1. d4 d5; 2. c4 c6;
The Slav Defense is a reply to the Queen's Gambit which is popular amongst grandmasters and all other standards of players. It is similar to the main line of the Queen's Gambit Declined but black plays 2....c6 instead of 2....e6. After black plays c6 instead of e6, the black queen side bishop isn't blocked in like it is if black plays 2....e6. This opening can lead to a variation called the Cambridge Springs Defense which can be very good for black if white doesn't realise what black is planning. This happens quite often against beginner and intermediate players, however a good player will nearly always know what's coming and will not fall for the trap.
The Slav Defense tends to lead to quite an equal middle and end game, possibly with a very small advantage to white as black can get a little cramped early on in the middle game.
On move 3, it is now normal for white to play 3. Nf3 although 3. Nc3 is also playable. Black now normally plays 3....Nf6. If black was to play dc to take the pawn then white is able to win back the pawn by playing 4. e3 b5; 5. a4. If white played 3. Nf3 then they should now play 4. Nc3 or if they played 3. Nc3 then they should now play Nf3. After 3. Nf3 Nf6; 4. Nc3, black now has three main possibilities here which are:
This is the main line of the Slav Defense although it is not my favourite. White now needs to recapture the pawn and the best way to do this is to play 5. a4. The main line of the Slav Defense is 5. a4 Bf5; 6. e3 e6; 7. Bxc4 Bb4; 8. O-O O-O; 9. Nh4 Bg4; 10. f3 Nd5 11. fxg4 Qxh4; 12.e4 Nxc3; 13. bxc3 Bxc3; 14. Ra3 Bb4; 15. Rh3 Qd8; (see picture below)
Black is now a pawn up but white has a better position.
This is the worst of these three possibilities. White is in the better position after 5. cxd5 cxd5; 6. Qb3 (see picture below).
This is my favourite of the three variations. Black delays playing dxc4 for a few moves and instead plays 4....e6 to allow the king side bishop to be developed and to defend the d5 pawn with another pawn. White has two main possibilities here which are 5. e3 and 5. Bg5. These are analysed below:
This is probably white's better move. It protects the c4 pawn with the bishop and also protects the d4 pawn with another pawn. The queen side bishop is blocked in a bit but this isn't too much of a problem for white. A game would now normally continue 5....Nbd7; 6. Bd3 dxc4; 7. Bxc4 b5; 8. Bd3 (see picture below).
This is known as the Meran Variation. There are three main possible continuations here which are:
8....a6; 9. e4 c5; 10. e5 cxd4; 11. Nxb5 axb5; 12. exf6 Qb6; 13. fxg7 Bxg7;
8....b4; 9. Ne4 Nxe4; 10. Bxe4 Bb7; 11. Qa4 Qb6; 12. Nd2.
8....Bb7; 9. e4 b4; 10. Na4 c5; 11. e5 Nd5; 12. O-O cxd4; 13. Re1 Be7; 14. Nxd4.
These variations all lead to quite equal positions, maybe with a slight advantage for white.
Black now has a few options which are:
5....h6, black attempts to chase away the white bishop. White is better off taking the knight by playing 6. Bxf6. After 6....Qxf6; 7. Qb3 is good for white so this is probably not black's best move.
5....Be7, black this time decides that recapturing with the bishop is better than with the queen so plays 5....Be7. Black is also looking to play h6 to chase away the white bishop. This time though after Bxf6, black recaptures with the bishop which is probably better than with the queen.
5....dxc4, this is a very complicated variation known as the Anti-Meran Gambit. The game usually continues 6. e4 b5; 7. e5 h6; 8. Bh4 g5; 9. Nxg5 hxg5; 10. Bxg5 Nbd7; 11. g3 Bb7; 12. Bg2. Black is now better off not castling at all or castling queen side.
5. Nbd7, this is the Cambridge Springs Variation which is my favourite. There is a trap in this variation which can leave black a piece up if white doesn't realise what is coming. Black this time protects the f6 knight with the other knight and also with black having already moved the c pawn, black has the option to play Qa5 which leads to the trap. The game will usually continue 6. e3 Qa5; (see picture below).
What white should now play is either 7. Qc2 or 7. Nd2, however some players will play 7. Bd3 which puts white into the trap, now black is guaranteed to go ahead after 7....dxc4; 8. Bxc4 Ne4; The reason for this is that black has a double threat on both the bishop on g5 and on the knight on c3. A few players don't notice the double threat on the bishop on g5 and allow black to take it on the next move. White's best move now is 9. Bf4, which allows black to play 9....Nxc3; 10. bxc3 Qxc3+; 11. Nd2. This will still leave white a pawn down though. There are many similar variations that you might come across and as black you often have the option to play Bb4 as well.
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