by Stephen Agar
Richard Sharp christened the Italian Opening A(Ven)-Pie, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-ION as the Alpine Chicken "Because it shows the desire to attack Austria unsupported by the courage to go through with it." Richard’s basic thesis is that the A01 stab on Austria (A(Pie)-Tyr, A(Ven)-Tri) is rather obvious, while the move to Piedmont will just irritate France. If it is truly intended as an attack on Austria then Richard may well be right, but on the other hand if the intention is to go for France and if Italy has the guaranteed support of England or (preferably) Germany then I think I prefer the Chicken to standard French Attack (A(Ven)-Pie, F(Nap)-TYS) because the very fact that it can be a springboard to a stab on Austria means that there is at least a possibility of taking France by surprise.
A standard French attack would convoy A(Rom) from wherever it had moved to to Tun, leaving a F(TYS). A(Pie) may be used to go for Marseilles, cover Venice if necessary, or just stand. Spring 1902 sees F(TYS)-GoL? for a supported attack on Mar. But the overriding problem with this tactic is that Italy has to telegraph his intentions to France a couple of game years in advance.
The superiority of the Chicken is that it gives Italy more flexibility. If Austria goes for a variant of the Hedgehog, then Venice will be protected. If Austria allows A(Rom)-Ven to suceed, then it is safe to use A(Pie) against Mar without leaving yourself open to an Austrian (or German) attack on Venice. The fleet goes F(Nap)-ION and the F(ION)-Tun for the build. In S02 if all is going to plan F(Tun)-WMS, F(Nap)-TYS; if all is not going to plan then head east with F(Tun)-ION, F(Nap)-Apu.What to do with A(Pie) is difficult. I would of course assure France that I was playing the stab on Austria, but if France still had an A(Marseilles) I would go for Marseilles myself (if you fail to get it it means that France has one build less). If France has A(Spa) I’d probably stand in Piedmont in the hope that France orders A(Spa)-Mar and denies himself both a build and an opportunity to build in Marseilles.
The stats show that the Chicken is the third most common Italian opening, used overall 11.64% of the time. However, that figure masks a 70’s popularity of 13.69% which has declined to a mere 7.43% in the early 90’s. So the Alpine Chicken is not as popular as it once was. Maybe renaming it the Savoy Shuffle would revive its fortunes?