Queen’s Gambit Declined – Taking Down the Tarrasch Defense

The Queen’s Gambit is a chess opening that almost everybody plays at some point in their chess career. This adaptable opening caters to every playing style.

GM Damian Lemos has just released his latest Deep Dive course, offering a repertoire for White in the Queen’s Gambit. In volume 1, he looks at play with Black’s ..e6 setups. In the preview video above, you can watch one of the lessons on playing against the Tarrasch Variation.

Since the power of the fianchetto cannot be denied, using it to gain a safe, secure advantage makes perfect sense. 

Now, if one fianchettoed bishop is good, why not double-up for twice as much firepower?

This approach will keep you safe from any new novelties Black might desperately try against you.

The fianchetto against the Tarrasch Defense is a lot more about the plans and piece placement than cutting-edge theoretical lines.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Tarrasch Defense against the Queen’s Gambit in Chess

In the Queen’s Gambit Declined, the usual approach by Black is to play for a solid set-up and classical development.

Another approach is to accept the structural weakness of the isolated queen pawn (IQP) and play the Tarrasch Defense.

Black is willing to take on this weakness in return for a more open position. Unlike in the orthodox Queen’s Gambit Declined, Black has no bad bishop.

The Black pieces can develop to their most natural squares with the least amount of trouble. 

However, the effects of the IQP will be felt through most of the game.

There is no outright refutation of the Tarrasch Defense but White has several options that can tie Black down to a lengthy defense.

The closer the game gets to the endgame, the more Black will find himself hampered by this weak pawn. Black is forced to defend his isolated pawn with a piece in the endgame.

Even if Black manages to change the pawn structure from an isolated queen pawn position to hanging pawns, he gets saddled with another pawn weakness.

After the move …bxc6, the d5-pawn is supported by another pawn. Unfortunately for Black, the c6-pawn is a backward pawn on an open file.

White can line up a rook and queen on the semi-open c-file and put tremendous pressure on this weak pawn. There is simply no escape from a pawn weakness for Black in the Tarrasch Defense.

Chess engines can be an invaluable aid in learning a chess opening. You can see how the chess engine will play the position and incorporate its attacking play into your own games. Learn how to get the most from them in this article.

Playing against the Isolated Queen’s Pawn

The advantage White has in the Queen’s Gambit Declined Tarrasch Defense goes beyond giving Black a weak pawn.

Playing against the isolated pawn is a lot less about opening theory and much more about having solid middlegame skills. You are more likely to win games in the middlegame than the opening.

When playing against the isolated pawn, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • exchange minor pieces but not major pieces
  • the square in front of the isolated pawn is a very weak square
  • playing with the isolated pawn becomes more challenging with every piece exchange.

Against the Tarrasch Defense, the fianchettoed bishop on b2 will increase white’s control of the crucial d4-square. Black would love to play ..d4 and exchange or even sacrifice his weak pawn.

Black can certainly defend his isolated queen pawn. However, if you have your opponent constantly defending, he is more likely to make a mistake.

Keeping your opponent’s pieces defending means they are not attacking you. 

The Queen’s Gambit Declined Tarrasch Defense Variation

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 brings us to the starting position of the Queen’s Gambit Declined Tarrasch Defense.

tarrasch defense starting position
Tarrasch Defense Starting Position

One of the key points to remember with White is to wait until Black develops the king’s bishop before capturing on c5. This forces Black to lose a tempo by recapturing with his bishop.

The bishop has moved twice when ideally it would recapture and develop in one move.

Play continues with 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.b3

tarrasch defense 9.b3
Tarrasch Defense 9.b3

The most popular move after 8…O-O is 9.Bg5 but playing it means learning a lot more theory.

9.b3 is an effective way to play for the advantage with white without any risk. 

Apart from a solid, robust system you can use against other openings, you avoid memorizing long theoretical lines.

The whole idea behind the Tarrasch Defense is active piece play, so 9…Bg4 is a logical response from Black. White has two strong reactions to this move:

  • 10.Ne5, or
  • 10.Bb2

Against the lesser-played moves of 9…cxd4 or 9…Be6, simple development allows White to get a good position. Develop your bishop on b2, and your rooks come to c1 and e1. 

After 10.Ne5 cxd4 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Qxd4 White has a comfortable position with play against the backward c-pawn. 

The Queen's Gambit chess Tarrasch Defense 12.qxd4 variation.
Tarrasch Defense 12.Qxd4

10.Bb2 is another logical response since the knight on f3 isn’t pinned.

Play might continue 10…Qd7 11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.Rc1

The Tarrasch defense of the queen's gambit chess 12.rc1 variation
Tarrasch Defense 12.Rc1

White can continue with Qd2 and e3 to keep an eye on the d4-square.

Here is a game between two strong players showing how effective 9.b3 can be against the Tarrasch Defense.

Ruck, Robert (2569) – Sbarra, Marco (2266), 1-0

In Conclusion

The Queen’s Gambit in chess is a great opening to play with a fianchetto or double-fianchetto.

Learning to play with the fianchettoed bishop will improve your all-round chess ability too.

The fianchetto against the Tarrasch Defense ensures you get a position free of any structural weaknesses.

If your opponent wants to self-inflict a weakness in his position, don’t get in his way!

Remember, never stop your opponent from playing a bad plan or an opening against which you can get a safe advantage.

Act now! Get 50% Off! The Queen’s Gambit for White vol. 1 Deep Dive by GM Damian Lemos with over 6 hours of top-quality chess instruction on this venerable chess opening for only $29.95!

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