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With our favourite openings popular with 2600+ players and much of their chess played online these days, we have a fairly internet-heavy update this time, with several games influenced by the brisk 3+1 time control used by Titled Tuesday. While we mustn’t judge the critical stages of certain encounters too harshly, we should especially note not just how hard chess can be, but how Black often came under early pressure.

Download PGN of February ’24 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 Nc3 [A45]

I’ve long rather thought of 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 Nc3 as being ‘the old main line’, but these days it’s trendy again rather than 5 c3. Black has a few options here and we’ll consider both 5...b6!? and 5...d6 6 Qd2 g6 7 0-0-0 Bg7 8 f4 Qe7 9 Nf3 in Duda, JK - Harsha, B.

This still feels like a pleasant attacking set-up for White to me, and Duda eventually won after various adventures.

The critical line is though 5...Bb4 when 6 Qd3 remains topical, as we saw too last month:

After 6...d5 Hikaru Nakamura likes 7 e5, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 7 0-0-0!?, as we’ll see in Mamedyarov, H - Klimkowski, J.

The Trompowsky: 2...d5 3 e3 c5 4 Nd2 [D00]

En route to success at the Chessable Masters, Magnus Carlsen was forced into a Grand Final Reset, which he began with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 d5 3 e3 c5 4 Nd2, keeping everything tight at the back. Carlsen, M - Firouzja, A, continued 4...Nc6 5 c3 cxd4 6 exd4 h6:

While I doubt 7 Bh4 supplies an objective advantage, it does look a better try than the exchange on f6 and helped Carlsen to win a fine game.

The London: 2...c5 3 e3 Qb6 [A45]

A couple of years ago 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 c5 was all the rage with the elite and the line hasn’t entirely lost its topicality, as we’ll see. The most London-like response is, of course, 3 e3 when Black has a few options, including the critical 3...Qb6 4 Na3 Qxb2 5 Nb5:

Can you remember what Black should play here? Yes, 5...Nd5! leads to a well-known drawing sequence, whereas 5...Qb4+? should have been punished more firmly than it was in Kamsky, G - Delgado Kuffo, A.

The London: 2...c5 3 d5 [A45]

A more ambitious approach as White is 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 c5 3 d5, clamouring for 3...Qb6 4 Nc3! Qxb2 5 Bd2 and a Vaganian Gambit. Black might avoid that with the Benko-like 3...b5 when 4 e4!? Nxe4 5 Qf3 is an aggressive new idea:

Spanish Grandmaster Jose Cuenca Jimenez has rather flown the flag for White here and he should be able to obtain sufficient compensation for the pawn, as we’ll see in Cuenca Jimenez, J - Makarian, R.

Young Russian IM Rudik Makarian had earlier preferred the more solid 3...d6 when after 4 Nc3 if 4...a6 5 a4 e5 White has tended of late to go 6 Bg5, while after the immediate 4...e5 the topical choice is the straightforward 5 dxe6 Bxe6 6 e4:

I’d still be surprised if Black had any real problems here, although he was instructively outplayed in the early middlegame in Dubov, D - Makarian, R.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 [D02]

After 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 it’s been a few months since we considered the sharp line 5...Qb6 6 dxc5 Qxb2 7 Rb1 Qc3 8 Bb5:

As we’ll see, of late Alexei Shirov has aimed for maximum complexity with 8...g6!? here, while the sensible 8...e6 9 0-0 Be7! saw Black quickly equalising in a dramatic encounter from the Czech League, Navara, D - Cernousek, L.

Let’s hope we have more OTB games to enjoy next month!

Until then, Richard

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