INTRODUCTION AND RELEVANT INFORMATION:
Exchange variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined can be reached via many move orders so there is no point in posting theoretical lines here since they will not fit ( they are too broad ). The best way to answer this question is to actually explain how to play positions that arise. To start explaining this line, the below pawn structure must be considered :
[Title "Typical pawn structure"]
[fen "8/pp3ppp/2p5/3p4/3P4/4P3/PP3PPP/8 w - - 0 1"]
Central formation is fixed, so pawn breaks must be considered in order to evaluate which player stands better, if any.
Black has only one pawn break ->
...c5 but that will leave him with isolated
d-pawn. Owner of such pawn stands weaker in pure pawn ending but in middlegame has good compensation in view of active piece play and pressure.
Black can not obtain satisfying position with the isolated
d-pawn because of the following:
White is usually ahead in development;
White has strong pressure on
White easily exchanges pieces which reduces Black’s attacking chances;
As for White, he has central pawn break
e4 that might leave him with isolated
d-pawn, but unlike Black, in some lines he can actually obtain fully satisfactory position. Still, most of the time playing with isolated pawn is not very rewarding for White.
Since both sides have no satisfactory breaks in the center, we need to consider play on wings.
White absolutely dominates in this aspect. Practice has seen White successfully operating on queenside ( minority attack ) and on kingside (
f4 push ). Black usually can’t use his queenside pawn majority effectively, since he will create a backward pawn on
c6 which usually costs him the game.
Since he can’t strike in the center and queenside, Black must seek chances on kingside. Since pawn storm with
...f5 fails, Black tried with piece attack against opposing king which gave decent results. White started to play slowly and after preventing the kingside attack went on to continue with his plans.
That is why Black adopted the following plan : Black keeps his pieces centralized, and positioned to counter/prevent opponent’s action. He will try to generate kingside play by attacking there with pieces first. After White makes a pawn move with pawns in front of his king, Black launches pawn storm.
The last nuance, that is very important, is the position of the White’s king knight. If posted on
f3, lines are harmless for Black, but if on
e2 then Black will defend for a long time.
Now is the time to move on the next section that explains concrete plans for both sides.
1. Central breakthrough;
2. Kingside initiative with
3. Queenside initiative-minority attack;
4. Opposite-side castling;
5. Short Endgame;
6. Alatortsev variation;
Nf3 this is not dangerous for Black. As soon as White plays
Rae1 with the idea of
e4, Black responds with
...Ne4! and gets equal position:
[Title "Black equalizes with White knight on f3"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. Qc2 Be7 7. e3 O-O 8. Bd3 Nbd7 9. Nf3 Re8 10. O-O Nf8 11. Rae1 Ne4!
Ne2 things are critical for Black. Black’s main idea is to play
...c5! in order to further weaken dark squares in White camp, especially
a7-g1 diagonal. Knight on
f6 is rerouted to
The reason why this sub-variation is not a mainline is because Black successfully uses various move orders to dodge it. So far nobody found a solid equalizer, and White enjoys permanent, but slight, advantage. Since there is no solid equalizer, the only thing I can recommend is to study most up-to-date literature on this subject. I recommend you Lars Schandorff-Playing the Queens Gambit (2012).
2.Kingside initiative with
This plan is played with
Nf3 setup. The point is to restrict Black’s white bishop and maintain space advantage. Game Petrosian-Beliavsky, USSR championship 1983 is the first time this plan was tried ( if I am not mistaken ). Usually Black plays
...f6 and posts bishop to
f7, achieving solid position with equal chances.
3.Queenside initiative-minority attack;
This plan is good only with
Ne2 it fails.
White plans to play
b4-b5-bxc6 to create backward pawn on
c6 and isolated
a-pawn. Then he will use the
c-file to put pressure on
c6 and will eventually capture the
c6 pawn. The ideal pawn structure for White is shown in following diagram:
[Title "Minority attack pawn structure"]
[fen "8/p4ppp/2p5/3p4/3P4/4P3/P4PPP/8 w - - 0 1"]
Since Black is too late with
...f5 counterplay he concentrates on exchanging bishops ( positions with "knights-only" are good for Black; Black posts a knight on
d6 where it controls
b5+c4+e4+f5 squares; good illustrative game is Bobotsov-Petrosian,Lugano 1968 ).
In order to exchange white bishop Black tried maneuver
Nf8-e6-g7-Bf5 and to exchange black bishop he usually plays
...Ne4 at some point. Practice showed that plan with
Nf8-e6-g7-Bf5 is too slow ( but might be valid if White’s action is slow ), so Black turned his attention to other possibilities.
In practice, plan with
..a5 proved best. Since White will play
a3 in order to achieve
b4 Black can slow down minority attack by simply ignoring it for a moment because
a3 pawn will hang, or can exchange on
b4 ( which will reduce the number of weak pawns he must defend -> this idea can be implemented with
...a6 as well, since both moves usually lead to the same position after Black exchanges with
...axb4 ) and then play
...b5! to stop minority attack.
...c6 pawn will be shielded by a knight on
...c4 and Black will put pressure on
b4 pawn with queen and rook. He will also posses
a-file, which will give him sufficient counterplay. Black must prevent
e4 push and must not allow
Ne5 in order for this plan to work.
An important note: If White exchanged black bishop for
...Nf6 ( and you have played
...a6 ) then after White plays
b5 you may want to play
...a5! to prevent
Nc3 to reach strong
c5 square. Black bishop must go to
Another plan Black has is to respond on
....cxb5+...a5! followed by
b6 square must be blocked ) which will create passed pawn on the
a-file. This is not common to see, but sometimes is the only way to play so I am mentioning it.
The last plan is probably the best, and can be combined with others: Black will respond on
c5!. Although he will have isolated pawn, he will be able to harass White’s
b5 pawn, and after
c3 knight will be under pressure, and White queen can be subjected to annoying pin as well.
[Title "Plan with ...a5, a3 pawn hangs"]
[fen "r1bqrnk1/1p2bppp/2p2n2/p2p2B1/3P4/P1NBPN2/1PQ2PPP/1R3RK1 w - - 0 1"]
1.b4 Bd6! 2.b5 Bxa3 3.bxc6 bxc6
It will be harder for White to attack
a-pawn since his pieces are no t well posted for that task. Black can easily defend the
a-pawn since his pieces are flexibly posted. Being temporarily a pawn up, Black can return one pawn in order to favorably simplify the position.
[Title "Plan with ...a5, blocking b5"]
[fen "r3r1k1/1p1nqp1p/2pn2p1/p2p4/3P4/P1NQPN2/1P3PPP/1R3RK1 w - - 0 1"]
1.b4 axb4 2.axb4 b5
Black will post a knight on
c4, rook goes to
a3. God example is this game. This plan can be achieved also with
1....a6 2.b4 b5, with the same rules applying. You will have to choose a proper moment to open
[Title "Stopping Nc5 after Bxf6"]
[fen "4r3/pp2bppp/2p2n2/3p2B1/1P1P4/2N1P3/P4PPP/1R6 w - - 0 1"]
1.Bxf6 Bxf6 2.a4 a6! 3.b5 a5! 4.bxc6 bxc6
This idea is very important once White exchanges black bishop for your knight. In positions with
...a6, you must not allow
[Title "Passed a-pawn"]
[fen "r7/1p1n1ppp/p1p5/3p4/PP1P4/4P3/5PPP/8 w - - 0 1"]
1.b5 cxb5! 2.axb5 a5!
Now you have passed pawn, but remember to play
...Nb6! The point is to control the
b6 square or else you will stand worse.
[Title "The ...c5! push"]
[fen "r1r5/1p2bppp/2p5/3p4/1P1P4/2N1PN2/2Q2PPP/1R6 w - - 0 1"]
1.b5 c5! 2.dxc5 ( 2.Qb3 cxd4 3.Nxd4 Ra3-+ ) 2...Rxc5
Although you get isolated
d5 pawn, White's pieces are awkwardly placed so you get good compensation in view of your piece activity. Furthermore, the pawn on
b5 is weak, and your pieces are well placed to defend your isolated pawn and attack White
Works for White in both setups, but is not considered that dangerous with
Nf3 since Black can simplify the position with timely
....Ne4! jump. With
Ne2 setup you must immediately launch pawn storm. In both cases you must know theory well, which I will not cover here since it is too broad.
If Black is happy with a draw, he can play slightly worse, but equal, endgame:
[Title "Short endgame"]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Bf5!? 7.Qf3 Bg6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Qxf6 gxf6
This line was invented so Black can dodge Exchange variation with
Ne2 and is very effective in it.
The fact that in the last 3 or 4 candidates tournament Black played “Queen gambit type of openings” with
...Be7 move order “speaks” a lot ( hopefully now you grasp the difficulty of Black’s position in lines with
The beauty of this line also lies in the fact that White can’t enter favorably into some lines with
Nf3 either, which will be demonstrated in the diagram below:
[Title "QGD White tries to reach Nf3 mainline "]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7! 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bg5 c6 7.Qc2 ( 7. e3 Bf5! 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 Nbd7 10.O-O O-O 11.Rab1 a5! 12.a3 Ne4! 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.b4 b5! $15 ) g6! 8.e4!? ( 8.e3!? Bf5 ) dxe4! 9.Bxf6 ( 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 Be6!? ) Bxf6 10.Qxe4+ ( 10.Nxe4 O-O!?= ) Kf8 ( 10...Qe7!?= ) 11.Bc4 Kg7 12.O-O Re8 13.Qf4 Be6 14.Bxe6 Rxe6 15.Rfe1! Qd6! 16.Qxd6 Rxd6 17.Re8 Rd8 18.Rxd8 Bxd8 19.Re1 Nd7=
Therefore White plays
Bf4 instead of
Bg5 and that became the main line.
Black’s most solid approach seems to be
...Bd6 in response to
Bf4. However, in practice
...Bf5 is the main line. White then responds with
Ne2+g3 chasing the bishop away and launching kingside pawn storm afterwards. Lines are complex and sharp, so I will not cover them as they are too broad but Schandorff’s book, recommended earlier, covers this line well.
As Black, you try to generate kingside attack with pieces that will force a weakness in pawn structure around White king. Once that happens you launch a pan storm or simply finish the attack with a mate.
If White is faster on the queenside, you fight minority attack usually with
...a6, and try to get counterplay on the
a-file. Post a knight on
c4 and if you have a black bishop he goes to
For detailed coverage of this line, the best book is M.Sadler-Queen’s Gambit Declined (2000) and for current theory you should get Schandorff’s book.
If you have further questions leave a comment. Good luck!