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Daniil Dubov once again lit up a tournament at the recent Russian Championship, an event he had warmed up for with the Titled Tuesday blitz event at the start of the month. There the 24-year-old Muscovite wheeled out the Torre Attack, sacrificed an early pawn, obtained a lead in development and bind on the position, and won in style. We also have a number of other entertaining and instructive games to ideally distract you this festive period.

Download PGN of December ’20 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bh4 d5 [A45]

We begin by going back to...December 2019, a time when over-the-board chess was the norm. I must admit it was hard not to feature an OTB game around which to base an examination of developments after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bh4!?. We’ll see some recent games after 3...c5 and 3...g5, as well as 3...d5 4 f3 Nf6 5 Nc3:

I’ve always thought the 3 Bh4 player should be quite happy to reach this position and White was quick to put his superior development to good use with 5...c5!? 6 e4! in Pecnik, L - Chan, K.

Tromp/Torre Attack: 2...d5 3 Bg5 Ne4 [D03]

I’m jumping around a little this month as Sevian, S - Mortazavi, A also began 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bh4 d5 only for White to here go 4 Nf3, transposing to the least common of the main forms of the Torre:

The critical line remains 4...Qd6 5 Nbd2 Qh6 6 Qc1 and the English blitz specialist’s 4...Nd7 unfortunately isn’t as impressive.

The Trompowsky: 2...e6 3 e4 c5 [A45]

It’s been a while since we looked at the unbalancing 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 e4 c5!?, which I’ve always considered to be a decent alternative to 3...h6. Thankfully for us, Vassily Ivanchuk wheeled it out twice of late. I can’t really explain why he was so keen to meet 4 d5 with 4...exd5?! 5 e5 Qe7, but 4 e5 h6 5 Bc1 Nh7!? is a respectable choice:

Here I would be tempted to exchange on c5, but 6 d5 d6 7 Nc3 a6 8 Nf3!? was preferred in Firouzja, A - Ivanchuk, V, where Black now picked the wrong central exchange.

The Torre Attack: 2...e6 3 Bg5 c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 Be7 6 Nbd2 h6 7 Bh4 [A46]

We initially remain within Trompowsky waters with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 Nd2 h6 4 Bh4, as featured in a couple of recent high-level online games. Peter Svidler plumped for 4...d5, the world champion 4...c5 5 e3 Be7 6 Ngf3 cxd4 7 exd4 b6, which is, of course, a line of the Torre. After 8 Bd3 Bb7 9 0-0 d6 10 Re1 Nbd7 11 a4!? a6 play was Hedgehog-like in Artemiev, V - Carlsen, M:

White was though determined to avoid an early c3, so went for 12 c4!?, which was met by the positionally desirable 12...d5!, Carlsen going on to win in thematic fashion aided by some fine meistering.

The Torre Attack: 2...e6 3 Bg5 c5 4 d5 [A46]

Daniil Dubov had tried 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bg5 c5 4 d5!? before, but I dare say it still came as a surprise in Dubov, D - Anton T. After 4...exd5 5 Nc3 d4 6 Bxf6 Qxf6 7 Nd5 the battle lines were already drawn:

White clearly has a bind on the position and will continue e4, Bc4 and c3, making it a definite gambit to remove Black’s annoying bridgehead. My best guess is that White enjoys full compensation, although 7...Qc6? 8 e4 quickly allowed Dubov somewhat more than that.

Jobava-Prié Attack: 2...g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 a6 5 h4 [A45]

Magnus Carlsen has tried 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nc3 of late, and it was also seen in a battle between two former women’s world champions, who debated 3...d5 4 e3 a6 5 h4 Bg7 6 h5!? Nxh5 7 Rxh5 gxh5 8 Qxh5:

I still believe that White enjoys good practical compensation here and objectively enough for the pawn, even after 8...Be6!? 9 Nf3 h6 (Black must prevent Ng5) 10 0-0-0, as in Tan Zhonqyi - Muzychuk, M.

The Barry Attack: 4...Bg7 5 Nb5 [D00]

We have another modern transposition in Bluebaum, M - Mendonca, L, where 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 Nb5!? Na6 6 h3 0-0 7 Nf3 transposed to a sideline of the Barry:

Black’s simplest equaliser is 7...Ne4, although 7...b6 was far from bad for Mendonca in the game before he was outplayed in instructive fashion by Bluebaum.

Enjoy your festive time and as good a new year as can be achieved at the moment!

Until next month, Richard

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