This is the so called Janowski variation of the QGD is the following

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "6"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 a6

It's quite rare, even if sometimes played at top level.

White usually plays cxd5 (right away or after Nf3). Then, the bishop usually comes to f4 (in this case, Black tries to exchange its dark-squared bishop with Bd6), sometimes g5 which may be the most interesting.

What would be the plan for White? This type of position tends to be dull, and I'd like to gain a small edge or a way to spice it up at least, avoiding to trade the whole board after 12 moves.

  • One idea of an early cxd5 is telling black "what's the point of your a6 move now?", claiming you have won a tempo compared to main lines. Another interesting option (perhaps in a few moves) is to play c4-c5, again claiming that a6 is a bad move, as after c5 b6 cxb6 black would like to play axb6, but can't anymore. – TMM Sep 21 '17 at 10:59
  • A few days ago Simon Williams played a game on Chess.com TV with this c5 idea: see here. After black's ...b6 he slightly misplayed the position by taking on b6, when Nxe4 and Bd3 (or Ne5 if dxe4) would have kept an edge for white. – TMM Sep 21 '17 at 11:05

Indeed, the line is relatively rare, but the move 3....a6 seems to become more and more popular the last couple of years. Even Magnus Carlsen has played it twice in blitz recently, against Aronian and Grischuk.

The move 4.cxd5 is the most popular move and arguably the only way to fight for an advantage. After 4.Nf3, black has the choice to transpose to a favorable version of the QGA by 4....dxc4. As the knight is already on c3, black avoided the most critical lines of the QGA.

After 4.cxd5 exd5, in Mamedyarov-Vallejo Pons, white went for the aggressive 5.Nf3 c6 6.e4!? dxe4 7.Ng5 Be7 8.Bc4. Now, 8....Bxg5 would be a mistake as white regains the piece by 9.Qh5, with a strong initiative. Instead, black played 8....Nh6, defended correctly after 9.Ngxe5 Nf5 and made a draw.

Another try to spice up the game is 5.Qb3!?, which was played recently by the Russian top GMs Nepomniachtchi, Matlakov, Vitiugov and Svidler. After the logical 5....c6, white obtains a dangerous initiative after 6.e4 dxe4 7.Bc4 Qe7 8.a4! (to prevent ...b5), which was played by Svidler. In the three other games, after 5.Qb3, black continued with 5....Nc6. After 6.Nf3 Bb4 7.Bf4, white is probably slightly better, as the black knight on c6 is somewhat misplaced.

      [StartPly "6"]

      [FEN ""]
      1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.cxd5 (4.Nf3 dxc4) exd5 5.Qb3 (5.Nf3 c6 6.e4 dxe4 7.Ng5 Be7 8.Bc4 Nh6 (8...Bxg5 9.Qh5) 9.Ngxe4 Nf5) 5...Nc6 (5...c6 6.e4 dxe4 7.Bc4 Qe7 8.a4) 6.Nf3 Bb4 7.Bf4


The plan you choose should not be too different than against other QGD positions. If you normally play cxd5 and go for a minority attack, it is still valid. Note, in some of those lines Black likes to play a5, which now loses a tempo.
If you want to spice it up try 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Qb3 c6 6.e4!? -- see Schlechter vs. Janowski 1902 (1-0) for ideas.

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