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Originally named because the initial moves mirror those of the King's Gambit, only played on the queenside rather than the kingside, the Queen's Gambit is not really a gambit at all, since White can regain the 'sacrificed' pawn immediately if desired. If Black accepts the pawn, it is almost invariably with the intention of allowing White to recapture it within a few moves - see Queen's Gambit Accepted. Historically, Black has preferred to decline the offered pawn, maintaining a strong central position instead.

1.d4 d5
2.c4 e6 (There are other ways to decline the offered pawn, for example 2...c6, the Slav defense, but they do not fall into the category of the Queen's Gambit Declined opening)
3.Nc3 Nf6

These opening moves already demonstrate the intentions of both players. White is going to try to put pressure on the center of the board and expand on the queenside, and Black is going to develop on the kingside and maintain a strongpoint in the center with the d5 pawn. If at any time Black captures on c4, White will regain the pawn quickly and then organise his pieces to force the pawn push e2-e4, giving him an advantage in the center. A typical continuation:

5.Nf3 0-0
6.Qc2 c6
7.cxd5 exd5
8.Bd3 h6
9.Bh4 Nbd7

White's long-term plan in this kind of position is generally the minority attack, in which the queenside pawns are pushed forward in an attempt to break up Black's solid pawn structure and create weaknesses which can be attacked. In the meantime, Black is going to build up forces on the kingside and attack White's king, hoping to create enough threats to keep the game balanced.

The Queen's Gambit Declined was immensely popular during the Classical period of chess history, when players tended to focus above all on maintaining a strong center, following the classical theories of development and pawn structure, and not doing anything silly. It is still popular as one of Black's most solid replies to a White queen's pawn opening, but many players now favour more active, dynamic defenses such as the King's Indian Defense or the Benko Gambit if they are interested in trying to win with Black.

"Queen's Gambit Declined" is a historical fantasy novel by Melinda Snodgrass, published in 1989. It follows the life of Prince William of Orange, as he fights for the independence of The Netherlands. Being a fantasy book, the history is altered in many ways, most notably in that William of Orange is now a magician.

Our story begins with William sharing with his tutor, Benedict Spinoza (another historical alteration) that he believes the King of France is going to assassinate him. During an assassination attempt, William is saved by an apparition of The White Goddess, (Snodgrass borrowed from Robert Graves' conception, here) who warns him that the attempts on his life have more than politics behind him---the King of France is in league with demons, and that if he follows her guidance, he will be able to defeat the demonic interlopers, save his country, and save himself. She introduces him to three companions: Haakon, a Norwegian missionary, Armand, a Catholic priest, and Sagita, a young lady who is an adept in her own cult. With his new companions, the book alternates between their adventures as they track down magical artifacts and the somewhat altered history of the political and social struggle of the time.

I read the first 100 pages of this book the day I got it, and then slowed down, finishing the rest of this 240 page book in a few days. I think there were some good ideas in this book---perhaps too many. When I had gotten a few chapters in, I thought it was going to be an adventure book where the team of four went on a quest to collect magical artifacts. While that plot of predictable, it certainly looked like the author was on the way to writing a serviceable fantasy novel, with some historical background thrown in to set it apart. But then that story is interrupted by court intrigue, which Melinda Snodgrass certainly knows how to write. So, for example, there is a scene where William is in realistic negotiations, only to be interrupted by finding a magical Hieronymus Bosch painting.

The bigger issue here is that this book starts with a concept that is suitable for a science-fiction or fantasy novel: the three-way conflict in Europe between the established churches (both Catholic and Protestant), emerging scientific worldviews, and the remnants of pagan religions. It is actually a great concept, and the story begins to address it--- before turning into a combination of adventure story and historical fiction that isn't closely integrated with that core concept. When I first started reading the book, I felt the liminal thrill of William being exposed to a world larger than he had conceived, but his journey into wizardry is eclipsed by a more predictable historical story. I still liked this book, but feel it fell short of its promise.

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