicated by Reti one cannot build the plan of a whole well contested game; it is too meagre, too thin, too puny for such an end. Reti's explanations, wherever they are concerned with an analysis which covers a few moves, are correct and praiseworthy. But when he abandons the foundations of analysis in order to draw too bold, too general a conclusion, his arguments prove to be mistaken."
— LASKER, Manual of Chess