Kill the Chigorin Defense With the Queen’s Gambit… Kasparov Style!

Looking for a way to play against the Chigorin Defense with the Queen’s Gambit?

Then following in the footsteps of Garry Kasparov will never let you down because his dynamic approach was always based on solid chess principles.

There can be no clearer example of this than his chosen method of meeting the Chigorin Defense. The move 3.cxd5 exchanges a side pawn for a center pawn, and 7.bxc3 captures towards the center.

When it was introduced by the great Russian player Mikhail Chigorin, the Chigorin was too radical for the chess elite to adopt.

However, the approach by Black is based on the sound chess principle of developing pieces with the minimum amount of pawn moves.

This is an opening you must know how to face with White to gain an advantage out of the opening. Fortunately, the opening moves are natural moves, and knowing the strategies counts for more than memorization of theory.

Kasparovs Killer Queens Gambit Approach vs 1

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

White’s Plan In the Killer Kasparov Approach

The starting position of the Queen’s Gambit Chigorin Defense is reached after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6

Queen's Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense Starting Position
Chigorin Defense Starting Position

Following in the footsteps of Garry Kasparov, you can gain a very nice position with 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.e3

Queen's Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 4.e3
Queen’s Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 4.e3

Apart from gaining a central pawn advantage by exchanging a side pawn for a center pawn and capturing towards the center, White opens files for his rooks on the queenside.

When you have a position with a dynamic center, keeping it mobile is crucial.

This makes the pawn advances c4 and d5 an essential part of White’s strategy, especially if they can come with a gain of tempo by attacking the queen and knight.

Two other critical strategical ideas are developing the knight to g3 with Ne2-g3 and rerouting the dark-squared bishop to the kingside with Bd1-g3 or h4. If White cannot advance the pawns to light squares, the pawns on c3, d4, and e3 make this maneuver essential.

When playing with the bishop pair, you want to avoid reaching positions with locked pawns. Delaying a pawn advance is often the wiser course of action since pawns cannot move backward.

Another common strategy for White is to exchange queens and enter the endgame where the bishop pair in an open position can be deadly!

Queen’s Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 3.cxd5 with 4.e3

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.e3 e5

Queen's Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 4...e5
Queen’s Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 4…e5

This is how Garry Kasparov liked to play against the Chigorin Defense. Although it might appear a modest way to play, the soundness of the moves makes it easy to understand and is a safe way to gain an advantage with White.

Play continues in very thematic fashion with 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.bxc3

Queen's Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 7.bxc3
Queen’s Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 7.bxc3

Now Black must decide how to continue his development. Will he allow c4 and d5 with a tempo gain, or will he play the prophylactic …Qd6?

Capturing on d4 with 7…exd4 helps White because it allows him to recapture towards the center and gain a majority of two central pawns to none. Otto Vodep played 7…exd4 in the following game, which allowed White to provide us with a model game about the power of the bishop pair. 

Black did very well to hold out until move 40 because as early as move 11, almost everybody would prefer to play White in the position. 

Zoler, Dan – Vodep, Otto, 1-0, Oberwart op, 1995

Black has two much better options in 7…Nf6 and 7…Qd6. The most popular of the two moves is 7…Nf6 and has been played by Morozevich and Yermolinsky with success.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.e3 e5 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.bxc3 Nf6

Queen's Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 7...Nf6
Queen’s Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 7…Nf6

This sensible developing move allows Black to play…Ne7 if the knight is attacked by d5. From e7, the knight can go to g6 and help defend the black king while adding another attacker if Black gets the chance to go on the offensive.

Super GM Vallejo Pons continued actively after 8.f3 with the pawn advance 8…e4. Both Morozevich and Yermolinsky played 8…0-0 in this position, so it’s good to know how to meet this move with White.

Smirin, Ilia – Vallejo Pons, Francisco, 1-0, EU-chT (Men) 13th, 2001

Queen’s Gambit Chigorin Defense: Black Plays the Prophylactic 7…Qd6

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.e3 e5 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.bxc3 Qd6

Queen's Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 7...Qd6
Queen’s Gambit Declined Chigorin Defense 7…Qd6

In this position, White is in no rush to play e4 because it blocks the bishop on d3. 

Remember, White can activate his dark-squared bishop with Be1!

Make a note of how Garry Kasparov uses his queen on the first rank to defend the e3-pawn and win the h7-pawn. Only after winning the pawn did Kasparov play e4.

Kasparov, Garry – Ivanchuk, Vassily, 1995.06.23, 1-0, New York PCA-Intel GP, New York, NY

In Conclusion

Many Black players use chess engines to play once unfashionable openings that have a low theoretical workload. Although the Chigorin Defense has always been playable, chess engines have given players more confidence in playing it today.

The good news for Queen’s Gambit players is that meeting the Chigorin Defense does not require White to learn long theoretical lines. A good middlegame technique will help you find the right moves against all of Black’s seventh move options.

However, you can make it much easier on yourself by putting in a little time playing through Garry Kasparov’s games when he faced the Chigorin Defense.

Also, be sure to read:

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