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Every month I play quickly through hundreds of games for this column. Many are pretty thematic and some theoretically relevant, but our favourite openings can easily lead to long grinds. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but just occasionally you come across a pearl, as I was fortunate enough to do with Popov-Mozharov.

Download PGN of February '15 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky 2...Ne4 3 h4!? c5 [A45]

Without further ado, that great scrap Popov - Mozharov began 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 h4!?. Black took up the gauntlet with 3...c5 4 d5 Qb6 5 Nd2 Nxg5 6 hxg5 Qxb2, after which 7 g6!? fxg6 8 e3 Na6 9 Rb1 was a highly tempting second gambit:

I wouldn't feel comfortable as Black here and, indeed, Ivan Popov had previously suffered on that side. Moreover, from an objective perspective, White just seems to be doing well and soon gave up a third pawn to completely entomb Black's bishop on f8.

The Tromp 2...d6 3 Bxf6 exf6 [A45]

The 2...d6 3 Bxf6 exf6 4 e3 Nc6?! 5 g3 h5 6 h4 of Bruzon Bautista-Hernandez is a somewhat less critical line:

However, such doubled f-pawn positions with an early ...h5 are quite common at lower levels, so it's instructive to see how the Cuban Grandmaster took control as White. Like Popov, Bruzon later underestimated his opponent's resources, but unlike the Russian GM was still able to win.

The Veresov 3...c5 4 Bxf6 gxf6 [D01]

Via 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 d5 3 e3 c5 4 Bxf6 gxf6 5 Nc3 a Veresov cropped up in Aleksandrov - Inarkiev. After 5...Nc6 we haven't before looked at 6 Nge2 Bg4 7 h3 Bh5:

I'm not totally taken by White's concept, but 8 g4!? Bg6 9 f4 f5 10 Qd2 might be explored, whereas the immediate 8 Qd2 soon led to a pretty prospectless game for the Belorussian Grandmaster.

Veresov 3...Nbd7 4 Qd3 c5! [D01]

I've rounded up some other recent Veresov encounters in Dzhumaev - Ramnath Bhuvanesh, where 3...Nbd7 4 Qd3 c5! 5 0-0-0 e6 6 e4 cxd4 7 Qxd4 Bc5 8 Qd3 d4 was debated:

I'm not sure what else White can do after Black's critical fourth move, but allowing Black such a strong central pawn chain just doesn't feel correct. White tried a new path with 9 Nce2, but soon had to rely on a tricky practical approach to get out of trouble and even win.

Torre Attack 3...c5 4 e3 d5 [D03]

It wouldn't be a February column without a main game from Wijk and the position after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bg5 c5 4 e3 d5 5 c3 Nbd7 6 Nbd2 Qb6 7 Rb1 was reached by transposition in Van Wely-Aronian:

Here Black has almost always deployed his king's bishop to d6 or e7, but Aronian introduced a creative new idea in 7...g6!?, aiming to avoid coming under the standard kingside attack.

The Colle System 2...Nc6 3 e3 Bg4 [D02]

1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nc6 isn't, of course, yet a Colle and White has a few options here on top of 3 c4 and a Chigorin proper, as we'll see. 3 e3 is, though, a very sensible choice and a favourite of Klaus Bischoff. After 3...Bg4 4 Be2 Nf6 5 Nbd2 e6 6 a3 Be7 7 b3 0-0 8 Bb2 White hasn't set the board on fire:

However, White's position is the easier to handle as only his c-pawn is mobile. That factor was, indeed, soon quite important in Bischoff - Skibbe.

The London System 3...c5 4 e3 Qb6 [A46]

We end with something of a warning. I'm a big fan of the creative and strong Lithuanian Grandmaster Sarunas Sulskis and have no idea why he went 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Qb6, let alone then 5 Nc3! cxd4?! 6 exd4 Qxb2?:

Yes, quite. After 7 Nb5 Nd5 8 Rb1 Qxa2 9 Bd2 I'm even tempted to say that White was already winning in Kveinys - Sulskis. If Hedgehog-type positions aren't to your taste as Black, please go 4...d5 rather than try to nab the b-pawn.

Until next month, Richard

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