When white opens 1.d4, 2.c4, sometimes black moves at some point d5 and then c5, resulting in a square of 4 pawns. This is confusing to me. Depending on the exact opening, the most played move for white is either moving a knight (if it hasn't already been moved), take with the c-pawn, take with the d-pawn, or e3. Can somebody shed some light on this to me?

Some examples with the most usual response by white:

QGD: Tarrasch

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5

QGD: Semi-Tarrasch

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 

Austrian Defence

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3

Grunfeld 3 knights

[FEN ""]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 c5 6.dxc5 

closed as too broad by Phonon, Marco, Herb Wolfe, Brian Towers, Glorfindel Apr 10 at 15:22

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    What, exactly, is your question? Do you want to know possible moves/strategies for White in each situation? Depending on your preferred style (especially if you like playing with or against an IQP), a lot of moves are playable. – Glorfindel Sep 15 '16 at 9:56
  • My question is, why white prefers different moves in each opening, if the positions are so similar? Is there something that I have to look for, so it helps me memorize the different moves in the different positions? It is not intuitive to me, maybe because 4 pawns forming a square is not something usual in chess at all. – user3671618 Sep 15 '16 at 10:58
  • I suggest you edit your post to add some more concrete questions, like the ones you ask here. Regarding those, the moves preferred highly depend on the strategy of the players (and what's their aim) which is a completely independent matter, and in the opening with general principles you should be more than fine (maybe the only exception being if you're playing a rather high rated player), you don't have to strive to memorize every single position. But a crucial thing that's common in almost all queen pawn openings is the "c5" break, which maybe is the answer to all your doubts. – Pablo S. Ocal Sep 15 '16 at 19:03
  • @user3671618 "memorize" is the last thing you need to do to play these positions. What you mostly need is to understand isolated d-pawn positions – David Apr 10 at 11:08

My question is, why white prefers different moves in each opening, if the positions are so similar?

In all of the openings you post, White has the option to play cxd5, either in place of a previous move, or in the future:

  1. QGD Tarrassch vs. Semi-Tarrasch: in the Semi-Tarrasch, white would prefer for Balck to play ...dxc4, in which White's bishop can move to c4 without loss of time with Bxc4. But this doesn't rule out White playing cxd5 sometime in the future
  2. Austrian defence: Wikipedia actually gives 3. cxd5 as the mainline
  3. Grunfeld 3 knights: White can play cxd5 instead of dxc5, but it is riskier

So why the divergence?

  1. There are stylistic factors at play, as highlighted in bullets 1 & 2. The Semi-Tarrasch isn't any better or worse than the Tarrasch, it just is different
  2. Openings are developed over many games. In the Grunfeld 3 knights, dxc5 gives a slightly more comfortable game for White than cxd5

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