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The noose is tightening round the Veresov!
Indeed, this month's update shows the refutation of the "quiet" set-up Nf3 & e3, rated by GM Nigel Davies as possibly "objectively better" than the gambit line 4.Nf3 h6 5.Bh4 e6 6.e4 "although probably insufficient to give White an advantage"!

Download PGN of April '08 d-Pawn Specials games

London - Morris Gambit [D00]

Before that another calling into question of the Morris gambit 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.e4!?:

I have always been sufficiently afraid of this as Black to advocate the less flexible 2…Nf6 prior to the lateral attack of the c-pawn. In summit Game One however, Black plainly accepted the present and just continued in a reversed Albin style, therefore a tempo down, by 3...dxe4 4.d5 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Qe2 g6 7.Nxe4 Nxe4 8.Qxe4 Bg7 9.0-0-0 0-0:

Then, as I wrote previously, the idea 10.Nf3 Bf5 11.Qe3 Nd7 12.Bh6 may not be so critical for Black because of 12...Bxh6 13.Qxh6 Nf6, as in this peculiar configuration, the defender on f6 looks quite difficult to remove.

Anyway White opted for the new 10.Ne2?! and soon saw his queenside castle under severe pressure.

The move 4...g6!? uncommonly puts the finger on the minor concern of having b2 unprotected because of White's extra tempo. In a normal Albin, indeed, after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.g3 Nc6 5.Bg2?!, the pawn would be confidently recaptured by 5...Nxe5. However, in Game Two it urged White to go all in with a full gambit. This time the exchange of the dark-squared bishops via h6 proved brilliantly successful.

Veresov [D01]

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.Nf3 the move 4...h6 is not necessary, to implement the idea ...Bb4 or ...c5, but compulsory, to avoid 4...e6 5.e4!. Following 5.Bh4 e6 6.e3 the move 6...Bb4!? is more ambitious than the already satisfactory pin break 6...Be7. From this point on, White has to be really careful which, I am ready to bet, will not be the case every time:

Indeed, what is more natural than ... 7.Bd3? which is already a mistake, 7...c5 8.0-0 Bxc3! 9.bxc3 c4 10.Be2 Qa5:

Threatening ...Ne4 and practically winning a pawn!

Then 11.Nd2 Qxc3 as in Game 3 is relatively the best for White but not 11.Ne5? as in Game Four, and even less 11.Qe1 Ne4 12.Nd2 Nxc3 13.Bxc4? which lost a piece in Game 5 after 13...dxc4 14.Ne4 Qh5.

Instead, there is 13.Bf3, therefore, threatening Nb1. However, 13...Qa4!:

Parries every threat while blockading the opposing a-pawn and attacking c2! In Game 6 White thought it opportune to break in the centre by 14.e4 but as seen before this move merely helped Black to liberate himself.

To make it more effective, White should first deal with the poison of the black c3-knight and that is quite tricky. As a result, White may claim some compensation for the pawn thanks to his two bishops. Unfortunately for him the closed character of the position restricts their expression.

Consequently, the only idea for White after being caught in this position after Black's 10th move is the heartbreaking 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.Qe1 because this time the bishop will not be hanging on h4 after 12...Ne4!? 13.Nd2 Nxc3 14.Bxc4, with the idea 14...dxc4? 15.Ne4. However, simply delaying the idea by one move with 12...0-0! was sufficient to put White in a quite uncomfortable situation, as far as the c3-pawn was concerned, in Game 7.

Thus 8.dxc5 turns out to be the lesser of evils after the mistake of the previous move. Then 8...Nxc5 is obviously OK for Black, but nevertheless, 8...Bxc3!? 9.bxc3 Qa5 tends to show White is not out of the woods yet, although using a conjuring trick he managed to get rid of his c3-pawn without losing it in Game 8.

7.a3! is the only move, which led to a fascinating struggle in Game 9 after 7...Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 g5!? 9.Bg3 Ne4 10.c4 h5:

Game 10 is its opposite after the shameful denial 7...Be7, though still presenting an interesting finish.

Finally, Game 11 introduces the fashionable move 4. e3 which I shall develop more next time, and against which 4...e6! is indubitable. Then 5.Nf3?! cannot be the best response, for in the 'Reversed Veresov' with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6?! 3.e3! (3.Nbd2!?) Bg4 Black's chances of survival lie precisely in the fact that he still has the possibility of ...Nge7 to oppose the plan of Bf1-b5, c2-c4.

5...c5!, or possibly, in order to avoid 6.Ne5, the more accurate insertion of 5...h6!? 6.Bh4 c5!, is IN CONCLUSION (with a bit of extra work if we consider the alternatives 7.Ne5, Bb5, Be2 previously dealt with) a better chance to maliciously disguise his premeditated threat of 7.Bd3? c4! 8.Be2 Bb4.

As a matter of fact, White, who must have been aware of the power of this plan, directly prevented it with 6.a3 in game 11. Afterwards, Black started to unwind, beginning with 6...a6, which is more interesting now that naturally advancing his pawn to a4, in order to prevent the expansion ...b7-b5, would cost White a tempo! ...Be7, ...0-0, ...b7-b5, ...Bb7 followed, with a great position to which White found nothing to oppose but the idea Nf3-e5. Always the same thing: he had lost all dynamism with his knight on c3 and had to fall back on this move, deteriorating his structure. As always, It was bound to fail, especially with a bishop on e2.

There are many similarly unexciting 4.e3 or 4.Nf3 Veresovs that I keep noticing in the hands of untitled players as White. They differ little: no promised fun, just getting outplayed by the stronger opponent, who does not even need to know any theory, or be careful of any tactics - as he would in the BDG for instance!

I just picked up the most topical ones to illustrate my purpose. However topicality does not necessarily rhyme with theoretical relevancy, especially in the Veresov...

See you soon, Eric