Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
The Queen’s Gambit Declined chess opening—since you’re reading a chess page there is a decent chance you’ve heard of it, maybe even play it yourself.
You might also be aware that many, many of the greats have utilized it, as well.
Famous chess masters like Alexander Alekhine, Jose Capablanca, Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Boris Spassky, Henry Pillsbury, and a slew of others have used 1.d4 in their games.
A lot of beginners pick up 1.e4 first because it’s easy to learn and piece development tends to be quick and straightforward.
And king’s pawn games classically lend themselves to tactical shots.
That’s not to say that 1.e4 games can’t be positional, because by all means they can.
Conversely, although 1.d4 games tend to lean toward more positional play, things can definitely turn tactical in an instant.
If Alekhine played the Queen’s Gambit Declined, you know there were tactics involved.
Rather than an instructive Queen’s Gambit Declined post which you can find here, let’s look at a few of these games and break them down a bit.
Table of contents
Chess Tactics in the Queen’s Gambit Declined
It seems quite a few players won’t pick up 1.d4 because they believe the game is a slow grind.
Some games are, but they don’t have to be every time. The Queen’s Gambit Declined has been used in many a world championship match.
Check out this quick queen-sacrifice win Alekhine scored against hard-hitting Emanuel Lasker, way back in 1934!
Alekhine, Alexander – Lasker, Emanuel
Can you spot the move here? Alexander Alekhine did and took the win in fine fashion. It’s nasty!
White had checked with the knight and the black king moved to h8. White to play and win!
So, yes, while the vast majority of Queen’s Gambit Declined chess games might end up being positional battles to some extent, this example shows us that if black isn’t careful the entire thing can go sideways in a split second, tactically.
5.Bf4 instead of 5.Bg5
In the last game, we saw Bg5 employed by White, which is a great move and has been played in thousands of grandmaster games.
However, more recently, Bg5 has fallen a bit out of style, especially at the top level.
The new favored move is Bf4, as played in the ever-popular London System.
Now let’s see how this move affects a Queen’s Gambit Declined game as we look at Garry Kasparov vs. Anatoly Karpov in 1986.
Garry Kasparov – Anatoly Karpov
Notice how White retained the dark-squared bishop to create major weaknesses around the king before it was traded off?
Now that’s how you play a Queen’s Gambit Declined chess opening!
Pin It to Win It!
Let’s go back to 1961 for a Queen’s Gambit Declined game in which Raymond Keene completely dominates John N Sugden, who had the black pieces.
Raymond Keene – John N Sugden
Stockfish calls 13.e5 by Keene a blunder. But then Sugden blunders right back with 13…Ng4?? (best was h6).
The end of that game is super slick. Pin it to win it, as they say!
If you want to better understand the Queen’s Gambit Declined, GM Jan Gustafsson provides a nice introduction to this chess opening in the following video:
Creating Major Weaknesses in Black’s Position
For the next game, we visit Keene again, who gains a massive amount of freedom and space at the very start of the opening, with tempo!
Raymond Keene – Briant
Black allowing White to capture the d-pawn without another pawn to take its place is very, very dangerous.
This, along with Black creating major weaknesses gave license for White to come in and knock things around a bit for an easy win.
Bobby Fischer Plays the Queen’s Gambit Declined
In a very rare treat, the great Bobby Fischer even played a Queen’s Gambit Declined chess opening. Actually, it was an English chess opening that transposed, but who’s counting?
The game was played against Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship match!
Let’s see how Fischer handled our Queen’s Gambit Declined opening setup.
Robert James Fischer – Boris Spassky
The game was decently equal until Black allowed Fischer to take the light-squared bishop – it was all downhill from there.
Fischer challenged the d-pawn with the move e4 and Black pushed past.
While on one hand doing so created a passed pawn for Black, it also loosened the reigns on White’s light-squared bishop, giving it all the squares it wanted.
From that point is was simply a matter of superior technique as Fischer took control of the f-file and ran his e-pawn up the board.
The QGD vs the Slav Defense
The following game shows powerful GM Alexander Grischuk outplaying his opponent, who was rated 2497 Elo at the time, in a Queen’s Gambit Declined variation known as the Slav Defense.
Grischuk, A. – Sriram, J.
Black tried his best, going on a three-piece king hunt while White calmly picked everything off the board and won the game.
Super GMs, man; apparently they are the real deal!
Queen Sacrifices in the QGD
Aleksander “Wojo” Wojtkiewicz, a polish GM well-known for his Reti Opening and Catalan Opening, has also clipped a few opponents with the Queen’s Gambit Declined white opening.
In the game below, Wojo ends his 1.d4 game with a tactical flurry culminating in a queen sacrifice and a refused rook. Whoa!
Wojtkiewicz, Aleksander – Kuczynski, Robert
Black was doing just fine until he decided to take the a-pawn. After that, he found out real quick why it was a mistake after Wojo found the move d5!!
The point of this move is that if Black recaptures with the c-pawn, we see 23.Qe8+ and after 23…Nf8 (forced), White picks up the rook on a4—woops!
And, if the e-pawn captures, the bishop on f3 recaptures and we see the same result… the rook is a gonner!
Queen’s Gambit Declined vs Queen’s Gambit Accepted
So, why the Queen’s Gambit Declined instead of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted?
Well, the Queen’s Gambit Declined variation is generally thought of to be more solid for black, especially since it doesn’t lend directly to the development of White’s light-squared bishop, among other reasons.
How do you beat GM Irina Krush with the white pieces?
Why, utilize the Queen’s Gambit chess strategy, of course!
And, it helps a little if you happen to be GM Gata Kamsky. Just saying.
Kamsky, G. – Krush, I.
Bet that’s the last time she captured the c-pawn and exchanged queens against that guy!
It seems Black got into trouble due to White’s superior piece activity and placement. Go, Queen’s Gambit!
QGD Goes Wrong
Well, so far we’ve seen how the Queen’s Gambit works when it does, but what about when it doesn’t? Let’s take a look at a few instances in which the chess opening went wrong for White.
To do this, let’s revisit Mr. Alekhine and see how he handled a Queen’s Gambit Declined against Jose Capablanca, the third world chess champion, in their famous 1927 battle for the title.
Capablanca, Jose Raul – Alekhine, Alexander
Now let’s see Fischer again as he dismantles Black in a Queen’s Gambit chess strategy.
White loses a knight rather early on. The piece wasn’t necessarily lost, per se, but moving it to h3, the only “safe” square, must not have seemed too inviting for poor Mr. Bertok.
Bertok, Mario – Fischer, Robert James
Props for playing on, but who doesn’t resign a piece down against the great Bobby Fischer?
But in all honesty, his issues likely started when he played dxc, allowing Black a couple really nice and strong pawns.
Those pawns were definitely in White’s way!
Fun fact: As far as we could find, this and only one other game features Fischer playing the black side of a Queen’s Gambit chess opening! The other is found in Sliwa – Fischer, 1962—the same year as the game above!
Seems Fischer outgrew it and found other openings more to his style.
White Rushes It And…
We will now look at what happens when White decides to gain queenside space too early.
Bue, Gunnar – Larsen, Tor E
Black waited until just the right time to strike with e5, essentially busting up White’s plans entirely.
Once the center was taken care of, Black lashed out with a5!, stopping all progress for the queenside pawns, as well.
In the following video, Anatoly Karpov shows one of his QGD games against Yusupov:
It seems even ex-world champion Vladimir Kramnik isn’t immune to losing on the white side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined chess opening!
In the following game vs. GM Alexander Shirov, Kramnik sees that Black hasn’t castled yet and launches some nasty moves.
Then he pins a piece and doesn’t take it!
Then, he blunders badly with 22.Qg6, a move that appears good and sound but allows Black to regroup and get back into the game.
Kramnik, V. – Shirov, A.
In the following game, poor Yuri Averbakh was leading excellently on the white side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined strategy when he short-circuited and completely miscalculated exchanges on the f5 square.
Averbakh, Yuri L – Ragozin, Viacheslav
White seemed to do everything right until the bizarre 26.Bxf5—what the heck?
It goes to show that just because you’re winning doesn’t mean you can let your guard down for even one second.
Queen’s Gambit Trap and Zap!
Of course, no article on the Queen’s Gambit would be complete without at least one Queen’s Gambit trap!?
The following line is well-known but still manages to trick White all the time. It’s especially good in blitz and bullet games!
It is a tricky line in which Black “hangs” a pawn that if taken, loses for White immediately!
Trap/Zap Line in the Queen’s Gambit Declined!
This is a really fun line to play as Black in the Queen’s Gambit type setups.
Even if White doesn’t fall for the “trick,” Black gets a fine and playable position out of it, so why not?
Wait! Before you go!
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