What is a Fianchetto And How to Use It

Chess is a game that you allows you to use many impressive moves. One of them is fianchetto which allows a player without unnecessary moves to cause significant problems to the opponent. However, few know the power and weaknesses of fianchetto and even fewer know how to use it properly. If you do not know what a fianchetto is then, I strongly recommend to study it because sooner or later you will have to use it or face it. In this article, you will find more than what you need to achieve both of these objectives. Please don’t hesitate to take a look at other articles about strategies and tactics in this site that will definitely help you improve. Also, you will find here reviews about cool products that I would recommend.

What is a Fianchetto

The word “fianchetto” comes from the Italian language and means “little flank”. This name is, of course, apt, since it’s a way to advance a Bishop that creates a small wall around the king. You can make a fianchetto using either your kingside Bishop or your queenside Bishop. In some games, it has been implemented with both Bishops. The main idea is to delay the development of the opponent in the center of the chessboard, as well as the complete control of it through the fianchettoed Bishop. The Bishop this way is active in the game and it is a powerful weapon to add pressure in the center of the chessboard. Implementation is simple because it can be performed by just making two moves.

That’s all of it. It’s actually a pattern where a Bishop is surrounded by pawns. A fianchettoed Bishop can only be placed in specific squares. Those squares are b2, g2 for White and b7, g7 for Black. This way the Bishop has control over the long diagonal.  You can notice what I mean in the following example.

The Advantages of Fianchetto

In chess, every move counts. So, each move you make must give you at least a minor advantage. Fianchetto offers some advantages and disadvantages that you must be aware of. Needless to say, fianchetto is used because of the benefits it offers. Some of these are:

  1. The fianchettoed Bishop controls the center of the board from a1 – h8 diagonal or from h1 – a8 diagonal. The control of this diagonal offers great mobility to the Bishop and also full control of the center.
  2. These Bishops can attack and defend at the same time. In particular, the white Bishop in g2 can attack the pawn b7 or even better the Rook at a8. At the same time, it protects other important squares like f3, h3, and g1 that is a square where the Rook is placed. Similar benefits apply to all other fianchettoed Bishops.
  3. If the center is closed and the fianchettoed white Bishop at g2 can not have the appropriate mobility, it can easily be attempted to swap it by moving it to h3. This exchange usually has to do with the presence of a black Bishop in c8 – g4 diagonal. Similar benefits apply to all other fianchettoed Bishops.
  4. The g2 Bishop is very useful in the English opening because it is targeting pieces in the queenside. By placing pawns at a3 and b4 squares you can add up the pressure to Black. Similar benefits apply for the fianchettoed black Bishop at g7.

The Disadvantages of Fianchetto

Like any other tactic in chess, fianchetto has its negatives. The right choice of a move is therefore related to the proper assessment of the disadvantages. Therefore, particular attention should be paid to the disadvantages of fianchetto. The most important of these are:

  1. Its greatest disadvantage is the time it takes to create it. To achieve a good fianchetto you definitely need to move the pawn in g3. Another move is required to place the Bishop in g2 and one more move is required to develop your kingside knight in order to perform castling. Finally, one more movement is required for the castling itself. Overall, we are making at least four moves. It is not a very large number, but at the beginning of the game, it could create problems especially if your opponent plays aggressively. It should be noted that a successful opening consists of the following steps: Control of the center, development of pieces (Knights, Bishops), Castling. Therefore, by making a fianchetto, the opening is not sufficiently completed and this can bring unwanted results. It can easily notice this problem from a simple example in which Black makes fianchetto in g7.

  2. When a pawn moves, it also creates some weaknesses since it no longer defends the same squares. This is exactly the case with fianchetto in g2. The pawn originally located at g2 can no longer protect the squares h3 and f3 if the Bishop in g2 moves from there.
  3. Usually, the central diagonal that the Bishop controls in g2 is blocked by an opponent’s Knight in c6. Sometimes this diagonal is blocked by both the opponent’s pawns and your own pieces.
  4. The fianchettoed Bishop is vulnerable to side attacks from squares f2, f3, and h3 in the case of g2 fianchetto.
  5. If the fianchettoed Bishop moves to another square then, it creates a “hole” that your opponent can take advantage of it.
  6. Finally, a gradual weakness is created in the squares of the fianchettoed Bishop’s color in case of failure, since the strategy is based on controlling these central squares with a Bishop.

Openings Using the Fianchetto

There are several openings that use the fianchetto and it is usually used in closed openings. Some of these are the following:

1. King’s Indian Defense

2. Grunfeld Defense

3. Queen’s Indian

4. Sicilian Dragon

5. Larsen’s Opening

Beyond these openings, the fianchetto can also be applied to several other openings. An expert in the usefulness and operation of fianchetto applies it to almost all openings, as long as it’s worth to do it.

Double Fianchetto

A player’s double fianchetto is applied to some special games that are exclusively related to side attacks and complete weakening of the opponent in the center. Unfortunately, this method does not always bring positive results as valuable time is wasted for the implementation of the double fianchetto, within which the opponent has already developed and overwhelmed the center. Therefore, the use of this development needs special attention and absolute knowledge of the future strategy. So, don’t do it if you don’t have a backup plan.

Four Bishops in Fianchetto

It is worth mentioning that in 1925 in a game between players Akiba Rubinstein and Aron Nimzowitsch used for the first time for their time a quadruple fianchetto. This happened in the eighth move and anyone can easily observe the absolute symmetry of White and Black. The outcome of the game was 0 – 1 as White failed to keep his double fianchetto correctly. It’s worth to have a peek in this game.

Tips for Fianchetto

As I have previously written, fianchetto has great advantages and weaknesses. There are some tips that will help you minimize the effect of the weakness. It should be stressed that these tips are general and do not apply in all games of chess, but only where needed. A good player simply gathers ideas and information and uses them wherever needed. In the following example, you will find some interesting tips in the comments.

The Great Danger of a Fianchetto

The power of fianchetto lies on the Bishop who supports it. So, the basic risk of breaking a fianchetto is the exchange or even complete loss of that Bishop. In the following example, White is using a nice combination to threaten Black.

Another basic way of attacking the fianchetto is with the Queen and a Bishop.

An Interesting Game

In the following game, Paul Keres (White) faces Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian (Black). Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian was born in Mukly village in the Arkazot district of Armenia and was the ninth world chess champion. In this game, he chooses to make fianchetto in g6 and by making the proper moves he wins the game.

Through the analysis of this game, you can distinguish the future benefits that can be brought to you by the use of fianchetto. Of course, not all the games are the same and each situation that you face requires different handling.

Conclusion and Recommended Books

Generally, when someone chooses an opening, they must also think of the style that suits them. Some prefer an aggressive style while others play in a more closed way. Its basic idea is to control the center of the board through a Bishop. Such a plan requires knowledge of moves that will bring long-term benefits in a game and certainly indirectly, which is not evident to many players. For this reason, many players prefer not to start with a closed opening. This decision allows them to quickly make an attempt to control the center. So if you know exactly what you want to achieve with fianchetto then you can apply it in many cases, which will surely bring you some positive results.

If you like this tactic, I can suggest two books that will help you become better at fianchetto. The two books are Kotronias on the King’s Indian: Fianchetto Systems and Opening Repertoire: The Fianchetto System.

Please don’t hesitate to take a look at other articles about strategies and tactics in this site like the role of the bad Bishop. Also, you will find here reviews about cool products that I would recommend. Enjoy chess.

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