1 Nf3 repertoire: Miscellaneous lines after 1…d5

So far we have been covering Black’s mainstream defences based on …d5, and some of the most popular alternatives defences. In this post, we will look at Black’s less common options after 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4.

A couple of moves that were been mentioned in the post on the Queen’s Gambit Accepted are 2…a6 and 2…c5. There we were concerned with the positions after 3 c4 dxc4 followed both moves. However, there are other lines to consider.

The first arises after 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 a6. Khalifman considers that 3 c4 dxc4 is reasonable for Black, so he advocates 3 Bg5 instead. This move is based on the idea that Black will find it hard to play …Nf6 without allowing Bxf6, doubling his pawns. Until Black allows this opportunity, White will continue with moves such as e3, c4 and Nc3.

The second arises after 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c5 3 c4 and now, instead of 3…dxc4, as covered in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted post, or 3…e6, leading to the Tarrasch Defence, Black has an alternatives in 3…cxd4, when White should reply 4 cxd5. The main variations are then:

(a) 4…Qxd5 5 Nc3 Qa5 6 Nxd4 Nf6 7 g3, when White’s bishop puts pressure on the Black kingside.

(b) 4…Nf6 and now White has a choice:

(b1) 5 Qxd4 is advocated by Khalifman. White allows the exchange of queen’s via 5…Qxd5 6 Nc3 Qxd4 7 Nxd4, but now the threat of Ndb5 is strong.

(b2) 5 Nxd4 is covered by Hilton and Ippolito, since it was preferred by Wojtkiewicz. After 5…Nxd5 6 e4, there are a few basic lines, where White has a slight edge:

(b2a) 6…Nc7 7 Bf4!

(b2b) 6…Nb4!? 7 Qa4+ N8c6 8 Be3 Bd7 9 Nxc6 Nxc6 10 Nc3

(b2c) 6…Nf6 7 Nc3 e5 8 Bb5+ Bd7 9 Nf3 Qa5 10 Bxd7+ Nbxd7 11 0-0

In the above lines, White seems to have a small but persistent advantage against sensible play from Black.

Now we can move onto Black’s other seconds moves. Black’s most significant options are 2…Nc6 and 2…Bf5. There are not really any other moves worth considering much. 2…Bg4 can be met simply by 3 Ne5, followed by 4 c4 against both 4…Bh5 and 4…Bf5. 2…f5 leads to the Stonewall Defence considered in the previous post after 3 c4 e6.

After 2…Nc6, White has to decide whether to transpose to the Chigorin Defence by 3 c4, or try something else, such as 3 g3 or 3 Bf4.

After 3 c4 Bg4, White has:

(a) 4 cxd5 Bxf3 5 gxf3 Qxd5 6 e3, where White gains the bishop pair, but his pawn structure becomes rather unwieldy and Black’s knights are active.

(b) 4 Nc3, which is much more direct and puts Black under more pressure. White meets 4…dxc4 with 5 d5 Bxf3 6 exf3 and the following lines:

(b1) 6…Na5 7 Qa4+ c6 8 b4!

(b2) 6…Ne5 7 Bf4 Ng6 8 Bxc4 and now 8…Nxf4 fails to 9 Bb5+! c6 10 dxc6 Nxg2+ 11 Kf1, while 8…Nf6 9 Bg3 leaves Black under serious pressure.

These lines are covered in detail by Khalifman.

An interesting alternative is 3 g3, taking advantage of the fact that White hasn’t yet committed himself to c4. Play can then become either sharp or solid:

(a) 3…Bg4 4 Bg2 Qd7 5 h3 (to prevent a later …Bh3) 5…Bh5 6 Nbd2 0-0-0 7 c3 followed by b4.

(b) 3…Bf5 4 Bg2 e6 5 0-0 Nf6 6 c4 Be7 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Nc3.

Hilton and Ippolito look at this lesser known system in their book.

The move 2…Bf5 is regarded as dubious, but White needs to act vigorously against this move. The point is that Black usually struggles to develop this bishop in the Queen’s Gambit, either being forced to make a concession to develop it, or being forced to block it in; that is the basis of White’s advantage in that opening. If Black could develop his bishop that easily, then the Queen’s Gambit would be toothless. However, matters are not so simple, as Black has not fortified d5 sufficiently, meaning that White has the chance to put pressure on d5 and b7 simultaneously.

For instance, White can play 3 c4 and now after 3…e6, White has a choice between the immediate 4 Qb3 and 4 Nc3 c6 5 Qb3, both employing the same approach. Against 3…c6, White’s next move is determined by his system after 3…e6. If he plays 4 Qb3, then he should meet 3…c6 with 4 cxd5 Bxb1 (4…Qxd5 5 Nc3 is obviously good for White) 5 Rxb1 Qxa5 6 a3; otherwise, he can play 4 Nc3, when 4…e6 5 Qb3 leads to the line above, while 4…Nf6 transposes to a dubious line of the Slav after 5 cxd5 cxd5 (5 …Nxd5 6 Qb3!? or 6 Nd2) 6 Qb3.

The move 4 Qb3 is covered by Hilton and Ippolito, while Khalifman looks at 4 Nc3.

Visit the Bibliography for recommended reading relating to the 1 Nf3 Repertoire.
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