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Throughout a fairly long chess career, I have always regarded 4.d3 after 1.e4 e5, 2.Nf3 Nc6, 3.Bc4 Bc5 as a good beginner's move but not threatening, and I have felt sure that most strong players shared this opinion. Quite suddenly, 3.Bc4 and 4.d3 have become the choice of very many top players. In the recent Isle of Man tournament there were days when the top boards looked like a junior scholastic tournament (but with very few examples on the lower boards). I don't see a big difference between these games and typical 19th century games.

How did this happen? What has changed? Is there somebody out there who has been paying more attention than I have?

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    I think it is just a consequence of white players trying to avoid the Berlin Defense (in Ruy Lopez). – Dag Oskar Madsen Oct 3 '17 at 0:01
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    If you look closely, you'll see that they actually play 4.0-0, not 4.d3. I believe there's a video somewhere of some top commentators explaining why, but I didn't watch it. – RemcoGerlich Oct 3 '17 at 11:11
  • I seem to recall a YouTube chess video on the differences between the Spanish (Ruy Lopez) and Italian, that talked about why GMs prefer the Spanish and club players prefer the Italian. If I recall correctly (a big "if"), it had to do with White losing a tempo in the Italian (after 20-30 moves). Unfortunately, I can't remember who did the video... Dereque Kelley, maybe? If I find it, I'll delete the comment and add an answer. – Ghotir Oct 3 '17 at 14:07
  • @Remco I have been looking closely and actually I cannot recall a single instance where a GM has played 4.0-0. I must admit that I would not have thought it made a great difference, but 4.d3 is a bit more flexible, and allows for manoeuvers like N-d2-f1-e(g)3 – Philip Roe Oct 3 '17 at 22:34
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    At 2750+ level in the last year, it's 70 4.0-0, 29 4.c3 and only 5 4.d3. – RemcoGerlich Oct 4 '17 at 7:17
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I agree with you. Players of all level play the Italian, and especially the 4. d3 line because they have read 2750+ players do so to avoid "drawing" (which is true at this level) lines aka Berlin Defense, as stated by Dag Oskar.

I see a bunch of 1500 rated players playing these lines, shuffling around trying to get something out of it, with no understanding of what is going on. I don't really see the point to be honest. This is true that the Italian has some bite if you know what you do, but the Giuco Piano/Pianissimo tend to generalize way too much. Personally, I tend to avoid it from move one 1...c5 ;) because I want to play chess. I'll play 1...e5 again when the Italian will be out of fashion.

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Chess follows fashion trends too, especially when a top tier player dusts off an old almost forgotten opening or variation, and wins with it. Often a chess opening stops being played simply because people are tired of it, not because there's something wrong with it.

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