Queens Gambit Declined

Playing 2...e6 releases Black's dark-squared bishop, while obstructing his light-squared bishop. By declining White's temporary pawn sacrifice, Black erects a solid position; the pawns on d5 and e6 give Black a foothold in the centre. The Queen's Gambit Declined has the reputation of being one of Black's most reliable defenses to 1.d4. In this situation, White will try to exploit the passivity of Black's light-squared bishop, and Black will try to release it, trade it, or prove that, while passive, the bishop has a useful defensive role.

Chess Traps | Queens Gambit Declined

The Queen's Gambit Declined (or QGD) is a chess opening in which Black declines a pawn offered by White in the Queen's Gambit:

1. d4 d5

2. c4 e6

This is known as the Orthodox Line of the Queen's Gambit Declined. When the "Queen's Gambit Declined" is mentioned, it is usually assumed to be referring to the Orthodox Line; see "Other lines" below.

The Orthodox Line can be reached by a number of different move orders, such as 1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5; 1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4; 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.d4; and so on.

General concepts

Playing 2...e6 releases Black's dark-squared bishop, while obstructing his light-squared bishop. By declining White's temporary pawn sacrifice, Black erects a solid position; the pawns on d5 and e6 give Black a foothold in the centre. The Queen's Gambit Declined has the reputation of being one of Black's most reliable defences to 1.d4. In this situation, White will try to exploit the passivity of Black's light-squared bishop, and Black will try to release it, trade it, or prove that, while passive, the bishop has a useful defensive role.

An eventual ...dxc4 by Black will surrender the centre to White, and Black will usually not do this unless he can extract a concession, usually in the form of gaining a tempo, by capturing on c4 only after White has played Bd3 first. In the Orthodox Line, the fight for the tempo revolves around White's efforts to play all other useful developing moves prior to playing Bd3.

Black plays 3...Nf6

Lines beginning with the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 are covered by ECO codes D35–D69. These are old lines that can transpose into many other queen pawn openings. White has several ways of dealing with Black's setup:

QGD Main Variations: 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3

  • Tartakower Defense or Tartakower–Makogonov–Bondarevsky System (TMB system): 5... h6 6. Bh4 0-0 7. e3 b6, is one of the most solid continuations for Black.

  • Anti-Tartakower–Makogonov–Bondarevsky (Anti-TMB): 5... h6 6. Bxf6 Bxf6 this line was extensively tested in the Kasparov–Karpov matches in 1980s. To this day Black has no problems in this line despite being tested at the highest levels. More recently, Boris Gelfand defended the Black side of this variation in the 2011 candidates matches which eventually he went on to win. For example, in the third round of the final candidate match, he forced White to accept a draw in 14 moves with a very strong novelty: Grischuk vs. Gelfand, Elista 2011.

  • Lasker Defense: 5... 0-0 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 Ne4 8. Bxe7 Qxe7, is also a solid line, often leading to the exchange of two sets of minor pieces. It was this line that Viswanathan Anand chose in the final game of the World Chess Championship 2010 in order to defeat Veselin Topalov and retain the world championship.

  • Orthodox Defense: 5... 0-0 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Rc1 c6 and now White has two main moves: 8.Bd3 and 8.Qc2. After 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Black has surrendered the centre and stands somewhat cramped, but has succeeded in making White lose a tempo by playing Bd3 before Bxc4. White will try to use his advantage in space to attack, whereas Black will try to keep White at bay while striking back at the centre. Capablanca's main idea here was the freeing manoeuvre 9...Nd5 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.0-0 Nxc3 12.Rxc3 e5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Qxe5 15.f4 Qe7, which has led to a number of exchanges in the centre, though Black must exercise care even in the wake of this simplification. This line was once so frequently played that it has a separate code (D69) in ECO, though the lack of active counterplay for Black has made the mainline of the Orthodox a backwater in modern practice.

Cambridge Springs Defense: 4.Bg5 Nbd7 

Main article: Cambridge Springs Defense

The Cambridge Springs Defense was introduced more than a century ago and is still played. (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6) 4. Bg5 Nbd7 (setting up the Elephant Trap) 5. e3 c6 6. Nf3 Qa5, now Black intends ...Bb4 and possibly ...Ne4, with pressure along the a5–e1 diagonal. This Black defence is popular among amateurs because there are several traps White can fall into, for example, 7. Nd2 (one of the main lines, countering Black's pressure along the diagonal) 7... Bb4 8. Qc2 0-0 and here 9.Bd3?? loses since 9...dxc4! (threatening ...Qxg5) 10.Bxf6 cxd3! (a zwischenzug) 11.Qxd3 Nxf6 wins apiece for Black.

Exchange Variation: 4.cxd5 exd5 

(1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6) 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. Qc2 and White have a pawn majority in the centre, Black has a pawn majority on the queenside. This pawn structure gives White the opportunity to either advance his pawns in the centre by means of Nge2, f2–f3, followed by e2–e4, or play for a minority attack by means of the plan Rb1, followed by b2–b4–b5, then bxc6 in order to create a weak pawn at c6. While Black can play ...cxb5, or recapture on c6 with a piece, each of these possibilities is even less desirable than the backward pawn in the open file. For Black, exchanging at d5 has released his light-squared bishop and opened the e-file, giving him the use of e4 as a springboard for central and kingside play. While chances are balanced, Black is usually more or less forced to use his superior activity to launch a piece attack on White's king, as the long-term changes in the QGD Exchange structure favour White. The following games are model games for White:

  • Central pawn advance: Carlsen vs. Jakovenko, Nanjing 2009

  • Minority attack: Evans vs. Opsahl, Dubrovnik 1950

Ragozin Variation: 4.Nf3 Bb4 

The Ragozin Variation (ECO code D37–D39) occurs after (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6) 4. Nf3 Bb4. An important line in this variation is the Vienna Variation where the game continues: 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4. White's pawns or pieces occupy the central squares in exchange for long-term pawn structure weaknesses. An instance of Vienna Variation played at the highest level was Fine vs. Euwe, AVRO 1938.

Harrwitz Attack 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4

This variation is also a popular line. Placing the bishop on Bg5 allows Black to exchange more freely with moves like Nf6-e4, as seen in the Lasker Defence. The move Bf4 is designed to restrict Black's opportunities in this way, as well as reducing opportunities to gain the bishop pair. Play usually continues with 5...0-0 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5. Peter Leko, usually an e4 player, used this variation as White to beat Vladimir Kramnik in their 2004 World Championship Match.

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