Queen's Gambit Accepted - Complete Repertoire for Black
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In this database, I will be proposing a complete repertoire for Black based on the Queen's Gambit Accepted. That is, after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4
This is the key position that I will be discussing at length.
One of the reasons why I have been so attracted to this variation over the years (and why I believe I have been so successful with it) is due to the simplicity of Black's ideas and the practicality of the variations themselves. I began playing the Queen's Gambit Accepted nearly ten years ago.
I remember I was fed up with my bad results against 1.d4 and decided to stay away from long and complex theoretical discussions that were taking up a lot of my time and giving me little returns. Instead, I decided to choose an opening that would narrow down White's possibilities even if this meant accepting a slightly inferior (though very solid) position. To my surprise, I soon found out that White's road to advantage is not an easy one if there is one at all. In the analysis that follows, I hope to make a strong case in favour of this timeless opening based on the soundness of the arising positions and especially on the overall practicality of this opening.
In the diagram position, White has basically three main moves (3.Nf3, 3.e3 and 3.e4), though for our purposes and due to a fortunate transposition (3.Nf3 and 3.e3 simply transpose into each other), we will only have to deal with two of them. Therefore, the main moves in this position are 3.Nf3 and 3.e4. Moreover, I will also discuss important sidelines that follow after 3.Nf3 Nf6 such as 4.Nc3 and 4.Qa4+. Let us begin...
Chapter 1 - 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 a6 6.0-0 & 7.Bd3
The first important position arises after 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6
This is by far Black's most common choice and the first important crossroad in our repertoire. Black's main move has historically been 4...e6, which will be the move I will be recommending. However, it should be noted that 4...Bg4 has enjoyed a surge in popularity recently and I have employed it numerous times as well. However, it will be outside the scope of this repertoire. The main reason for my choice has to do with 3.e3, which I intend to meet with 3...Nf6 (a repertoire based on 4...Bg4 would require the study of an additional main line after 3.e3 e5) 4.Bxc4 e6 - transposing to our main lines.
The main line goes 5.Bxc4 a6!?
This is our first major deviation from the standard main line. The idea of this move is to maintain as much flexibility as possible by delaying the ...c7-c5 pawn break until Black's bishop has already been developed to b7. The main line goes 5...c5 6.0-0 a6 and here white has a wealth of interesting choices. Firstly, he may choose to enter a dynamic IQP middlegame after 7.Bb3 cxd4 8.exd4 Nc6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.Bg5 0-0 11.Qd2 Na5 12.Bc2 b5 13.Rad1 leading to a position that I have studied extensively where I conclude that white enjoys a serious initiative. Secondly, white can also choose a more positional approach with 7.dxc5!? Qxd1 8.Rxd1 Bxc5 9.Nbd2 0-0 10.Be2 vacates the c4-square for the knight and leads to a surprisingly unpleasant endgame for black. It is mainly due to these two lines that I have decided to avoid 5...c5 in favour of 5...a6.
In this chapter, I deal with the line 6.0-0 b5 7.Bd3
This is the most aggressive and principled move. White intends to undermine black's queenside by means of a2-a4 and thus provoke the weakening of the c4-square after black is forced to advance his b-pawn. Moreover (and unlike 7.Bb3) white keeps an eye on the e4-square in order to support a timely e3-e4 advance. This move was recommended by Avrukh in his excellent book "Grandmaster Repertoire 1.d4" (2008).
The main crossroads arises after 7...Bb7 8.a4 b4 9.Nbd2 c5
In this position, I deal with 6 moves for White - 10.e4, 10.Nc4, 10.Nb3, 10.a5, 10.b3, and 10.Qe2
My analysis shows that with a precise play Black is doing pretty well in all the lines.
Chapter 2 - 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 a6 6.0-0 & 7.Be2
This is White's most solid choice and in my opinion an underrated move. In fact, it is the move I often recommend my students in order to get an easy game with a clear middlegame plan, even if this means Black can equalize eventually. On the other hand, Black doesn't have theoretical problems. As shown in my annotations, he can easily equalize by making solid moves such as ...Bb7, ...Nbd7, and ...c7-c5. As in the lines with 7.Bd3, White's a2-a4 is always well met by ...b5-b4.
Chapter 3 - 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 a6 6.0-0 & 7.Bb3
I believe this move is considerably weaker than 7.Bd3, as it neither pressures the b5-pawn nor supports the central pawn advance. Moreover, this move order allows Black an interesting idea. In this position, I suggest 7...Bb7. Our non-standard move-order allows us the possibility of keeping our pawn on b5, thus avoiding the weakening of the c4-square.
The main line goes 8.Qe2 (8.a4 is also covered) 8...Nbd7 9.Nc3 c5 10.Rd1 Qb8
White has two main ideas in this position. In the main line, we will consider what happens when white plays for the d5-push and in the sidelines we will see how white can go about preparing the e3-e4 push. For the latter White will usually need to take on c5 first, otherwise, Black will take on d4 and lure the knight away from f3. As we'll see this can have some negative implications for White.
Chapter 4 - 6.a4 & 9.Nc3
With the move 6.a4, White prevents his opponent from expanding on the queenside by means of ...b7-b5 but weakens the b4-square.
At this point, my suggestion is 6...c5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Qe2 Qc7!?
I like the idea of maintaining the central tension. This will make it particularly hard for White to find a good square for the c1-bishop while retaining the possibility of giving white an IQP under more favourable circumstances later. White usually reacts to this by preparing the d4-d5 advance or by taking on c5 and placing the bishop on b2.
In this position, White has two critical moves - 9.Nc3 and 9.Rd1. The current chapter is dedicated to 9.Nc3.
This is White's most straight/forward plan. He intends to prepare the d5 pawn break. Now Black must ask himself, once white plays d4-d5, where will his dark-squared bishop be better off: d6 or e7? My recommendation is 9...Be7 with the idea to follow with ...0-0 and ...Rd8, thus putting pressure on d4. In my annotations, I prove that Black is doing well in all the lines.
Chapter 5 - 6.a4 & 9.Rd1
This is a more flexible move than 9.Nc3. The main point is that white intends to take on c5 and develop the bishop to b2. In such cases, the white knight is better off on d2 than on c3.
The most important position of the variation is being reached after 9...Be7 10.dxc5 Bxc5 11.b3 0-0 12.Bb2 b6 13.Nbd2 Bb7 14.Rac1
This is an important position in the variation. Black will relocate the queen to e7 and trade-off as many rooks as possible along the d-file. Once this is done, he may start putting pressure on White's queenside with moves like ...Nb4. However, I would not rush to put the knight on b4 as this will surrender control over e5, but most importantly it will deprive us of the key defensive manoeuvre...Qe7 followed by ...Ba3. Theoretically speaking, Black is in very good shape in this line.
Chapters 6-8 - 3.Nf3 & 4.Nc3
I have long believed this to be one of White's most underrated (and dangerous) options against the QGA. The position resembles that of the Tolush Gambit against the Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5), where Black can run into a lot of trouble is he desperately tries to cling to his extra pawn. Black's most effective strategy seems to be to return the material and secure some positional trumps instead. Mainly, the d5-square. Therefore, Black should continue 4...a6 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 e6! 8.axb5
Black has committed to giving back the pawn, but he has two different ways of doing this:
1) The traditional main line used to be 8...Nb6?!
The problem with this move is that Black is not able to create enough pressure on the queenside to prevent White from launching an attack on the other flank.
1a) 9.Be2 Bb7 10.bxa6 Rxa6 11.Rxa6 Nxa6 12.0-0 Be7 13.Be3 0-0 14.Nd2 Qa8! is another critical position, but it seems that Black is holding on as shown in the game Ikonnikov, V - Mannion, S 0-1.
1b) 9.Be3! axb5 (9...Bb4?! 10.Nd2! with the idea to continue with Qg4 as in the game Kramnik, V - Kortschnoj, V 1-0; 9...Bb7 10.bxa6 Rxa6 11.Rxa6 Nxa6 12.Be2 Be7 13.Nd2 and Black is not able to coordinate his pieces as in line 1a - see Yevseev, D - Semcesen, D 1-0) 10.Rxa8 Nxa8 11.Nxb5 Nb6 12.Be2 Be7 13.0-0 0-0 14.Qc2 with a better position for White as in the game Markus, R - Stevic, H 1/2 - 1/2
2) That's why in his book Delchev recommends 8...Bb4!
Now White does not have Kramnik's regrouping (Be3 followed by Nd2) since c3 must be attended to. And once the bishop is forced to the passive d2-square, then will the knight retreat to b6.
White's most serious try is 9.Qd2 which is dealt with in Chapter 6.
This is a move that has been tried fairly recently. It has the idea of speeding up white's initiative on the kingside by transferring the queen there as soon as possible via the f4-square (once black retreats the knight from d5, of course). The critical position arises after 9...Nb6 10.Be2 Bb7 11.bxa6 Rxa6 12.Rxa6 Nxa6 13.0-0 0-0 14.Qf4
This is the whole point of 9.Qd2. The queen finds an original way of getting to the kingside. At this point, I suggest the novelty 14...c5! immediately creating pressure on d4 and undoubling the pawns. The subsequent analysis shows that Black is a good shape in this line.
Chapter 7 features 9.Qc2 with the idea to eventually transfer the queen to the kingside by means of the manoeuvre Qe4-g4. My suggestion is 9...Nb6 10.Qe4 Qd5 11.Qg4 axb5 12.Rxa8 Qxa8
At this point, White has two main options - 13.Be2 and 13.Qxg7. My analysis shows that Black has more than enough counterplay in both cases.
In Chapter 8, I deal with 9.Bd2 when Black should play 9...Nb6 10.Be2 Bb7 11.bxa6 Rxa6 12.Rxa6 Nxa6 13.0-0 0-0 14.Be3 c5!
This is a typical position for this variation where Black should be quite happy. Usually when the black knight is on a6, Black should aim to strike with ...c7-c5 as soon as possible.
Chapters 9 - 11 - 3.Nf3 & 4.Qa4+
After Kramnik revived the Catalan some 15 years ago, people began to appreciate the power of the bishop on g2 and began looking for ways to incorporate the fianchetto to as many lines in their repertoire as possible. 4.Qa4 is White's attempt at doing this against the QGA.
However, as you will see below white falls short. We'll see that black has an extra tempo here (by not playing ...e7-e6) and this turns out to have a major impact on the position (since Black's idea is to carry out the ...e7-e5 pawn break).
Black usually follows with 4...Nc6.
At this point, White has a choice among three moves - 5.Qxc4, 5.Nc3, and 5.e3.
Chapter 9 deals with 5.Qxc4?!. Playing this position "Catalan style" is a bad idea. Black can make effective use of the extra tempo by playing 5...Nd7 6.g3 Nb6 7.Qb5 a6 8.Qd3 e5
Quite logically, Black opens up the position. This approach practically refutes White's concept. In my analysis, I show that White is the one who must fight for equality.
Chapter 10 is dedicated to 5.Nc3.
In response to this move, I suggest 5...Nd5! This is the key idea behind the 4...Nc6 setup. The knight is coming to b6, after which Black will prepare the ...e7-e5 pawn break. Once again, White must play precisely in order to prevent his opponent from overtaking the initiative.
White's safest choice is 5.e3 which is dealt with in Chapter 11.
I think that Black's most precise reaction is 5...Nd7!
In the 5.Nc3 line it was important for the knight to go to d5 since it gave Black the additional option of playing ...Ndb4. Here it is important that the knight goes to d7 since this will give Black the option of playing the ...e5 pawn break. These two factors (...Nb4 and ...e5) are the subtleties that will determine whether ...Nd7 or ...Nd5 is called for. However, if the knight is headed to b6 then it won't make a difference. As proven by my annotations, Black does not face any problems in the arising positions.
Chapter 12 - 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 & 7.Ne2
Maybe White's most dangerous weapon against QGA is 3.e4.
Against the 3.e4 variation, I believe Black's most effective plan to be to force an overexpansion of White's centre in order to quickly chip away at it. There are basically two ways of doing this: 3...Nc6, which forces the d-pawn forward and 3...Nf6, which forces the e-pawn forward. Both moves remind me of the underlying philosophy of the Alekhine Defense, with the major difference that Black is not required to surrender so much space and so many tempi. In the end, I decided for 3...Nf6 because it gives Black more straight-forward play and excellent control over the centre thanks to the powerful d5-outpost. However, though outside the scope of this database, 3...Nc6 is a very legitimate line that I have essayed on numerous occasions.
The first important position arises after 4.e5 (I also deal with 4.Nc3) Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6
This is the first major crossroads of the variation. The issue that will define the outcome of the opening is whether Black will be able to create real pressure on White's backward pawn on d4. If not, then Black's position will remain passive due to a lack of space and pawn breaks. White can now retreat either to b3 or d3. The former is by far the most common retreat, while the latter aims to make it hard for Black to develop his light-squared bishop.
In the current chapter, I discuss the position arising after 6.Bb3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Bf5 8.Nbc3 e6 9.0-0
Black has two important ideas: castling queenside or castling kingside. I will be discussing both options since I believe both alternatives to be viable and knowing them can give Black a wider range of positions to choose from. If White instead chooses to play 9.a3, then the situation hardly changes since Black still has the option of castling on either side of the board after 9...Qd7 10.Ba2 Be7 (10...0-0-0!?) 11.Be3 0-0 12.0-0 Rfd8 leads to a critical position where I think Black is doing well.
As I have already pointed out, after 9.0-0, Black has two main approaches
1) 9...Qd7 10.Be3 0-0-0 11.a3 h5!? (11...f6 has been played the most)
2) 9...Be7 10.Be3 0-0 11.Ng3 Bg6 12.f4 Na5 leads to yet another critical position, where despite the sharp complications Black seems to be holding his own.
Chapter 13 - 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 & 7.Nf3
This way of developing the knight is less precise because Black can opt for 7...Bg4. It turns out that the pin along the diagonal d1-h5 is very annoying. In many lines, the d4-pawn would become vulnerable. The main line follows 8.Be3 e6 9.0-0 Be7 10.Nc3 0-0 11.h3 Bh5 12.Rc1
At this point, Black has a choice. He can either protect the b7-pawn by means of 12...Rb8 (the idea being ...Bxf3 followed by ...Nxd4) or go for 12...Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nxd4. In both cases, Black is doing more than OK.
Chapter 14 - 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bd3 & 7.Be3
This bishop retreat should not be underestimated. White's idea is to prevent the natural development of our light-squared bishop. However, the obvious drawback is that it does not control the d5-square.
After the natural 6...Nc6, White has two options - 7.Be3 and 7.Ne2.
In the current chapter, I deal with 7.Be3. The critical position arises after 7...Nb4 8.Be4 f5
White faces a choice here. In this chapter, I deal with 9.Bf3, 9.a3, and 9.exf6. My conclusion is that Black has sufficient counterplay in all the lines.
Chapter 15 - 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bd3 & 7.Ne2
This move seems to be more natural since White protects the d4-pawn and keeps developing his pieces. On the other hand, this move has an obvious drawback - the g4-spot is now available for Black's bishop. The critical position of the variation is reached after 7...Bg4 8.f3 Be6
This idea became popular after the game Bukic-Petrosian. Black will use the d5-square as a pivot point for his minor pieces. If Black opts for the ...Nb4-d5 manoeuvre, then his will usually follow-up with ...f7-f5. If the bishop goes to d5 instead, then usually Black will follow-up with ...e7-e6. From a strategical perspective, these positions are quite sound for Black.
The database ends with a test section including 16 interactive test positions. You can take a look at 5 of them.