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This month's update features my favourite study, which on more general grounds I find crucial in the d-pawn specials universe: Where is that white queen's bishop best placed with the structure d4 against d5? On f4, where it can often be attacked and taken by the opposing knight from h5 therefore requiring the protective tempo h2-h3? Or g5 where it is also subject to direct harassment by the knight from e4 but cannot be captured without the committal ...g5? And then, where to retreat it? On f4 or h4, the shorter diagonal where it pins the opposing e-pawn, or even staying on g5 after the support of a pawn on h4 in the typical case of the Tromp?

    Download PGN of August '07 d-Pawn Specials games

    Trompovsky [A45]

    The first two games make the link with July by mean of the retreat to f4 and the move f2-f3, chasing the black knight after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 d5 4.f3 Nf6 and now 5.Nc3, which is designed to avoid the inconvenience of the previous month's manoeuvre with ...Nf6-d5 after the immediate advance of the e-pawn. However, it offers Black one tempo of respite to attack the centre with 5...c5!:

    This proved very effective in Game One by tempering the opposing impulse of e2-e4.

    I would have thought 5...e6 followed by ...Bb4 was also worthwhile against 5.Nc3. In comparison with a French Winawer however, it turns out that the black knight is actually more awkwardly placed on d7 (when he should develop on e7 from g8) than the white bishop on f4 with the extra-move f2-f3, as White duly showed in Game 2.

    After the alternative retreat 3.Bh4, the continuation 3...d5 4.f3 appears decent for White by providing the Tromp bishop a safe square on f2 as in Game 3 after 4...Nd6, heading for f5, with a dynamic Veresov-like ...e5 and ...d4 follow-up as if Black had moved the knight back to f6 instead, intending e2-e4 in one go, typical of the 3.Bh4 alternative, with which he enjoys good results.

    Nevertheless, this option was only made interesting because of the Black move order which avoided the 2 critical lines of 3...g5 4.f3 gxh4 5.fxe4 c5 and (chiefly) the possible transposition through 3...c5!

    This is why it was also interesting to consider this same bishop retreat from the angle of my favourite 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.e3! and only now 3...Ne4 4.Bh4:

    However, it brought nothing to the first player in Game 4 and that may be the reason why in the main move order reaching this position (that is after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bh4 d5), White normally prefers 4.f3 or 4. Nd2 and only in 3rd position comes the rarer 4.e3, transposing.

    Now what happens with the dubious support of the bishop by h2-h4, when the idea f2-f3 is obviously invalidated because of the weakness of the g3 square?

    After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4 d5 4.Nd2, the move 4...Nxg5! is much stronger than the lame 4...Bf5 when 5.Nxe4 Bxe4 6.f3 has often been successfully played by "Mr Trompovic". To try to refute his idea, this bishop has to be taken at some point!

    Following 5.hxg5 Black continued 5...e5!:

    Incidentally, this also appears to be quite a strong alternative to the main line 3...c5 we fully examined some time ago, and Black was already better when he settled for a quick draw in Game 5.

    However, the second move order, of Game 6, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.e3! Ne4 4.h4!? proved a decent alternative to the previous game (in the form of 4.e3 here instead of the main 4.Nd2 in that case) because the action of the white queen against the opposing d5-pawn was not obstructed by the knight on d2 any more, therefore making the liberating move ...e7-e5 more difficult to achieve for the opponent. Then 4...Qd6 (instead of the game's 4...c5), unpinning the e-pawn while supporting its advance of two squares, with additional ideas of ...Qb4/Qb6, may represent a concern.

    Thus, in conclusion of this digression on the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.e3! Ne4 (and accessorily 2...Ne4 and 3...d5), it is not easy for White to go off the beaten track of 4.Bf4 as in the following games.

    Nevertheless, 4.h4!? is a lot superior to 4.Bh4 in this spirit and 4.e3!? may well be a surprising improvement to the more common 4.Nd2 in the 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.h4 d5 transposition.

    That is why 3...c5! still has to be considered the critical line after both 3.h4 or 3.Bh4, rather than 3...d5 in the 2...Ne4 move order. That said, this purely dynamic idea of h2-h4 to protect the bishop, leaving aside some recurrent tricks along the semi opened h-file, globally struggles to analytically justify the loss of the Tromp bishop and the alteration of the structure, as stated some time ago.

    1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 remains White's favoured response, of course, possibly for other reasons than 3...d5, that said... after 3...d5 4.e3! without fearing 4...c5:

    Now 5.c3?! is a dubious transposition into D03 when the original feature of the Tromp is the possibility to question the Ne4 immediately as in the next 2 games. The big test is naturally the immediate attack on the b2-pawn now with 5...Qb6! 6.Qc2?! (6.Qb3 is the only move) 6...Bf5?! (6...Nc6! is more accurate since the position occurring after 7.Nf3 Bf5 8.dxc5 Qxc5 also belongs to D03 except that now, compared to the game, 9.Qb3 0-0-0 rather economically defends the b7-pawn) 7.dxc5 Qxc5 8.Qb3! now annoyingly attacking b7 after which White should have contented himself with the exchange of queens and the always crippling doubling of the opposing b-pawns after 8...Qb6 instead of the greedy 9.Bxb8?! of Game 7.

    5.Bd3 is the acknowledged way to question the black knight on e4 prior to supporting the centre after 5...Nf6 6.c3! when the same idea of 6...Qb6 is also critical and this time, because of the extra tempo, while avoiding the double attack ...c5-c4, 7.Qc2 is the appropriate answer:

    In Game 8 White seemed to have obtained a pull after having provoked the release of the central tension with ...c5-c4, when he blocked the queenside with a2-a3 and achieved the thematic e3-e4.

    This whole idea of playing e3 appears of particular importance in the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.e3! and 3...Ne4 (where 4...c5 5.c3 Ne4 is probably more precise from the black point of view. 6.Bh4!? however instead of 6.Bf4) 4.Bf4 Then Black improved in the forefront of analysis after 4...c5 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.c3 Nc6 7.Nbd2 Bg4 8.Nf3! e6 9.Qa4 c4! 10.Bc2! with the Novelty 10...Nd7!:

    Threatening to trap the White queen. With a host of manoeuvring subtleties, White afterwards managed to get something in Game 9 after implementing the recurrent advance e3-e4 but relatively little in comparison to the glowing expectations the game Kalanitschew-Volodin had painted.

    See you soon, Eric