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I have played Queen's Gambit and most players my level choose Accepted and then try to hold onto their pawn. After I play 3. e3, while the light-square bishop has c4 has an obvious target, I have difficulty knowing what to do with my dark-squared bishop which is now blocked in.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3

Does it go to the center of the pawn structure at d2? I've followed several of the lines through and it's not clear to me if the bishop really belongs on the queenside after a and b pawns are pushed, or eventually the e pawn is pushed on the kingside and the bishop is freed.

If instead 3. e4 is played, which strikes in the center immediately, no such issue with the bishop arises.

2 Answers 2

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In the e3 lines the bishop helps on the queenside which is nice if Black tries to hold the pawn. White's goals are:

  • Breakup Black's queenside pawns
  • Get a lead in development as Black will be making too many pawn moves

Here is an example of Black trying to hold on tight to the extra pawn. Note: I always play 3. Nf3 daring Black to try to hold the pawn. There is no hurry to get it back.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 c6 4. e3 Be6 5. Qc2 b5 6. b3 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 cxb3 8. Qb2 Qc7 9. Nc3 bxa2 10. d5

I would much prefer the White side here with a lead in development and Black queenside coming apart.

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  • So you say leave the bishop there and it'll naturally find use?
    – qwr
    Aug 2, 2022 at 0:39
  • I actually blundered a game where I wasn't careful and black actually got two connected pawns storming down my queenside. To prevent this I thought a4 was the right defensive move before b5. I'll have to check with engine
    – qwr
    Aug 2, 2022 at 0:42
  • @qwr look at all the pieces. Which is better White's Dark Squared Bishop or Blacks? Aug 2, 2022 at 1:44
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    @qwr a4 is often a good move to breakup black's pawns. If you post a game I can give more specific tactical advice. I used to lose this sometimes to Black's pawn storms, now that doesn't happen. Focus on piece development better than your opponent and tactics will go your way. Aug 2, 2022 at 1:48
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    @MichaelWest a4 is a good move for breaking up the pawns but b3 is also very powerful and i found that people overlook that one a lot more
    – brekker
    Aug 2, 2022 at 3:40
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If Black just develops passively, then eventually (perhaps after castling), you will try to push e4. This gives the bishop the option of developing along the c1-h6 diagonal. However, Black commonly solves this problem for you, by attacking the centre with 2...e5 followed by ...exd4 -- or, by playing 2...Nf6, and at some point ...c5 (often followed by ...cxd4 soon). This leads to an isolated pawn situation after exchanging on d4 (...exd4 exd4, or ...cxd4 exd4), after which the diagonal is opened for your bishop.

As for 3.e4, it's also a perfectly playable line, but the drawback of it (compared to 3.e3) is that Black can again play 3...e5, but now your d4-pawn isn't supported by your e-pawn. The main line now runs 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4, with an interesting game.

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