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After a couple months absence due to illness and family reasons, I’m back with a fresh Queen’s Gambit update! In the highest-standard games of the last couple of weeks, White seems to be moving toward 1.e4 in place of 1.d4/2.c4, and I think the QGD is a major reason for that, but also in the Slav/QGA White’s been having trouble making headway. Obviously not all the main battlegrounds can be covered in a single update, but the number of decisive games (5 for White, 4 for Black) in our selection should provide encouragement for both sides to continue improving their understanding of the timeless Queen’s Gambit. It’s hard for me to point to a single highlight in this update, so let’s begin our breakdown of this month’s games!

Download PGN of May ’17 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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Queen’s Gambit Accepted Main Line with 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 [D27]

As I’ve noted in the past, it can be very instructive and refreshing to test our pre-conceived notions about opening variations. Either we will learn the problem with the line in question and be ready to face it, or we’ll find a unique weapon for our own repertoire ?! In this case, I was inspired by the 2...dxc4 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bxc4 e6 5.Nf3 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 of Adhiban, B - Ivanchuk, V, as it avoids lines such as 6...a6 7.dxc5 and could give more chances to play for a win. The conventional wisdom is that Qe2/Rd1/Nc3 is a problem for Black, but my analysis suggests that Black is doing fine. Now you’re probably looking for the puzzle, and the game happens to offer a great one:

Black has just played 15...Ne5. It’s not the best move, but what should White play to demonstrate the fact? When you check the game, you might also notice coverage of a few other sidelines for both sides - in general I’m more drawn to Black’s sidelines than White’s.

QGA Exchange Variation, 7.dxc5 [D27]

This is the most popular line at the moment and, indeed, it looks solid.

When selecting games for the site, there’s always the question of whether to make the main game the theoretically most important, or to go for a model game for one side (which may not feature the most accurate opening play from either side). In any case, Nikolic, P - Kasimdzhanov, R leads to a standard position for the 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.dxc5 variation, and features exemplary technical play from Nikolic. There are quite a few good positional puzzles in this one game, but let’s take play where the real pressure began:

With what continuation did Nikolic, to move, play to secure a positional advantage? Anyway, the sobering truth is that White doesn’t have a way to make his starting edge durable in this variation, so you’ll have to rely on outplaying your opponent later (as Nikolic managed) or switching between variations depending on the opponent.

Anti-Vienna Gambit 4...dxc4 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 [D24/39]

For those of you who closely follow the progress of young talents, you may have noticed Indian IM Sarin Nihal has recently been doing well with the Vienna, even beating one of Germany’s main talents, Bluebaum, in a theory battle that saw a novelty in the following position (Black to move):

As usual, I’ll give you a chance to guess what Black played, and you can compare your ideas with my analysis by clicking Bluebaum, M - Nihal, S if you’re a subscriber. I’ve updated a few other Vienna variations in the notes, and while I wouldn’t feel a surge of excitement from the prospect of defending against 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 Nxe4 7.0-0 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Be7 9.Ne5 0-0 10.Qg4, Black does seem to be objectively fine, but good preparation and a fair bit of patience is called for.

Exchange QGD with ...Nh5, and other alternatives to the tabiya [D35]

A key game of this year’s US Championship, Nakamura, H - Onischuk, A (which determined the fates of both players), saw Black employ the popular ...Nh5 system in the Exchange QGD to good effect, using the move order 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Be7 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Qc2 Nh5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7, followed by ...Nb6/...Be6 and queenside castling. It’s a very solid setup for Black, no doubt, and after 10.0-0-0 Nb6 I’ll see if you can find White’s strongest plan:

I won’t give everything away here, except to say that White needs to play extremely accurately to have a plausible chance of advantage. For this reason, White has often been delaying or even avoiding Qc2 in recent practice, so you’ll definitely want to study the game closely if you get Exchange QGDs from either side of your repertoire. After all, knowing your move orders is no less important than having ideas against the main lines. But in the next game, we’ll cover that too :)

Exchange QGD Main Line, with Nge2/0-0/f3 [D35]

I just happened to come across Navara, D - Malinovsky, K from the last round of the Czech Championship, and while I’d almost finished my update by that point, I was feeling generous and so I include this as a model game for White! The game is a good reflection of why the tabiya position 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Be7 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Nge2 0-0 9.Qc2 Re8 10.f3 Nf8 11.0-0 is hard for Black to play if he continues normally:

This position is after White’s 18.e4, and represents White’s strategic dream. I have covered in the past how I think Black should play on move 11, but do you remember my advice? I give a reminder in the game notes, in case you’ve forgotten.

5.Qb3 Ragozin [D38]

The Ragozin received a good look in last month’s update, and we continue where that left off with the 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qb3 variation, a sideline that has maintained some popularity. This is both due to White’s difficulties proving an advantage in the other Ragozin variations, and White determining the nature of the position more directly compared to e.g. the main line 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5. Furthermore, most of the lines recommended in Pert’s Playing the Ragozin haven’t been tested enough this year to require an update, so I wanted to show Fedoseev, V - Matlakov, M from the Aeroflot Open, where both players could have benefited from remembering Pert’s analysis from the following position:

Now I present you with the same challenge of finding Black’s best move, to drive home the point that Black must be accurate to neutralise White’s bishop pair advantage. The game definitely shows the attraction of this sideline for White, but I don’t think he can claim any edge in the 6...Nc6 variation.

Lasker QGD 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.Rc1 and alternatives [D56]

Subscribers to this section will be well aware of White’s difficulties creating problems in the Classical QGD (with White’s knight committed to f3), but I have a feeling both sides will find reasons to be cheerful in the game Ivanchuk, V - Nakamura, H from last year’s World Blitz. In the basic position 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.d4 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 Ne4 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.Rc1 c6, Ivanchuk succeeded in obtaining some slight pressure by following Carlsen’s lead with 10.Qc2:

This is a typical position when White recaptures on c4 with the queen to avoid the equalising ...b6/c5 plan. There’s no absolute right or wrong answer to this position (Black to move), but it will be important for you to feel comfortable here to successfully play the Lasker as Black, unless you want to play the 10...Nxc3 11.Qxc3 dxc4 move order as I’ve noted in the Archives. I would say that the diagram position is objectively equal, but easier for White to play, as reflected in the engine’s constant +0.2 assessment. In the game, Ivanchuk steadily obtained an advantage, but Nakamura later showed the better blitz on the day to win.

Anti-Meran with 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 Re8/7.b3 [D45]

In this game I’ll be furthering the case for the Semi-Slav as Black, since the Anti-Meran variation 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.d4 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 gives Black some juicy alternatives to 8...dxc4, one of which is 8...Re8 as played in Mareco, S - Artemiev, V. In general, this move transposes to 7.b3 lines, which are rightly considered very decent for Black. I think the fact 7.Be2 and 7.b3 is just as popular as 7.Bd3 lately is because of White’s general difficulties demonstrating a plus against the Semi-Slav. As the game featured a rapid time control, we get to see some tricks, such as from this position:

Rather than the usual tactical puzzle, I thought it would be more interesting to see if you can stop Black’s threats here, with White to play! You can check the game to find out if you improved on White’s play.

Meran Semi-Slav 8.Bd3 Bb7 and alternatives [D48]

The Meran has been one relative blind spot in my writing for ChessPublishing, as other lines have generally been more popular in the Semi-Slav, but in Krasenkow, M - Korobov, A I avail the opportunity to update the various options, even in a few not so trendy lines. The Meran continues to be quite fine for Black, but there are certain lines with a mistimed ...b4 where I found some ideas for White to obtain an edge.

The actual game showed how Black shouldn’t try too hard to unbalance the game if White plays quietly, and in the end only some inaccurate middlegame play by White allowed Black to draw. I don’t have any exceptional puzzles from this game, but you might find this decision somewhat interesting:

How would you recapture on b5, as Black? Check the game for the solution ;)

Thanks for your attention, Max

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