A lifelong 1.e4 player switching to 1.d4, naïvely, I see little White can do to stop Black from achieving what seems to be an excellent position. For example, from Karpov v. Kasparov, World Championship, 1984:

[fen ""]
[title "Tarrasch Defense, Carlsbad Variation, Black to move"]
[startply "17"]
[startflipped "0"]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.Bg5 cxd4 10.Nxd4 h6 11.Be3 Re8 12.Qb3 Na5 13.Qc2 Bg4 14.Nf5 Rc8 15.Bd4 Bc5 16.Bxc5 Rxc5 17.Ne3 Be6 18.Rad1 Qc8 19.Qa4 Rd8 20.Rd3 a6 21.Rfd1 Nc4 22.Nxc4 Rxc4 23.Qa5 Rc5 24.Qb6 Rd7 25.Rd4 Qc7 26.Qxc7 Rdxc7 27.h3 h5 28.a3 g6 29.e3 Kg7 30.Kh2 Rc4 31.Bf3 b5 32.Kg2 R7c5 33.Rxc4 Rxc4 34.Rd4 Kf8 35.Be2 Rxd4 36.exd4 Ke7 37.Na2 Bc8 38.Nb4 Kd6 39.f3 Ng8 40.h4 Nh6 41.Kf2 Nf5 42.Nc2 f6 43.Bd3 g5 44.Bxf5 Bxf5 45.Ne3 Bb1 46.b4 gxh4 47.Ng2 hxg3 48.Kxg3 Ke6 49.Nf4+ Kf5 50.Nxh5 Ke6 51.Nf4+ Kd6 52.Kg4 Bc2 53.Kh5 Bd1 54.Kg6 Ke7 55.Nxd5+ Ke6 56.Nc7+ Kd7 57.Nxa6 Bxf3 58.Kxf6 Kd6 59.Kf5 Kd5 60.Kf4 Bh1 61.Ke3 Kc4 62.Nc5 Bc6 63.Nd3 Bg2 64.Ne5+ Kc3 65.Ng6 Kc4 66.Ne7 Bb7 67.Nf5 Bg2 68.Nd6+ Kb3 69.Nxb5 Ka4 70.Nd6 1-0

And yet, in this game, White wins—against Kasparov, no less.


Karpov, playing the white men, evidently grasps the virtue of 1.d4. I do not. Kasparov's defense looks sound to me. After only eight moves, Kasparov seems to have equalized. Indeed, insofar as Kasparov has the move, to me, if anything, Kasparov looks better.

Kasparov seems to have gained the initiative, at any rate. Karpov has let him gain it.


My question is not, "How does Karpov win?" A world champion like Karpov can surely win many games I could not.

My question is, "What is Karpov thinking?"

I ask because the diagrammed position (after 9. Bg5) does not look to me especially good for White; and because, to the extent to which the position is indeed not very good, I can fault no white move more than 1.d4.

Can you?


I do notice that, soon after the diagrammed position, Kasparov, Black, suffers an isolated d-pawn; but I also notice that Karpov, White, is then left to blockade his own e-pawn. Again, is not 1.d4 to blame?

Apparently, a concept regarding 1.d4 is missing to me. To me, after only eight moves, White should be doing better than this. And yet, playing White, Karpov nevertheless wins the game. Can you illuminate my naïve point of confusion?

If I am a lifelong 1.e4 player switching to 1.d4, then I would like to understand why one should wish to begin with such a potentially problematical move. At least, I would like to understand why one should, in the context of games like this one.

  • 2
    I love white’s position. I don’t see the problem.
    – Jimmy360
    Apr 18, 2018 at 6:02
  • 1
    @Jimmy360 Karpov too loves White's position. The diagrammed game suggests that you and Karpov are right whereas Kasparov and I are wrong. After all, it is Kasparov, not Karpov, who steers toward the position in question. So my question is: what virtue do you and Karpov see in the position I do not see?
    – thb
    Apr 18, 2018 at 13:37
  • For what it's worth, as Black, at USCF class C/FIDE ~1400, I find that I win more games when my opponent opens 1.d4 than any other, especially if I reply with a Nimzo/Bogo-Indian. Such consistently happy experience on the Black side of 1.d4 has not encouraged my confidence in that move. However, you have Karpov, Alekhine, Capablanca, etc., so what do I know?
    – thb
    Apr 18, 2018 at 13:48
  • 1
    It may be a matter of classic chess education. Go over the game Rubinstein vs Salwe.
    – Jimmy360
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:10
  • 1
    The position is double edged, but that is not immediately obvious to the untrained eye. In order not to duplicate my answer I will just provide this link. Pay attention to my answer, it highlights the plans for both sides quite well. Karpov played the game with usual plan in mind, while Kasparov tried to resurrect the line (it was bad for Black at that time) and failed. May 9, 2018 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


Your question(s) seem to be related to 1.d4 in general. People have nicely answered issues with the Isolated Q Pawn, so I'll touch on other topics.

Compared to 1.e4 , queen's pawn openings do not attempt to take advantage of immediate complications in the center. In Roy Lopez, White is playing against e5 right from the beginning, move after move. King's Pawn Gambit plunges into tactical wilderness right from move two.

However, with 1.d4 openings, white aims for a long-term central control WITHOUT exposing, or committing, too much. While one can consider King's pawn gambit (2.f4) as an attempt to sidetrack e5 pawn and then dominate the center with d4 later, this is usually not the permanent feature of this opening. Immediate threats and sharp lines overshadow this. "One literally forgets pawn structures in some lines!" With 1.d4 d5 2.c4 despite the symmetry things are totally different. White is not opening up their king. If dxc4 there are no immediate checks coming, or any way for black to sharpen the game. White will win the pawn back and now black has no d5 pawn. So white gets control of e4 square. The d4 pawn controls e5 and c5. This keeps Black's light bishop behind the pawn structure.

Someone made a very important observation. White has almost no weaknesses. Kasparov is such an active player, always looking for chances to take the initiative, but in the game you quoted, he fails to do much, why? Because White's position is rock solid. Compare to Sicilian, where Black does get some counterplay on c-file and queen side right out of the opening. With 1.d4 openings black is usually forced to wait. Black cannot create initiative out of thin air! As you play more 1.d4 games, you'll notice that even in the calmest positions where black seems to be safe, it is not easy to realize that equality. It is easier for white to create game in the middle game. 1.d4 games are characterized with the pawn structures, and white usually has a great one. Only two chains of pawns.

Your worrying about e4 pawn getting blocked may be coming from your having played 1.e4 for long. That pawn can be played later in the middlegame or even endgame when it looks appropriate. If you have developed all your pieces what is then the need to move or exchange a central pawn? You can keep it as an asset, say when you want to advance in center and gain more space there.

I would recommend playing and experimenting, and thinking about differences between 1.e4 and 1.d4 openings. Do not study! Play and then go to books.

1.d4 is a beautiful and strong weapon to have up your sleeve. Enjoy playing it!

  • At the moment at which I write this, two other answers have more votes but I find this answer even more informative than the others. I like and appreciate (and have upvoted) all three answers, notwithstanding. (Maybe your answer has fewer votes mainly because it is newer? Or maybe it is flawed in some way I do not grasp. I like it. Moreover, I have now played two online games following your advice. Your advice makes sense to me.)
    – thb
    Apr 19, 2018 at 11:52
  • Thanks for the feedback :) By the way, I am doing the same with Sicilian. I never had a decent opening repertoire against 1.e4 and have scored terribly low with black due to that. I decided to close my books and play instead. This way I can SEE for myself the logic behind certain set-ups.
    – user13438
    Apr 19, 2018 at 13:52

Welcome to the world of the Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP for shorts)! This is a special type of position which can be reached from quite a few openings (also with reversed colours); the Tarrasch variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined, as in your game, the 2. c3 Sicilian, the Caro Kann, to name a few.

Just like playing a violent kingside attack with lots of sacrifices (which I personally try to avoid), playing against an IQP is not for everybody. It may require a slightly cramped position and putting your pieces on unusual squares. If, like Karpov, you manage to contain the opponent's activity, exchange the right pieces while keeping the pawn blocked, you might end up winning the pawn or (like the game) use it to obtain another decisive advantage like good knight vs. bad bishop.

I'm not saying that White has a big advantage after move 9, but neither does Black; the position is balanced with chances for both sides. Also, this is far from the only position which can arise from 1. d4. I bet that you, playing 1. e4, have some positions you try to avoid as well.

  • Your answer is informative and appreciated, so I have just one question. You observe that "this is far from the only position which can arise from 1.d4." I observe however that Black gets to choose the position, more or less. After opening 1.d4, White seems to have relatively little say in the matter. After 1.d4, if Black wishes to reach the Carlsbad position, then White's options to steer the position elsewhere seem limited.
    – thb
    Apr 18, 2018 at 13:27
  • 2
    @thb : this is somewhat true, but it might be true after 1.e4 as well. If white plays 1.d4 but not the Carlsbad, Classical Queen's Gambit (not the exchange variation), Catalan Opening, London system, Colle/Koltanovsky opening and Torre attack are all possible.
    – Evargalo
    Apr 18, 2018 at 14:18
  • 1
    Since reading your advice, I have played Queen's Gambit 14 times online at normal time control against opponents about FIDE 1200 (Lichess 1550) strength. Before your advice, I had seen various Queen's Gambit positions but was unable to interpret or classify them. As you say, I now see the IQP as a theme, affording a possible endgame advantage. Even in midgame, an opponent's IQP is so exposed in the center that, besides capturing it outright, one can also leverage combinations off it; or, if not, then one can at least let it block enemy movement through the center. Most interesting.
    – thb
    Apr 30, 2018 at 21:27

The position after move 9 is the main tabya of the Tarrasch defense. Your feeling that Black is better, or even that he has egalized, is imprecise : White has no weakness, active pieces, and Black's isolani is a long term target. The position is playable for both sides, its evaluation somewhere in between = and +=.

Actually, Kasparov himself stopped playing the Tarrasch after this world championship match ! But of course, this says more about his taste and style than about the quality of the opening itself: others, like Illescas, have made great use of this variation since.

If you want to dig further into the theory of this opening, there are lots of books and DVD on the theme. But I think you will do better to first get familiar with typical 1.d4 games. This Karpov-Kasparov game is an excellent one, and you can easily find it with comments by each of the players (in My Sister Caissa by Karpov or in Dua Matcha and My Great Predecessors : Karpov by Kasparov, also in Kasparov by Nikitin). Analysing commented games is the best way to develop your understanding of an opening and to get a feeling for your new repertoire.

  • 1
    Since reading your advice, I have played Queen's Gambit 14 times online at normal time control against opponents about FIDE 1200 (Lichess 1550) strength. Illuminated by your advice, these games begin to show me some of the themes peculiar to Queen's Gambit-type games. Before your advice, I had seen various Queen's Gambit positions but was unable to interpret or classify them. In the short term, playing 1.d4 seems to have reduced my playing strength by about 150 points (indeed, I now win more easily with the black pieces), but 1.d4 is interesting. The advice is appreciated.
    – thb
    Apr 30, 2018 at 21:17

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