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It might not be the English, but our favourite d-pawn specials do remain pretty popular as we'll see this month, with games from Andreikin, Jobava, Nisipeanu and especially Kramnik!

Download PGN of April ’16 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky - Vaganian Gambit 2...c5 3 d5 Qb6 4 Nc3 Qxb2 [A45]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 there has been a growing trend in recent years for Black to resort to something solid, rather than debate 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 c5 or 2...c5. Against the latter, the Vaganian Gambit, if allowed, remains pretty critical: 3 d5 Qb6 4 Nc3 Qxb2 5 Bd2 Qb6 6 e4 d6 7 f4.

Here 7...a6?! does look rather slow, but crops up in practise more than one might imagine - fresh from his two byes in Reykjavik, Dimitry Andreikin shows how to destroy it in Andreikin - Thorfinnsson.

The Trompowsky 2...Ne4 3 Bh4 d5 [A45]

After that other combative response, 2...Ne4, we haven't looked at 3 Bh4 for a while, but Mikhaletz - Bernadskiy was just too exciting to ignore. There Black wrongly rejected 3...g5 (or 3...c5 4 f3 g5), and 3...d5 4 f3 Nd6 5 Nc3 Nc4?! was yet another misguided move:

Mikhaletz's 6 e4! was hardly a tough find, but the way he exploits his huge lead in development is a joy to behold.

The Trompowsky 2...e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 c3 [A45]

We move on to more solid defences in Wen Yang-Sjugirov, where Black opts for 2...e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 c3 d5, noting along the way that 5...b6!? isn't such a bad sideline. After the French-like response the Chinese GM elects the fairly rare 6 Bd3!?:

This must lead to a reasonable version of a Rubinstein French for Black if he exchanges on e4, but avoiding that with the equally logical 6...c5 may well lead to an inferior version for him of the normal, 6 Nd2 lines.

The Torre Attack 2...e6 and 3...h6 [A46]

Via the same move order as our previous game, we see Jobava preferring 5 Nf3 and Torre waters before facing 5...d5 6 Nbd2 g5!?:

One can almost imagine the Georgian no.1 playing this as Black and such an ambitious set-up may not be so bad, as Jobava - Rathnakaran reveals.

The Torre Attack v KID with ...g6 [A48]

The other main type of Torre, 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bg5 Bg7, was the subject of a near-theme tournament during the opening blitz event in Norway: Aronian, Eljanov and Kramnik all played White here against both Grandelius and Li Chao. In none of those six encounters was White's set-up especially theoretical, but in many of them he still posed early problems. I've noted that in our coverage of Sasikiran - Nguyen, where 4 Nbd2 d5 5 e3 0-0 6 Be2 Nbd7 7 0-0 c5 8 c3 was relatively theoretical:

Once again this reversed RÉti position often seems easier for White to play in practise, perhaps though just due to his greater experience of it, as well as that extra tempo. Indeed, after 8...Re8 9 Qb3 Qb6 10 Rfd1 the Indian Grandmaster soon obtained a comfortable edge.

The Neo-London Anti-Nimzo/Stonewall [D00]

White faces a dilemma after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 d5 3 e3 e6 4 c3 c5 5 Nd2 Nc6: to head for the main lines with 6 Ngf3 or try something more ambitious. Vladimir Kramnik preferred the latter and his 6 Bd3 Bd6 7 Bxd6 Qxd6 8 f4 reached a position we haven't seen on ChessPub for a while:

Black should be OK here, as shown by Eric, but it's easy to drift into trouble and that's exactly what happened initially in Kramnik - Grandelius.

The London System - Anti-Nimzo 8 Bb5 [D02]

Another eye-catching London encounter saw White effectively prefer 6 Ngf3 and after 6...Bd6 7 Bg3 0-0 we get to see 8 Bb5 again. Here 8...a6 9 Bd3!? effectively gifts Black a hardly useless extra move, but 9...b6 10 e4 Be7 11 exd5!? exd5 12 Ne5 Bb7 13 0-0 is not such a simplistic set-up:

White was soon doing pretty well in Nisipeanu - Cornette and I wouldn't be surprised if we see some tests of 8 Bd3 b6 9 e4 Be7 10 exd5 soon.

More Londons next month I expect! Until then, Richard

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