I play the Exchange variation as White when Black plays 2...e6 against the Queen's Gambit. Should I play 3. cxd5 to avoid the transpoition to the Slav 3. Nc3 (hoping for 3...Nf6 4. cxd5) c6!?

[FEN ""]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. cxd5!? (3. Nc3 c6!?)
  • Another thing I commonly hear is that black should play e6 first if they want to avoid the drawing line of the c6 Slav Exchange.But now the people here seem to be saying that eXd5 is nearly if not completely equally drawish. The conclusion I draw from this is that perhaps Black should be content with a drawish position and just play c6 immediately and avoid the e6 finesse which isn't really doing much for them.Can anyone present an argument how e6 forces the triangle when White insists on exchanging?
    – user11197
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 21:16

6 Answers 6


After 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Nc3, if black plays 4....Nf6 or 4....Be7, then white indeed succesfully transposed to the mainlines of the QGD and avoided any transpositions to the Slav.

Black's best reply is probably 4....c6, after which white has 3 good options: 5.Nf3, 5.Bf4 and 5.Qc2.

  • After 5.Nf3 black can play 5....Bd6 or 5....Bf5.
  • After 5.Bf4 black's best moves also are 5....Bd6 or 5....Bf5. (Black has an extra tempo compared to 3.Nc3 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bd6, as in Wojtaszek - Kraemer)
  • After 5.Qc2, both 5....Bd6 and 5....g6 (with idea Bf5) seem good moves for black.

In all variations, black has a good version of the QGD, as white cannot prevent him from developing his bishop to f5.

It seems that after 3.cxd5 black equalizes rather easily and that 3.Nc3 or 3.Nf3 are much more principle moves. However, 3.cxd5 cannot be called a mistake. If the Carlsbad structure suits your playing style, then it is worth a try.

  [StartPly "4"]

  [FEN ""]
  1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.cxd5 (3.Nc3 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bd6) exd5 4.Nc3 c6 (4...Nf6)(4...Be7) 5.Qc2 (5.Nf3 Bd6 (5...Bf5)) (5.Bf4 Bd6 (5...Bf5)) 5...Bd6 (5...g6)
  • You're correct that cxd5 equalizes. I have included why. I'd say the variation isn't good, not that it "is worth a try", for it leads to an easy draw at high levels of play, hence the equalization you mentioned. Being drawish as white IS a bad thing! Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 8:18
  • 2
    I don't really agree: equalizing and being drawish aren't necessarily the same. After 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Nc3 c6 a lot of things can still happen in the middle game. For instance, white starts his attack on the queenside with b4-b5, black tries to develop a king side attack. Morozevich played it twice with white, and won a game against Shirov: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1334672 And Morozevich cannot be called a drawish player... :-D
    – Maxwell86
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 9:23
  • If White is forced to equalize, not at any point gaining a clear advantage, then Black has done its job. My opinion, many times at the GM level, I'd guess, the correct philosophy is to equalize yourself out of the opening as Black. Sure the middle game is trickier than the opening, but it gets rid of a phase of the game where one has a fighting chance in the middle. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 10:03
  • In the game you linked I didn't view the entire game, but I think the b5 pawn push was a mistake. I think white can still delay castling queen side after the b5 push and still be able to castle this direction, thus making any kingside attack negligible, and giving white a crucial tempo to further the attack on the queen's side. Although that is what was tried to some extent, I think that a2-a4 for White weakens any potential castling on either side, for b4! as a response is strong! Just my thoughts as an average tourny player. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 10:03
  • @PaulBurchett, a titled player wouldn't post the question, so OP is either a beginner or a club-level player. Sure, the line given equalizes but does that really matter at the club level, where even the exchange French isn't a guaranteed draw? Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 18:35

It is basically a trade-off: are you so afraid of the Slav that you're willing to play a slightly inferior Exchange line?

The main line of the QGD Exchange is:

[FEN ""]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5

If you have a clever opponent, they can play Be7 instead of Nf6 if you exchange too early:

[FEN ""]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. cxd5 exd5 4. Nc3 Be7

In that case, you can only play variations with Bf4, which promise less chances of advantage.

  • 5
    Can't black always play Be7 first, even if you don't exchange too early? Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 7:54
  • Yes, though then White can play Nf3 and Black doesn't have any good moves. ...c6 allows e4, and Nbd7 hangs a pawn. Nf6 lets White play Bg5 again. None of this crushes Black, but it does restore flexibility for White.
    – aschultz
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 0:13

Exchanging on move three is too early.

After 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 cxd5? exd5 4 Nc3 Black solves his main problem of how to develop with the Queenside Bishop. This achieved with with 4 ... c6! and ... Bf5!, for example:

[FEN ""]
[StartPLY "6"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. cxd5 exd5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Qc2 Bd6 6. Nf3 Ne7 7. Bg5 Bf5

The move 3 cd5 is certainly not good as it does nothing to improve White's position, and in fact helps Black's development opening the c8-h3 diagonal.

  • 3
    True, it helps Black's development opening the c8-h3 diagonal, but my intention is to transpose into the QGD exchange variation.
    – limits
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 23:17

On general principles, trading a slightly wing pawn for a center pawn is good, but on the other hand, the e6-pawn no longer blocks Black's queen bishop. cxd5 may allow the White bishop to move a bit more, but it's to b5 (Black is playing c6 anyway).

White is trading an aggressive pawn that influences a center square on Black's side of the board for a slightly more passive one.

Also, if White is trying for a minority attack, this shows his hand.

cxd5 isn't bad per se--if you are playing a higher-rated player and need a draw, it may be a throw down the gauntlet moment to say "you'll have to take risks to beat me!" But I usually find it's best to keep the tension going. This is oversimplifying, but sometimes chess is a game of chicken, and if you take to relieve a bit of pressure on you, you may relieve more on your opponent.


The Objective of White is to develop the Pieces and attack Black ASAP. Both sides should try to complete Development and then Play in Center/Flanks .

When White does a cd5 then it is helping Black to free himself and Develop the c8 Bishop . You know Bishops are already active from their Initial Position & cover the Squares that come across its Diagonals . So it is not a very good Strategic Decision from White to play cd5.

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