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Eric will be back very soon, but continuing to fill in this month I've examined two slightly tricky set-ups for the Colle, London or Torre player to face, namely 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b6 and 2...b5!?. Elsewhere 3...h6 is becoming fairly popular against the Veresov. Indeed, Gawain recently played it against me and I have to say that it's by no means clear how White should respond.

Download PGN of December '10 d-Pawn Specials games

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1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b6 [A47]

The move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b6 is likely to be the choice of a Queen's Indian player, hoping to reach their favourite opening after 3 g3 Bb7 4 Bg2 e6 5 c4, while confusing those who employ any of the Colle, London or Torre:

2...b6 isn't too common these days, but White must still have an idea how to respond, since Black is by no means committed to following up with ...e6 and a transposition to standard lines. I believe that 3 Bg5! is the most challenging response and one which even Colle and London players should consider. Following 3...Ne4 4 Bh4 Bb7 5 Nbd2 it's not at all easy for Black to equalise:

Indeed, White should emerge with a pleasant pull, as he does in Povah - Bellin after 5...d5 6 e3 Nd7 7 Nxe4 dxe4 8 Nd2 g6 9 c3.

Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with meeting 2...b6 with 3 Bf4. Following 3...Bb7 4 e3 g6 5 h3 Bg7 6 Be2 0-0 7 0-0 d6 play had transposed to a reversed Réti in Reich - Wohl and to a position which more normally arises from a 2...g6 move order:

I have to admit that I suspect Black is quite comfortable here, but wouldn't be surprised if Eric was to prove me wrong in a future update!

While I believe that the Colle-Zukertort is quite a decent system, I'm not so keen on meeting 2...b6 with 3 e3 because Black might go 3...Bb7 4 Bd3 c5 5 0-0 g6!?:

Again we see a double-fianchetto approach giving Black a decent-enough position, although he soon lost his way in Drost - Meijers and was very lucky to survive after being completely outplayed by his much lower-rated opponent.

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b5 [A46]

Those who like an early b-pawn advance as White may also go 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b5!?, which is quite an ambitious idea:

I also know of a couple of Budapest exponents who prefer to employ it rather than learn a second normal opening like the Bogo with 2...e6 3 c4 Bb4+.

In Welling - Rombaldoni White remains true to a Colle approach with 3 e3. This gives him decent chances of an edge, but again I believe that 3 Bg5 is even more challenging. After 3...Bb7 4 Nbd2 it's not so easy for Black to complete his development. The prudent continuation is 4...a6, but after 5 c3 e6 6 e4 h6 7 Bxf6 Qxf6 8 Bd3 c5 White surely has a pretty decent Torre/Trompowsky set-up:

Here 9 e5 is premature, but with the new move 9 a4!? White quickly snares a pawn in Wang Yue-Ponkratov.

The Veresov [D01]

Meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bg5 with 3...h6!? must be considered quite critical. If White can't exchange on f6 then his entire approach loses much of its impetus, but what should he do after 4 Bxf6 exf6:

Here White can consider 5 e4!?, as played by Spassky and Korchnoi, although I'd be surprised if it was enough for an advantage. More common has been 5 e3 c6 6 Bd3 f5 when I suspect we'll soon see more of the regrouping 7 Nf3 Bd6 8 Ne2. I preferred the thematic-looking 7 Qf3 g6 8 h3 in Palliser - Jones, but after 8...h5 just couldn't find a good plan and soon had to resort to a speculative pawn sacrifice.

The Trompovsky [A45]

I'm not entirely sure why fashion has turned its back on the once-popular gambit 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bf4 c5 4 f3 Qa5+ 5 c3 Nf6 6 d5 Qb6 7 e4!? Qxb2 8 Nd2 Qxc3 9 Bc7:

As far as I know the critical lines after 9...d6 remain unclear and in need of much more testing. Moreover, five years after Chernyshov-Grischuk, 7 e4 continues to catch people by surprise and we'll see 9...b6?! receiving short shrift in Pert - Ledger.

Happy New Year! Richard

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