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The Queen's Gambit Accepted has seen some high-level encounters of late, so this month I've been studying some of the most notable examples. In particular, Navara struggled in both of the 3.Nf3 games where he was involved (but saved himself both times) and Nakamura even won a struggle against Ding Liren where he was being squeezed for most of the time. You'll have to check below to see if their difficulties as Black were due to their opening choices or not.
In the QG Declined, the idea of playing 3...a6 is gaining ground, with Carlsen on several occasions even following up with ...h6! 'Flexible fun' at the price of a tempo or two seems to break some fundamental laws of chess, so I've been looking at White's attempts to punish Black's daring approach.

Download PGN of November ’20 1 d4 d5 2 c4 games

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QGA 3.e3 e5 4.Nf3 [D20]

The opening sequence in Georgiev, Ki - Vocaturo, D seems to raise more questions than gives answers, but certainly leads to lively play. An example being on move six where Black is threatening to capture on g2, an unusual situation in the QGA:

Here 7.g3 keeps the kingside intact, but enables Black to keep his strong pawn wedge. So Georgiev was willing to trade the e4-pawn for g2, which risks some king insecurity but promises the better long-term structure. After the game continuation 7.Nxe4 Qxg2 8.Ng3 Qh3! 9.Nc3 I think that Black should play 9...Nf6 (with chances for both sides) rather than 9...Bd6?! after which White was for preference.

QGA 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Bf5 [D20]

The result of Wojtaszek, R - Anton Guijarro, D had little to do with the opening, as the Spanish GM out-manoeuvred his opponent and was ready to cash in, but at a key moment lost valuable time with his king. The rest was an example of the old adage: He who hesitates is lost!

In the opening, developing with 5...Bf5 has been much less popular than the knight moves 5...Nb6 and 5...Nc6, maybe because it allows 6.Qb3. Still, Wojtaszek avoided this critical line, but his natural development (6.Nf3 and then Nc3 and Bd3) failed to test Black's idea. After 6.Qb3 certain positions arise that the engines judge as favourable for White, but they don't look easy to handle, thus justifying Black's provocative approach as a practical weapon.

QGA 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bd3 [D20]

Somehow the American star turned the tables in Ding Liren - Nakamura, H. This wasn't a question of 'luck' however: he defended well, even when rolling into a ball, and prepared a surprising counter on the kingside before coming around the back to snare the white king. However, this doesn't hide the fact that the opening didn't go as well as he would have liked.

In this position, there are three ways to proceed: capture on e3, capture on c3, or hold the line with 11...Be6. There aren't many games, so I don't want to leap to conclusions, but Ding seemed to take the stuffing out of Nakamura's choice 11...Nxe3. It's worth investigating the alternatives, as in the type of middlegame that follows it's not clear that bishops are stronger than knights (it might even be that the contrary is the case!).

QGA 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.0-0 Be6 [D20]

The system with 6...Be6 is not easy to play against, and even when White seems to know what he is doing, as in Gajewski, G - Dziuba, M, Black seems to hold firm, even though his extra pawn is of little practical use. I quite like Gajewski's choice of 12.Ne5 followed by dropping back to the blockading square d3. Experience at e-mail chess suggests that the idea of liberating the f-pawn can be challenging, but Black has found ways to nullify White's initiative. In the featured OTB game, Dziuba even introduced a novelty, but I'm not sure his king is any better on the queenside (16...Kd8) than the previously known 16...Kf8, but in each case (with a little attention to detail) Black is fine.

QGA Main line 7.e4 [D27]

I think that you'll agree that the young Dutch GM's surprise weapon worked a treat in Van Foreest, J - Navara, D. Black was on the ropes but somehow survived his king being bullied around.

After 8.Qe2 (see diagram) Black needs to be on his guard. Although 8...Nd6 might be playable, the game continuation 8...Nf6 9.d5 Nxd5 10.Rd1 is actually OK for Black if he finds 10...Qe7! whereas 10...Be7?! was not pleasant for him. Anyway, this looks like more fun than the better known 8.d5 which leads to a dry queenless middlegame where White's nominal edge is next to nothing.

QGA Main line 7.Bb3 [D27]

The opening phase (7.Bb3 b5 8.a4 Bb7 9.axb5 axb5 10.Rxa8 Bxa8 11.Qe2 c4) followed well-trodden paths in Korobov, A - Navara, D where Black's queenside majority isn't likely to be going anywhere in the middlegame. White's extra central pawn certainly gives him more options but, although he achieves e3-e4 soon enough, it's not easy to generate the right circumstances for further expansion with d4-d5 or e4-e5. In the actual game, the Czech GM mistimed his manoeuvres and Korobov did indeed obtain a strong attack with 25.d5! which goes to show that even top GMs might find handling the black pieces quite testing. Nevertheless, in e-mail games Black seems to be holding his own without too much trouble.

QGD unusual lines 3.Nf3 a6 4.c5 [D30]

The way that White won the endgame in Kuzubov, Y - Vallejo Pons, F was quite instructive, so please play through the whole game! As to the opening, 4.c5 gains space even if Black then has two natural counters that come to mind: ...b6 and ...e5.

Here Black duly broke out with 12...e5 and achieved near equality, but note my use of the word 'near'. The fact that White retains the better bishop gave him a nominal edge throughout, even if objectively it shouldn't have been enough to make any difference.

I've pointed out some other options for White against 3...a6 in the notes, and my favourite amongst them is 4.Bg5. See if you agree!

QGD Exchange Variation 3...a6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bg5 [D30]

In Radjabov, T - Erdos, V White was able to grind away in a QGD Exchange type position. Later, Erdos had chances to save the game even after dropping a pawn, but he never achieved any real counterplay. The struggle all revolved around the well-known Carlsbad structure, except that the doubled pawns (after hxg3) gave White solidity at the cost of flexibility. I don't think that Black is challenged in these type of positions more than he is in a mainstream QGD Exchange except that ...a6 didn't prove to be necessarily that useful. So this point alone perhaps explains why 4.cxd5 is so popular.

QGD 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxc4 5.e4 [D30]

After 4.Bg5 Black has a wide choice, but it was refreshing to see Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H continue with the principled moves 4...dxc4 5.e4 as in the diagram position:

Here, anyone in the mood for a Botvinnik type position might well opt for 5...b5 to hold onto the gambit pawn. In the game, Nakamura's choice 5...c5 leads to more open piece-play, but after 6.Bxc4 cxd4 7.0-0 I think that the American's choice 7...Be7 is less testing than 7...Nc6. After Carlsen's reply 8.e5 the World Champion was able to obtain some pressure into the middlegame, but Nakamura was up to the defensive task.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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