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I played this game a few days ago with a friend of mine which is quite stronger than me. I also report here the position after 6.Qf3 to clarify a little bit more, in the game I was white:

[title "Me - My Friend"]
[fen "rnbqkbnr/2p2ppp/p3p3/1p6/2pP1B2/2N1PQ2/PP3PPP/R3KBNR b KQkq - 1 6"]

I was wondering why the move 6.Qf3 in the game is so bad, indeed I noticed that Stockfish's evaluation on lichess goes from -0.2 to -1.3 after black's response Ra7.

I know that is rarely a good idea to move your queen before you've developed all your minor pieces, but in this case I felt it could be not too bad. My decision was based on the contents of a course on evaluation I recently saw; in the course the teacher said that if you have better pieces activity, then you most likely have a dynamic advantage and, when you have such type of advantage, is generally a good idea to try to exploit fast, using the fact that your pieces are temporarily more "strong" and "powerful". The usual way to exploit such an advantage is to try to get even more activity/square's control with your pieces and make constant threats, possibly with tempos.

So i thought that since he was far behind in development and more or less none of his pieces was really playing, I had a dynamic advantage (given by my lead in development and my higher pieces activity), thus decided to put even more pressure with my queen, also blocking him to play either Nf6 or Bb7, slowing it down further in development.

I know that Qf3 takes the f3 square away from my Ng1, but I decided it wouldn't be so bad...

Where am I doing wrong here?

4 Answers 4

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The drastic change in evaluation isn't that much about the queen misplaced on f3 but rather about the necessity to play a4 as soon as possible.

If you go 6.a4 right now, Black can't reply with ...c6 as 7.axb5 cxb5 8.Nxb5 would follow. So you're forcing 6...b4 to be played and now your light-squared bishop has gone from having nothing to do to threatenning the weak c4 pawn.

The position is still fairly playable for Black because you'll now have to retreat with your c3 knight back into b1 (so you've basically lost two tempi developping and then un-developping it).

All things being said, it looks like White scores well even with 6.Qf3, so it's fair to assume that Black's position is uncomfortable to play even when holding the extra pawn.

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  • White's relative success with 6.Qf3 may be due to it only showing up at lower levels, and hence players on the black side may not understand how to properly handle the inaccuracy. Therefore I think one should be cautious with assuming that the position is more uncomfortable for black to play than for white...
    – Scounged
    Jun 28, 2023 at 10:09
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As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, the correct move is 6.a4. This move is awkward for black to face. White is threatening to just take the pawn on b5, and the only good way for black to defend it is to advance it. However, this leads to another problem for black, as the pawn on c4 is now weak! In the long run, black will have to face many difficult dilemmas for taking the pawn on c4, which is what gives white compensation for the pawn in the first place.

Let us now, in contrast, consider your move. 6.Qf3 is really easy to deal with for black. If black moves their rook to a7, there is no follow-up threat and white has to figure something else out. Moreover, with a rook on a7, black can play ...Bb7 next, forcing white's queen back and taking over the initiative (a.k.a the only thing that white has to compensate for being a pawn down).

When you have the initiative you shouldn't jump on the possibility to make random threats if they are easy to defend against, you should try to make threats that are awkward to deal with. You write that you wanted to "put even more pressure" on black's position with your queen, but it seems like you're thinking about this in too abstract terms, which is a common trend I've seen with novice players who started as adults. I think it has to do with a desire to "understand" the game on a more conceptual level, but the problem is that such an lofty and abstract understanding cannot be achieved before you have a fundamental and practical understanding at an intuitive level first.

I recommend that you try to answer the following question: What is the concrete nature of the "pressure" you're applying with 6.Qf3? In other words, what specific flaw with black's setup is highlighted and made more of a problem for black after 6.Qf3? It is important that you try and make the argument precise, and that you understand exactly what it means in the context of the specific position at hand. Otherwise it's just fluff that means nothing in an actual game. Furthermore, if you apply this more concrete reasoning to your game it will make learning quicker, as it makes it easier for stronger players to help you get a better understanding of the game.

You could also try and give a concrete answer to what "pressure" 6.a4 is putting on black's position. In fact, I think it could help you immensely in learning how to play the QGA properly if you do, as it's an absolutely essential component of the entire opening.

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The reason is simple (credits to FM Dr. Hauke Reddmann pointing it out in a comment):

You are down a pawn without compensation!

Black took a pawn that you won't get back after 6.Qf3 and you don't even quickly get a strong center in return, as you would in some other variations of the QGA and the Slav.

Here is some "proof" that it really is because you are a pawn down:

       [FEN "rnbqkbnr/2p2ppp/p3p3/1p6/2pP1B2/2N1P3/PPP2PPP/R2QKBNR w KQkq - 1 6"]

Disregarding the best move a4 (which wins a pawn, which is why it is your only on move 6 in your game), this position where I added back your missing c pawn, the move d5 is evaluated with +0.8 and the move Be2 is evaluated with +0.5.

You already commited a mistake in the opening at move 4. After 3. ..a6 you should play 4. cxd4 (as has happened in almost all master games in the db, avoiding the issues you experienced with the pawn). You didn't appreciate, that 3. ..a6 has some interesting ideas (just like ..c6). If Black had played the more frequent move 3. ..Be7, Bf4 would've been a great move.

However, after 3. ..a6 4. Bf4, White already has to play very precise to even keep equality where you have to find multiple only moves in a row after Black's best response which is not hard to find for Black! It is logical that you wanted to get the bishop out, before playing d3 to not lock it behind the pawn chain. Even playing 4. d3 is better than getting the bishop out though, because c4 is defended and can be taken back by the bishop.

The only move that keeps equality for White is 6. a4, because it is the only move that wins the pawn back (and it is thematic not only for these variations but also in the Slav, so you should remember it): If Black doesn't want you to take twice on b5, he can only advance it to b4, after which the Black pawn on c4 is hanging (attacked by the bishop) and cannot be saved.

in the course the teacher said that if you have better pieces activity, then you most likely have a dynamic advantage and, when you have such type of advantage, is generally a good idea to try to exploit fast, using the fact that your pieces are temporarily more "strong" and "powerful". The usual way to exploit such an advantage is to try to get even more activity/square's control with your pieces and make constant threats, possibly with tempos.

Positionally and logically, your moves make a lot of sense: getting the bishop out before closing the pawn chain, getting the Queen out with a tempo. However, chess is a very concrete game and we don't get away with schematic thinking.

IM Andras Toth would probably phrase it "don't just be a great story teller - if your decisions are not backed by concrete variations, you're not playing chess".

You chose to go for a variation where you sacrificed a pawn for activity (something very concrete), without actually calculating and checking how your initiative works out concretely. Which weakness exactly will you attack? How exactly are you going to bring the other pieces into the attack? What does the Queen do on f3 exactly (you will need another move to bring it to g3!)? How many moves do you need to bring your pieces on good attacking positions if you had "free moves" (always considering that your opponent can develop, too!)? With every move, your relative development advantage gets reduced (4-1, 5-2, 6-3,..). It seems that you didn't calculate deep enough, but that you hoped that you would get enough activity.

I know that Qf3 takes the f3 square away from my Ng1, but I decided it wouldn't be so bad...

Qf3 isn't much worse than Be2 or Nf3, but consider that you still don't have enough pieces in play to generate a dangerous attack. It is very important to 'bring all the guys to the party'. Your minor pieces have priority, as they're less mobile and less valuable than the queen. Your queen has multiple ways to get out, however the enemy pawn on c4 restricts you (your bishop can only get out via e2), so you need a good plan for how to get your pieces out quickly. 6. Qf3 is somewhat a one-mover, as after you gain a tempo on the rook, the queen likely needs to move again, costing you another move. You only 'net gain' a tempo if you can move the queen to a good square with another tempo.

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The f3 square is not at all awkward for the queen and the move does serve a purpose: attacks a hanging rook that cannot be defended with the seemingly natural ... Nc6. The reason why a human would likely recommend Ra7 is to prepare Bb7, developing the bishop to a powerful diagonal with a tempo on the queen. At a very deep depth on my CPU though, Stockfish 15 NNUE recommends c6, enforcing the b5 pawn and taking away the sting of the natural ...a4 attacking the strong dark squared pawn chain.

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    Addendum: If you don't get the pawn back, like it always happens to me when I try the QGA, you, eh, are a pawn down, duh :-) Thus, as Flynn says, a timed a4. Qf3 does nothing to get the pawn back (or at least some other plan like e4 to get a strong center). Jun 28, 2023 at 6:53
  • ...Ra7 would give White another chance to play a4!
    – David
    Jun 28, 2023 at 11:46

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