1 Nf3 repertoire: The Queen’s Gambit Accepted

After 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4, there are several instances of Black transposing to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted on move 3 by meeting 3 c4 with 3 …dxc4. The lines we need to be concerned about are:

  • 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 c4 dxc4
  • 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 e6 3 c4 dxc4
  • 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c6 3 c4 dxc4
  • 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 a6 3 c4 dxc4
  • 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c5 3 c4 dxc4

There are a couple of things to bear in mind here, in contrast to the standard Queen’s Gambit Accepted move order (1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4):

  1. White has committed himself to Nf3, so the game will transpose to one of the lines after 1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 Nf3, should White play 3 c4 and Black respond 3 …dxc4.
  2. White is not committed to 3 c4 and this possible transposition. In most cases White will play this move, as there is no promising alternative. However, in the case of 2…a6, Khalifman has suggested that 3 Bg5 is more promising than allowing the transposition.

We will leave any alternatives to 3 c4 to another post and only consider the lines after 3 c4 dxc4 here.

Line A: 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 c4 dxc4 4 e3

This leads to the traditional main line of the Q.G.A. (1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3).

Black’s main defensive system runs 4 …e6 5 Bxc4 c5 6 0-0 a6. Nowadays, the main move is 7 Bb3, a clever prophylactic move directed against 7…b5, which can now be met with 8 a4. Other moves worth considering are 7 a4, which prevents …b5 at the cost of weakening b4, and usually resolves to a standard isolated queen’s pawn position, and 7 dxc5, which is likely to appeal to those who like endgames.

My personal preference is for 7 Bb3. For more information see Avrukh’s “1 d4 Volume One” (especially) or Cox “Staring out: 1 d4!”.

Khalifman covers 7 a4, while Hilton and Ippolito look at 7 dxc5, which was the line employed by Alex Wojtkiewicz.

White also needs a system against 4 …Bg4. Possible approaches are 5 Bxc4 e6 6 h3 Bh5 followed by either 7 Nc3 or 7 g4, or 6 Nc3.

Line B: 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 e6 3 c4 dxc4

This line usually transposes to the traditional main line, covered above, after 4 e3 c5 5 Bxc4 a6 6 0-0 Nf6. It is a move order employed by Rublevsky to avoid the Furman Variation, which could be reached after 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 c4 dxc4 4 e3 5 Bxc4 c5 6 Qe2; the point is that the Furman line is only threatening if Black has played his knight to f6.

Line C: 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c6 3 c4 dxc4

This is a hybrid between the Slav and Queen’s Gambit Accepted. The normal recommendation is 4 e3, although Khalifman has argued the case of 4 a4.

After 4 e3 b5, play develops into a dubious version of the Noteboom: 5 a4 e6 6 axb5 cxb5 7 b3 Bb4+ 8 Bd2 Bxd2+ 9 Nbxd2 a5 10 bxc4 b4 and now Avrukh recommends 11 Ne5 Nf6 12 Be2, which he attributes to Shipov and considers very dangerous for Black.

More solid for Black is 4 e3 Be6, when White can simply continue with 5 Qc2 intending to regain the pawn. Note that 5 Ng5? is not advisable, because of 5 …Qa5+ winning a piece. However, after 5 …b5, 6 Ng5 is possible, and indeed the recommended move, with 6 …Bd5 being met by 7 e4.

Line D: 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 a6 3 c4 dxc4

Khalifman recommends that White sidesteps this line with 3 Bg5 rather than 3 c4. If White does decide to go into this line, the critical line, as described by Sakaev and Semkov, is 4 e4 b5 5 a4 Bb7 6 axb5 axb5 7 Rxa8 Bxa8 8 Nc3. Then 8 …c6 can be met by 9 e5 or 9 Be2, while 8 …e6 is met by 9 Nxb5 Bxe4 10 Bxc4.

Line E: 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c5 3 c4 dxc4

This transpose into a sideline of the Q.G.A., which would normally be reached after the moves 1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 Nf3 c5.

On the surface, it would seem that 4 e3 would be likely to transpose to the normal lines with …e6 and …c5, should Black play something like 4 …Nf6 5 Bxc4 e6 or 4 …e6 5 Bxc4 Nf6, but Black has another option in the shape of 4 …cxd4, when 5 exd4 is met by 5 …Be6, equalising, as White has to waste time to regain the pawn, and 5 Bxc4 Qc7!? 6 Qb3 e6 7 exd4 Nc6 8 Nc3 a6 is unclear, according to Khalifman.

Instead, White can choose the much more challenging 4 d5. Then we have the following basic lines:

  1. 4 …Nf6 5 Nc3 e6 6 e4 exd5 7 e5!
    1. 7 …Ne4 8 Qxd5!
    2. 7 …Nfd7 8 Bg5 or 8 Qxd5
  2. 4 …e6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 Qxd5 Qxd5 7 Nxd5 Bd6 8 e4!? or 8 Nd2

These lines are covered in detail by Khalifman; there is also a useful summary in Cox.

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