Opening Experiment Results: Queen's Gambit Accepted
A couple of years ago I lost a game on the black side of my trusted Queen's Gambit Declined and decided that it was time for some variety. I had been playing that opening as my main defense to d4 for several years. While I mostly scored well, I wanted to find something a bit more active to play with black, so that I:
1. Wouldn't come under early kingside attacks (the above mentioned loss got steamrolled by an early g4 and h4).
2. Wouldn't have to grind out long endgames against low rated opponents.
3. Wouldn't take too much work to learn. I'm more of a coach than a player these days and don't have a ton of time to devote to opening study.
I eventually decided on the Queen's Gambit Accepted. I played it a lot online and in a couple of rated events and would like to share what I learned in case anyone is interested.
I didn't want to learn the intractacies of the main line Queen's Gambit accepted with an early e6, a6 and b5. I've seen enough games there where black made a lot of queenside pawn moves and lost to a blistering kingside attack. You can look up a few games by Kramnik against opponents like Anand. This line is good, but failed my first priority, which was not getting attacke to soon. Instead, I focused on the line 1. d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4. I noticed that Boris Avrukh, in his series on 1.d4 admitted that he couldn't find a good line for white here, and avoided it in recommendations. He liked 3.e3 for white, which is OK for both sides after 3...e5. I wont' cover it in detail here, but it reaches very standard isolated pawn positions, which I am comfortable with for black.
Black also needs to prepare against the 3.e4 variation. This is the most aggressive move and makes intutitive sense for white. I found a nice and somewhat rare line, 3...Nc6. This reaches the sort of of unballanced, but sound positions that I was hoping for.
I'll first share a learning experience in an blitz game against the famous Dutch GM Loek Van-Wely. Anyone accepting the Queen's Gambit as black has to be careful not to get steamrolled in the center.
Fortunately, I got to teach a few of my own lessons in the 3.e4 variation. The following game was my first outing of this variation in rated play and resulted in a very smooth win.
The most common line that I've faced with the Queen's Gambit Accepted has been. 3.Nf3. The Bg4 line has given me mixed results. Play can get exciting in lines like this
Black has good compenation for the pawn because of the exposed white king. I won quite a few blitz games in this variation.
In my experience the main downside to the Bg4 lines of the Queen's Gambit Accepted are when white plays quietly. It can be hard to unballance the game against a lower rated player or find counterplay against a stronger one. My most memorable game here involved getting ground down by Senior Master Tom Bartell, which took me out of the running for first in a World Open Blitz tournament.
I don't have that game, but my concerns are about variations where white gets a solid center and the bishop pair. This may not be enough to win, but it can make black's life unpleasant. The following game where white gets the bishop pair and a pleasant endgame is pretty discouraging to me. Although, please note that black did hold the draw.
The Queen's Gambit Accepted is rare and probably better than it's reputation. It served me well as I patched up some holes in my other responses to 1.d4 and I still bring it out on occasion. I do recommend that if you want to make this your main defense to d4, that you look into the isolated queen's pawn lines with 4...e6 instead of 4...Bg4. The positions in that variation are less ballanced and should allow more chances to play for a win.
Good luck in your chess endeavors.