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Since my last post I've successfully learned how to counter the wayward queen attack, and now I've run into an interesting opening that I don't immediately lose to, but I feel I can play against better.

Typically as white I like to play the Queens Gambit. Being still new I stick to what I know. A VERY VERY common opening for black against the queens gambit in the 700-900 range (on chess.com) seems to be the Horowitz Defense.

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "6"]

1. d4 e6

Generally, I tend to continue with the queens gambit, moving 2. c4. My justification being an early deployment of his dark bishop would give check but theres plenty of (safe) ways to mitigate it and continue to develop my pieces. However, I feel there's strategy here I don't see. I haven't searched chessbase yet (will do that tomorrow) but I don't usually see this opening in club games.

Is there a better counter to it than 2. c4, are there specific master games I can study?

thank you!

  • 2
    Related question from Black’s POV. – Glorfindel Sep 22 '17 at 5:58
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    Both sides have made one simple and useful developing move. Any further simple and useful moves will keep the game in known terrritory.. There is a wide choice, apart from 2. c4. For example 2.e4, 2.Nf3, 2. Nc3, 2. g3, 2.e3. 2.f4, 3. Bf4,etc. Basically Black is letting you play almost whatever you want to play. – Philip Roe Sep 22 '17 at 7:04
  • I was not familiar with 'Horowitz-Defense' what made me read this post. After I saw the full line which is 1. d4 e6 I was pretty sure you missed most of the variation, haha! Personally I don't really like it, what kind of analysis can we do at move 2? As a beginner you should.n't really be concerned about openings that much. Anyway you got a very nice answer from Evergalo below – Pijotrek Jul 26 '18 at 10:03
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Since you are playing the Queen Gambit, 2.c4 is indeed the most logical way to continue. The main answers, 2...d5 and 2...Nf6, should fit in your repertoire anyway. The alternative is to go for 2.Nf3 first.

Move order finesses

Black's move order bears three subtelties:

  • You are offered a choice to switch to a French opening with 2.e4. This is probably your opponent's secret hope and since you are a 1.d4 player, you will probably not want to go down that road even though 2.e4 is of course a good move - unless you are fond of playing against the French defense.

  • After 2.c4, Black can bring the game to original territory with 2...Bb4+. This is a decent line, but not overly dangerous, and you can handle it with general rules (develop, avoid doubled pawns, castle...) if reaching an equal position suits you. Or you can learn a bit of theory about it, although at 700-900 level there are a lot of more important stuff for you to study. If you want to avoid it altogether, you can start with 2.Nf3. Then 2...d5 3.c4 is back to QGD, with an early Nf3, which might or might not suit you depending on your favorite line of Queen Gambit. Note that 3...Bb4+ remains a decent option for Black.

  • Dutch players often start with 1...e6 to provoque 2.c4 and reduce their opponent choice: after 1.d4 f5 White often goes 2.g3 or 2.Nf3 and plays c4 only a few moves later, or even plays subvariations like 2.Bg5 or 2.e4, but after 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 those options are lost. If you play an early 2.c4 against the Dutch anyway, you won't mind those shenanigans at all, otherwise 2.Nf3 might once again be the solution.

Finally, some Black players also intend 2...b6 or other rare moves you should not be too worried about.

Conclusion

1...e6 is a decent move that plans to reach normal positions while limiting your choice. Those move-order subtelties are interesting when building your repertoire, yet they should not worry you too much until you reach a level around 1800 or so.

The natural alternative for a Queen's Gambit player is between 2.c4 and 2.Nf3; both have pluses and minuses. If it fits your usual way of playing in the QGD, go for 2.Nf3 first before 3.c4 and go for standard, QGD-like development: that avoids 2...Bb4+ tricks and requires less specific work on opening lines that shouldn't be your biggest concern right now.

  • What do you think about 2. e4? – user14142 Sep 22 '17 at 13:29
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    @rec : 2.e4 is obviously a good move, it will land you in French defense territory. Very fine if you like this opening, but it not the choice of most 1.d4 players. – Evargalo Sep 22 '17 at 13:32
  • I am not very well versed in these openings, but is 1. d4 e6 2. c4 c5 also an idea for black to reach some Benoni? Can white avoid such options with a different move order? (At least 2. e4 c5 would seemingly make less sense for black, and avoid a Benoni.) – TMM Sep 22 '17 at 14:11
  • Well, when you play 1.d4 it is hard to avoid Benoni altogether. Even 1...c5 is possible. The move order 1...e6 and 2...c5 is rare, I see no advantage in it compared to the standard 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6. If you want to avoid Benonis, you can reach an English type of position after 1.d4 e6 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3, when Black will take on d4 sooner or later, or play 3...c5 reaching a Tarrasch (which is no problem for a queen's gambit player). – Evargalo Sep 22 '17 at 14:43
  • Black can also employ 2...b6 for an Owen's defence. 1...e6 also dodges the Trompowsky. – Ywapom Sep 22 '17 at 18:28
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If you are happy playing the white side of a French Defence then I would play e4. If black is playing e6 because he wants to avoid some white QGD lines then this could make him unhappy.

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    I think most players using the 1...e6 move order are French aficionadoes, and few White players starting with 1.d4 will enjoy facing it. – Evargalo Sep 22 '17 at 12:08
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    @OlivierPucher Starting with e6 is a good way of getting a Nimzo or a safer Dutch. It is usually played as a move order device. – Brian Towers Sep 22 '17 at 12:42
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    BrianTowers : Absolutely. But this move order device is almost exclusively used by people who are not afraid of playing the Black side of a French defense... Most of them will play 1...e6 regardless of White's first move. – Evargalo Sep 22 '17 at 12:53

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