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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ponziani Opening

It’s been said the only real reason that anyone would bother playing the Ponziani is hoping that black will play d5 after which sharp play ensues (although black is the one playing for the advantage!). Way back in 1904 it was considered antique and basically useless. Frank Marshall wrote, "There is no point in White's third move unless Black plays badly. ... White practically surrenders the privilege of the first move." Graham Burgess called the Ponziani "a relic from a bygone age, popular neither at top level nor at club level". Bruce Pandolfini has said, “Curiously, every great teacher of openings who investigated the Ponziani has concluded that it leads to interesting play and deserves to be played more often. Yet it has never captured the fancy of chessplayers in general, and it remains to be seen whether the Ponziani is an opening of the past or of the future. In Chess Master Vs. Chess Amateur, Max Euwe and Walter Meiden wrote, “What should one do with this opening? It is no opening for beginners, because tactics predominate in the play. There are no simple strategic principles to govern the general lines in this opening.”
     On the other hand, like most openigns, no matter how bad, it has its adherants. The Ponziani Opening begins with the moves: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3.
     It is one of the oldest chess openings, having been analyzed as far back as 1497. It was advocated by Howard Staunton in his 1847 book The Chess-Player's Handbook. For some decades, it was often called "Staunton's Opening" or the "English Knight's Game." The name of Domenico Lorenzo Ponziani, whose main contribution to the opening was his introduction, in 1769, of the countergambit 3...f5!?
     There is little question that the Ponziani is inferior to the Ruy Lopez and the Giuoco Piano and so is rarely seen except as a surprise because Black can equalize easily if he knows how. Most non-masters won’t though. 
     Black's main responses are 3...Nf6, leading to quiet play, and 3...d5, leading to sharp play. Ponziani's countergambit 3...f5!? was successfully played in the game Hikaru Nakamura vs Julio Becerra in the 2007 US Championship. White's idea is to prepare to build a powerful pawn center with 4.d4 but 3.c3 is somewhat premature because the move takes away the most natural square for White's queen knight, temporarily creates a hole on d3, and develops a pawn rather than a piece leaving White behind in development and not well placed to meet a counterattack in the center. Also, in the Ponziani, unlike in the Giuoco Piano where White's d4 attacks Black's bishop on c5, in the Ponziani d4 will not gain a tempo. Then, some players consider the Ponziani dull and boring but it can be a dynamic opening if you know some theory.
     You can download some interesting pdf files on the Ponziani from Chess Café HERE, HERE and HERE.
     In the following game Dragoljub Velimirović (born 12 May 1942) is a Serbian (formerly Yugoslav) grandmaster. He was introduced to chess at the age of seven by his mother Jovanka Velimirović (1910–1972), who was one of Yugoslavia's leading women chess players before World War II. FIDE awarded him the International Master title in 1972 and Grandmaster title in 1973 and he has won the Yugoslav Chess Championship three times. Velimirović is noted for his attacking style of play and while his spectacular play made him popular this has handicapped his quest for international success. His opponent, Vladimir Hresc (Born 1951), is a Croatian IM.

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