We live in a strange country. Instead of having championships for all group ages(U10, U12, etc) they just place everyone in a tournament and ship the top people of each group-age. I am third best in the U18(not because I'm a born talent, but because of lack of talents), and I have two competitors. The Nr.1 has beaten several IMs, the second one just got a 2070 rating in his first tournament ever, so you realize my situation. Not only do I have to face them in my group age, but also several other talented kids. So to make sure, I am going to use an offbeat, yet great opening, the Ponziani. I am sure no one knows this.

I have seen several opening lines of this, but I want to know what are the plans in the:

  • Nf6 variation
  • d5 variation
  • f5 variation
  • Other minor variations
  • The real Mikhail Tal would have known :)
    – Landei
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 15:25
  • just to warn you, if your opponent has studied the ponziani, d5 pretty much refutes it. Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 22:32
  • @CognisMantis Equality is okay for me. I want the opening surprise advantage. Plus I am sure no one really knows it.
    – MikhailTal
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 22:44
  • It might be worse than equality, but I think doing Qa5 will just about keep white maybe with a slight edge. Ofcourse you are right about the surprise advantage but it is important to note that many players will know that d5 is the best move but not know what to do from there. Thus, it is perhaps useful to look deeper than the lines provided in the answers below. Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 22:47
  • @MikhailTal: Do you want to accept an answer? I don't think there are going to be any extra answers after 8 months.
    – user1108
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 12:13

4 Answers 4


The Ponziani move order is that shown on the board below:

[Fen ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3

With 3. c3, White aims to:

  • Prepare the pawn push d4
  • Avoid the Ruy Lopez & Italian game lines, though transpositions can occur
  • The down side of this non-developing move is that the queen-side knight is deprived of its best square. White often sacrifices material or structure (by accepting an isolated Queen's pawn) to develop.

In response to this, Black has 3 main moves.


r1bqkbnr/pppp1ppp/2n5/4p3/4P3/2P2N2/PP1P1PPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 3

3...Nf6 4. d4 

Now, Black can accept the gambit with 4...Nxe4. Play goes 5. d5 Ne7. 5...Nb8 is also played, but less often than 5...Ne7. White's plan here is as with an gambit - build a development lead, keep the initiative & attack.

Or, he can accept the pawn with 4...exd4. Play goes 5. e5 Ne4 6. Qe2 d(f)5 7. exd(f)5 e.p., opening the position. White often gets an isolated Queen's paw position in these lines, which should be played like a gambit (keep the initiative, avoid trades & attack).

Lastly, Black can play 4...d5, leading to a complex game with lots of central tension. Play goes 5. Bb5 aims to develop & prepare tactics based on the theme of removing the defender.


r1bqkbnr/pppp1ppp/2n5/4p3/4P3/2P2N2/PP1P1PPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 3

3...d5 4. Qa4 

Play can go 4... Qd6 5. Na3 (preparing to attack the Queen) Nf6 6. Nb5 Qe7 7. d3, and White has better development, a space advantage & a solid structure.

Play can also become very complicated with 4... Bd7 exd5 5. Nd4, where Black is trying to develop with tactics against the Queen.


r1bqkbnr/pppp1ppp/2n5/4p3/4P3/2P2N2/PP1P1PPP/RNBQKB1R b KQkq - 0 3

3...f5 4. exf5 Qf6

This is a gambit with play similar to the Latvian gambit.

  • It seems now I have to ask about the latvian gambit :p. Also aren't there possibilities of d6? I think it's a line too.
    – MikhailTal
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 7:53
  • I would say that 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 d6?! makes no attempt to challenge White's plan of pushing to d4. It's too passive.
    – user1108
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 20:58
  • for the d5 line, most people actually play 4...f6 Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 22:37
  • @CognisMantis, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 d5 4. Qa4 f6 is the Steinitz variation, which is quite playable, simply beefing up e5. It has the down side of restricting Black's Kingside Knight of good development opportunities. Anyway, I think its fair to say that Black has a lo of interesting options in the Ponziani, which is why my answer could not cover them all.
    – user1108
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 18:22
  • 1
    There is also the nasty piece sac 3...Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Bc5!?, see Bosch-Lombaers here: schaaksite.nl/page.php?al=hmc-calder-grijpt-naast-de-beker (Dutch) Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 14:59

I want to open with. I can't answer the question.


I'm watching this video on youtube based upon your question and found it interesting and full of opinion. IF you have not seen it, perhaps something in it will give you what you are looking for. Due to my reputation being below 15 I can't comment, which I would have done, if I could have. So apologies for posting this as an answer. Look forward to somebody actually answering this.

here's the link.


  • 1
    If anybody (like me) found this answer suspicious, the link actually does go to a YouTube video about the Ponziani opening.
    – dfan
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 20:54
  • 1
    Now that you've commented on my answer, I can comment. Go look at my profile. I'm in a bunch of the exchanges and have earned points in them. Why suspicious? Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 21:05
  • 1
    It looked suspicious because it didn't contain any reference to the text of the original question, so it had the air of a generic spam message that could be pasted as an answer to lots of different questions. I'm glad it wasn't and that you are now able to comment!
    – dfan
    Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 22:04
  • 1
    gotcha. I'm pretty far away from being a chess expert although I've played for almost all of my 47 years. I don't use any of the terminology because, well....I don't know any. Apologies. Commented Jan 27, 2015 at 23:34

This book might help - Play the Ponziani by Dave Taylor.



I have played the Ponziani a lot. There are indeed a lot of ways in which black can hurt himself and fall a victim to tactics.

The line 3...Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Nd5 can lead to many complications for white. There are little opportunities here for white and he must proceed very carefully. I have lost several games (as white) on this line. Most other lines lead to a lot of open space and pressure building by white.

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