Giuoco piano

Giuoco Piano

Giuoco Piano

The Giuoco Piano is said to be the oldest opening recorded in chess. Instead of developing the bishop to b5, white instead attacks the center and aims at the weak f7 square. After black responds bishop to c5 you see the tension building up in the center of the board.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5

The opening has been called the “quiet game” but for anyone who has played this opening, after the initial build up in the center, the Giuoco Piano becomes anything but quiet. There will almost certainly be many exchanges in the middle as both sides vie for center control, opening the board up.

White eventually plans to bring his pawn to d4 and black plans to bring his pawn to d5. As you can tell from the setup, there are no attacks from the outside but instead everything runs through the middle.

This opening is somewhat tricky and there are many variations that you many want to study more if you plan on playing the Giuoco Piano.

Watch the video below to watch more detailed explanations of the opening, multiple variations, and extended lines.

Looking for in depth analysis for extended lines?

Famous Games using the Giuoco Piano

Capablanca vs NN, 1918

Nimzowitsch vs Capablanca, 1913

Loyd vs S Rosenthal, 1867


The Giuoco Piano is a branch of the Italian Game opening.

The idea behind the Giuoco Piano: take aim at the f7 pawn and Black’s King.

The Giuoco Piano is a great opening since it:

  1. Controls the Center.
  2. Develops Pieces.
  3. Protects the King.

The Giuoco Piano can be divided into three major variations based on White's fourth move:

  • the Main Line (4. c3)
  • the Evans Gambit (4. b4)
  • the Giuoco Pianissimo (4. d3)

In the Main line, White’s ideas are:

  1. Bring bishop onto a diagonal, attacking the weak f7 square (only defended by the King).
  2. Play c2-c3 in preparation for the central advance d2-d4.
  3. Develop other pieces rapidly.
  4. Open lines to attack Black’s position.

In the Evans Gambit, White offers a pawn to distract black’s bishop on c5.

If Black accepts, White can follow up with c3 and d4 to open up the center and also opens diagonals that allow moves such as Ba3 or Qb3.

These moves prevent Black from castling kingside and threaten the weak f7-pawn respectively.

If Black declines the Evans Gambit (not a good option), Whites b4-pawn gains space on the queenside, and White can follow up with a4 later to take up more space.

Doing this also threatens to trap Black's dark-square bishop in.

In the Giuoco Pianissimo , White aims for a slow buildup deferring d4 until it can be set up.

By avoiding an immediate confrontation in the center, White prevents the early release of tension through exchanges and enters a maneuvering game.

White plays Giuoco Pianissimo If he likes closed-style games.

If White plays c2–c3, the position can take some characteristics of the Ruy Lopez if his bishop retreats to c2 via Bc4–b3–c2.

This idea has been taken up by some grandmasters, such as Anish Giri, in order to avoid the drawish Berlin Defence in the Ruy Lopez.

  • First, White must move the King’s pawn two squares (1.e4).
  • Then, Black replies by moving his King pawn two squares (1...e5).
  • White wants to attack e5-pawn by moving his Knight three squares (2. Nf3).
  • Black defends e5-pawn by moving his Knight three squares (2…Nc6).
  • White replies by moving his King’s-side Bishop three squares. He wants to build a strong center and clear a space for 0-0 (3. Bc4).
  • Black replies by moving his King’s-side Bishop three squares too. He wants to control d4 square (3…Bc5).

Take a look at the moves below.

The Giuoco Piano is best for beginner/intermediate players because it allows them to naturally make good moves that do not have any obvious weaknesses.

It also allows games to occur in less complicated positions that are more comfortable for players to play in.

Main Line

How to reach it?

The Main Line of the Giuoco Piano appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Bc5
  4. c3

You can see the moves here.

Why play the Main line?

The Main line is the most popular variation of the Giuoco Piano.

White’s idea: Gain an advantage in the center by playing pawn to c3 and then pawn to d2–d4. Then coordinate an attack on Black’s Kingside.

Black has two ways to counter this:

  1. If Black wants a closed, strategic game, then he can try to hold a strongpoint on the e5 square by putting his Queen on e7.
  2. If Black wants an open, tactical game, then he can counter attack by putting his Knight on f6.

White's Moves

Push c3-d4 to gain control of the center

White typically wants to gain center control on d4 by first setting up his c-pawn before he does the d4 push.

Push c3-b4-a5 to gain Queenside space

A really good plan is to gain Queenside space by pushing c3-b4-a5 and then swinging the bishop over to a3, which can cause black a lot of problems when trying to castle.

This plan is used successfully against the Ruy Lopez opening as well.

Black’s Moves

Castle Kingside to Protect the King

Black should castle Kingside to protect his King and remove the weakness of the f7 square (when uncastled)

Nf6 counterattack

It is best for Black to counter attack the e4 pawn by placing the Knight on f6 (instead of the other variation of putting the Queen on e7 - because this move blocks a square for either the c5 bishop or the c6 Knight)

Every move explained

Evans Gambit

How to reach it?

The Evans Gambit of the Giuoco Piano appears on the board after the following moves:

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

You can see the moves here.

Why play the Evans Gambit?

The Evans Gambit is used to keep the Black King from castling and overwhelm Black with an attack in the center.

If you are playing as white you need to make sure that you attack.

You do not want to exchange your pieces with Black and go toward an endgame.

White’s Moves

When Black takes free pawn with Knight (instead of the bishop)

It is a very bad move for Black to accept the Evans Gambit with the Knight (instead of the bishop)

This allows White to put his pawn on c3 (which eventually lets White control the center, gain a tempo and launch an attack).

When Black takes free pawn with Bishop (instead of the Knight)

White can follow up by using his pawns to control the center.

Evans declining variation

If Black declines the gambit, White can still have a very aggressive game, which is usually the game plan for someone playing the Evan’s Gambit.

Black’s Moves

Get Knight to a5

Black’s idea should be to retreat the bishop to b6, and then get the Knight on to a5.

Accept the gambit and play ..Ne7

Black’s best option is to accept the gambit.

By declining the Evans, Black lets White gain space on the queenside for free.

The best way to accept the gambit is the bishop.

Every move explained

Giuoco Pianissimo

How to reach it?

The Giuoco Pianissimo of the Giuoco Piano appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Bc5
  4. d3

You can see the moves here:

Why play the Giuoco Pianissimo?

White aims for a slow buildup, not playing d4 immediately, but deciding to wait until he can prepare it.

The battle for the center is avoided early on, but White keeps the tension in the position by exchanging pieces and playing a positional game instead.

White’s Moves


A really good plan for White is to just to play Bg5.

This will pin Black’s Knight to his Queen.

Since black has played d6, he can’t use his Bishop to break this pin (since it blocks the path going backwards)

Black can’t afford to move his Queen, since if White takes, Black will end up with doubled pawns, which would severely weaken his Kingside.

Then White can move his Knight to d5 to really cause some damage.

Put pressure on f7

White should put pressure on Black’s f7 square with his Queen b3, together with the Bishop on c4.

Black’s Moves

Counter attack with d5

Black should counter-attack in the center with d7-d5. This prevents White from having central control.

Pin White’s Knight with Bishop

Black should pin White’s Knight to the Queen.

Castle Kingside to Protect the King

Black castles Kingside to protect his King and f7-pawn.

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Getting Started With The Giuoco Piano

The Italian Game is one of the most important opening systems of Chess. It can lead to the sharpest games ever or the most subtle positional battles. The Giuoco Piano usually belongs to this second category, with some exceptions !

This position is already a crossroad for Black. Black can choose to answer with the quiet Hungarian Defense or the Semi-Italian Game, or, more critically, with the Two Knight’s Defense.

In the Two Knights Defense, White usually gets a lot of activity by playing the Knight to g5.

Knight to h6 is often the perfect reply to Ng5, when Black can play it ! Of course, it means that Black has not played the Knight to f6 beforehand.

Once it is clear for everyone that White should not try too hard to target the f7 pawn in this particular line, one may wonder what is White trying to achieve in the Giuoco Piano ?

You should try to get a strong pawn center c3-d4-e4 of course, this is your main chance for an advantage with White. Not to say that the two other ideas should be completely discarded: you may have to opt for a queenside push or a kingside attack, but less often.

The Main Line Of The Giuoco Piano

Once we have said that, the best way to actually get this pawn center is to play c2-c3, then d2-d4 as fast as possible: this is the main line and here is how it develops.

The Real Main Line

One thing that must absolutely be noted about this main line is that it is very forcing. Sure, many times, Black only has one move that keeps the position balanced, but if Black knows it, White is more or less forced into this middlegame where a lot of the initial tension has disappeared. Also, White must be prepared to play with the isolated Queen’s Pawn.

Or is it actually forcing ? Black and White have a few ways to deviate in the main line. We are going to check three correct ways to play something else, one for Black and two for White.

White Plays 6. e5

As mentioned before, the main line of the Giuoco Piano is forcing, up to a certain point ! The first player getting an interesting deviation is White.

Nf6-e4 also seemed possible at first sight. It deserves a quick look.

This 6. e5 move is not at all a sideline and this is a line often picked by Grandmaster, so you can adopt it confidently: there is no refutation for Black !

White Tries a sharp gambit with 7. Nc3

The next possibility we will look at is a bit unsound, but very dangerous in practical play !

The previous line is the only one that promises Black a small advantage. Other replies are at least equal for White.

What is remarkable in this line starting with 8… Nxc3 is that everything seems fine for Black… until it doesn’t ! It is hard to see the danger coming and easy to get greedy.

Let’s make a last note on this 8… Nxc3 by saying that Black could have equalized with a timely d7-d5. Thus this line is not bad in itself for Black ! It is only very dangerous in practical play.

Finally, Black can try another defense, that seems strange, but is also a very good way to neutralize White’s initiative easily.

This line is a funny and efficient way for Black to answer to the Nc3 gambit. Yet White will still try to build an attack on the Kingside so everything is not done yet !

This is the conclusion of this line 7. Nc3 called the Greco variation, from the name of the Italian player who studied it in the 17th century. Now one more deviation from the standard line, and we will be done with the main line.

Black tries to neutralize everything with 7… Nxe4

Now it is Black’s turn to come up with a different idea in this line ! We have seen that in the main line, after White moves the Bishop to d2, then Black usually exchanges on d2. But Black has another idea here !

And finally, if we assume that the queens get exchanged on e7, which often happens, we get to the following position.

I have shown you White’s best play on the line 7… Nxe4, which means that Black can get a comfortable position whatever White plays. This line alone is a good reason to stop playing the so-called “main line” with White. This is why other systems are more popular for White, in particular the Giuoco Pianissimo.

The Giuoco Pianissimo

The Giuoco Pianissimo is a huge system that cannot be reduced to a few paragraph. That’s why I am studying it on a dedicated page. Go there to discover all the typical moves and ideas of this great positional opening.

The Bird’s Attack Of The Giuoco Piano

The Bird’s attack of the Giuoco Piano is a slightly uncommon opening. Yet the idea makes sense on both strategic and tactical standpoint, at least on paper 🙂

The conclusion is therefore that using b2-b4 to create an immediate threat on the e5-pawn simply does not work.

Thus White’s plan is more to gain some space on the Queenside attacking the Bishop. The lines are very similar to the Giuoco Pianissimo as White often has to play d2-d3 to strengthen the pawn center.

The previous position looks very much like the Giuoco Pianissimo, the ideas are indeed similar and it is not surprising to find similarities.

This was the line to play if Black prefers closed positions. To finish with the Bird’s line, here is a line that Black can play if he prefers open positions.

The previous position is probably not so easy to play for Black (and for White as well).

All in all, the Bird’s line of the Giuoco Piano is uncommon but sound. Black can choose how to handle it: quietly or more actively and in both cases, we get to a roughly equal position, with an interesting game to follow.

White Plays d2-d4 Without Preparation

You may think we have explored all the possible lines inside the Giuoco Piano. But what would be a King’s pawn opening without a tricky and probably unsound gambit ? It is time to look at another possibility for White !

The Göring gambit and the Scotch gambit are also covered extensively in the overview on the Scotch game.

So even within the best line for Black, there are ways for White to set a few other traps. Finally we will look that a move that is bad for Black.

The thing with 5… Nxd4 is that Black is always worse, but gets to choose between many different ways to get worse, and White must be able to punish Black, which is not always trivial. I will just give three examples of lines, but there are many more, and you must be prepared with White to find some good moves on the board. Not always easy !

Saying that you need to be tactically fit to survive in such lines is an understatement !

I could go on forever with this line. The point is that 5… Nxd4 is probably the worst move for Black, yet the hardest to play for White. Conclusion ? Make your own opinion and play it at your own risk !

The Evans Gambit

As it is a very rich gambit, and not just a quick try to confuse Black, the Evans Gambit is covered extensively in its own article. Go check it !

The Giuoco Piano: Conclusion

This was just an overview of the Giuoco Piano. You have seen a lot of interesting lines, how to play the main line, and a ton of interesting variants.

But beware ! If you choose to play the Italian Game with White, you have to be prepared as well to the 2 Knights defense when Black plays 3… Nf6 instead of 3. Bc5. If you want to explore different types of games, you may prefer to play the Ruy Lopez whereas the Scotch game is a good option to play for a small advantage in quiet lines.

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Giuoco Piano

Chess opening

The Giuoco Piano (Italian: "Quiet Game"; pronounced [dʒwɔːko ˈpjaːno]), also called the Italian Game, is a chess opening beginning with the moves:


"White aims to develop quickly – but so does Black. White can construct a pawn centre but in unfavourable conditions a centre which cannot provide a basis for further active play." (Marović & Sušić 1975:53)

The name Italian Game is used by some authors(Pinski 2005:5); however that name is also used to describe all openings starting 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4, including 3...Nf6 (the Two Knights Defence) and other less common replies.


The Giuoco Piano is one of the oldest recorded openings. The PortugueseDamiano played it at the beginning of the 16th century and the ItalianGreco played it at the beginning of the 17th century. The Giuoco Piano was popular through the 19th century, but modern refinements in defensive play have led most chess masters towards openings like the Ruy Lopez that offer White greater chances for long-term .

In modern play, grandmasters have shown distinct preference for the slower and more strategic Giuoco Pianissimo (4.d3, or 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3). Anatoly Karpov used the Giuoco Pianissimo against Viktor Korchnoi twice in the 1981 World Championship match, with both games ending in a draw;[2][3]Garry Kasparov used it against Joël Lautier at Linares 1994, resigning after 29 moves;[4]Vladimir Kramnik chose it against Teimour Radjabov at Linares (2004);[5]Viswanathan Anand used it to defeat Jon Hammer in 2010;[6] and Magnus Carlsen used it against Hikaru Nakamura at London 2011, winning in 41 moves.[7]


The main continuations on White's fourth move are:

  • 4.c3, the Main line.
  • 4.b4, the Evans Gambit, in which White offers a pawn in return for rapid . This opening was popular in the 19th century, more than the standard Giuoco Piano.
  • 4.d3, the Giuoco Pianissimo.
  • 4.0-0, often with the intention of meeting 4...Nf6 with 5.d4, the Max Lange Gambit, with similar ideas to the Italian Gambit but with some transpositional differences.

Other continuations are:

Main line: 4.c3 [edit]

White plays 4.c3 in preparation for the central advance d2–d4.

The main move 4...Nf6 was first analysed by Greco in the 17th century. Alternatives include 4...Qe7, with the intention of holding on to the centre.


5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4

White can also try 6.e5, a line favoured by Evgeny Sveshnikov,[8] when play usually continues 6...d5 7.Bb5 Ne4 8.cxd4 Bb6, with approximate . Additionally, White has a gambit alternative in 6.0-0, which Graham Burgess revived in the book 101 Chess Opening Surprises; the critical line runs 6...Nxe4 7.cxd4 d5 8.dxc5 dxc4 9.Qe2 Qd3. A very rare option is 6.b4 as was played in the brilliant game Dubov-Karjakin, Moscow 2020[9] the game continued 6. ... Bb6 7. e5 Ne4 (7. ... d5 is a critical alternative) 8. Bd5 Nxc3 9. Nxc3 dxc3 10. Bg5 Ne7 11. O-O h6 12. Bh4 O-O 13. Re1 Qe8 14. Bb3 a5 15. Bf6 a4 16. Bc4 Ng6 17. Qd3 d5 18. exd6 Be6 19. Qxg6! and white went on to win.[10]


White now has a choice between 7.Nc3 and 7.Bd2. 7.Nc3 usually leads to the Møller Attack, an aggressive line involving the sacrifice of a pawn; however it has been largely abandoned in high level games as Black gains the advantage with accurate defence. 7.Bd2 offers about equal chances.
7.Nc3 (including Greco Variation and Møller Attack)[edit]

7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.0-0 (diagram)

Greco encouraged an attack on White's with 8.0-0, allowing 8...Nxc3?!, the Greco Variation. If 9.bxc3 Bxc3?! 10.Qb3 Bxa1?, White wins with 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5. Greco's game (probably analysis) continues 12...Ne7 13.Ne5 (13.Re1 and 13.Rxa1 also win) 13...d5 14.Qf3 Bf5 15.Be6 g6 16.Bh6+ Ke8 17.Bf7#.[11][12] This trap is well-known, and Black can avoid it by playing 10...d5. For this reason, the Scottish master James Aitken proposed 10.Ba3!, which gives White the advantage. After 9.bxc3, best for Black is 9...d5! 10.cxb4 dxc4 11.Re1+ Ne7 12.Qa4+! Bd7 13.b5 0-0 14.Qxc4 Ng6!
In 1898 the Møller Attack revived this line; Danish player Jørgen Møller published analysis of the line in Tidsskrift for Skak (1898). In the Møller Attack, White sacrifices a pawn for development and the initiative:

8...Bxc3! 9.d5

9.bxc3 is met with 9...d5!


On 9...Ne5, a possible continuation is 10.bxc3 Nxc4 11.Qd4 f5 12.Qxc4 d6.

10.Re1 Ne7 11.Rxe4 d6 12.Bg5 Bxg5 13.Nxg5 h6!

13...0-0 14.Nxh7! has been analysed to a draw with best play, although Black has many opportunities to go wrong.


After 14.Qe2 hxg5 15.Re1 Be6! 16.dxe6 (White also can try 16.Qd2 c6! 17.dxe6 f6 18.Bd3 d5 19.Rg4 Qc7 20.h3 0-0-0 21.b4, attacking) 16...f6 17.Re3 c6 18.Rh3 Rxh3 19.gxh3 g6 it is doubtful that White has compensation for the sacrificed pawn, according to GrandmasterLarry Kaufman; 14.Qh5 0-0 15.Rae1 Ng6! (or 15...Nf5!) also favours Black.

14...Bd7 15.Qe2 Bxb5 16.Qxb5+ Qd7 17.Qxb7

17.Qe2 Kf8! wins a second pawn, as in Barczay–Portisch, Budapest 1969.[13]

17...0-0 18.Rae1 Rab8 19.Qxa7 Nxd5 20.Qd4 Qf5 21.Nf3 Rb4

and Black is clearly better.

If White does not want to gambit material, 7.Bd2 is a good alternative. The game could continue 7...Bxd2+ (Kaufman recommends 7...Nxe4!? 8.Bxb4 Nxb4 9.Bxf7+ Kxf7 10.Qb3+ d5!? [10...Kf8 11.Qxb4+ Qe7 12.Qxe7+ Kxe7 is safer, reaching an equal endgame] 11.Ne5+ Ke6! 12.Qxb4 c5!?) 8.Nbxd2 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Qb3 Nce7 (10...Na5 is an alternative, inviting a repetition of moves after 11.Qa4+ Nc6 [threatening 12...Nb6] 12.Qb3 Na5) 11.0-0 0-0 12.Rfe1 c6. In this position White has more freedom, but the can be a weakness. 7.Nbd2 is also a viable move for White, although this still only offers approximate equality. It has not been a popular choice among human players, but it seems to be recommended by computer engines.[14] 7.Kf1?! has been largely abandoned.[15]

4...Qe7 and alternatives[edit]

Black can try to hold a in the centre at e5 with 4...Qe7, a move which first appeared in the Göttingen manuscript around 1500.[16] After 5.d4 (5.0-0 usually transposes) Bb6, White's options include 6.0-0, 6.d5, 6.a4 and 6.Bg5.[17] A typical continuation is 6.0-0 d6 7.a4 a6 8.h3 Nf6 9.Re1 0-0 (Leonhardt-Spielmann, Ostend 1907).[18]

4...Bb6 usually transposes after 5.d4 Qe7.

Other moves are considered inferior.

Giuoco Pianissimo: 4.d3 [edit]

With 4.d3, White plays the Giuoco Pianissimo (Italian: "Very Quiet Game", a name given by Adolf Anderssen).[19] White aims for a slow buildup, deferring the to d4 until it can be prepared. By avoiding an immediate confrontation in the centre, White prevents the early release of through exchanges and enters a positional maneuvering game. 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.d3 is the Giuoco Pianissimo Deferred.

If White plays c2–c3, the position can take some characteristics of the Ruy Lopez if the bishop retreats to c2 via Bc4–b3–c2. This idea has been taken up by some grandmasters, such as Anish Giri, to avoid the drawish Berlin Defence in the Ruy Lopez. The game can also retain an Italian flavour after c3 if White plays a4 and b4, staking out on the . Despite its slow, drawish reputation, this variation became more popular after being taken up by John Nunn in the 1980s. The common move orders are 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 (ECO C54), and transposition from the Bishop's Opening: 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Bc5 5.c3 or 5.0-0 d6 6.c3.

ECO codes[edit]

Codes from the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (ECO) are:

  • C50 Italian Game, includes Giuoco Piano lines other than 4.c3 and 4.b4
  • C51 Evans Gambit
  • C52 Evans Gambit, with 4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5
  • C53 Giuoco Piano, 4.c3, without 4...Nf6
  • C54 Giuoco Piano, 4.c3 Nf6
    • includes other than 5.d4 and 5.d3
    • 5.d4 exd4, without 6.cxd4
    • 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4
    • 5.d3


  1. ^Hooper & Whyld (1996), p. 183. Italian Opening.
  2. ^"Karpov vs. Korchnoi, World Ch. Rematch (1981), rd. 8".
  3. ^"Karpov vs. Korchnoi, World Ch. Rematch (1981), rd. 10".
  4. ^"Kasparov vs. Lautier, Linares (1994)".
  5. ^"Kramnik vs. Radjabov, Linares (2004)".
  6. ^"Anand vs. Hammer, Arctic Securities Chess Stars (2010)".
  7. ^"Carlsen vs. Nakamura, London (2011)".
  8. ^The Steinitz–Sveshnikov Attack
  9. ^"Daniil Dubov vs Sergey Karjakin (2020) Dubov's Immortal". Retrieved 2021-01-12.
  10. ^"Nepomniachtchi, Goryachkina Winners Russian Championships". Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  11. ^Greco-NN 1620
  12. ^Harding p. 4
  13. ^"Laszlo Barczay vs. Lajos Portisch (1969)". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  14. ^"The Baron vs. Pandix, World Computer Chess Championship (2011)".
  15. ^ position search after 7.Kf1
  16. ^Harding, p. 24
  17. ^Harding, p. 25
  18. ^Leonhardt-Spielmann
  19. ^Hooper & Whyld (1996), p. 153.


  • Gufeld, Eduard; Stetsko, Oleg (1996), The Giuoco Piano, Batsford, ISBN 
  • Harding, Tim; Botterill, G. S. (1977). The Italian Game. B. T. Batsford Ltd. ISBN .
  • Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1996) [1992]. The Oxford Companion to Chess (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN .
  • Kaufman, Larry (2004). The Chess Advantage in Black and White. McKay Chess Library. ISBN .
  • Marović, D.; Sušić, I. (1975). King Pawn Openings. Chess Digest.
  • Pinski, Jan (2005), Italian Game and Evans Gambit, Everyman Chess, ISBN 

External links[edit]


Piano giuoco



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