Openings

Queen's Gambit

1.d4 d5 2.c4

The Queen's Gambit is one of the oldest and most reputable 1.d4 openings for White. Unlike 1.e4 openings, the Queen's Gambit usually evolves into a strategic game rather than an all-out tactical battle. Despite being around for centuries, this opening is still one of the cornerstones of every elite players' repertoire. It's also an excellent choice for beginners and intermediate players.


Starting Position

The Queen's Gambit starts after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4. White's second move attacks the d5-pawn, increasing control over the center. If Black decides to take the pawn with 2...dxc4, White will have successfully deflected one of Black's central pawns to the board's wing.

Queen's Gambit
The starting position of the Queen's Gambit.

Despite its name, the Queen's Gambit doesn't quite gambit a pawn since Black can't really hang on to the extra pawn safely.

Pros

  • Fights to control the center
  • It puts immediate pressure on Black
  • Gains space

Cons

  • White may have to spend time getting the pawn back
  • Less attacking chances against the black king
  • Black may aim to counterattack d4

Variations

Black can meet the Queen's Gambit by capturing the white c4-pawn (Queen's Gambit Accepted) or trying to hold on to their d5-pawn (Queen's Gambit Declined and Slav Defense). Numerous variations branch out from each of those options.

Slav Defense

The Slav Defense is the most popular variation against 2.c4. Black declines the gambit and reinforces the central d4-pawn with 2...c6. Black avoids locking the light-squared bishop inside the pawn chain like in the Queen's Gambit Declined (discussed below). The Slav Defense has a large amount of theory and is considered a different opening on its own.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6


Queen's Gambit Declined

Black's second most played option is the Queen's Gambit Declined. Black doesn't take the white pawn on c4 and instead reinforces their center with 2...e6. Another solid option for Black, this choice has the downside of placing a pawn on the light-squared bishop's way.

Black's plan usually involves counterattacking White's d4-pawn with the c7-c5 push. In most cases, one of the players accepts creating structural weaknesses for dynamic compensation, such as taking the initiative or brewing a powerful attack.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6

Queen's Gambit Accepted

The Queen's Gambit Accepted can be a safe way of playing against 2.c4 if Black knows what to do. After taking the pawn with 2...cxd4, Black should not try to hold on to it but instead focus on developing their pieces while White recaptures the pawn.

Black's light-squared bishop, which is usually a problem in the Queen's Gambit Declined, usually finds a good spot on b7 or g4 in this variation. Black will also try to force White to accept an isolated d-pawn, which could become a target.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4


How To Play Against The Queen's Gambit

The Queen's Gambit is an exceptional opening for White, and the well-prepared player should get more than satisfying results with it. Still, Black can find some counterplay and reach balanced positions in many lines even if White plays with precision. Below are three variations that should help you face the Queen's Gambit.

Queen's Gambit Accepted

Even though the Queen's Gambit Accepted has a reputation of sometimes leading to stale positions, this is one of the best-scoring variations for Black. Of the more than 23,000 games in our masters' database, Black wins 25%, draws 38%, and loses 38%.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4

Queen's Gambit Accepted
The Queen's Gambit Accepted scores well for Black.

Slav Defense

If you'd rather decline the gambit, the Slav Defense is a good option. Despite its heavy theory, this defense will give you a solid position even if you learn just the basics of it. Black wins 21% of games with the Slav, draws 39%, and loses 40%.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6

Queen's Gambit.
The Slav is a solid way of playing against the Queen's Gambit.


Albin Countergambit

If you prefer sharper positions, the Albin Countergambit might be a good choice for you. Black responds to White's pawn offer with 2...e5, offering a gambit themselves. This move can lead to wild positions and hidden traps, so White must know how to respond accurately.

You should note that masters don't typically go for this line since it's too risky. With accurate play, White should have no problem building a considerable advantage. Still, the Albin Countergambit is one of the best-scoring lines among non-professional players.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5

History Of The Queen's Gambit

The Queen's Gambit is one of the oldest openings in chess. Its earliest record comes from the Gottingen manuscript, written circa 1490. Later, masters Alessandro Salvio and Gioachino Greco analyzed the opening in the first part of the 17th century. However, it wasn't until the 1890s that masters started including 1.d4 in their repertoire.

Positional play became more prominent by the end of the 19th century, bringing more attention to the Queen's Gambit. By the beginning of the 20th century, the opening became very prominent amogn elite players. In fact, the opening became so popular that chess legends Alexander Alekhine and Jose Raul Capablanca played it in 32 out of the 34 games of their 1927 world championship match.

Queen's Gambit
Alekhine and Capablanca employed the Queen's Gambit in all but two rounds of their 1927 World Championship match. Photo: Ajedrezargentina.org/Wikimedia, CC.

The Queen's Gambit continues to be extremely popular among elite players today. Of the top ten players in the world (as of April 2021), eight of them has the Queen's Gambit as one of their most-played openings as White—GMs Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Alexander Grischuk, Wesley So, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Teimour Radjabov.


Famous Games

Being one of the most popular openings in history, it's not hard to find impressive games in most of the variations of the Queen's Gambit. Below you can see two games in the Queen's Gambit Declined and another one in the Queen's Gambit Accepted.

Alekhine vs Lasker, 1934

Bernstein vs. Capablanca, 1914


Karpov vs. Kasparov, 1984

Conclusion

You now know what the Queen's Gambit is, how to play it, how to play against it, its history, and more. Head over to our Master Games page to study games in this opening to see how the world's best players handle it!

Lesson
1. d4 Openings for Beginners (White)

1. d4 Openings for Beginners (White)

The most popular alternative to 1.e4 is 1.d4. One of the main openings after d4 is the Queen's Gambit, which goes 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 (or c6). This will lead to the Queen's Gambit declined or the Slav defense.
3 min
5 Challenges
Notable Game

Top Players