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One of my opponents keep playing 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 h6!? against me. Thus avoiding the main lines of the Queen's Gambit Declined that start after the normal 3) ..Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Nc3 etc.

Is there any disadvantage of the move 3) ..h6 that White may try to exploit? And if 3) ..h6 was a playable move for Black then why it is so seldom played?

I had a look at my database and I found a meager 32 games starting with 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 h6, those are played by the lower rated players only. For the part of comparison, the Albin-Counter Gambit I have found are 100x games. Surely there must be a reason why it is so seldom played?

I understand that Black should try to develop the pieces in the opening firstly and 3) ..h6 doesn't look so terrible active, but on the other hand, the position is quite closed and after e.g. 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bf4 (I do not want to shut the Bishop with 5. e3) 5 .. Bd6!?, now the Black catches up in development and has a very solid position. What would you play instead?


[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 h6!?

  • A very quick look before I go to sleep finds nothing very wrong with, maybe there is no real reason not to play this. But is there a reason to play it over more normal moves? – RemcoGerlich Jun 9 '15 at 21:50
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    It provides a hook for a White kingside attack with the ideas of a piece sacrifice on h6 or g4-g5 opening lines. – magd Jun 10 '15 at 13:37
  • 1
    Catalan looks good, you will just play on the queenside with faster play than usually. – hoacin Mar 29 '17 at 12:03
  • I've noticed lately that h6 (or h3) in the opening seems to be extremely attractive to less experienced players. It seems to be connected to excessive fear of getting the knight pinned. For me the question is less, "What makes h6 so bad?" and more, "What makes it so good?" Is the possibility of a bishop coming to g5 really so scary that it's worth pausing our development for this little pawn move? Is h6 the most useful move available in this position? – Nate Apr 3 '17 at 13:39
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I suspect that a good try for white here is to go into Colle-Zukertort system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colle_System#Colle.E2.80.93Zukertort_System

Then 3...h6 is not only a tempo loss, but also a unpleasant weakness of the king side.

  • Unfortunately, that's not possible in the given move order, as white has already played 2 c4. In Colle-Zukertort c4 is delayed to restrict a black bishop on b7 (no dxc4 to liberate it). It would be possible after 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 h6?! 3 e3 – René Pijl Dec 5 '17 at 15:27
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In Chess there is a saying " A Weakness is not a weakness unless it is exploited or it can be exploited."

Well the move h6 does not look a good move at all because it just deprives the White Black Bishop coming into g5 . It does not develop anything from Black's perspective but it weakens the g6 Square somehow . If White understands this then he can play e3/e4 , bring the Knight to e5 and then do a sacrifice on f7 and Qh5+,Bd3 can make the game difficult for Black . Black will be running away with his King in the entire game . I understand that Black will develop his Knight on f6 which would take the h5 Square but that can be dislodged by playing e4 ,de4 and then Ne4. The above explanation is quite imaginary but nevertheless can be applied in some games depending on a lower level opponent ELO.

Now this is absolutely true :

Playing h6 prevents many important lines of QGD like Barmen, Lasker, Miles and many other variations where Bishop comes on g5 White can instead play the Harrwitz Attack where he can bring the Bishop on f4 and try for a K-side attack or even the London System and advance the h4 Pawn , Ng5 which can serve a nice line for this h6 move .

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There is no instant refutation to 3...h6?!. Your PV with 5...Bd6 gives white his usual opening advantage, as the "bad" c1-bishop has traded for black's "good" one, so there is no reason to reject that line - 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 h6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bf4 Bd6 6.Bxd6 Qxd6 +/=. If you are intent on proving ...h6 to be a waste, however, you might try 4.g3, where ...h6 is worthless in the Catalan. But then 4...Bd6 and the c1-bishop is looking cramped in.

As for the positional disadvantages of ...h6, it weakens black's kingside and does not develop.

Also, just because a move is not a book move does not mean it is bad. It could be playable, but just inaccurate.

  • You seem to suggest that the trade of dark-squared bishops leads to a a small advantage for White. However, in the classical- or in the Lasker-variation of the QGD, Black's opening strategy positively invites White to trade the two bishops in an early stage of the game. According to your line of argument, would these variations then not also lead to a small advantage for White, in principle? – klopps Jun 10 '15 at 6:59
  • If it is correct to equate that ...Bd6 line with the Lasker or main lines, then surely the ...h6 waste is good for white? – limits Jun 11 '15 at 23:41
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3...h6 is a waste of time. At most it threatens g5, which if it were important, could be circumvented by h4. In this case the best move might be 4.Nc3. It continues your development and already threatens e4. Do not worry about 5.e3. After moves like Bd3, Kg1, and Re1, e4 will be unstoppable.

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