The Tarrasch Defence has rarely been a popular defence to the Queen’s Gambit. It rose briefly to prominence in 1969, when employed with success by Boris Spassky against Tigran Petrosian in their World Championship match; later Garry Kasparov used it in his Candidates Matches of 1983 and first World Championship encounter against Karpov in 1984. However, its popularity has never persisted; Kasparov did not fare well with it against Karpov, and it slipped out of his top level repertoire.
In our 1 Nf3 repertoire, the main move orders to the Tarrasch are as follows:
- 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 e6 3 c4 c5
- 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c5 3 c4 e6
- 1 Nf3 e6 2 c4 d5 3 d4 c5
The opening is a critical test of the viability of the Queen’s Gambit; Black immediately attempts to free his position with …c5. However, the price to pay is not only that White can inflict an isolated queen’s pawn on him, but he can also deploy his pieces aggressively against it.
The basic position is reached after the moves 4 cxd5 exd5 5 g3 Nc6 6 Bg2 Nf6 7 0-0 Be7 8 Nc3 0-0, although both players can vary this move order slightly. This setup, attributed to Rubinstein, sees White deploy his king’s bishop aggressively on g2 where it puts pressure not only on the d5 pawn, but also on the Black queenside beyond.
White’s main approach has for many years been 9 Bg5, hitting one of the defenders of d5, and therefore putting pressure on Black’s centre. This approach is covered well by Khalifman and Cox. However, Avrukh, in his recent book, advocates 9 dxc5, feeling that it offers better chances for an advantage. Hilton and Ippolito, meanwhile, look at the move favoured by Alex Wojtkiewicz, 9 b3, which is a less common but still dangerous system.