The Tarrasch Defense is a chess opening characterized by the moves:
- 1. d4 d5
- 2. c4 e6
- 3. Nc3 c5
The Tarrasch is a variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined.
With his third move, Black makes an aggressive bid for central space. After White plays cxd5 and dxc5, Black will be left with an isolated pawn on d5. Such a pawn may be weak, since it can no longer be defended by other pawns; but it grants Black a foothold in the center, and Black's bishops will have unobstructed lines for development.
The opening was advocated by the German master Siegbert Tarrasch, who contended that the increased mobility Black enjoys is well worth the inherent weakness of the isolated center pawn. Although many other masters, after the teachings of Wilhelm Steinitz, rejected the Tarrasch Defense out of hand because of the pawn weakness, Tarrasch continued to play his opening while rejecting other variations of the Queen's Gambit, even to the point of putting question marks on routine moves in all variations except the Tarrasch (which he awarded an exclamation mark) in his book Die moderne Schachpartie. (See chess punctuation.)
The Tarrasch Defense is considered sound. Even if Black fails to make use of his mobility and winds up in an inferior endgame, tied to the defence of his isolated pawn, he may be able to hold the draw if he defends accurately.
In the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, the Tarrasch Defense has codes D32 through D34.
In the main line, White will isolate Black's queen pawn with 4. cxd5 exd5 and attempt to exploit its weakness. The most common setup is to fianchetto his king's bishop in order to put pressure on the isolated d5-pawn, as 3...c5 has relinquished the possibility of protecting the point d5 by means of ...c6.
After 4.cxd5, Black may offer the Hennig-Schara Gambit with 4...cxd4. While this was once essayed by Alekhine, it has never achieved popularity at master level and is considered good for White.
On his third move White often plays 3.Nf3 instead (in part to avoid the Hennig-Schara), which after 3...c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 transposes to the main line.
Main line: 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. g3 Nf6
7. Bg2 Be7 8. 0-0 0-0
In modern praxis, 9.Bg5 is most frequently played here, though there are other ideas of note, 9.dxc5 and 9.b3 being the main alternatives. (Other lines are 9.Be3, 9.Bf4, and 9.a3.)
The Swedish Variation (also called the Folkestone Variation) is a sharp line beginning 6... c4. Black now has a four to three queenside pawn majority, and will try to expand with ...b5, with White aiming for a central break with e4. The line is considered somewhat dubious, and is rarely seen nowadays.
The Swedish Variation has ECO code D33.
The variation 3... Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 is called the Semi-Tarrasch Defense. Unlike the regular Tarrasch, Black does not accept an isolated pawn, since he intends to recapture on d5 with the knight (as after 5.cxd5, 5...exd5 has long been known to be dubious after 6.Bg5), but he cedes a spatial advantage to White. The intended recapture with the Nf6 prevents Black from seamlessly transposing to the Semi-Tarrasch if White has played 4. Bg5.
After 4...c5, White usually plays 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e3 or 6.e4, which lead to different types of middlegame play and have attracted the interest of strong players with both colours since the early twentieth century.
The Semi-Tarrasch has ECO codes D40 through D42.
In this line, White forgoes the fianchetto, with its direct play against d5, opting to keep central tension for the moment by playing 4. e3, after which 4... Nf6 5. Nf3 Nc6 is the normal continuation. From this position, White may choose to inflict the isolated pawn on Black, accept the weakness himself in return for active piece play, or play 6.a3, with a view to dxc5, followed by b4 and Bb2, aiming for positions in which the extra tempo will come in useful if Black keeps the symmetry; thus, 6...Ne4, once chosen by Bobby Fischer in his Candidates Match with Tigran Petrosian in 1971, gives a different turn.
Symmetrical Variation has ECO code D40.
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