Queen’s Gambit Accepted: A Powerful Chess Opening

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Table of Contents

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a classical opening with a long history that is still going strong today.

  • Suitable for players of all levels.
  • The principal battleground of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is the Classical Variation with 3.Nf3.
  • The Two Knights Variation with 4.Nc3 is arguably White’s most aggressive attempt to refute the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.
  • Black is doing fine in all variations.

Playing the Queen’s Gambit Accepted Makes Good Sense

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is an excellent defense against 1.d4. Although the history of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted stretches back to the 15th century, it was only when Steinitz used it against Zukertort in their 1886 match that the Queen’s Gambit Accepted as we know it today began to take shape.

Alexander Alekhine helped keep the theory of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted moving along, and later two world chess champions, Smyslov and Petrosian, included it in their repertoire.

In 1981 Petrosian used the Queen’s Gambit Accepted to defeat Kasparov and Anand used it to defeat Gelfand in 1993. That is at least four of the past World Chess Champions – Alekhine, Anand, Smyslov, and Petrosian – who have thought the Queen’s Gambit was good enough to include in their opening repertoires.

Other notable chess players who have played the Queen’s Gambit Accepted include Sadler, Ivanchuk, Topalov, and Shirov. Indeed, with these great players’ endorsement, the soundness of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted can be in no doubt.

Ideas and Strategies Within the Queen’s Gambit Accepted

However, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is not only for the world’s elite chess players. The positions that arise in this excellent chess opening are easily understood by club and tournament players as well.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4

The starting position of the Queen's Gambit Accepted is reached after only two moves - 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4

After only two moves, we reach the starting position of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Unlike the Nimzo-Indian Defense, it is much harder for White to avoid the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

If you play the Nimzo-Indian Defense, you need to have a backup plan for when White sidesteps your preferred opening and plays 3.Nf3 instead of 3.Nc3. In the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, the chance to play your desired opening is exceptionally high.

The only way for White to avoid the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is to play other 1.d4 openings that do not include 2.c4. For example, 2.Bf4 the London System, or 2.Nf3 heading for the Colle System.

When you choose the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, you know you will get to put what you learn into practice more often than not,

Black’s play is based on classic chess opening principles and provides easy development of the pieces. There is no need to worry about a bad bishop because you defended the d5-pawn with ..e6.

In the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, the pieces are usually developed to their natural squares, making it easier to remember your opening theory.

Striking back in the center with …e5 is an essential strategy for black, and it is the main reason behind capturing on c4 before White develops the light-square bishop.

In many Queen’s Gambit openings, Black will try to win a tempo by only capturing after White develops the bishop from f1. The compromise is that in the meantime, the d5-pawn usually needs to get defended with either …c6 or …e6.

Active play is a vital element of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation – 7.Bb3

Because one of Black’s main freeing moves in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is …e5, it makes a lot of sense for White to prevent this with 3.Nf3. Even better for White is the move gets prevented by developing a knight.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6

The starting position of the Queen's Gambit Accepted Classical variation. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6

The main moves in the Classical Variation are easy to remember and play. Since attacking the center with …e5 is no longer possible, the center gets attacked with …c5.

In order to support …c5, it is necessary to play …e6 and activate the dark-squared bishop.

4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Bb3

The move 7.Bb3 is a prophylactic move to avoid the bishop being attack with ...b5.

White voluntarily retreats the bishop before Black gets a chance to attack it with …b5. Now, if Black plays …b5, White will seek to make it an object of attack and force weaknesses in Black’s queenside.

The best approach by Black is to continue with the plan to gain space on the queenside and develop the bishop to b7.

7…b5 8.a4 b4 9.e4 Bb7 10.Nbd2 Be7 11.e5 Nfd7 12.Nc4 0-0

A typical middlegame position in the Classical Variation of the Queen's Gambit Accepted

By provoking the b4 advance, White obtained the c4 square for the knight. From c4, the knight supports the e5-pawn, and Black must be on guard against Nd6.

If White continues with 13, Nd6, then Black must give up the bishop with 13…Bxd6 14.exd6 and continue with 14..cxd4. Against 15.Qxd4 there is 15…Bxf3 16.gxf3 16.Nc6 with equality, while 15.Nxd4 is well met, with 15…Nc5 hitting the bishop on b3 and eyeing the e4 square.

This approach was chosen by Shirov against Onischuk in 2008.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation – 7.dxc5

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.dxc5

Queen's Gambit Accepted Classical Variation with 7.dxc5 - Attributed to Spassky who played it in the 1992 rematch with Bobby Fischer.

Bobby Fischer played the Queen’s Gambit Accepted in his 1992 match against Boris Spassky. This move was played by Spassky in four games and scored a win and three draws.

Later the move became the choice of another world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik.

Although this variation leads to a draw in many games, Black must not let his guard down. The unwary player might soon find themselves playing an inferior endgame.

One way for Black to avoid falling into a worse position is to play with more restraint on the queenside with …b6 while developing. Only expand on the queenside after your development is complete.

Exchanging pieces, especially one set of rooks, will help black defend the weak queenside squares. If you can also exchange knights, that will undoubtedly help.

The more pieces that get exchanged, the easier Black’s defense becomes. In light of this, it is a good idea to start by exchanging White’s most potent attacking piece – the queen.

7…Qxd1 8.Rxd1 Bxc5 9.Nbd2 Nbd7 10.Be2 b6 11.Nc4 Bb7 12.b3 0-0

In the Classical Variation with 7.dxc5 Black can ease his defensive tasks by capturing White's most powerful attacker and play 7...Qxd1 before recapturing the pawn with ...Bxc5

Despite being in an endgame keeping the king in the center with …Ke7 is dangerous for Black. On e7, the black king deprives the bishop on c5 of a safe escape square. This might not be an issue now but having to guard against a3 and b4 constantly places additional strain on Black.

Note that the d6 square is controlled by the knight on c4 and the rook on d1. The more retreat squares you have for your pieces, the easier it is to relax and concentrate on the game.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation – 7.a4

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.a4

The Queen's Gambit Accepted Classical Variation with 7.a4

This logical move intends to stop Black’s queenside expansion and was favored by Botvinnik and Rubinstein.

Of course, the most glaring drawback to 7.a4 is that it gives Black access to the b4-square. The natural developing move 7…Nc6 is an excellent way for Black to respond.

Another point to keep in mind is that inflicting an isolated queen’s pawn on White sounds a lot better than the practical results indicate. The isolated queen’s pawn position offers the white pieces lots of dynamic play.

7…Nc6 8.Qe2 Qc7 9.Nc3 Bd6 10.Rd1 0-0 11.h3 b6 12.dxc5 Bxc5

In this dynamically equal position, there are chances for both sides to play for a win.

White will usually seek to gain space and more control of the center, while Black will adopt a counterattacking strategy.

Although the bishop on b7 is a powerful piece, do not miss the opportunity to play …Bxf3 if White is forced to recapture with the g-pawn and expose the king. The black queen and knight can prove a potent attacking force against the shattered pawn cover.

Take a look at how Karpatchev used his queen and knight to win the game against White’s queen and bishop. Even in the endgame, it pays to look out for tactical opportunities.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation – 7.Qe2 and 8.Bb3

In this variation, White ignores the b5-pawn advance and intends to turn the pawns into targets of attack or to create weak squares for his pieces to occupy. By leaving the bishop on c4 White hopes to tempt Black into playing …b5 and gain a tempo.

Black does best to accept White’s offer as it is extremely difficult to develop the c8-bishop on any square other than b7.

The variation with 7.Qe2 is considered the Old Main Line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, and despite being less fashionable now, it is still a dangerous weapon. This line is a good choice for players with white who want to see how thoroughly their opponent has prepared.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2

The Queen's Gambit Accepted Old Main Line with 7.Qe2

7…b5 8.Bb3 Bb7 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Nc3 Qb6

In the Old Main Line of the Classical Variation the development of the black queen to b6 is the traditional way for Black to play the position. On b6 the queen supports a pawn advance to seize more space and defends the b7 bishop.

In the Old Main Line of the Classical Variation, the development of the black queen to b6 is the traditional way for Black to play the position. On b6, the queen supports a pawn advance to seize more space and defends the b7 bishop.

If White chooses to advance in the center with d5, a lot of exchanges will take place on the d5-square. Although White will have eased the position by exchanging two minor pieces, Black has nothing to fear in this position.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation – 7.Qe2 With 9.a4

The other main alternative to 9.Rd1, in the Old Main Line of the Classical Variation, is 9.a4. Once again, White is asking Black to decide what to do with the queenside pawns.

Black can advance the pawn to b4, giving White an excellent outpost on c4, or Black can continue developing and ignore the threat to the b5 pawn.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 b5 8.Bb3 Bb7 9.a4

Along with 9.Rd1 the direct attack on the queenside pawns with 9.a4 are the two main variations of the Old Main Line.

The most popular move for Black in this position is 9…b4. The alternative 9…Nbd7 is usually followed soon after with …b4.

The idea behind 9…Nbd7 is to wait until White places a knight on c3 and forces it to move again when attacked by the pawn. The danger with this approach is that the attack on the knight usually leads to it advancing with Nb5.

The knight can become a dangerous attacker from b5 and places pressure on the c7 and e6 squares.

9…b4 10.Nbd2 Be7 11.Nc4 0-0 12.Rd1 Qc7 13.Bd2 Nbd7

The Old Main line with 9.a4 b4 leads to a dynamic position with chances for both sides to play for a win.

White has established his knight on c4, but Black can play …a5 and ..Ba6 to exchange it and generate play on the queenside. At the moment, the knight is an excellent blockader.

Once again, we have an excellent example of how to play the position, thanks to Vishy Anand.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 7.Qe2 and 8.Bbd3

There is nothing wrong with retreating the bishop to d3 instead of b3. Playing this line over the more fashionable one might catch your opponent by surprise. The bishop on d3 might not help control 5, but it does take aim at Black’s kingside.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 b5 8.Bd3

In the Classical Variation with 7.Qe2 an alternative retreat for the bishop to b3 is d3. White's bishop on d3 takes aim at the black king and supports a kingside attack.

In this position, the most popular strategy for Black is to give White an isolated queen’s pawn after 8…cxd4 9.exd4 Be7 10.a4 bxa4 11.Rza4 0-0 12.Nc3 Bb7

Black's most popular strategy is to inflict an isolated queen's pawn on White in the Old Main Line with 8.Bd3.

An exciting approach by Black is to play …Bc6 and drive the rook away from the fourth rank. While it stays on the fourth rank, there is always the chance of White sacrificing the d-pawn with d5 and swinging the rook across to h4, where it joins the attack against Black’s king.

Another approach is to continue with …Nbd7 to keep control of the e5-square and to aid in defending the h7square with a later …Nf8. When playing against the isolated queen’s pawn with Black, do not rush to block or occupy the d5 square if it means allowing Ne5.

A white knight on e5 is a highly potent attacker, so always be ready to exchange the knight the moment it lands on e5.

In this game, Fabiano Caruana shows how to get the most out of the isolated queen’s pawn by establishing his knights on the c5 and e5 squares. When the knight lands on c5, it immediately forces Black to resign.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e4

For many years 3.Nf3 was seen as the only real third move, or else Black could get in the central thrust …e5. As chess evolved, players began to consider other alternatives, and 3.e4 was seen as a logical response.

White sets up a classic center with pawns on e4 and d4 while freeing the bishop to recapture on c4. Because White has made no attempt to stop …e5, it is unsurprising that one of Black’s best responses is 3…e5.

The move 3.e4 is also known as the Central Variation. Black must not waste any time in counterattacking in the center and breaking up White’s pawn formation.

4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.0-0 Be6 7.Bb5 Bc5 8.b4 Bb6 9.a4 a6 10.Bxc6 bxc6

In return for the weakened pawn structure, Black has the bishop pair in an open position and a lead in development. Black’s knight will soon develop to f6, allowing black to castle.

White might have a slight advantage in this position due to the better pawn structure, but the position is equal.

Levon Aronian could not prove any advantage in a titanic battle against Alexei Shirov in 2007. The players took sixty-eight moves to reach a draw in a rook and pawn endgame.

The Two Knights Variation

White attempts an outright refutation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted with the move 4.Nc3. In this variation, things get incredibly sharp if Black tries to hold on to the extra material.

This variation allows Black to try to hold onto the extra pawn, but it requires a lot of preparation and opening study.

Apart from requiring nerves of steel in positions rich with tactical counterblows, it can be argued hanging on to the material is not in the spirit of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3

The Two Knights variation with 4.Nc3 is one of the sharpest in the QGA.

If you enjoy positions rich in tactics, this could prove an excellent weapon for you when facing the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Yes, it requires study, but there are not many variations for you to learn.

The Two Knights Variation (4.Nc3) is an excellent choice for White against the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

4…a6 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 e6

With 7...e6 Black signals his intent to prioritize development over material gain.

With 7…e6, Black signals his intent to prioritize development over material gain. When defending against an aggressive line, it is always best to focus on completing the development, especially when the material advantage is only a pawn.

8.axb5 Nb6 9.bxa6 Rxa6 10.Rxa6 Bxa6 11.Be2 Be7 12.0-0 0-0

The strange-looking retreat of the knight with 8…Nb6 is a vital move for Black in the Two Knights Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. On b6, the knight defends both c4 and the rook on a8.

Black has achieved equality, but there is still life in this position, and you have every reason to play on. Equality is good for Black, and it is nice to reach a simple opening position.

These simple positions are excellent ways to train your middlegame skills. You can play against a training partner or a chess engine. Playing the other side will allow you to learn how the engine would play.

The players agreed to an early draw in the game between Thomas Ernst and Mikhail Rytshagov.

The Furman Variation – 6.Qe2

This variation was popularized by the Russian GM Semion Furman, who was Anatoly Karpov’s trainer.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.Qe2

The Furman Variation is characterized by the move 6.Qe2. White intends to play dxc5 followed by e4.

Developing the queen to e2 does more than allow White to connect the rooks later. From e2, the queen supports the e4 pawn advance. This advance is usually preceded by dxc5, or else the d4 pawn would be hanging.

6…a6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.0-0 Nc6 9.e4 b5 10.Bb3 Nd4

The knight jump to d4 is a move you should always be on the lookout for with Black in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. A good signal to start looking for it is when the white queen moves to e2 since …Nd4 will invariably force White to respond immediately.

Garry Kasparov was not afraid to play the Queen’s Gambit Accepted against extremely strong players, and such was his faith in the opening. In this game, he played it against one of this year’s Candidates Tournament participants, Teimour Radjabov.

When this game took place nineteen years ago, Radjabov was rated over 2600 Elo.

The Mannheim variation 4.Qa4+

In the Mannheim variation, White intends to recapture the pawn on c4 with the queen and play the e4 advance in one move instead of the usual two moves.

The name of the variation comes from the 1934 World Chess Championship rematch between Efim Bogoljubov and Alexander Alekhine. During the match, Bogoljubov played 4.Qa+ in round twenty-three and lost a hard-fought game.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qa4+

The Mannheim Variation with 4.Qa4 check is a quiet positional line where White hopes to disrupt Black's development.

There is nothing wrong with 4…c6, but a more ambitious try by Black is 4…Nc6.

4…Nc6 5.Nc3 Nd5 6,e4 Nb6 7.Qd1 Bg4 8.d5 Ne5 9.Bf4 Ng6 10.Bg3 e5

The black knights have switched to opposite sides of the board, but the loss of tempi is balanced by the time lost by White’s queen and material advantage. White is likely struggling to achieve full compensation for being a pawn down.

Here is the game between Bogoljubov and Alekhine from their World Chess Championship rematch.

In Conclusion

The longevity of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a testament to the solid foundation upon which it is built. Considering that this chess opening adheres to the classical chess opening principles of playing in the center, rapid development, and active piece play, it is hardly surprising that the Queen’s Gambit Accepted remains an excellent choice against 1.d4.

When attacking players like Alexander Alekhine and Garry Kasparov include the Queen’s Gambit Accepted in their opening repertoires, you know you can use it to play for a win. It is interesting to note that in his rematch with Bogoljubov, only Alekhine played the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

There is no reason to avoid playing the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. The opening has proved its worth against the strongest players in chess for over a hundred years.

No matter your skill level, you will soon be playing this opening easily and can continue to play it no matter how strong a player you become – a lifetime opening!

Remember, in chess, things are different, and familiarity breeds perfection when it comes to your opening repertoire.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Queen’s Gambit Accepted good?

Yes, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a good chess opening that is suitable for players of all levels.

What happens when Queen’s Gambit is accepted?

When the Queen’s Gambit is accepted, Black gets free and easy development, active play in the center, and easy equality in almost every variation.

Is Queen’s Gambit declined or accepted better?

The Queen’s Gambit declined might be preferred by positional players, while the Queen’s Gambit Accepted will suit players who prefer an open position with dynamic play.

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