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Despite the early development of the queen's bishop, the character of the Veresov has little in common with any of the main 'static' family of d-Pawn Specials, the Tromp, Torre or London. In fact, after the obstruction of the c-pawn and with the long term inconvenience of a badly placed knight on c3, the Veresov shares the same spirit as the BDG-Hübsch branch. This update, that sees White either parting with the pair of bishops or sacrificing a pawn at the very start of the game, reminds us of this when examining the trendy 4.Nf3 alternative, just as in the previous update, but with a completely different set of positions.

Download PGN of December '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Veresov [D01]

We start with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.Nf3 e6, (instead of the recommended move order 4...h6 5.Bh4 when there might be a bit more to learn but nothing to fear in case of the change of diagonal by 5.Bf4, as we saw last time) which entices White to play 5.e4! h6, played now that White has committed himself with his e-pawn, however White can now make a material concession inferior to a pawn by conceding the "little exchange" in accordance with the dynamic status of the Veresov by 6.Bxf6 Nxf6:

In the first 2 games White kept the tension while preventing ...Bb4 with the logical 7.Qd3, to which Black reacted with the standard 7...dxe4 8.Nxe4 Nxe4 9.Qxe4 Qd5, when Game One went 10.Bd3 "with a light advantage for White" according to Ftacnik and Nigel Davies:

As far as I am concerned, I regard this position as completely equal after the exchange of queens by 10...Qxe4! 11.Bxe4 and the course of events proved me right, when the black dark-squared bishop became quite useful in the long term.

The unnoticed 10.Qe3! is naturally the correct answer that White successfully invented in Game 2. Obviously the presence of queens on the board provides White with more chances to create complications and compensate discarding his dark squared asset.

That said, this line still does not promise much for White when Black, as in the French with the same pawn structure, hits on the idea of playing ...c7-c5 as early as possible with his bishop still on f8. Other options to avoid releasing the central tension in White's favour like 7...a6 or 7...Be7 are also interesting.

It is against these moves that 7.Qe2!? is directed:

For instance 7...Be7 was met by 8.e5 Nd7 9.0-0-0 in Game 3 with the idea of taking on c5 as soon as Black plays this, followed by the blockade Nf3-d4 and a more economical support of his e5 pawn with f2-f4; things that only seem to be feasible with the queen on e2 protecting e5.

Nevertheless, a critical continuation is to sacrifice the pawn with 6.Bh4 thus transposing into the more logical move order 4.Nf3 h6! 5.Bh4 e6 6.e4!:

In any case this is much less simple for Black to face than the limp 6.e3 we examined last time.

After 6...g5 (taking up the gauntlet) 7.Bg3 Nxe4 (of course, to ease the defence) 8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.Ne5:

Both this line and the one with 9.Nd2 (as favoured by Veresov himself and to be seen later) have their pros and cons. The main drawback here is that the knight looks aggressively posted but in fact this will only lead to Black simplifying the position by usefully exchanging both it and the dark-squared bishops after 9...Bg7 10.h4 Nxe5 11.Bxe5 Bxe5 12.dxe5 Bd7 leaving the first player "struggling to find adequate compensation" may it be after 13.Qd2, authorizing the release of tension on g5 with 13...gxh4! snatching a second pawn, that Black should have played in Game 4, or 13.Qg4 Qe7 with ideas towards b4 14.0-0-0 0-0-0 15.Qxe4 Bc6 16.Rxd8+ Rxd8 17.Qe3 gxh4! when White fell into a desperate ending in Game 5 after 18.Qxa7+ Qg5+ 19.Qe3 Rd4!!:

The move White must have forgotten, forcing him, with an aching heart, to do more than simply repair the opposing structure after 20.Qxg5 hxg5.

It is not clear that 13...Bc6!?, with the same idea of activating the queen, directly via the d-file this time, although more recent, is any better after 14.hxg5 Qd4, because of 15.Rd1! giving up b2 and e5 for counterplay. In Game 6, however, the thematic rounding up of the h6 pawn was briskly dealt with after 15.c3? Qxe5 14.0-0-0 Ke7! 15.Rxh6 Rxh6 16.gxh6 Rh8, because the general problem of this Qg4 sub-line, once suggested by IM Bellin, and White's long castling in particular, is that his queen remains exiled on the kingside where she was always under the threat of being exchanged, and the rook, which looks aggressively posted on d1, is actually just hitting a desert.

By complying with the top priorities of:

  1. Prevent the linking of the opposing rooks after long castling
  2. Threaten to recapture on e4
  3. Threaten to take on g5 thanks to the pin on the h file

The nicely centralizing 13.Qd4! deserves to be the best move in the position:

And it led to a more or less level ending in Game 7 after 13...Bc6 14.Qxd8 Rxd8 15.hxg5 Rd5 16.gxh6 Rxe5 with the programmed loss of h6 that you find in books... however, White saved himself by 17.b4! Rg5 18.Rb1! with the extraordinary idea 18...Rg6 19.b5 Bd7 20.Rb4, attacking the black e-pawn, and in case of 20...f5 playing 21.Ra4 a6 22.Ra3! threatening to hang on to h6 with the grand slide Ra3-h3 and also capture on a6.

The advantages of the "sharp continuation" 9 Ne5 compared with 9 Nd2 which, though underrated, is probably "just playable for White" as Davies says, are illustrated by Game 8 and Game 9 that saw White enjoying his usual practical chances in the line after 10.Qe2?!, making mince meat of unprepared opponents in a flashy way who, over the board, were unable to retrieve the only solution of keeping the dark-squared bishops on without changing the queens by 10...Nxe5 11.dxe5 Qd5 12.Qd1 Qa5+! 13.c3 Bd7! 14.Qxe4 0-0-0 intending ...Bc6 with a strong counter attack:

Things are also absolutely unclear in the case of Black trying to punish White for his eccentricity with something more substantial than a microscopically better ending by 10.h4 Nxe5 11.Bxe5 f6?! (inverting the punctuation with Davies, in the image of our respective opinion of the Veresov!) 12.Bg3 since the exposure of the opposing king, from which White, not very inspired in Game 10, failed to profit, should always guarantee him sufficient compensation.

See you soon, Eric