A Complete Guide on Playing the Slav Defense

by | Jul 12, 2021 | Complete Guides, How-to Guides, Slav Defense | 0 comments

What is the Slav Defense?

Slav Defense is one of the safest openings against the Queen’s Gambit opening. This opening is useful irrespective of the player’s level- beginner or master. Slav Defense is closed Defense and it is perfect for players who love positional chess.

Here, white doesn’t get the right plan as quickly to get a winning advantage and black earns a chance to play on. There are many world championships where players played Slav Defense to open. In Slav Defense, black’s main idea is to wait for white’s plan and when he makes a mistake, then start a counter-attack.

In the past, Slav was considered a too drawish opening with fewer winning chances but this perception changed thanks to the new development of opening dxc4. In dxc4, due to asymmetrical structure, black also gets considerable chances to find counterplay.

Slav Defense can be initiated from many different moves. White can play 1st move Nf3 and then play d4 and c4. White can also play English opening and convert to Slav Defense.

Essential variations in Slav Defense

Slav Defense has now a modernized avatar, and compared to 1950s,there have been many new developments and novel ways in which strong chess players have played it. Here are four main lines in Slav Defense, which are very important in terms of preparation.

Exchange Slav

In exchange variation, white takes black’s d5 pawn and is forced to open c file. White’s main plan in this variation is to get a slight advantage and play the game slowly. White tries to acquire the c file by bringing two rooks.

If white played well, then black also didn’t get enough counterplay. Black tries to equalize position first and then to get some advantage. To avoid this variation, black should play 2nd move e6 instead of c6, but that will be a completely different theory.


White plays 2.Nf3 to maintain their advantage. Here are mainly three variations which we will discuss below. White has 58% winning chances, and black has 42% winning chances in this variation.

Slow Slav

White plays 4th move e3 instead of mainline Nc3. The main plan is to support the c4 pawn with the bishop to avoid more complex games. This variation is also popular with players who don’t want to take risks. Here, black has multiple options such as Bf5, e6, Bg4, etc. Black also gets a comfortable position in this variation.

Alapin Variation

White plays 5th move a4 after black takes c4 pawn. White’s main plan is to avoid the b5 move. This variation is the 2nd most famous line. White prepares for e4 and captures the c4 pawn with the bishop. Black has multiple options, which are c5, Bf5, Bg4, and Na6. Black also gets a decent position.

Mainline Czech Variation

Czech variation is considered mainline, which replies to white’s 4th move a4. White has three significant options here: Bled Attack (Nh4), Dutch Variation (e3), and Krause attack (Ne5). This variation is balanced, and both players have equal winning chances.

Chebanenko Slav

If black doesn’t want to allow lots of theory, black can go for this variation. In this variation, black plays 4th move a6 and plans for b5. But white also immediately replies with c5 with a plan of Bf4 and to keep pressure on b6 square. This variation has become popular in recent years. White has 55.5% of winning chances, and black has 44.5% of winning chances per the database. 

This variation is best for beginners who are planning to start Slav Defense.

How to win in Slav Defense

  • Prepare openings in-depth and never underestimate your opponent.
  • Before your tournament, open the database and check the current database and update your repertoire. This will help you in enhancing your repertoire.
  • If you are playing a rapid or blitz game, then play sideline. There will be considerable chances that your opponent will not remember the exact variation, and you will get a better position in the opening itself.
  • Chebanenko Slav variation is becoming popular in recent years; try to include it in your repertoire.
  • Study how to play symmetrical positions. It will be helpful in exchange for Slav Variation.
  • You can learn this opening by self-study, But to save time and get precise and complete knowledge, I will recommend you to join a reputed chess academy, or hire a personal coach.

How to prepare Slav Defense?

Preparing Slav Defense is easy compared to other openings. Slav Defense is easy to play and easy to implement. You don’t need perfection in Slav Defense like Sicilian Defense. If you misplayed anything in the opening, even then white will not get a winning advantage.

But definitely, you have to prepare the main lines. If white decides to draw, then white has multiple choices, so you must prepare against that also.

To start preparing, first watch some games and free videos on YouTube. Then play some games. If you are comfortable in positions from the opening, you are ready to start the opening. 

Is Slav Defense suitable for beginners?

Slav Defense is perfect for absolute beginners. This opening is not risky, and black can quickly get equal footing. Compared to other openings, too much preparation is also not required. The primary benefit is you will not lose with higher-rated players for at least the first 15-20 moves. 


In recent years Slav variation has become very popular because of low risks and easy play. Although white gets one move advantage and this is a slightly passive opening, You should focus on improving positional play before playing Slav Defense.

This variation may lose its impact in the decades to follow because of the decreasing amount of new variations and new trends being discovered. If you are preparing to open for the first time, then you should go with Grunfeld or Nimzo Indian, which are currently trending and are also the most popular openings for the last 50-60 years.