The No Sweat Approach to Defeating the Queen’s Gambit Declined 5.Bf4

When you learn how to play the Queen’s Gambit Declined with Black, you will need to know how to meet 5.Bf4.

This is White’s main alternative to 5.Bg5 and can prove very dangerous to the unprepared chess player.

The Queens Gambit Declined Slays 5.Bf4

The good news is that Black has an uncomplicated system to counter White’s dangerous attacking move 5.Bf4.

When playing a classical defense like the Queen’s Gambit Declined, it is helpful to look for classical defense methods.

Understanding the ideas in the Queen’s Gambit Declined for black can prove very helpful if you transpose to it from another opening like the Queen’s Indian Defense.

This is what Judit Polgar did with success against Vladimir Akopian:

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Against 5.Bf4, a queenside fianchetto works extremely well for Black.

The most solid response when playing the Queen’s Gambit Declined with Black is to met 5.Bf4 with 5…0-0 6.e3 b6

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Must-Know Strategies for Black

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6

QGD 6...b6
Queen’s Gambit Declined 6…b6

In a similar fashion to the Rubinstein Variation of the French Defense, Black can play …Bb7 or …Ba6.

The move …Ba6 helps Black eliminate one of White’s strongest attacking pieces – the light-squared bishop on d3!

Do not underestimate how powerful this piece can become if left to focus on h7.

Playing for a win with Black often requires a compromise, which involves the queenside pawn structure in this variation.

Black can recapture on c5 with …bxc5, giving him two isolated pawn islands – the c and a-pawn.

This structure looks a lot worse than it is, so don’t be put off by its appearance!

The open b-file will provide black with counterplay for the rook.

A rook on b8 not only puts pressure on b2, but it can swing over to the kingside with Rb6-g6 or …Rh6.

Although the c5-pawn might look weak, it is not easy for White to attack this pawn.

The active Black pieces will keep White from having time to attack the weak-looking queenside pawns.

The moves 5.Bf4 and 6.e3 prevent the bishop from returning to d2 and allow Black a helpful check. Black will often use …Qa5+ to gain a tempo while moving away from an attack or play …Bb4+ to disrupt White’s development.

The Mainline 7.cxd5

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6

Queens Gambit Declined 6...b6
Queens Gambit Declined 6…b6

In this position, White’s most popular move is 7.cxd5 when play continues thematically with 7…Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Qxd5 9.Bd3 Qa5+

Queens Gambit Declined 9...Qa5
Queens Gambit Declined 9…Qa5

10.Kf1 was the move played by Fabiano Caruana against Hikaru Nakamura when they faced off against each other in 2018.

Caruana, F. – Nakamura, Hi, 0-1, 10th London Classic 2018

White Tries to Prevent the Disruptive …Qa5+

Because the queen check on a5 is so disruptive, White will sometimes play 9.a3 to block the check with b4.

Black does well to strike back immediately in the center with 9…c5 and meet 10.dxc5 with 10…Qxc5.

Queens Gambit Declined 10...Qxc5
Queens Gambit Declined 10…Qxc5

If White tries to gain a tempo by attacking the queen with 11.Rc1 we have 11…Qa5+.

Exchanging queens on d2 is the best approach by Black and leads to immediate equality!

After 13.Nxd2 eight games have ended in a draw, with one of the eight games ending after 13…Bf6.

Two 2400 players decided to play on until move 54 before calling it a draw. Their game clearly shows Black has nothing to fear after 13.Nxd2.

Cobb, Charles – Ahlander, Bjorn, 1/2-1/2, EU-Cup 21st, 2005

A more dynamic approach by White is to play 9.Be2 and block the check with Nd2 allowing White to castle.

This approach was adopted by Wesley So against Sergey Karjakin.

Interestingly enough, Wesley So has played both sides of this position and was prepared to take on Ding Liren and Grischuk with the Black pieces.

Both these games ended in draws, as did his game with the White pieces against Karjakin.

So, W. – Karjakin, Sergey, 1/2-1/2, 7th Sinquefield Cup 2019

White Keeps the Central Tension

White has two main moves if he wishes to keep the central tension and avoid exchanges on d5. These moves are:

  • 7.Bd3,
  • and 7.Rc1


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Bd3

Queens Gambit Declined 7.Bd3
Queens Gambit Declined 7.Bd3

When White develops his bishop to either e2 or d3, in many instances, Black gains a tempo by capturing on c4.

This is one position where …dxc4 works very well.

7…dxc4 8.Bxc4 Ba6 9.Qe2 Bxc4 10.Qxc4 c5 11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.0-0 Qc8

Queens Gambit Declined 12...Qc8
Queens Gambit Declined 12…Qc8

Black will continue his development with …Nbd7, and the queen will find a lovely square on b7. 

Sergey Karjakin has such faith in the 6…b6 he is prepared to take on the best in the world with it.

Apart from playing it against Wesley So, he played it against Harikrishna and world chess champion Magnus Carlsen.

Carlsen, M. – Karjakin, Sergey, 1/2-1/2, 7th Sinquefield Cup 2019


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Rc1

Queens Gambit Declined 7.Rc1
Queens Gambit Declined 7.Rc1

Despite being rated 105 Elo lower than his opponent, Medvegy was willing to play with the two isolated queen pawn islands against Lenic. 

Lenic, L. (2644) – Medvegy, Z. (2539), 0-1, 28th TCh-CRO Div 1b 2019

In Conclusion

Sergey Karjakin has proven Black can fully expect to hold his own in positions arising after 6…b6.

He has played this variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined with black against the very best players in the world today and held his own.

The Queen’s Gambit Declined is a good choice against 1.d4 that is easy to play and offers Black excellent prospects.

Unlike the Grunfeld Defense by playing the Queen’s Gambit Declined, you don’t have to worry about remembering razor-sharp tactics.

One of the advantages of playing an excellent classical defense is using classical opening principles to help you find the right move.

Since …e6 closes in the light-squared bishop, it makes sense to fianchetto it or exchange it with …Ba6.

Chess is a complicated game, so it makes a lot of sense to keep your opening repertoire uncomplicated.

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