I've recently started to become interested in the exchange Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) from the white side:

[fen ""]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5

Thematically speaking it's very enjoyable to play. The problem I'm noticing in constructing my repertoire is that black has a couple of move-order tricks up his sleeve to completely avoid this. For one, there's the Alatortsev Variation (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7), however white still has several interesting lines here after 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 with some highly dynamic Carlsbad structures. The second move order trick however seems a bit trickier to deal with:

[fen ""]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6

It seems to me as though this essentially forces white to choose between accepting the possibility of a main line QGD (after 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3) or the possibility of a Nimzo-Indian if white tries 3.Nc3 in hopes of achieving the exchange variation:

[fen ""]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4

While I do have some preparation against the Queen's Indian and Bogo-Indian Defenses, the problem here is that this move order seems to force me to study an entirely new system: either the main line QGD (with its endless amount of theory) or the Nimzo-Indian (also very heavy in terms of theory).

So my question is the following: do advocates of the exchange QGD recommend to book up in main lines of the QGD, to book up in the Nimzo-Indian, or to head in a completely different direction with something like 3.g3 (heading into the Catalan, also a very theoretical opening)? Which of those (and which variations therein) are most likely to have thematically similar play as the QGD exchange?


Indeed, the Exchange QGD and a system against the Queen's Indian do not blend very well.

In his famous repertoire series on 1.d4, GM Avrukh opts for the Catalan, using the move orders 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 and 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3. For more information, see Volume 1A (published in 2015) and Volume 1B (published in 2016).

Instead, the repertoire presented by GM Schandorff in "Playing 1.d4" (published in 2012) might be more to your taste. In the volume about the Queen's Gambit, he discusses the Exchange QGD. In the volume about the Indian Defences, the author recommends to play 4.e3 against the Nimzo-Indian.

  • Nice answer, thanks! Just to check, when you say "the Exchange QGD and a system against the Queen's Indian do not blend very well", did you really mean QID, or Nimzo-Indian? I'm asking as in my case, while I'm not a fan of playing the QID, I do have some preparation already done against it, but in the Nimzo-Indian I have no preparation currently, hence why avoiding it entirely would be a plus (unless of course there are lines of the Nimzo-Indian which might be to my taste). – ATLPoly Jan 2 at 21:50
  • 1
    You're welcome! Yes, indeed, I mean the QID. If I understand correctly, you prepared something against 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6, from white's perspective. However, the early Nf3 often gives black a good version of the Exchange QDG, in case white tries to transpose somehow after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5. For example, after 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 c6, black has the idea to play Bf5 and reach an equal position. On the other hand, if you really like this type of position, you can still go for it as white. – Maxwell86 Jan 3 at 6:49

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