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Winning With the Slow (but Venomous) Italian, by Karsten Müller and Georgios Souleidis

New in Chess
2016, 234 pages

By Davide Nastasio

I was a 1.e4 player, and I switched to 1.d4 because I couldn’t keep up with the amount of theory one had to learn. However, lately I noticed a young future IM (he is already over 2400, and just need to play in the right tournaments to acquire the norms), in the state where I generally play most of my tournaments, and he is making quite an impression using the Giuoco Piano (another name for the Italian game!). In fact, many of his opponents have become 1…c5 players because they have been beaten so badly using 1…e5 that they are tired of losing game after game!

Another player, by many considered to be the best of all time who has used the Italian in many simuls, is Kasparov. If he has done so, the idea behind it is simple. It is not a big maintenance opening, while at the same time the Black player can be outplayed easily. From the games I’ve seen, Kasparov makes it look like sleight of hand!

 

kasparov_playing_simul

Garry Kasparov playing a simul.

 

 

And of course there are also serious games against top competition in which Kasparov won easily:

 

morozevich

GM Alexander Morozevich

 

 

I found the book especially interesting for some chapters which weren’t what we normally find in an opening book.  As an example, chapter 10, Black Repertoires is quite out of the ordinary because the authors quote what other authors have written for the Black side and they offer moves, ideas, and lines to neutralize what other authors suggested.

We can also feel Müller influence in chapter 12:  Typical Endgames.

 

gm_mueller (1)

 

Müller, one of the world leading endgame experts, does the right thing giving the future Italian player not only tons of lines to remember, but which kinds of endgames this opening will lead to. Some games end quite early, but most of them, after a certain level and rating, will go into the endgame.  To know and to be prepared for those endgames means to be able to gain rating points.

How do we learn the theoretical material?   There are at least 8 chapters and a little more than 100 pages of thick annotations, so how do we learn all this material? Notice that the authors really worked hard, because in every chapter we can find some novelties.
My approach to learn the moves and ideas is simple: I open my database program, Chessbase 14, and using Megabase 2017 I open a new board and insert the first moves of the first chapter.  In this case, I insert 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.Bc4,g6;

 

3_g6

 

Then I hit the filter and copy the board,

 

copy_the_board

 

and then hit OK, and I get as a result all the games played with this line from the 1600s to today!  This sideline gave me more than 400 games as a result of my search.  I look at the names of the most important players in history and see how they played.  The following game is an example:

 

 

Then after watching 5-6 games to get a feeling of the main maneuvers and ideas, I return to the book and add to my board a couple of moves: 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.Bc4,g6; 4.d4,exd4; 5.c3!

 

5_c3

 

and repeat the same process explained before, enjoying a few games played by big names. If I find a game I particularly like in this line, I create a new database where I keep only Italian games.  In this way I’ll be able to refresh my memory before a tournament.

Before I forget, this book has a nice foreword by Anish Giri, and every time I think of him, I cannot resist chuckling when I think about when his book, My 60 Memorable Draws, will be published!

 

giri_60_memorable_draws

 

For those who don’t know Giri, he is a very gifted player.  In 2016, if memory serves me correctly, at a Moscow tournament he made himself famous playing 16 games and having a streak of 16 draws!   The idea could be good, since other publishers have also made books only of exciting draw games.

About the quality of the book and the research into the opening, well, I am totally speechless.  Please allow the book to speak for itself, because as a reviewer I could be biased, or could have some shady under-the-table deal with the publisher.  Instead, when you read just two pages of the book, you will want to buy it and play the Italian too!

 

page46

 

On this page, opened at random to prove once more my neutrality, I see a novelty invented by a FM, and then a computer-generated suggestion to neutralize White’s novelty, followed by the authors doing the homework for us and inventing another novelty to counter!

 

page47

 

On this other page, I counted at least five novelties, some as early as move 9, and some obviously for a more professional audience around move 19!!  I don’t know if you understand the amount of hours and work poured into this book, but surely it suggests that the price is quite low, since a one-hour lesson by a GM can be 60-80$, and these two pages surely took more than 1-2 hours of research.

The book is all written following this format-research style, and it is an amazing book.  I wish these two authors would write more on other openings, because clearly they went above and beyond what I expected from an openings book.

 

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