What are some good books, courses, etc to learn the slow Italian with d3? I want to start playing the slow Italian with d3 as it keeps lots of pieces on the board and leads to rich middle games and am looking for resources to learn the opening

1 Answer 1


Book recommendations

On chess24 there was a very nice course by GM Ivan Šarić, however I don't know if it's still possible to get it today, due to Chess.com closing down chess24 on 31. 1. 2024.

I also liked Winning with the Slow (but Venomous!) Italian by Georgios Souleidis and Karsten Müller.

Let's focus first on the mainline with c3 and d3.

Move orders

When learning Italian I found it helpful to start with learning how to punish Black for wrong move order (why cannot he play g6 at this or that point, how to deal with f5, ...) and then going for topical plans.

The hardest two move order issues for both players are timing of O-O and h3, h6. h3 played too early can often be punished by h6-g5 (if black didn't castle yet), while if not played it often allows Ng4 shenaningans (targeting f2, which is weakened by Rfe1).


Note that in most classical positions there is a lot of symmetry:

  • Bishop on c4 - Bishop on c5
  • Knight on f3 - Knight on f6
  • Pawn on e4 - Pawn on e5

So plans are similiar for both sides. Concrete difference is that black has knight on c6, which is slightly misplaced, so he will have to reroute it, which gives white a small advantage in development. So Black main goal is to offset this development disadvantage and free his position with quick d5.

There are of course other plans for black (for example with h6-g6-Bg7), the main alternative being setup with Be7: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Be7. Black will play for quick d5, often gambiting this pawn. Play is similiar to Marshall in Ruy Lopez.

Topical plans for White

Kingside attack

The most classical approach to quiet Italian for White and very effective even today, especially when combined with other plans. White is going to reroute his queenside knight to kingside (via Nbd2-Nf1-Ng3 or -Ne3), so his knights will target very nice f5 and h4 squares.

Rook lift is also very common: Rfe1-Re3-Rg3 or -Rh3 and queen is also quick to join the fray.

Central break

In quiet Italian you play c3-d3 first, but you are still planning to go for d4 later. When you push d4 it often adds extra fuel to your kingside attack.

Before you go for central break you need to reinforce your e4-pawn with moves like Bc4-Bb3-Bc2 and Rfe1 (which often needs to be prepared with h3, due to weakening of f2, which Black can often punish with Ng4).

Queenside expansion

This plan is more independent and more modern, but I think it's not strictly better or worse than upper two. You go for a4-a5 or/and b4-b5. This has two pluses:

  1. Far advanced queenside pawns will be advantage in many endgames;
  2. If you get rid of your c-pawn (with d4 pawn break), you have open c-file, targetting c7. Black cannot easily move his c-pawn if you have pawn on b5, so getting a rook on open c-file can be very efficient.

Opening up f-file

This plan is more common for Black side, but it's sometimes also useful for White. You play Be3, hoping that black will play Bxe3 (otherwise you have a choice between keeping the tension and exhancing bishops yourself). After fxe3 your position has two benefits:

  1. Open f-file is very useful for kingside attack;
  2. Your central pawn mass (e3,e4,d3) is very mobile. Doubled pawns on e-file practically guarante you easy d3-d4 push.


I think the main benefit of Italian over other openings is that it's very flexible - there are a lot of sidelines and different move orders, so you can easily surpise your opponent, even if he prepared against you. For this to succeed though, you need to know some sidelines.

The one I like most is 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 with idea of Nd5. At some point you will have to play Bxf6, losing bishop pair, however you will get d3-d4 push in exchange almost "for free". Positions can get a bit dry if black knows what he is doing though.

Hidden complexity

These slower Italian lines may at first glance appear more quiet and easier to play than older c3-d4 lines. However they aren't simple at all. Inaccuracies can often be punished only tactically and kingside attack is always lurking just under the surface (even if you don't actively play for it). They are sharper than they look and passive play by Black often leads to quick tactical wins for White.

What makes them truly complex though is subtle interaction between these main plans. You need to learn (and accurately evaluate) which plan is better in which position, which moves are good for multiple plans and which ones detriment particular plan (in favor of another). How to combine them, how to react appropriately to your opponent ideas?

  • Thanks for the recommendation and the blueprint laid down by you. Would you recommend "the modernised Italian game for white " by thinkers publishing 2021 and "The Italian rennaisance" 2020 over this book though seeing as how quickly the theory has developed here. Commented Feb 28 at 12:09
  • @anti-Marshall I don't know these two books. Main plans should still be the same, while for recent theory changes it's almost always better to consult an up-to-date database than a book. Commented Feb 28 at 12:25

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