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Those more common and theoretical of the d-pawn Specials rather dominate this month, the Trompowsky, Torre and London. Do look out especially for a vicious early trap which London players should avoid, as well as model games for both White and Black in the Torre.

Download PGN of December ’21 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2....Ne4 3 h4 c5 4 d5 [A45]

We begin, as so often, with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 when after 2...c5 (I’ve also taken a quick look at developments after 2...Ne4 3 Bh4) 3 d5 Ne4 White goes in for ultra-provocative mode with 4 h4!? Qb6 5 Nd2 Nxg5 6 hxg5:

The white set-up is quite an appealing one to my eye and after 6...g6 7 e4!? Black quickly regretted not snaffling a pawn for his trouble in Obregon, A - Perez Ponsa, F, before being let back into the game.

The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 d5 4 f3 [A45]

Arjun Erigaisi was a man possessed as he dominated the Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz last month, but one of his few reverses came about when he wheeled out 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bf4 d5 (we also have a look at a couple of recent encounters with 3...d6) 4 f3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bf5?! 6 g4! Bg6 7 h4:

Of course, the opening was not to blame for White’s demise in Erigaisi, A - Gukesh, D, but after 7...h6 8 h5 Bh7 9 Bg2? really was not a good choice of square in so many ways.

The Trompowsky: 2...e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 c3 d6 [A45]

Over the years we’ve considered a number of games after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 c3 d6 6 Bd3, but here 6...Nc6!? is new for us:

White continued in thematic fashion in Demidov, M - Gutenev, A, where 7 Ne2 Qd8?! (7...e5 would be consistent and critical) 8 f4 quickly led to a pleasant edge.

The London: 2...c5 [A45]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 a critical test remains 2...c5 when I’ve never really been a fan of 3 c3. Black might simply go 3...Qb6 and after 4 Qb3 cxd4 5 Qxb6 axb6 White could easily become worried by 6 cxd4 Nc6 7 e3 Nb4. However, 6 Bxb8? is not a panacea, in view of 6...dxc3! 7 Be5?...

...and what now is Black’s neat tactic?

A much better choice as White is 3 e3 when after 3...Qb6 both sides can aim to spurn the early repetition, with 4 Na3 cxd4!? 5 exd4 Nd5!? 6 Bc1! the creative beginning of Grebnev, A - Kokarev, D.

The London: 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 cxd4 6 exd4 Bg4 [D02]

After 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 cxd4 6 exd4 Bg4 we’ve previously mainly focussed on 7 c3, but just as if Black’s bishop had instead gone to f5, 7 Bb5!? is possible too:

Here 7...e6 8 c4!? quickly led to a sharpening of the play in Ivanisevic, I - Fridman, D, which saw some rather instructive play from White for a long time after setting up a clamp and space advantage with c4-c5.

The Torre: 2...g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 c3 d6 6 e4 c5 [A48]

We’ll see two instructive openings from Jon Speelman at the English Rapid Championship after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 and then 4 Nbd2, as well as discuss developments after 4 c3 d6 5 Nbd2 0-0 6 e4 c5 7 dxc5 dxc5:

Slightly to my surprise, 8 Bc4 Nc6 9 0-0 h6!? already brought about a new position for us in Ghaem Maghami, E - Yakubboev, N, in which White was outplayed in surprisingly swift fashion.

The Torre: 2...d5 3 Bg5 e6 4 e3 Be7 [D03]

Our final game this month explores 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bg5 d5 4 e3 Be7 5 Nbd2 and specifically the theme of White’s ideal early occupation of e5. That came about after 5...0-0 6 Bd3 Nbd7 7 c3 c5 8 Ne5! in Papaioannou, I - Alexakis, G.

Our main game was rather one-sided in terms of ratings and on the board, but does serve as a timely example of why Black rather needs to trade knights on e5 here.

Enjoy any festive break and/or following the World Rapid & Blitz!

Until next month, Richard

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