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We tend to focus on games played at a classical time limit in this column, but the very best in the world have long been capable of producing masterpieces at rapid chess, and even at blitz can produce some highly instructive material, although we must make allowances for the occasional oversight. Bearing that in mind, do enjoy some fine meistering as you play through this month’s games!

Download PGN of December ’19 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...d5 3 Nd2 e6 4 e3 [D00]

Meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 d5 with 3 Nd2 has enjoyed a small burst of popularity of late, in part due to the patronage of Vladislav Artemiev, as we’ll see. After 3...e6 4 e3 Be7 5 c3 0-0 6 Bd3 b6 White doesn’t have to consent to a transposition to a Torre and can reveal one of the main points behind his move order with 7 f4!:

I’ve long felt this is a position Black should look to avoid and after 7...Bb7?! 8 Bxf6! Bxf6 9 Ngf3 c5 10 h4! h6? 11 g4 he was already lost against White’s route-one approach in Carlsen, M - Cuenca Jimenez, J.

The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 h4 c5 [A45]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 h4 I was delighted to see four black players in a row on the database opting for 3...c5 over the super-solid 3...d5. Following 4 d5 Qb6 5 Nd2 an important tabiya is reached:

Black’s main move is 5...Nxd2, but perhaps this should even be considered inaccurate, as after 6 Bxd2 both taking on b2 and 6...e5, as in our main game, Aravindh, C - Ciocan, M-A, don’t appear to equalise. As 5...Nxg5 6 hxg5 Qxb2 7 g6 is likely also best avoided, the critical line may well be 5...h6!? 6 Bf4 Qxb2.

The Torre Attack: 3...d5 4 e3 c5 5 Nbd2 Be7 6 Bd3 Nbd7 7 c3 0-0 [D03]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bg5 Be7 4 Nbd2 d5 5 e3 0-0 6 Bd3 Nbd7 7 0-0 c5 8 c3 b6 9 Qe2 (the immediate 9 Ne5 is an important alternative) 9...Bb7 10 Ne5 Nxe5 11 dxe5 Nd7 12 Bxe7 Qxe7 13 f4 an important, fairly old line of the Torre arises:

Black really needs to react with 13...f6 when 14 exf6 gxf6?! probably can’t be recommended, although it wasn’t such a bad choice for the rapid encounter that was Nihal, S-Sarana, A.

The Torre Attack: 2...g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 c3 d6 [A48]

Elisabeth Paehtz has been wheeling out 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bg5 on several occasions of late, as we’ll see this month. The strong German IM likes to meet 3...Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 c3 d6 with the modest 6 e3. Black has a few approaches after this, but 6...b6 7 Bc4 Bb7 8 0-0 Nbd7 9 a4! most likely gives White slightly the easier position to handle:

In Paehtz, E - Amin, B, White was content to pretty much mark time, which caused her much higher-rated opponent to badly overestimate his position.

The major alternative as White is, of course, 6 e4 when 6...c5 7 dxc5 dxc5 8 Bc4 Qc7 9 0-0 Nc6 10 Qe2 h6!? is quite a controversial as well as critical choice:

The point is that Black must continue 11 Bxf6 exf6 when 12 Nh4 Kh7 seemed quite playable for him in Harikrishna, P - Nepomniachtchi, I.

The Barry Attack: 4...Bg7 5 e3 a6 [D00]

Unsurprisingly we initially begin with a discussion of that important line of the modern London, 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 h4, taking in 3...Bg7 as well as here 5...h5. Our main game sees 5...a6?!, which just looks like of a waste of a move to me. Not only is 6 h5! quite effective, but the Barry transposition 6 Nf3 worked out well in Nihal, S - Martinez Alcantara, J.

White met 6...Bg4 with the Navaraesque 7 Qd2 Bxf3 8 gxf3 ahead of breaking down Black’s seemingly solid position in instructive fashion.

The London: 3...c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 [D02]

It would have been interesting to know what Magnus Carlsen had in store after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 for 5...Qb6, but at the London Chess Classic Levon Aronian was twice to prefer the less common and likely less critical 5...cxd4 6 exd4 Qb6 against him:

After 7 Nb3 and then 7...Bg4 8 a4 a6 9 a5 Qa7?! Carlsen won their first game in classic fashion and 7...a6 8 Be2 Bg4 9 a4 e6 10 a5!? also saw White continue in AlphaZero fashion in the rematch Carlsen, M - Aronian, L.

Enjoy any Christmas festivities or break you may have ahead!

Until next month, Richard

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