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The Queen's Gambit: Start Your Game Confidently

The Queen's Gambit: Start Your Game Confidently
December 5, 2022 647 view(s)

The Queen's Gambit: Start Your Game Confidently

The Queen's Gambit chess opening debuted over three-hundred-and-fifty years before Netflix. This chess opening has stood the test of time and is still a dependable opening today.

Although primarily a positional opening, 1.d4 and 2.c4 can lead to exciting, tactical chess in many variations. The positional nature of the opening gives you every reason to play for a win.

 You can play for the win without taking too many risks, which appeals to almost every player.

Yes, it requires learning a decent amount of theory, but you can start with a manageable amount and add to it as you gain experience. You can reduce your theoretical workload by combining similar strategies against different defenses.

Many dependable variations do not have as much theory as the main lines. Rather than get embroiled in the critical variations of the Slav Defense, one of Black's most reliable ways to decline the gambit, you can play the Exchange Variation.

Three Excellent Queen's Gambit Chess Games

Unsurprisingly, the Queen's Gambit is played by many world chess champions. Here Mikhail Botvinnik puts on an attacking masterclass against Paul Keres.

Mikhail Botvinnik - Paul Keres, 1952.12.09, 1-0, USSR Championship Round 8, Moscow URS


The positional nature of the Queen's Gambit chess opening suited a later world chess champion, Tigran Petrosian, exceptionally well.

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian - Hector Corral, 1954.04.01, URU-URS Round 1, Montevideo URU


And a world champion lost a game that opened with the Queen's Gambit in his world title match against Viktor Korchnoi, but not without an incredible fight.

Viktor Korchnoi - Anatoly Karpov, 1978.10.12, 1-0, Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Match Round 31, City of Baguio PHI


The Queen's Gambit Chess Opening: Ideas and Strategies

The debut game of the Queen's Gambit shows the dangers that Black faces in trying to keep the extra pawn in the Queen's Gambit chess opening.

Black resigned after 6.Qf3 when faced with decisive material loss.

There is venom lying close to the surface of the positional Queen's Gambit that has caught many an unwary chess player by surprise. Despite being predominately positional, there is plenty of scope within the Queen's Gambit chess opening for attacking players.

1.d4 d5 2.c4


It is clear to see that accepting the gambit allows White to establish a classical center with d4 and e4.

In many instances, this center's attacking possibilities far outweigh the cost of a pawn.

White is happy to trade the c-pawn for the d-pawn and use the semi-open c-file. The white queen will often get developed on c2, and the a1-rook will move to c1 in support of the queen.

From c2, the white queen aids a knight on c3 in controlling the e4 square and supports the e4 advance to open the center.

The Triumph of Carlsbad Domination

The Carlsbad formation often arises in the Queen's Gambit declined and consists of two strategies:

  1. The minority attack
  2. The e4 advance is supported by f3 and Nge2-g3.

In many instances, Black defends the d5 pawn with c6. This can happen in the Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange variation after cxd5 and …exd5.

The minority attack seeks to create a permanent weakness on c6 by advancing the queenside pawns and capturing on c6. White will line up the heavy pieces in the semi-open c-file and target the backward pawn on c6.

Another advantage for White after bxc6 is gaining the c5-square as an outpost for a knight with Nc3-a4-c5.

The minority attack is an excellent strategy when gaining control of the center with e4 is impossible.

Of course, you do not need to start the game with the Queen's Gambit chess opening to use the minority attack. The English and Reti Opening can often transpose into positions where playing the minority attack is advantageous for White.

The minority attack can be extremely challenging, and even a 2600-rated GM suffered a defeat thanks to this powerful attack.

Le Quang, Liem - Savchenko, 2010.02.16, 1-0, B., 9th Aeroflot Open A Round 8, Moscow RUS


Take care when playing an early f3 to support the e4 advance. If Black attacks your bishop with h6 and you retreat to h4 placing a knight on g3 loses the bishop – Black has …g5.

You can transfer the knight to the queenside with Nge2-c1-b3. If you want to play Ng3 to support e4, then play Bf2 to defend the d4 pawn first.

Always double-check the d4 pawn is defended before playing e4!

You can sometimes use the threat of playing e4 as a decoy and attack by advancing the f-pawn. This was the strategy Wesley So used in his game against Michael Adams.

So, W. - Adams, Mi, 2015.04.19, 1-0, Vugar Gashimov Mem 2015 Round 3.1, Shamkir AZE


Queen's Gambit Accepted: Don't Drop Your Guard

The Queen's Gambit Accepted has never got the recognition it deserves. Petrosian used the Queen's Gambit Accepted in his world title match against Botvinnik in 1963 and drew seven games.

Any opening that gets you more than half-a-dozen draws against a world champion deserves serious consideration.

Rublevsky and Anand have recently sparked renewed interest in the Queen's Gambit Accepted. If you wish to play the Queen's Gambit chess opening knowing how to face the Queen's Gambit Accepted is vital.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4

3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bd3 Nc6

7.Be3 Nb4 8.Be4 f5 9.a3 N4d5 10.Bxd5 Nxd5

When your opponent allows you to take control of the center – do it! You will seldom be in a bad position if you control the center and centralize your pieces.

This approach works very well against the Queen's Gambit Accepted and keeps opening theory to a minimum.

Yes, Black can create a pawn weakness with …Nxe3, but that only increases White's control of the center and provides a safe square on f2 for the white king.

Bluebaum, M. - Christiansen, Johan-Sebastian, 2016.07.26, 1-0, Xtracon Chess Open 2016 Round 5.11, Helsingor DEN


The Ever Popular, Reliable Slav Defense

Instead of blocking the light-squared bishop with 2…e6, Black supports the d5-pawn with 2…c6. Although this means he cannot play …Nc6 Black would rather free the c-pawn.

In the Queen's Gambit chess opening, the c-pawn advance is vital for Black to generate counter-play and attack White's center. The c-pawn either supports the black pawn on d5 or attacks the d4-pawn.

All opening moves involve a give-and-take, and the success of the Slav Defense tends to prove that inconveniencing the knight is not that big of a drawback.

Unsurprisingly, a large amount of opening theory has built up around this famous defense. Playing the Slav Defense Exchange Variation is an excellent way to reduce your workload.

The Exchange Variation has the reputation of being a safe, boring choice by White. However, it is more dangerous than many players think and can catch your opponent by surprise.

One way to win a chess game is to place your opponent in a lousy headspace, and the Exchange Variation does this very well. Your opponent will think you want nothing more than a draw, but you are playing for the win!

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 cxd5

You must look deeper into the opening when playing symmetrical positions to gain an advantage. If you are playing symmetrical positions with White, do not underestimate the value of playing with an extra tempo.

4.Bf4 Nc6 5.e3 Nf6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Bd3 Bd6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.f4 0-0

By delaying Nf3, you keep the option of recapturing on e5 with the f-pawn and launching a kingside attack. Small choices like these will help give you the edge in symmetrical positions.

The bishop's development to f4 is common against many of Black's defenses in the Queen's Gambit chess opening.

Aronian, Levon - Kamsky, Gata, 2012.12.16, 1-0, Beijing Sportaccord blitz Round 7, Beijing


The Queen's Gambit Declined: A Classical Approach

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6

After 3.Nc3, the most popular move is 3…Nf6, but Black has other options available. 3…Be7 is a waiting move that prevents Bg5 and 3…a6 threatens to win the pawn with …dxc4 and …b5 if White does not play accurately.

3…c5 the Tarrasch Defense is also popular and often leads to positions where Black plays with an isolated queen's pawn after cxd5 exd5. The Tarrasch Defense is a dangerous option that gives Black active piece play and open files.

The Queen's Gambit Declined 3…Be7

Because Black must break the pin on the f6 knight after Bg5 with Be7, it makes sense to develop the bishop before the knight. The …c5 break is a crucial part of Black's opening moves and results in a loss of tempo since the bishop must move a second time when White plays dxc5.

Black is often left with an isolated pawn that White can target in the middlegame.

All of White's moves are natural developing moves that are easy to remember and play. Following the classical opening, principles lead to a solid position that is easy to play out of the middlegame without knowing a lot of opening theory.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.Bf4 Nf6 5.e3 0-0

When Bg5 is impossible, the f4 square is where you want the dark-square bishop. Develop it ahead of e3, or you will end up with a bad bishop.

6.a3 c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Nf3 Nc610.Be2 a6 11.0-0

Even if all you knew were the first three moves, I do not think many chess players would find it challenging to reach this position. All of White's pieces are centralized, and the semi-open d-file makes it easier to attack Black's weak d-pawn.

Potkin, Vladimir - Sanikidze, Tornike, 2013.05.13, 1-0, EU-ch 14th Round 8, Legnica POL


The Queen's Gambit Declined 3…a6

Since Black threatens to capture on c4 and force White to dance to his tune with moves like Nc6-a5, it makes lots of sense to capture on d5 with 4.cxd5.

Black has no choice but to recapture with the e-pawn, which sets the stage for a minority attack later.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.cxd5 exd5

5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bd6 7.Bd3 Bxf4 8.exf4 Nf6 9.Nf3 0-0 10.Ne5 Nbd7 11.0-0

10.Ne5 makes excellent use of the doubled f-pawns, but if you prefer to avoid pawn weaknesses, then 7.Bxd6 is a sound alternative.

This was the move chosen by Pavel Eljanov, a 2700-rated chess grandmaster.

Pavel Eljanov - Constantin Lupulescu, 2017.11.04, 1-0, European Team Championship Round 7.3, Hersonissos GRE


The Queen's Gambit Declined With 3…Nf6

A clear favorite by a large majority 3…Nf6 remains the most likely third move you will face in the Queen's Gambit Declined.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6

3…Nf6 is the Orthodox defense of the Queen's Gambit Declined, where most of the opening theory is easy to learn. The challenge is not from a theoretical standpoint but a practical one.

The key to playing this opening well is the correct timing of your strategies.

Accept that it will take time to gain experience and give yourself lots of time to master this seemingly easy opening.

When analyzing your games look to gain a deeper understanding of the opening with each game.

The Exchange Variation is one of the most reliable approaches with White against the Queen's Gambit Declined Orthodox Defense.

4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd3 Re8 8.Nge2 Nbd7 9.0-0 c6 10.Qc2 Nf8

Pay close attention to Black's last move because many chess players have blundered by overlooking that the knight defends h7.

Something else to notice is how White develops against the Orthodox Defense. This piece placement is helpful as a fallback option if you forget your theory.

Of course, a careful evaluation of the position is needed, or you could blunder a piece.

In this position, White's strategy is to continue with f3, Bh4-f2, and f4. Whenever you advance the f-pawn after castling short, an excellent prophylactic move is Kh1.

Prioritize king safety and play Kh1 before advancing e4 if time allows. Trisha Kanyamarala did and managed to defeat an opponent rated 243 Elo higher.

Kanyamarala, Trisha - Souhardo, Basak, 2022.06.10, 1-0, Cattolica Chess Open A Round 8.5, Cattolica ITA


The Tarrasch Defense Suits Attacking Chess Players

This defense is named after Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, who declared that future chess players would decide if his defense was sound. The Tarrasch Defense is definitely not refuted but playing with an isolated queen's pawn is not to everybody's liking.

There are, of course, benefits to playing with an isolated queen's pawn, including:

  • Easy development.
  • Open positions.
  • Opportunities to attack.
  • Easy-to-remember middlegame strategies.

The isolated queen's pawn can prove a distinct liability in the endgame, but as the doctor reminded us, "Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame."

Although the Tarrasch Defense has not been refuted, there are ways for White to obtain an advantage from the opening safely. Temper your ambitions, and do not underestimate the Tarrasch Defense.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5

The Two Knights Variation is one way for White to get excellent play against the Tarrasch Defense. As you have no doubt guessed, this involves an early Nf3.

4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.dxc5 d4 7.Na4 b5 8.cxb6 axb6 9.e3 Bb4+ 10.Bd2 Bd7

This variation of the Tarrasch Defense is the Grunfeld Gambit. One of the main strategies of the Tarrasch Defense is to take you from the positional nature of the Queen's Gambit chess opening into positions that are dynamic and more tactical.

Bb5 is vital to help relieve the queen from defending the knight on a4. Exchanges are favorable for White because White is a pawn up.

Holm, Kristian Stuvik - Halkias, S., 2021.12.27, 1-0, World Rapid 2021 Round 6.61 Warsaw POL


Chigorin Defense: Active Play Against the Queen's Gambit

The Chigorin Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6) is named after the strong Russian grandmaster Mikhail Chigorin, who challenged Wilhelm Steinitz twice for the World Chess Championship in 1889 and 1892. Chigorin narrowly lost the second match 12 ½ - 10 ½.

Minimal pawn moves and rapid development are the main ideas behind the Chigorin Defense. Black often concedes the bishop pair advantage and a central pawn majority to white.

Active piece play is necessary to offset these advantages, or White will roll over Black's Defenses.

One tactical nuance White must be aware of is that after cxd5 Qxd5, the pawn on d4 is attacked twice and only defended by the queen. If White attacks the black queen with Nc3, Black pins the knight with Bb4.

The white knights are often exchanged on c3 and f3 in an attempt to delay the advance of White's central pawn majority.

Today the Chigorin defense is considered a viable defense to the Queen's Gambit chess opening that leads to at least equality.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6

Keeping to our usual development saves on learning opening theory. Against the Chigorin Defense, we can meet rapid development with our own.

In this variation, it is not unusual to gain control of the center with tempo by attacking the black knight.

3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 Ne5 5.f4 Nd7 6.e4 Nb6

The black knight has moved four times in the first six moves (Nc6-e5-d7-b6), and White has gained excellent control of the center.

7.a4 a5 8.Be3 e6 9.Qc2 exd5 10.Bxb6 d4 11.0-0-0 cxb6

The b5 square is firmly under White's control, and thanks to the pin on the d-file, the black pawn on d4 will soon face lots of pressure. White can attack the d4-pawn with Nf3 and Nb5 after capturing on c4 to prevent d3.

Carvaga, Roman - Barbaric, Vuk-Tadija, 2021.10.30, Slav Cup, ICCF


Two Must-Know Gambits in the Queen's Gambit

Today a lot of chess players find themselves playing online games. In Blitz and Rapid Games, many chess players enjoy playing gambits, and there are three choices for Black:

  1. Albin Counter-Gambit.
  2. Budapest Gambit.

These are usually not very dangerous on their own, but you must be prepared to meet them when you do not have much time to work things out at the chessboard.

Playing Against The Albin Counter-Gambit

In the Albin Counter-Gambit, the main aim of Black is to disrupt the development of White's pieces by playing d4. Black also opens up the position by sacrificing a pawn with 2…e5; however, it is often unwise to offer a central pawn as a gambit.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4

After 3…d4, White can no longer develop with Nc3.

4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 Nge7 6.b4 Ng6 7.Bb2 a5 8.b5 Ncxe5 9.Qxd4 Qxd4 10.Bxd4 Nxc4

White has solved all his development problems and will gain time by attacking the knight with e3.

Bluebaum, M. - Trent, L., 2018.03.10, 1-0, Bundesliga 2017-18 Round 11.4, Hamburg GER


The Budapest Gambit: Another Central Pawn Sacrifice

Black players seem to have decided most of their difficulties in the Queen's Gambit chess opening stem from the e-pawn. Once again, Black sacrifices the e-pawn in the hope that White will foolishly try to hold onto the extra material.

Unless Black is well-prepared, it is easy to fall into a bad position with all the pieces getting in each other's way.

This gambit starts with the development of the knight on f6. Here is one way to play against the Budapest Gambit.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e3 Nxe5

Black opens the position, but the loss of time is significant, and it is easy to see Black getting into Trouble soon.

White continues to gain space by attacking the knight.

5.f4 Ng6 6.Nc3 Bc5 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Nge2 Re8 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Ng3

If Black captures the e-pawn, you can win the exchange after 9…Bxe3 10.Bxe3 Rxe3 11.Be4 traps the rook.

In Conclusion

The Queen's Gambit chess opening is a timeless opening you can trust to get safely to the middlegame. It is not difficult to get started playing this opening if you pay particular attention to the strategies.

White often develops the pieces to their natural squares, making remembering your opening theory easier. You are seldom going to get caught out in a razor-sharp line because you forgot a move.

The Queen's Gambit chess opening is played by the world's best chess players and has featured in many world chess championship matches. Any time you invest in learning the Queen's Gambit chess opening will soon reap rich rewards.

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