Back to Back Issues Page
LCB, Issue #102 --, Try the Power of the Italian Game
December 01, 2023

Try the Power of the Italian Game

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #102 -- GOTM #72

learn and play online chess
The Italian Game was once the darling of the Masters at elite level chess. In the early to mid-19th Century, at the height of the Romantic Era, this was a popular weapon in the arsenal. It was a vast complex of several major variations, each with many sub-variations and side-lines, all of them highly tactical as was the style of the day.

Then Steinitz had a thought, introduced a little thing called positional chess and the Italian Game fell from grace and sank without trace. It seemed like that was that. In recent decades however the system has made something of a comeback albeit with a different look. A number of GMs have worked hard on it and while the old tactical variations have bitten the dust, they've been replaced by new positional ones.

That's nice but let's relive the old Italian's former glory as a tactical opening. We go back to 1924 in Antwerp, where the players are Georges Koltanowski up against Arthur Dunkelblum.

Try the Power of the Italian Game

Koltanowski,Georges - Dunkelblum,Arthur [C55]

GotM #72, Antwerp, 1924
[Connaughton, Ken]


King's Pawn Game


Open Game


King's Knight Opening

2...Nc6 3.Bc4

Italian Game


(3...Nf6 is the main alternative)

4.0-0 Nf6 5.d4

White gambits a pawn for time and space.

5...exd4 6.e5 d5

Game position after 6...d5


(7.exd6 Qxd6 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Nd8=/+)

7...dxc4 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5 10.Nc3

Game position after 10.Nc3

Taking advantage of the pins on the Black Queen and King.


Both sides carry threats but White has a safer King.

(10...dxc3?? 11.Qxd5+-)


This central Knight becomes something of an octupus.

11...Bb4 12.c3 dxc3 13.bxc3 Ba5 14.g4

Game position after 14.g4

The center of the board is a tricky terrain for the Black pieces. The narrow corridors available to the Black Queen are fraught with danger.


Inevitably she is forced to a corner from where her power is practically nullified.

15.Nxe6 fxe6 16.f7+ Kxf7?!

Game position after 16...Kxf7?!

(16...Qxf7 was certainly a better choice.)

17.Ng5+ Kg8

The King makes it to the corner but his Rook is on h8 rather than f8.

18.Rxe6 Qd3

Black would like to exchange Queens.


White would not.

19...Rf8 20.Re8 Qd7 21.Rxf8+ Kxf8 22.Ba3+

Game position after 22.Ba3+

White's minor pieces are much stronger than their unfortunate counterparts.


The defender in chess is always forced to become ever more passive, ever more cramped, while he with the initiative always naturally becomes ever more active, ever more mobile. The other inversely proportional phenomenon witnessed is the increasing harmony of the attacking pieces and the corresponding breakdown of connectivity between the defenders. More space increases the power of chess pieces exponentially, less space makes them a fraction of themselves.


Game position after 23.Rd1!

Sacrificing the Knight and pawn in order to bring the Rook into the game.

23...Qxg4+ 24.Kf1 Qxg5

Black can pick off this Knight as it does not interfere with the imperative of defending e7. He will find however the old truism that the Queen is a poor defender.


Game position after 25.Rd5!

Offering a Rook sacrifice.

25...Qh4 26.Rh5!

Game position after 26.Rh5!

And again. White is not interested in the a4-Bishop. His only mission is to divert the Queen from this diagonal and the defense of the hapless e7-Knight.

26...Qf6 27.Rf5!!

Game position after 27.Rf5!!

For the third time the sacrifice is offered and this time it cannot be refused. Black resigns.

(27.Rf5 Qxf5 28.Qxe7+ Kg8 29.Qe8+ Qf8 30.Qxf8#)


Koltanowski,Georges - Dunkelblum,Arthur [C55]

If you do not have html based email software and you're using a text only system, you may find that the links are only partially highlighted and may not work. If this is the case, simply copy and paste the entire link into the browser and hit Enter. That should get you where you want to go.
Comments, ideas, feedback? I'd be stoked to hear from you.

Get in touch

See you next month.


Back to Back Issues Page