In the Queen’s Gambit, whether Black accepts or declines the gambit, White has good chances to secure an advantage in the center.
This chess opening appeals to players who like games that require long-term strategic planning. If you enjoy applying subtle pressure until your opponent finally cracks, this opening may be right for you. And as Beth demonstrated, this is one of the best chess openings!
A quick look at the Queen’s GambitThe Queen’s Gambit occurs after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 (Check out our article for a quick refresher on chess notation). It isn’t entirely correct to characterize White’s second move as a gambit because Black really can’t hang on to the pawn. If Black does capture the pawn on c4, it’s usually with the intention of allowing White to recapture it later.
White tries to gain an advantage in the center by attacking Black’s pawn on d5. If the pawn is removed, the advance e2-e4 is facilitated, giving White a potentially powerful pawn center. Black can decline the gambit in a variety of ways, or simply capture the pawn.
If Black captures the pawn, the opening is referred to as the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. If Black doesn’t take the offered pawn and protects the d-pawn with e7-e6, the opening is called the Queen’s Gambit Declined. The Queen’s Gambit Declined can lead to a rich variety of strategically complex variations.
Many chess openings can be arrived at via different move orders, which is referred to as transposition. The most likely move order for the Queen’s Gambit is 1.d4 d5 2.c4, for example, but 1.c4 d5 2.d4 amounts to the same thing.
The Queen’s Gambit AcceptedThe Queen’s Gambit Accepted arises following the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4.
It isn’t normally recommended for Black to try to hold on to this pawn. The basic idea is to develop rapidly and try to saddle White with an isolated d-pawn by playing …c5 and …cxd4. The isolated d-pawn is an intriguing structure in chess. If it can be blockaded (prevented from advancing), it may turn into a weakness and have to be defended by pieces. Pieces don’t like performing guard duty for pawns!
However, if it can advance, it can often break down Black’s defenses and pave the way for a winning attack. Grandmaster games over the years have featured many a delicate dance with an isolated d-pawn.
When things go White’s way in the Queen's GambitWhite can advance the d-pawn from d4 to d5 and disrupt the coordination of Black’s pieces. It’s surprising to see how rapidly Black’s position can crumble.
In a 1995 game in Sweden between Ulf Andersson (as White) and Anatoly Karpov, Black gave White an isolated d-pawn and then tried to prevent its advance. It must’ve been a shock to Karpov when Andersson advanced the pawn anyway.
Reaching the Queen’s Gambit Accepted through a transposition of moves. The same position occurs more often by the move order 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6.
Now, White has an isolated d-pawn.
Black’s move is a serious mistake. Obviously, Black figured he was preventing White from playing 14.d5.14.d5!
This is the thematic break in isolated d-pawn type of formations. When it can be safely played, things usually go White’s way.
White wins a piece, and Black has no compensation for it. It’s amazing that a player of Karpov’s status can lose so quickly.
When things go Black’s way in the Queen's GambitBlack can saddle White with an isolated d-pawn and prevent it from advancing from d4 to d5. The pawn becomes weak and gets in the way of White’s pieces. As the endgame approaches, the d-pawn’s weakness grows more and more pronounced.
In a game from 1997 played in San Francisco between Guillermo Rey (White) and Alexander Baburin, Black was able to isolate White’s d-pawn and prevent it from advancing. Baburin then attacked it repeatedly, causing White’s pieces to become passive in defense. Eventually, White couldn’t meet Black’s threats, and the d-pawn fell.
Black occupies the d5 square with his knight, and White has no way to dislodge it. If White captures on d5, it’s important for Black to recapture with a piece rather than a pawn to maintain the blockade.
The Black knight takes up the blockade by moving in front of the isolated pawn.
Black intends to eventually move the rook on f8 to d8. When two rooks are placed on the same file, it’s called doubling them.
When the bishop is placed behind the queen along a diagonal like White did in the preceding move, the two pieces are referred to as a battery.
Black doubles his rooks on the d-file.
Although the exchange of bishops leaves Black with some dark-square weaknesses around his king, White has no way to exploit them.
Black captures with the rook to preserve his pawn structure. The rook will head back to the d-file soon enough.
Black is creating a second weakness in White’s position (the pawn on b4), which he will then attack. White won’t be able to guard both weak pawns.
Finally, the d-pawn falls, and it’s a simple win — at least for a grandmaster!
44.f5 Qd4 0–1
Want to learn more? Check out our Chess Openings Cheat Sheet.