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January 2, 2014

Queen’s gambit offers chance for mistakes

The queen’s gambit is one the most popular chess openings. In the queen’s gambit, white advances the c2 pawn to c4 after the players begin the game by pushing their queen pawns to d4 and d5, respectively. White’s c4 pawn is unprotected, which is the gambit, and if black snatches the pawn, we enter the queen’s gambit accepted.

From there, the game centers on whether black can hold onto the extra pawn. White has traded material for the initiative. This initiative creates traps for black.

In this week’s position, we have one of the standard initial three moves in the queen’s gambit accepted: 1. D4 D5; 2. C4 DxC4; 3. E3 B5. What is white’s best move and how should black reply?        

After black takes the c4 pawn, white moves its e2 pawn to e3, which causes white’s f1 bishop to threaten black’s c4 pawn. Black defends the pawn by advancing its b7 pawn to b5. More common than b5 for black is moving the knight on g8 to f6. One reason is white’s reply to b5. White’s best move is to attack the b5 pawn by moving the a2 pawn to a4.

A common reply to pawn to a4 is to defend the b5 pawn by moving the c7 pawn to c6. This leads to an opening trap. White’s a4 pawn takes the b5 pawn. If black tries to hold onto its pawn and takes the white’s b5 pawn with its c6 pawn, white’s queen leaps to f3. The white queen eyes black’s unguarded rook on a8.

White wins either the rook or black’s knight. Black saves the rook by giving up the knight by moving it to c6, followed by bishop to d7 after the white queen takes the knight.

Black’s best move after white advances its pawn to a4 is to advance the b5 pawn to b4. White moves its queen to f3, threatening the rook. Black blocks the queen attack by moving its pawn to c6. White’s bishop on f1 then takes black’s c4 pawn, leaving white with the better game.

The lesson this week is that a chess opening, like the New Year, is a chance to make the same old mistakes all over again.

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