Queen’s Gambit Accepted: Rich in Winning Opportunities

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a chess opening that arises after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4.

queens gambit accepted a complete guide blog image 1

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a robust opening choice for the player who wants dynamic piece play and the opportunity to win with the black pieces.

You will follow in the footsteps of such greats as Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, Carlsen, Nakamura, and Caruana. 

If it is good enough for them to play at the highest levels, then you can be confident it will serve you well too.

Remember, if you are playing white and black is playing for a win, your games are certain to be both lively and interesting.

Time has not dulled the romantic appeal, nor have engines tarnished the reputation of this grand old lady of chess openings.

Here is GM Marian Petrov to introduce you to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

[embedded content]

Estimated reading time: 19 minutes

Quick Navigation

The Ideas Behind the Queen’s Gambit Accepted

White offers a side pawn in the hopes of enticing black to give up one of his center pawns for it. Why does black willingly accept this offer?

Another good question to ask is, “Why do it now and not after White develops his bishop? At least then white is forced to lose a tempo.”

The answer to both questions is time. Black knows white will need to invest some time in capturing the pawn.

2…dxc4 is a flexible move that saves black time by allowing …e5 and …c5 in one move. If black plays 2…e6 (Queen’s Gambit Declined) or 2…c6 (the Slav Defense) he will lose time later with …e5 and …c5.

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted allows black to freely develop his pieces and the opportunity to plan his strategy based on White’s response.

Will, you as white look to seize the center with 3.e4 or continue with the natural developing move 3.Nf3?

The latter, the Classical Variation, is the most popular third move choice by White.

That a classic developing move works so well in such a classical opening seems only fitting.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation

[embedded content]

After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4, continuing with the natural developing move 3.Nf3 leads to the Classical Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

3.Nf3 also aims at stopping black from playing …e5. White also wants to make black to block his light-squared bishop with …e6.

Queen's Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 3.Nf3
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 3.Nf3

After 3…Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5

White has a choice between

  • 6.O-O and
  • 6.Qe2 – the Furman Variation

In the Furman Variation, White intends to play dxc5 and advance the e-pawn. By placing the queen on e2, White avoids a possible exchange of queens on d1.

This is a tactic both players must always keep in mind.

Classical Variation with 6.O-O

White sensibly continues with his development in the Classical Queen’s Gambit.

Black will look to win more time by expanding on the queenside and attacking the bishop on c4. This makes 6…a6 a logical choice.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.O-O a6

Queen's Gambit Accepted Classical variation 6...a6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical variation 6…a6

There are three ways for white to respond to black’s strategy:

  • 7.Bb3
  • 7.dxc5
  • 7.a4

7.Bb3

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.O-O a6 7.Bb3

Queen's Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 7.Bb3
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 7.Bb3

By voluntarily moving the bishop from c4, White says there is nothing to fear from …b5. In fact, white hopes to prove this advance is weakening.

Indeed, black must be careful when it comes to playing …b5. The pawn on b5 can be attacked by a4, which activates the white rook on a1.

There is no reason for black to give up on his plan of queenside expansion and …Bb7.

White’s most thematic response is 8.a4 when black plays the natural 8…b4. Although this gives up control of c4, the knight on c4 will no longer support e4.

This give and take is what provides opportunities for both sides to play for a win!

QGA Classical Variation 8.a4 b4
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 8.a4 b4

Now white must choose between

  • 9.Nbd2 and
  • 9.e4

Here is Vassily Ivanchuk showing how black can meet 9.Nbd2

Sasikiran, Krishnan – Ivanchuk, Vassily, 0-1, Samba Cup 1st, 2003

White can often sacrifice a pawn when he chooses 9.e4. This is possible because White has a lead in development. 

This is a very dangerous sacrifice for black to face. Here is GM Hans van Unen showing how black can defend.

Burgarth, Ulrich – Unen, J. (Hans) van, 1/2-1/2, EU/C65/final, 2008

7.dxc5

Initially used in the 1992 World Chess Championship Match between Fischer and Spassky, this deceptively quiet move demands respect. Black can find himself in an inferior endgame if he isn’t careful.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.O-O a6 7.dxc5

QGA Classical Variation 7.dxc5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 7.dxc5

Black’s most popular response is 7…Qxd1 8.Rxd1 Bxc5

qga classical 7.dxc5 qxd1
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical 7.dxc5 Qxd1

Two of the best players to learn from are Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov.

Here is a game played by them from their 2000 World Chess Championship match.

Kramnik, Vladimir – Kasparov, Garry, 1/2-1/2, World Championship, 2000

7.a4

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.O-O a6 7.a4

QGA Classical Variation 7.a4
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 7.a4

This is a dual-purpose move that seeks to stop black’s queenside expansion and provide a way for the rook to join a kingside attack via a3.

Thanks to the weakness created on b4, White must play actively before black can make use of this weakness. You will find many opportunities to play with active pieces in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted not matter what color you are playing.

Play continues with 7…Nc6 8.Qe2 cxd4 9.Rd1 Be7 10.exd4

QGA Classical Variation 10.exd4
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Classical Variation 10.exd4

Here is another game from the World Chess Championship of 2000 between Kramnik and Kasparov.

Kramnik, Vladimir – Kasparov, Garry, 1/2-1/2, World Championship, 2000

Classical Variation 6.Qe2 – The Furman Variation

This Variation is named after Anatoly Karpov’s trainer GM Semion Furman.

White’s plan is simple and straightforward but no less dangerous for it and intends dxc5 and e4.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.Qe2

Queen's Gambit Accepted Furman Variation 6.Qe2
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Furman Variation 6.Qe2

After 6…a6 7.dxc5 Bxc5

QGA Furman 7...bc5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Furman Variation 7…Bc5

White can continue with his plan and play 8.e4, or he can first safeguard his king with 8.O-O.

Here is how play might unfold. White will usually follow 8.O-O directly with 9.e4

Lautier, Joel – Spangenberg, Hugo, 0-1, Yerevan ol (Men), 1996

White Plays 3.e4

This is known as the Central Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted for obvious reasons. 

Because White hasn’t done anything to prevent 3…e5, this is a logical response to 3.e4

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 3.e4 e5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 3.e4 e5

Another good option for black is to play 3…Nf6. For those looking for an opportunity to express their piece play skills 3…Nc6 is a sound, modern choice. 

Central Variation 3…e5

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.O-O Be6 brings us to this position

qga central 6...be6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation with 6…Be6

White has the choice of sacrificing a pawn with 7.Bb5 or regaining the pawn with 7.Bxe6.

White Plays 7.Bb5 

Choosing to keep his light-squared bishop white retains greater attacking chances in this variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. However, the loss of tempo allows black to defend his pawn on d4.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.O-O Be6 7.Bb5

QGA Central Variation 7.Bb5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 7.Bb5

Black will likely obtain the bishop pair but at the expense of his pawn structure. Allowing the pin on the knight to continue is very dangerous for black.

The sooner the pin gets broken, the better. Black must not fear having doubled-pawns in the semi-open c-file.

That’s why it’s best to meet 9.a4 with 9…a6 instead of 9…a5. Advancing the pawn two squares leaves the bishop entrenched on b5.

Follow in the footsteps of Alexei Shirov and play 9…a6. In this game, even Levon Aronian wasn’t able to take advantage of black’s weakened pawn structure.

Included with this game is how white can play against 9…a5. Once again, it is Alexei Shirov showing us how to play the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. This time with the white pieces.

Aronian, Levon – Shirov, Alexei, 1/2-1/2, Watch Candidates final, 2007

White Plays 7.Bxe6

White will regain the pawn with Qb3, attacking the e6 and b7 pawns. Of course, the downside of exchanging bishops is a decrease in attacking potential.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.O-O Be6 7.Bxe6

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 7.Bxe6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 7.Bxe6

The following moves 7…fxe6 8.Qb3 Qd7 9.Qxb7 Rb8 10.Qa6 Nf6 11.Nbd2 brings us to a position when Black must decide where to develop his bishop.

QGA Central Variation 11.Nbd2
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 11.Nbd2

Black can play either …Bd6 or …Bb4. Anand has played both bishop moves.

Take a look at his game against Karpov, where he played 11…Bb4 and got a draw on move 32.

Karpov, Anatoly – Anand, Viswanathan, 1/2-1/2, Dortmund 25th, 1997

Against the Central Variation, black can choose to develop his knights instead of playing 3…e5. 

The move 3…Nc6 is reminiscent of the Chigorin Defense to the Queen’s Gambit and is the more modern approach. Both these moves seek to put pressure on the white center with active piece play.

Central Variation 3…Nf6

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nf6

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 3...Nf6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 3…Nf6

This move provokes the pawn advance e5 since defending the pawn will tie down the white pieces.

4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 5...Nb6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 5…Nb6

White now has two plausible bishop moves:

  • 6.Bb3 and
  • 6.Bd3

Both these moves have been played almost the same number of times.

Although 6.Bb3 has been played a little more, 6.Bd3 has a higher win percentage for white – 42% to 28%.

6.Bd3 allows white to control the critical b1-h7 diagonal, but it does block the queen’s defense of the d4 pawn. There is always a give-and-take in chess.

Against both 6.Bd3 and 6.Bb3 black is likely to simply continue with his development.

For example, 6.Bb3 Nc6 7.Be3 Bf5 8.Nc3 e6 9.Nge2 Be7

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 9...Be7
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 9…Be7

This is a relatively untested position where, after both sides castle short, White can choose between Shirov’s 11.Ng3 or follow Karpov’s idea of 11.a3.

Gupta, Ab – Xiong, Jeffery, 1-0, PRO League All-Stars St1, 2018

Black can also play for queenside castling with 9…Qd7 instead of 9…Be7 as in the next game.

Bologan, Viktor – Nakamura, Hikaru, 0-1, Biel GM 45th, 2012

There is an exciting draw for White in the Central Variation that arises after 7.Nf3 Bg4. White has the stunning 7.Ng5 sacrificing the queen and not even capturing the bishop.

Central Variation 3…Nc6

The move 3…Nc6 leads to complex positions where black often gets good counter-chances. 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nc6

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 3...Nc6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 3…Nc6

And now white usually plays either 4.Nf3 or 4.Be3.

After 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 Ne5 6.Bf4 Ng6 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Nc3 e5,

Queen's Gambit Accepted Central Variation 8...e5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Central Variation 8…e5

we reach an exciting position with chances for both sides.

Inarkiev, E. – Kobalia, M., 0-1, Aeroflot Open A 2016

Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e3

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5

Queen's Gambit Accepted 3.e3 e5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e3 e5

Over four hundred years ago, it was shown that trying to hold onto the pawn in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted with 3…b5 is simply impossible.

White continues with 4.a4 c6 5.axb5 cxb5 6.Qf3 attacking the rook on a8. 

Queen's Gambit Accepted when Black holds onto the pawn.
Queen’s Gambit Accepted when Black holds onto the pawn.

Black can only prevent the loss of the rook by giving up his knight with 6…Nc6 7.Qxc6 Bd7 when the queen defends the rook.

Playing in the Center is a Better Strategy for Black

Striking back in the center with the immediate 3…e5 is a much better option for black. Although White will soon recapture the pawn with Bxc4, the move e3 has blocked the bishop on c1.

4.Bxc4 exd4 5.exd4 Nf6 6.Nf3 Bd6 7.O-O O-O 8.Nc3 Nc6

Queen's Gambit Accepted 3.e3 with 8...Nc6
Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e3 with 8…Nc6

This opening involves a lot of natural developing moves that often lead to the same position. For example, instead of 5…Nf6 and 6…Bd6 black can reverse them and play 5…Bd6, followed by 6…Nf6.

Black must be aware he could have the opportunity to exchange queens on d1. Knowing the general ideas and which positions suit your style of play is essential.

Take a look at the following game which shows the balanced nature of the position for both sides.

Le Quang Liem – Ghaem Maghami, E., 1/2-1/2, Asian Nations Cup 2014

Another dynamic position in the 3.e3 variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, arises in the following position where black has played 14…Qd7.

Queen's Gambit Accepted 3.e3 14...Qd7
Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e3 14…Qd7

Now white has a choice between 15.Rad1, the most popular, and 15.g4, unsurprisingly played by Nigel Short, well known for his love of attacking play.

Black can hold his own against either of these moves, as you can see in the next game, but they both lead to exciting games.

Baramidze, D. – Edouard, R., 1/2-1/2, Bundesliga 2015-16, 2016

Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nc3

Queen's Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3
Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3

White develops a knight before his bishop and places it on a square where it controls two key central squares.

Black’s usual response is 3…a6. This move is helpful in many variations, and if it can keep the knight from b5, there’s no harm in playing it early.

Although mostly seen at club level, the move 4.e4 has been played by players rated 2600. White is advised to be cautious of making too many pawn moves before developing his pieces in the opening.

This can lead to the white position being over-extended.

4.e4 b5 5.a4 b4

Queen's Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3 with 4.e4
Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3 with 4.e4

Black must not waste any time breaking up the white center, while white must first find a good square for the knight.

The most common retreat by White is 6.Na2 when there follows 6…Bb7 7.f3

Queen's Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3 and 7.f3
Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.Nc3 and 7.f3

Now black has the attractive choice of 7…Nc6 defending the b4 pawn, or 7…e5 striking at the white center.

In the next game, FM Vladimir Afromeev courageously played 24…Ke7 on his way to a win with the black pieces.

Kuzin, Anton – Afromeev, Vladimir, 0-1, Tula Efremenkov Memorial, 2006

Another way for black to respond is to strike back in the center with 3…e5, instead of 3…a6. IM Milovan Ratkovic is here to show us how the play might unfold.

[embedded content]

Queen’s Gambit Accepted 4.Qa4+ Mannheim Variation

This position is usually reached by the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qa4+

Queen's Gambit Accepted Mannheim Variation
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Mannheim Variation

However, it is sometimes reached with 3.Qa4+ Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6

In the above position, black has two other good options in 4…Nd7 and 4…Bd7. Developing the knight to c6 puts pressure on the d4 pawn.

4…Nc6 5.Nc3 Nd5 brings us to the following position when White has a choice between increasing his central control or capturing the pawn.

Queen's Gambit Accepted Mannheim Variation with 5...Nd5
Queen’s Gambit Accepted Mannheim 5…Nd5

Final Thoughts on the Queen’s Gambit Accepted

As you have learned, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted is a sound defense for black. Surprisingly, you don’t see the Queen’s Gambit Accepted played as often as the statistics suggest.

Considering that some of the greatest players have used it with success, this underrated opening deserves more credit.

Of course, having others overlook the winning potential of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted means you get to play a sound, dynamic opening that is likely to catch your opponent by surprise. 

Accept the challenge and the gambit with the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, but remember it isn’t all one-way sailing.

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is an opening that offers both side every opportunity to play for a win. There are a number of different strategies you can adopt with white that will lead to many enjoyable games.

Grant the Queen’s Gambit Accepted the respect it deserves and you can have lots of fun playing it with either color.

Also, be sure to read:

You May Also Like