Typical Positions (Part 6)

  • WIM energia
  • | May 10, 2013

Chess openings are a bit like fashion - they follow trends. Certain lines become popular and then just fade away. In most cases, an elite player (or most likely his team) prepares an opening for a tournament and then everyone else follows his lead. Recently, in the Queens Gambit Declined, there have been many games where black exchanging the knight for the Bf4, resulting in white having d4 and f4 pawns. This structure is typical as it can result from different closed openings and one needs to know how to play it well. Let's look at typical plans for both sides.

A recent game is from Alekhine Memorial, where Gelfand won a smooth game. Let us look at the beginning few moves until the critical position of the variation is reached:


For inexperienced players the pawn structure with d4 and f4 might not inspire too much confidence. However, these pawns represent white's advantage! They take a lot of space and do not let black to achieve the e5-break. Thus, black has a major problem to resolve - how to develop the Bc8. White has full control over the e5-square and better development, & black has to watch out for the d5-break. Let us see Adams attempt to solve black's problems.

After massive exchanges we have reached an endgame where black is worse. It seems that the bishop and pawn majority on the queenside should give black at least equality. Statically true - black should be better but dynamics do not work out for him. White is ahead in development with the rook and knight being very active. The bishop does not have good squares to retreat to. If black had a rook on d8 and a bishop on g7 then he would be better, unfortunately for him there is no time to rearrange the pieces. In the next stage of the game Gelfand further developed the initiative.

White developed pieces more or less naturally. Black solved the Bc8-problem with the Nb6-Bd7-Bc6 plan. Then followed the d5-break (with Bc6 it is especially dangerous) and piece exchanges. Black ended up in an endgame where Bd6 could not really move as the c7-pawn was a major weakness. White built-up the pieces on the d and c-files and won the c-pawn. The development of events we saw in this game is quite common as we will confirm with the next game, where black chose to develop the bishop through b7 instead.


The game followed a pattern similar to the first game, but here black is even worse because the light squares are weak on the queenside. An extra pair of knights will most likely benefit the attacking side. Notice how in this position white builds up on the c-file instead of exchanging the knight for the bishop. The problem is that if black manages to put the pawn on d5 (which would be protected by the Nf6) then it would be hard for white to capture it. Meanwhile, the c7-pawn is an easy target as it is so close to the 8th-rank.

Let us see some other games where black tries to solve the problem of the c8-bishop in other ways. In the following game black opts for a Slav-like pawn structure on the queenside.

What we saw in the game that developing bishop on b7 thorough Slav-like pawn-structure on the queenside does not solve the problem. With such a development method black has to make sure that he achieves the c5-break. However, as we saw, white had just enough time to secure the c5-square first with the rook and queen and later by planting a knight there.

The last game shows what happens if black decides not to solve the bishop problem and opts for slow and passive set-up. White decides the game with... yes, quick attack on the king.

This article wraps-up the series of articles about typical positions in 1.d4 schemes. I will announce the next series shortly, but before that we will study some examples from the US Championship which is underway in St. Louis.


  • 3 years ago


    Nice series of articles

  • 3 years ago


    @WIM energia, u r the best writer at chess.com.Keep it up (y)

  • 3 years ago


    How is black to refute this openning?

  • 3 years ago


    I liked how you explained how the two pawns (d4 & f4) in the first example (and really, all the examples following), are not the weaknesses some players like myself would think them to be.  As an inexperienced player, it's useful for me to see that sometimes the reality of a given situation might in fact be the opposite of what I assume.

    Likewise, I appreciate you explaining why (in the Akobian-Seirawan example) white should not exchange his knight for the bishop on d6.  My first thought was to trade pieces, and isolate the pawn (in my beginner's mind: isolated pawn = weak pawn).  But your explanation neatly pointed out that that is not at all the case here.

    Thanks for the article (and the series)!  And congratulations on your performance at the USWCC!!  Looking forward to your next article examining some of the games/positions from the tournament! Smile

  • 3 years ago


    Very nice series, and sad that it's ending. Even though I don't know how to use such advantages all the time, your articles gave me a good idea of what to expect and what types of plans generally work.

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    Good examples, but then how is black to play this line? Is 7..Nxf4 always a bad line?

  • 3 years ago


    The problem of the c8 bishop is a symptom of what I think is a fundamentally flawed play of the opening.  Playing  ..d5-xc4 is a waste of tempo that eliminates a center Pawn to boot.  Likewise ..Nf6-d5-xf4 wastes valuable time.  The bishop pair is not worth it.

  • 3 years ago


    Nice article,but im with Icanfight on this one.

  • 3 years ago


    Too advanced for me. A series of exchanges in the opening that even a GM did not see and making 50 accurate endgame moves after that! I don't think the slight advantage( I would never see anyway) is more important than the study of the endgame or tactics. Depends on your level.

  • 3 years ago


    I like breaking up  the pawn structure. Is whites center weakend now or will castleing give him an advantage?

  • 4 years ago


    very well written

  • 4 years ago


    Very instructive series ! Thanks ! Smile

  • 4 years ago


    In first game Gelfand-Adams there is a mistake: The analysis (27...Kxe8?? 28. gh7) is not correct because of 28...Bf6. The right response after 27...Kxe8?? is 28. g7! winning

  • 4 years ago


    Articles explaining chess openings look at many elements, one of which is central is the interaction of initiative with positional factors.  Sometimes positional play can incorporate more long term strategy vs. immediate tactical gain.  What is difficult is quantifying each move as either offensive or defensive, or both depending on immediate and long term positions.  Rather than categorizing opening by titles it would be more relevant to what each opening focuses on in terms of style of game and tempos related to the interaction of strategy and tactics.  I have not seen an overt analysis covering the psychology of what is covered mentally for reasons behind each move in openings.  Some openings may be more static and others may have great ability to be tactically focused with more movement.  At the start of the game explained it appears black is a bit rushed and impatient, almost defensive as if to get white to reveal the plans of the game.  I wonder if being so overt as to which side is opening and which side will be castling as so apparent is a wise strategy and I wonder black's reasoning for not trying to develop more quietly.

    What I have seen is apparent is that when I study such games, move by move I mentally note what is happening and try to determine what I would do for each move on each side and see if that differs from actual play in the game and then qualify if the move was more tactical than positional and why.  Given that there is a ton of pgn files around I more than likely could study chess all day every day for many years and never run out of games to study.  So what is key is the unconscious recognition that occurs through looking at games such as these, actually working through them and really explaining why each move was made, rather than simply making a cursory comment here and there as one moves the pieces around.

  • 4 years ago


    Execllent series of articles energia!! Could we also have a series on 1. e4 schemes as well??

  • 4 years ago


    @WIM energia, is it possible in the last game of this article that black can try  the idea of exchanging bishop with moves ...9 b6 and ...10 Ba6, since black's knight is still on b8 before move 9.

  • 4 years ago


    great article, excellent selection of games

  • 4 years ago


    Awesomely instructive! Thanx :)

  • 4 years ago



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