Queens Gambit is a Queen’s Pawn Opening that starts with 1.d4 d5 2.c4. This is one of the most popular queen’s pawn openings played at any level. It is most popular because it offers a lot of variations and many interesting and solid setups to play the game.
Even if you don’t know the exact opening lines, it is natural to develop your pieces in most of these lines. Also this is a very ancient opening, tried, tested and evolved over centuries of chess history.
Here, Black can defend his center with either 2…e6 (Queen’s gambit declined) or 2…c6 (Slav defense). Black can also capture the gambit pawn with 2…dxc4 (Queen’s gambit accepted). Apart from these 3 main continuations, black can play 2…Nc6 (Chigorin defense) or 2…e5 (Albin counter gambit).
Queen’s gambit accepted 2…dxc4
First, let’s look at what happens if we accept the gambit. With 2…dxc4, black is intending not to keep his extra pawn, but rather to make white spend some time on regaining that pawn while he develops his pieces. For example, if white plays 3.e4, then 3…e5 4.Nf3 exd4
White will regain both the pawns, but notice how black’s pieces have opened lines and easy development. Bg4-Bc5-Nf6-Nc6…etc. So white doesn’t go 2.e4. Instead, the main line goes 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5.
White regained the pawn but black started challenging the center. Black may have difficulties developing his c8 bishop, which is a usual problem in such structures. Also, note that black can’t be greedy and try to keep the extra pawn with. 4…b5. Because after 5.a4 c6 6.axb5 cxb5 7.b3 white will regain the pawn anyway with far better development.
So when playing the Queen’s gambit accepted, black’s aim should never be to keep the extra pawn, but rather to develop his pieces while white regains the pawn quickly.
Slave defense 2…c6
With 2…c6, black is making his center solid, but at the same time creating a real threat of …dxc4, because now …b5 is made possible, which defends the c4 pawn. After 3.Nf3 Nf6, white plays 4.e3 and simply defends the c4 pawn.
Instead of 4.e3, if white plays 4.Nc3, black now can really capture the gambit pawn with 4…dxc4. Now white has to spend time in preventing …b5 with 5.a4 before he can regain the pawn. Move a4 leaves hole on b4 which can be occupied by black’s bishop or Knight.
Queen’s gambit declined 2…e6
The most popular continuation is 2…e6. The main line goes 3.Nc3 Nf6 (3…c5 leads to the sharp Tarrasch defense) 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Rc1. Here, 7…c6 and 7…a6 are most popular continuations. Black’s main idea is to capture on c4 with …dxc4 and then play b5-Bb7 to complete his development.
White has a slight edge in development but it is extremely difficult to convert or even increase the advantage. That’s why this opening is good for both sides. Have a look at attached link of games to get more insights about this opening.
As mentioned earlier, there are many variations possible in this opening. For example, instead of 4.Bg5, white can choose to go Bf4 or even e3 and develop his bishop ‘later’ or on b2. Even 4.g3 is possible, leading to the set-up of ‘Catalan opening’, which occurs after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3.
Queen’s gambit declined is more often achieved after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 (Playing 3.Nc3 gives black chance to play sharp Nimzo-indian with 3…Bb4!) 3…d5
With this move order, black also keeps a possibility of playing Bogo Indian with 3.Nf3 Bb4+ or the queen’s Indian with 3…b6.
Thus Queen’s gambit is more about the set-up of the position rather than memorizing the move order. To learn this opening well, you should first study the plans implemented by both sides and how different set-ups create different possibilities. Study as many games as you can to get a feel of the position.
Queen’s gambit Sidelines…
Let’s look at some of the sidelines that black can get into…
Black can go off-beat with 2…e5, the Albin counter gambit. After 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3 Nge7 6.Bg2 Ng6 7.0-0 Ngxe5 black regains the pawn, but it can be argued that he already made three moves with his king’s knight, which is about to be exchanged. So he might fall behind on development.
2…Nc6 is the chigorin defense. Although not popular it is quite playable. After 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.e3 e6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bb2 Bxc3 7.bxc3 white gets a strong pawn center.
Beginners may make mistake of playing 2…Nf6 if they are unaware of the concept of tempo. Yes, they are defending the pawn on d5 but after 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.e4 or after 3…Qxd5 Nc3, white gets free tempo (development with attack) and gets advantage due to quick development.
Game Played with Queen’s Gambit
Here is classic game played between Aronian, Levon (2813) vs Magnus Carlsen (2868)
As already mentioned, it is recommended to study more about opening plans and strategies to learn this opening well. Also, be attentive about how changing move orders can create possibilities of transposing into different openings.