D'Costa/Murphy: The Giuoco Piano

10/2/2013 – The first chess opening he was taught as a child was the Giuoco Piano. And for decades Glenn Mitchell believed the common dogma: that it was a beginner's opening: dull and boring. Then he discovered a ChessBase DVD by GM Nigel Davies, and more recently "The Giuoco Piano" by Lorin D'Costa and Nick Murphy. That, to put it mildly, turned him around. Read this review by "Mitch" and see if it resonates.

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Lorin D'Costa, Nick Murphy:
The Giuoco Piano

Review by Glenn Mitchell

The first chess opening I was taught as a child was the Giuoco Piano. I was seven or eight and it was a cousin of the same ago who showed me the opening. Two uncles frequently played chess on the weekend and my cousin passed along what his dad taught him about central control when he demonstrated the opening.

My coach, FM Valeri Lilov, asked me my opinion of the Giuoco Piano a few years ago. I replied with the common dogma that it was a beginner's opening: dull and boring. He told me, when he was an intermediate player, he played hundreds of games opening with the Giuoco Piano and then walked me through sharper variations in a fifteen minute tour de force.

It was GM Nigel Davies' DVD for ChessBase, Attack with the Modern Italian, which altered my opinion of the Giuoco Piano and stimulated my interest in playing the opening.

Last week’s release of Master and Amateur: Giuoco Piano by IM Lorin D’Costa and Nick Murphy has further stimulated me. As I just wrote on GM Davies' blog, The Chess Improver, I intend to spend the remainder of this year studying the Giuoco Piano and its closest siblings – and it was this DVD that brought me to this decision.

I can identify with Nick Murphy. Like him, I’m an untitled, intermediate-level player looking to improve. Part of what attracted me to this DVD was the concept of a back-and-forth discussion between an IM and a player like myself. The patter back and forth had the feel of a schtick, as both presenters mugged for the camera a bit and tried to quip wittily. Overall, it worked well. IM D’Costa behaved pretty much as one would expect from a chess coach during a coaching session.

Not only is the tone different between this DVD and other ChessBase offerings on the Italian Game, so is the approach to the opening. GM Davies’ DVD Attack with the Modern Italian focuses on both attacking lines and more positional approaches. GM Daniel King’s coverage in Power Play 17: Attack with 1.e4 is also more practical, exploring lines that will get White on the board and are more universal in character.

While the games of Sergei Movsesian are missing from the DVD, his sharper, gambit-oriented approach to the Giuoco Piano was there in spirit. Given that GM Movsesian is arguably the strongest and most consistent practitioner of sharp attacking games with the Giuoco Piano at the GM level currently, this absence was curious. The game Movsesian-Short from Corus Wijk ann Zee 2009 would have fit in very well, for example.

[Event "Corus"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "2009.01.18"] [Round "2"] [White "Movsesian, Sergei"] [Black "Adams, Michael"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2751"] [BlackElo "2712"] [Annotator "Movsesian,S"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2009.01.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "NED"] [EventCategory "19"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2009.03.25"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d4 $5 {This move is very old and has almost disappeared from modern tournament praxis. I decided to give it a try as a surprise weapon.} Bxd4 ({Another option, leading to very sharp play is } 5... exd4 6. e5 d5 7. exf6 dxc4 8. Re1+ Be6 9. Ng5 Qd5 10. Nc3 Qf5 11. g4 $5 {with extremely complicated game.}) 6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. f4 d6 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. Bg5 Qe7 10. c3 Be6 11. Na3 {This can be considered as the "main line" in this rare variation.} Nc6 $6 {Michael was spending quite a lot of time in the opening and decided to keep the white-squared bishops on the board.} (11... Bxc4 {is considered to be best here:} 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Nxc4 Ne6 {e.g} 14. Qa4+ (14. Kh1 Qc5 15. Na3 Rg8 16. Rxf6 Nf4 $36 {Anderssen-Fleissig,Vienna 1873}) 14... c6 15. Ne3 Rg8 16. Kh1 Nc5 17. Qc2 O-O-O 18. Rad1 $11 {Minckwitz-Anderssen,Vienna 1878 }) 12. Kh1 Rd8 13. Qe2 h6 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Rf2 Rg8 16. Raf1 Rg6 17. Nc2 $1 { The white knight is heading to e3, from where it can move to both d5 and f5.} Kf8 18. Ne3 Nb8 $1 {Black has to re-group the pieces in order to defend his kingside.} 19. Qh5 Kg7 20. Qf3 Kh7 21. Nd5 ({Interesting was also the "materialistic"} 21. Nf5 $5 Bxf5 22. exf5 Rg7 23. Qxb7 Qc5 24. Qe4 {winning back the pawn with a slight advantage.}) 21... Bxd5 22. exd5 e4 23. Qf4 Rd6 $6 ({The computer has an interesting suggestion:} 23... b5 $5 24. Bb3 Na6 25. Bc2 Nc5 26. Re2 Rxd5 27. b4 {and here Black is forced to sac a piece} f5 $5 28. bxc5 Kg7 29. Ref2 {and White's chances are still to be favoured.}) 24. Re2 Nd7 25. Rxe4 Ne5 26. Bb3 Kg8 27. c4 b6 28. Bc2 Qf8 29. Re3 Rg5 (29... Rg4 30. Qf5 { and here} Qg7 $2 {loses due to} 31. Rxe5 $1 fxe5 32. Qc8+) 30. Bf5 Kh8 31. Rfe1 a5 32. b3 c6 {Black's position is already very difficult and the opening of the position is not going to help much...} 33. dxc6 Rxc6 34. h4 Rg8 35. Rd1 a4 $2 {Giving White a chance to finish the game with a nice blow.} 36. Rd8 $1 Qg7 37. Rxg8+ Kxg8 38. Rg3 1-0

If you think of the Giuoco Piano as boring, you need to watch this DVD, where the focus is exclusively on sharp attacking lines. There's nothing Pianissimo about the coverage in these video clips. There’s not even much in the way of Piano in the games IM D’Costa chose.

There is a great deal to learn on this DVD. It bears repeated viewing. My eyes really opened, for example, when IM D’Costa explored a game where Magnus Carlsen played the Giuoco Piano variation with c3 in conjunction with d3 but as black with the colors reversed. His QN even managed to beat white's "Spanish knight" to the kingside and deprive it of its g3 perch.

[Event "Wch Rapid"] [Site "Astana"] [Date "2012.07.06"] [Round "1"] [White "Kazhgaleyev, Murtas"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2589"] [BlackElo "2837"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2012.07.06"] [EventType "tourn (rapid)"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "KAZ"] [EventCategory "19"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2012.08.24"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 {[%cal Rd2d3]} O-O 6. Bb3 { [%csl Gb3,Rc4,Ye1,Ye4,Ye5][%cal Gc4b3,Rc6a5,Rd7d5,Rd5c4,Ga7a6,Gb7b5,Yf8e8]} d6 {[%csl Re5][%cal Rd6e5]} (6... Na5 7. Bc2 {[%cal Yb3c2,Rb2b4,Rb4c5,Rb4a5]}) 7. h3 {[%csl Gd3,Ge4,Rg4][%cal Rf6g4,Gc4b3]} (7. Nbd2 {[%csl Gg4][%cal Rd2f1, Rf1g3]} Be6 8. Bc2 Ng4 {[%cal Gg4f2,Gc5f2]} 9. O-O Bxf2+ 10. Rxf2 {[%csl Rg4] [%cal Rg4f2]} Ne3 {[%csl Rd1][%cal Rd1c2]} 11. Qe2 Nxc2 {[%cal Rc2a1]} 12. Rb1 {[%csl Rc2,Gd2][%cal Ge2c2]} Bxa2 {[%csl Gb1][%cal Ga2b1]} 13. b3 Bxb1 14. Nxb1 {[%csl Gc2][%cal Ge2c2]} Na1 {[%cal Gf6g4,Gg4e3,Ge3c2,Gc2a1]} 15. Qb2 Nxb3 16. Qxb3 {[%csl Ga7,Gb7]}) 7... Ne7 {[%csl Ga8,Gc6,Gc8,Re5,Gg6][%cal Gc6e7,Gb1d2, Gd2f1,Gf1g3,Ye7g6,Rc7c6,Rd6d5]} 8. O-O Ng6 {[%csl Rg6][%cal Rg6e5,Rc6e5]} 9. Nbd2 {[%csl Gc1]} (9. Bg5 {[%csl Rg6][%cal Rg5f6]} h6 {[%csl Gc6,Rg6][%cal Rg5h4,Gg5e3]} 10. Bxf6 Qxf6 {[%csl Rg2,Rh3][%cal Rg6f4,Rf6g6]}) 9... c6 {[%csl Re5,Rh3][%cal Gd6d5,Gc6e7,Ge7g6]} 10. d4 {[%cal Re5d4,Rc5b6]} Bb6 {[%cal Re4e5, Ge5d4]} (10... exd4 11. cxd4 Bb6 {[%cal Re4e5]} 12. Re1 {[%csl Re5][%cal Re4e5] }) 11. Re1 (11. dxe5 dxe5 {[%csl Gd4,Gd6,Ge4][%cal Gd6e5,Rf3e5]}) 11... Re8 { [%csl Gd2,Re4][%cal Re8e4,Gd2f1,Gf1g3]} 12. Bc2 {[%cal Gc2e4,Gd2f1,Gf1g3]} (12. Nf1 exd4 13. cxd4 Nxe4) 12... h6 13. Nf1 {[%csl Gc8,Gg3][%cal Gf1g3,Gg3f5]} Nh5 {[%csl Gh5][%cal Rd1h5,Gf6h5,Gf3e5]} 14. Ne3 (14. Nxe5 {[%csl Re5]} Nxe5 (14... dxe5 15. Qxh5 exd4 16. Bb3 {[%csl Rg6][%cal Rb3g8,Gh5g6]} (16. Ng3 dxc3 17. bxc3 Qf6 {[%csl Gc3,Gf2]}) 16... Be6) 15. Qxh5) (14. Ng3 Nxg3 15. fxg3 {[%cal Gg3f5]} f6 {[%cal Gc8e6,Gb6g1]}) 14... Nhf4 {[%csl Rf2,Rf4,Rg2,Rh3][%cal Gg2g3, Gf4h3]} 15. Nf5 Qf6 16. g3 (16. Be3 {[%cal Gd2f1,Gf1g3,Gg3f5]}) 16... Nxh3+ 17. Kg2 d5 18. dxe5 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Rxe5 20. f4 Rxe4 21. Bxe4 Nf2 22. Qh5 Nxe4 23. Nh4 Bd7 24. Be3 Bxe3 25. Rxe3 g5 26. Nf3 gxf4 27. Ree1 Qg7 28. Qh4 Qxg3+ 29. Qxg3+ fxg3 30. Nd4 h5 31. Rh1 Bg4 32. Rae1 Kg7 33. Ne2 Nf2 34. Rxh5 Bxh5 35. Nxg3 Nd3 36. Nxh5+ Kg6 37. Rh1 Rh8 0-1

This DVD is not a theoretical opening survey. There are passing references to theory, but they are just that – passing references. This is a DVD that is aimed squarely at intermediate players and the focus is laser-like on plans and ideas. One such idea that IM D’Costa repeats like a mantra is maintaining the initiative. He demonstrates with multiple games how white can prevent or delay black getting castled on the kingside through gambits, sacrifices, and aggressive piece play.

Nick Murphy is a good sport throughout. To keep the DVD spontaneous, IM D’Costa did not share the games or positions in advance with Nick. Perhaps doing all this in front of a studio crew was a bit distracting for Nick, since some of his choices were – well – rather weak. Nick didn’t make any outright blunders and he always reacted well when IM D’Costa pointed out better alternatives.

IM D’Costa was dismissive of questions from Nick on several occasions, telling him something like “I ask the questions.” The DVD would have had even more of a coaching session feel if IM D’Costa had slowed down at those moments, put his own thoughts and ideas on hold for a minute or two, and allowed Nick to ask more questions. That way, Nick would be less of a foil and I believe the DVD would be even more educational for the club and class-level tournament players.

I'm going to spar a lot with Fritz 13 over the next three-and-a-half months. Master and Amateur: Giuoco Piano with IM Lorin D’Costa and Nick Murphy will be an important part of my reeducation. I look forward to future ChessBase DVDs with this pair, too.

I strongly recommend The Giuoco Piano for improving players.

About the author

Glenn Mitchell, aka “Mitch”, is an avid chess player. Born in 1960, he loved chess in his youth, dabbling here and there for decades. About three years ago, his love for chess was rekindled and he’s determined to improve. Mitch is not a chess teacher. He recently started a blog, Improving Chess Player to share what’s been working for him and what hasn’t been much of help. What he hopes to provide is help and encouragement for other improving chess players.


Lorin D'Costa, Nick Murphy

The Giuoco Piano

Languages: English
ISBN: 978-3-86681-361-8
EAN: 4027975007502
Delivery: Download or Post

€27.90
€23.45 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
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