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This month we tackle a couple of high-level encounters, while in general our focus is on some interesting sidelines, for both Black and White. Keep an eye out especially for Sam Shankland’s incredible idea after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 c5 3 dxc5.

Download PGN of February ’20 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 e6 [A45]

Meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 with 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 e6 isn’t all that common (we also look at a recent development after 3...d5), but Black enjoys decent play after 4 f3 Bd6! 5 Bxd6 Nxd6. As such, White should prefer to develop with 4 Nd2 Nxd2 5 Qxd2 d5 6 e3:

This London-like position should be fairly pleasant for White and an intriguing AlphaZero-like struggle soon developed in the instructive encounter which was Muthaiah, A - Karthikeyan, M.

The Trompowsky: 2...c5 3 Bxf6 gxf6 4 d5 Qb6 5 Qc1 f5 [A45]

Just like meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 with 2...Ne4, 2...c5 is no longer as topical as it once was, but it remains rich in possibilities and as a winning try for Black. Unlike Zia Rahman, I remain unconvinced by 3 d5 Ne4 4 Bf4 Qb6 5 Nd2!?, but 3 Bxf6 gxf6 4 d5 Qb6 5 Qc1 f5 6 c4 remains in decent shape for White, often leading to 6...Bg7 7 Nc3 d6 8 e3 Nd7 9 Qc2:

Here 9...e5!? continues to look quite critical, as we’ll see in Kobo, O - Santos Latasa, J.

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

The flexible and fairly solid 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 c3 d6 6 Bd3 Nd7 remains quite popular with Black. After 7 Ne2 I’m not convinced by 7...b6 (the wrong side of the board!), but 7...Qe7 8 0-0 g6 9 f4 should be fine for him so long as he now goes...

....9...Bg7 and not 9...e5?, which was quickly punished in Lund, G - Berg, E.

The London: 2...c5 3 dxc5 [A45]

One doesn’t tend to associate Sam Shankland with the London, but the well-prepared former U.S. Champion has clearly done some work on 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 and met 2...c5 with 3 dxc5 Na6 4 f3!? e6 5 e4 Bxc5 6 Nc3:

The incredible idea seems to be to meet 6...Qb6 with 7 Qd2!?, and if 7...Bxg1 8 Rxg1! Qxg1 9 Bd6, when White is a whole rook down, but has a huge grip on the dark squares. Black steered clear with 6...d5 in Shankland, S - Anton Guijarro, D, but was still fortunate to survive.

The London: 2...d6 [A45]

I’ve had a couple of requests from Subscribers asking what they should do after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 d6. 3 Nc3 would likely be my choice, but 3 Nf3 is also quite sensible when 3...g6 4 Nc3 Nbd7 5 e4 c5 6 d5 Bg7 had actually transposed to a sideline of the Schmid Benoni in Pikula, D - Bulajic, R.

Here 7 Be2 is pretty pleasant for White and 7 Qd2 also quickly turned out well in the game.

The London: 2...g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 [A45]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 g6 3 Bf4 we’ve mainly focussed on 3...d5, which is very much Black’s main move, but there’s also 3...Bg7 4 e4 when play can again easily transpose outside the realm of this section of ChessPublishing. However, 4...d5!? is something that only really arises from this Jobava-Prié move order, and then 5 e5 Ne4 6 Nxe4 dxe4 7 Bc4 c5:

Now 8 dxc5! looked like a decent novelty from the ‘Jobava London’ expert in Williams, S - Balaji, A.

The London: 3...c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 cxd4 6 exd4 Bf5 [D02]

1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 cxd4 6 exd4 Bf5 might appear all rather solid and Exchange Caro-like, but after 7 Bb5 Qb6 8 c4 the board is suddenly on fire:

Vitiugov, N - Harikrishna, P, continued 8...dxc4 9 a4 e6 10 0-0 Bd3 11 Ne5!? when Black should likely have been brave and grabbed the exchange.

Let’s hope for more such exciting lines next month!

Until then, Richard

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