Play The Active Tarrash Defense!


The Tarrash defense

The Tarrash defense is an interesting way to defend in the Queen’s gambit, and although old, is a line that has its ideas. The Tarrash defense was introduced by the master with the same name Siegbert Tarrash, one of the greatest chess players of all time.

He had some interesting active ideas attacking white’s center really fast in the opening. In its time, it was a very popular way to fight the queen’s gambit, because it gave really good results.

The Tarrash defense was somewhat of a savior in those times. Before this defense was introduced, all queen’s gambit players with black would resign to play the highly passive classical system against the queen’s gambit.

The Tarrash defense allows black to have a more active approach to the opening and have more winning chances. Of course, all of this sounds weird, nowadays thanks to computers there are many different ways to play with black against the queen’s gambit.

But this was not the case at that time and is true that nowadays there are many ways to counter the Tarrash defense. However, you can get a decent position out of the opening with black if you play correctly.

If you want to master the Tarrash defense, make sure you read this post until the end. We will give you some good theoretical lines, ideas to play within the opening, how to counter it, and some sample games.

The mainlines of the Tarrash defense


To enter the Tarrash defense we will have to go over the following moves:

This is considered the starting position of the Tarrash defense, and there are other moves until we reach a critical position.

4.cxd5 and here there are two different lines:

  • exd5
  • cxd4

The first move exd5 is the quietest one and is the one you will face the most. This is the regular line that everyone follows, and there are so many ways you can play and get a good position.

The game could go like this:

\n\n1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.dxc5 d4 7.Na4 Bxc5 8.Nxc5 Qa5+ 9.Bd2 Qxc5 10.Rc1 Qb6 11.e3 Nf6 12.Qa4 dxe3 13.Bxe3 Qb4+ 14.Qxb4 Nxb4 15.a3 Nbd5 *","pieceSymbols":"native","navigationBoard":"frame","withPlayButton":true,"withFlipButton":true,"withDownloadButton":true,"nboSquareSize":64,"nboCoordinateVisible":true,"nboTurnVisible":true,"nboColorset":"original","nboPieceset":"cburnett","nboAnimated":true,"nboMoveArrowVisible":true,"nboMoveArrowColor":"b","idoSquareSize":64,"idoCoordinateVisible":true,"idoTurnVisible":true,"idoColorset":"original","idoPieceset":"cburnett"}); });

This is another interesting way to play with black.

The second move cxd4 is a little more double edge than the previous variation. Here black is playing for the win, trying to get initiative fast in the center, white has to answer accordingly:

For example,

Which is very interesting. Here is true that black has sacrificed a pawn, but his lead in development is more than obvious, there is compensation for that pawn.

Of course, the game could turn a lot more intense if you prefer to, for example:

Was judging black’s next move here which was 12…g5! You know this will be a violent game, black went on to win.

Plans and ideas of the Tarrash defense


The main idea of the Tarrash defense is to obliterate white’s center so white can’t have any initiative at all. Having no central presence, the lack of play by white makes black’s position solid in its own way.

And you can see that white has trouble finding good ways to play in this position because black has no weaknesses. However, the problem is that black remains with an isolated pawn in the center, which is the blessing and curse of this position.

The good point of the isolated pawn is that it grants black more space, which is a luxury considering you are black. The problem is that you have a long-term weakness and the exchanges are not favorable to you.

This obliges you to kind of get an attack or lose, that is why you have to play actively with no fear.

Sample games of the Tarrash defense

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