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My favorite opening is the Queen's Gambit Declined, and I will often reach positions like this

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 c6 5. Nc3 Be7 6. Bd2 O-O 7. c5

Where I decide to play c5 after my rook is safe. If black goes after the c5 pawn with their pawns then I defend it with mine, and when I run this with Stockfish the pawn is indeed not captured.

The thing is, this move is generally always classified as an "inaccuracy" or "good move", but never as "excellent" or "best". To me, it feels like this move severely cramps black's dark-squared bishop as well as just gaining me a lot of space and control on the Queen's side.

In general, why is playing c5 as white in the Queen's Gambit Declined not a good idea? As black, how should I go about defending against this move?

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    Yes, White is not in trouble and it does cramp Black's bishop, but the move is commital, you cannot move that pawn back. It removes many options from the game and now Black has a target. Play on the queenside might follow after undermining the c5 pawn with 7...b6 8. b4 a5 8. a3 and then some Black has moves like...Ba6, Nbd7, Qc7 and Rfb8. Nothing overwhelming and White has responses, if you like this type of game feel free to play it. In my opinion Black got play for free. – B.Swan Dec 24 '20 at 19:49
  • @B.Swan If the pressure on the c5 pawn gets too strong, what is to stop white from taking on b6 and making all the turns that black spent putting pressure on the c5 pawn useless? – Milo Moses Dec 24 '20 at 19:54
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    Nothing, but your c-pawn will have regrets about it's life : - ( – B.Swan Dec 25 '20 at 4:34
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    And if Black can take back with the a pawn you've swapped a centre pawn for one on the flanks, not normally a great idea. And because black owns c5 black's c pawn will soon find a nice home there. – Ian Bush Dec 25 '20 at 9:05
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In most cases White doesn't want to play c5 in such positions because it takes the pressure of the black center. Yes, it cramps the black queen side a bit but it allows Black to play e5 at some point and break the center instead, freeing their c8 bishop and more. With the white pawn on c4 that is more difficult, sometimes d5 may just be hanging after e5 and even if not White can take on e5 and d5 to give Black an isolated queens pawn with not much compensation. After c5 Black has no such problems and can freely play e5, banking on a well defended d5. If anything it is White then who has to be careful, the d4 might become slightly weak, or after a capture on e5 the c5 might get into trouble later.

Of course as with everything it depends on the position. E.g. if Black already committed to a6 like in a Chebanenko Slav then c5 may be a good move as then b6 really is quite weak.

(also I should give a disclaimer that I'm not a d4 player so take this with a grain of salt)

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  • Thank you for this advice! I'll take these positional ques into mind when playing or not playing c5 in the future. – Milo Moses Dec 25 '20 at 20:24

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