The Italian Game, which arises after 3...Bc5, is one of the oldest chess openings, already mentioned in the famous 16th century Göttingen manuscript. In the centuries which followed it was the most popular way to open the game and its name came about in honour of the masters of the Italian school, who strove above all for free play for their pieces and complicated combinations.
White has several plans at his disposition in the position in the diagram. One of the most aggressive which leads to open positions with a lot of tactical possibilities is, after 4.c3 Nf6 to seize an early initiative in the centre after 5.d4. The move 5.d4 constitutes an attack on the bishop on c5. Black’s best move is to exchange the pawns with 5...exd4, but after 6.cxd4 White has at his disposition a dangerous mobile pawn duo. Here already Black has to play with great accuracy. Thus the retreat 6...Bb6 would be bad, because it would give White’s central pawns the opportunity to advance. Instead of that, he has to play 6...Bb4+, in order to force White to react to the check. The moderate reply is 7.Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.Nbxd2, but in many open games this allows the important central counter-thrust 8... d5, which breaks up White’s centre and gains a tempo with the attack on the bishop on c4. After 9.exd5 Nxd5 all that is left of the ideal centre d4-e4 is an isolated pawn on d4. However both sides have lots of chances here.