What Exactly Is the Queen's Gambit?
The Queen's Gambit is made up of three moves:
1. White advances the queen's pawn two spaces.
2. Black responds by advancing her queen pawn two spaces.
3. Finally, white responds by moving her queenside bishop's pawn two spaces forward.
This is written in standard chess notation as:
Why is it known as the Queen's Gambit?
It begins, like all gambits, with an offer to sacrifice material. White offers a wing pawn in exchange for better center control in this case. The Queen's Gambit is named after the queen's pawn (as opposed to the King's Gambit, which begins with 1.e4).
Many chess players will argue that the Queen's Gambit isn't a "true gambit" because black can't usually hold the pawn it takes, making it more of a trade with a slight delay. However, some of the Queen's Gambit responses do provide opportunities for true gambits on both sides.
Why Is the Queen's Gambit a Good Opening?
Control of the center is critical in the early stages of the game, and the Queen's Gambit allows an aggressive white player to exchange a wing-pawn for control of the center.
If you like to constantly put pressure on your opponent, then the Queen's Gambit is an excellent opening to learn. When used correctly, it can force black to spend the early game responding to your threats rather than developing her own.
Responses of Black to the Queen's Gambit (Step-by-Step Guide)
If you're playing black, you have several options for responding to white. The Queen's Gambit Accepted (or QGA, in which black takes the white c-pawn with 2.c4 dxc4) and the Queen's Gambit Declined (or QGD, in which she does not) are the two main types.
Each of these responses has several major variations, including the popular and effective Slav Defense, which may be considered a variation of the QGD but is popular enough to be considered separately.
1. Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Until the late 1800s, black's usual response to the Queen's Gambit was to protect the c-pawn. It took World Champions Wilhelm Steinetz and later Alexander Alekhine to introduce modern ideas that demonstrated how the QGA could give black a chance at center control.
The QGA can be written as follows in standard notation:
1. d4 d5
2. c4 dxc4
From there, most mainline (or orthodox) versions of the QGA proceed as follows:
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. e3 e6
5. Bxc4 c5
6. 0-0 a6
The mainline has several obvious advantages for white: It recaptures the black pawn, defends her king, and raises a bishop. However, it also provides some benefits to black people. The bishop on c4 may be vulnerable to the black b-pawn if she can advance it to b5, putting white in an awkward position.
2.Queen’s Gambit Declined. While there are some compelling reasons for black to accept the Queen's Gambit, it is more common for black to refuse. The mainline version of QGD has black respond with 2.c4 e6, but there are other ways to achieve the same result.
The main advantage of... e6 is that it frees black's kingside (dark-squared) bishop while obstructing her queenside (light-squared) bishop. The key point here is that by refusing to play... dxc4, black refuses to give up the center to white unless she gains an advantage.
QGD can be written as follows in standard notation:
1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6
From there, white typically responds with 3. Nc3, to which black can respond in a variety of ways, the most common of which involves responding with her own knight, thus:
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Be7
Following the mainline GQD provides black with a number of strong options. By moving a pawn to h6 or withdrawing the knight on f6 to d7, she can castle on the kingside and threaten white's dark-squared bishop. She still threatens the center, but she also has the option of capturing White's d-pawn.
3. Slav Defense. The Slav Defense, so named because it was used successfully by a number of Russian masters in the first half of the twentieth century, is a variation of the QGD. However, because it is nearly as extensive and well-studied as the main line of the QGD, it is frequently studied separately. (As an example of the complexity of chess openings, the Semi-Slav is a complex hybrid of the Slav and the QGD.)
One of the central concepts of the QGD is to develop black's dark-squared (kingside) bishop at the expense of her light-squared (queenside) bishop, usually by blocking it with a pawn on e6. The Slav Defense seeks to free black's light-squared bishop while also providing black with a more solid pawn structure than many QGD variations.
The Slav Defense's main line is as follows:
1. d4 d5
2. c4 c6
Because black kept her pawn on e7, her light-squared bishop now has a clear path to advancement. White typically responds at this point by bringing her knight to c3, to which black responds by bringing her own knight to f6. After three moves, the only difference between the Slav Defense and the QGD declined is the position of the second black pawn, but that difference opens up a plethora of new possibilities. The typical progression is as follows:
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. Nc6 dxc4
At this point, white will typically move her a-pawn to a4 to prevent black from moving her b-pawn to b5 (which, as you may recall from the QGA, can put white in an awkward position). Black can now develop her light-squared bishop to f5, after which she can move her e-pawn to e6, forming a strong pawn structure capable of contesting the center without trapping a bishop.