GM Joel on the Queen's Gambit Declined
By GM Joel Benjamin   
March 14, 2008
Hello Grandmaster Joel,
I have a question about the Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange.  It is supposed to be a good opening for White with positive chances, but my friend keeps equalizing against me with a move I cannot find an answer for, 8 ... h6.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Qc2 c6 7.e3 Nbd7 8.Bd3 h6 9.Bh4 0-0 10.Nf3 Re8 11.0-0 Ne4

Position after 11...Ne4

We just have been playing this very similar game many times, and I am having trouble finding winning chances as he keeps equalizing.  I don't know on move 12 if I should capture on e4 with my d3 bishop or just castle.  It seems like I should take on d3 because then all his pawns are on the same color as his only bishop.   I feel like in 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Bxe4 dxe4 15.Nd2 I have 10-20% chance of winning and 80-90% chance of drawing, but I never win this against him.  I feel like I can only lose if his bishop gets to d3.  If you have any ideas about how to spice up my QGD and keep the pressure on him, I would appreciate it.  My rating is 2020.
Thanks for your time,
Mark in Kentucky


If your strategy hasn’t been working, it is definitely time to take a different approach.  You might want to try 12.Bxe4.  Since 12…dxe4? 13.Qxe4 costs Black a pawn, 12…Bxh4 is necessary.  Then after 13.Bh7+ Kh8 White has a choice of two plans.
Position after 13...Kh8

White can opt for the traditional minority attack with 14.b4!? (recommended by Knaak back in 1991) or try to play in the center with 14.Bd3 Be7 15.Rae1!?  White can meet 15…Bd6 with 16.e4, or 15….Nf6 with 16.Ne5 and 17.f4.  This may not objectively improve on your play, but it might spice things up for you.

In the following game White succeeded with the latter plan.