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As Tarrasch once said "A move with the f-pawn (in the opening?) is always a bad move"! or something similar, ...but he should have added "only with White" otherwise 2...f6 would not be the refutation of the Pseudo-Tromp ;o)
And this is basically what we deal with this month with 2 principal variations of the "d-Pawn Specials" body both involving an early f2-f3.

Download PGN of August '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Pseudo-Tromp [D00]

The first line is 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5?! f6! 3.Bh4 Nh6! 4.f3 to hide the bishop on f2 (3.Bf4 Nc6! and other 4th move alternatives from this position were treated last month):

Now 4...c5! is best. In databases I regularly appear as the first promoter of this strong reaction but it was actually suggested by Morozevich himself in the notes to Adams-Morozevich, Tilburg 93 (0-1 in 54), published in Informant 59 with notes by the winner with 2...f6!? described as an interesting Novelty... at the time!

In the first 2 games, White decided to maintain his pawn on d4 and anticipate the thematic attack on his b2 pawn with 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qd2, leaving the opponent with the problem of how to develop his queen's knight:

Black correctly maintained the central tension in Game one with 6...e6 and only modified the structure, in a favourable dynamic way justified by the opposing development worries, after 7.e4 Nc6 8.Ne2 fxe4! when the opponent's king's knight was denied the much better f3-square. Repeating the same procedure with the other knight signalled a decisive assault against the enemy king, stuck in the centre.

This is precisely what Black got wrong in Game 2 with the uninspired exchange 6...exd4? 7.exd4, handing White's knight the c3 square on a silver platter.

The course of the game, where the d5-pawn proved a lot more sensitive than its counterpart on d4, despite the disappearance of the white dark-squared bishop, was an instructive illustration of how things can turn sour when one does not treat the concerns of central tension and the evolution of the pawn structure with due respect and the greatest care.

In general, the second way for the "d-Pawn Specials" player to deal with a lateral attack on his d4-pawn, when his queen's bishop is already somewhere on the kingside, is to play 5.dxc5 as in Game 3, which continued 5...Nf5! 6.Bf2 d4! (the correct approach, stopping the e-pawn from moving) 7.g4 Ne3 8.Bxe3 dxe3 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8 10.Nc3 e5 11.0-0-0 Bd7!:

winning back the c5-pawn. Afterwards, the disastrous state of the White kingside hampered him from developing enough counter play to make up for it.


To loop the loop, and in form of a conclusion to this opening, better to be remembered as the "Queen's Bishop's Attack" in dedication to Jim Plaskett's opus (of much debated quality...) on the subject, or the Pseudo-Tromp, or even the "Levitsky" (a player nobody has ever heard of), but preferably not to be associated with the name of such a high class player as Julian Hodgson, 3.Bf4 Nc6 4.c3!? e5 5.Bg3 is what I had in mind when I played this opening, with the idea of being able to recapture towards the centre in case of an exchange on d4:

This is the problem: when you play such openings with White, it is not good to analyse them deeply because it will only bring you despair... What you have to do is grasp some ideas, detect the critical line where you could be in real danger (not the ones where it is equal because precisely that would be miserable!) and try to find some stopgap measure. Much like my proposal to rehabilitate the London by 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.Qb3!?, it may not be the panacea but it will bring you CONFIDENCE not to play with the sword of Damocles hanging over your head.

And this is what really matters, because you have to convince yourself that theoretical knowledge is actually the thing that is the least well shared among chess players. You do know that there is a well-known line that hurts, and therefore you think your opponent should know it too, but that is wrong. In non-mainstream variations people like to have their own idea on the question... So keep enjoying your favourite "d-Pawn Special", but better be ready with your backup line, just in case!

So, (after 3.Bf4 Nc6 4.c3!? e5 5.Bg3) Game 4 continued 5...Be6 (Instead of the critical 5...Bf5! planning to transpose into my game against Miladinovic in case of 6.e3 exd4 7.exd4 Qe7+ or 7.cxd4 Nb4!), and White obtained interesting perspectives against the opposing centre after 6.e3 Bd6 7.Bb5 Nge7 8.dxe5!? fxe5 9.Nf3.

Veresov [D01]

In the second part of the update, we finish our exploration of the Veresov main line, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.f3 c6! - a move that is particularly well adapted to 4.f3 for it not only allows the queen to decisively unpin herself after 5.e4 dxe4 6.fxe4 e5 7.dxe5 Qa5! as we have already seen, but mainly because, after having solidly defended d5 and after White has loosened important central control with his last move, Black is now ready to play ...e7-e5.

According to Nigel Davies in his book The Veresov, Everyman 2003, 5.Qd2 (instead of 5.e4) is "the variation White should escape to" against 4...c6 (as it can transpose into the 4.Qd2 Veresov, which we shall examine in September):

One big concern for Black in the Veresov is the tricky handling of the move 5...h6! Does it chase the White bishop onto a better diagonal when Black has lost the opportunity to play ...c7-c5 in one go, or not?

In Game 5 White casually kept the bishop on the Tromp-Veresov diagonal with 6.Bh4? (which is supposed to be "more attractive" than 6.Bf4 according to Davies). In fact, this is a mistake and a severe omission in the book, which now only considers the lame 6...e6 instead of 6...e5! 7.dxe5 Nxe5 8.0-0-0 Nc4 9.Qd4 Qa5!!:

Nine little moves and the future World n°3 could already sign the score sheet!

6...e5! is the definitive refutation of this combination of moves f3, Qd2, Bh4 because there are constant tricks with the knight on f6, which is not really pinned because of the unhappy placement of the white queen, as in Game 6 that went 6.dxe5 Nxe5 7.Qe3 Nfg4! seizing the pair of bishops for free in an already favourable symmetric structure, with the enemy cavalry deprived of any strong points and real difficulties for White to put his pawns on dark squares (to restrict the powerful remaining bishop), after the forced 8.Qxe5+ Nxe5 9.Bxd8 Kxd8 10.e4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Kc7.

The retreat onto the London diagonal is more testing, however. In general ...h7-h6 is useful in the Black set-up when the White bishop has to retreat to h4 but in this particular case it is also effective against 6.Bf4 because of 6...Nh5:

In Game 7 the father of the variation tried to cause some weaknesses on the light squares before conceding the bishop with 7.Be5 f6 8.Bg3 Nxg3 9.hxg3 e5 and more or less obtained what he desired after 10.e4!

Nevertheless, taking the bishop immediately is critical, as in Game 8 that saw 7...Nxe5!? 8.fxe5 g5! inaugurating the encircling of the e5-pawn while allowing the move ...Nf4 when White does not play e3 - and, in the Veresov, White really wants to play e4!

By transposition from 3...c6, after a lengthy digression on its inconveniences, 7.Be3?, although not very aesthetic, is therefore the only way to preserve the bishop, to which Black in Game 9 naturally reacted with 7...e5 8.g4 Nhf6 (incidentally, it is possible to notice that the h-pawn plays an important role by fixing the weakness on g4) 9.0-0-0?

(White did better to try 9.Bf2 but after 9...e4! the threat of ...Nb6-c4 is very annoying to stop because it is difficult for White to push his e-pawn and weaken the entire kingside light-squared pawn chain.) However, now came the surpising 9...Nb6!!, and with b2 in the line of fire this led to a similar massacre to game 5 that the first player's 'super rating' could only limit to 25 moves.

Till next month, Eric