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Ever since I stopped playing 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5!?, almost two years ago, I have been waiting for someone to throw it at me in a serious game so that I could make an update on its refutation, 2...f6!, which gains at least a move, and the initiative that often accompanies it.

Download PGN of July '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Pseudo-Tromp [D00]

And this finally happened some weeks ago, against its most noble representative, who in Game one replied 3.Bf4 which met 3...Nc6! (Black does not need his c-pawn to obtain good play, 3...c5 4.e3 costs him an important tempo) 4.e3 e5 5.Bg3 (In this configuration, Black's central duo after 5.dxe5 fxe5 6.Bg3 is not weak, rather the contrary) 5...exd4! - Black has nothing to gain from maintaining the central tension and always has to watch out for the move Bb5, after which White can take back on d4 with a piece and thus improve his structural chances and play against the move ...f7-f6 - 6.exd4:

One just need eyes to understand that Black has already comfortably equalized. He has gained the move and ...f7-f6 is actually very useful in this typical Exchange French structure in connection with the idea (which I implemented a couple of times when I was a lot younger), that actually developed in the game, of ...Bf5, ...Bd6, ...Nge7, ...Qd7, ...0-0-0 followed by a pawn storm on the kingside.

The game went on: 6...Bf5 - If White could pretend that the installation of his bishop on the strong h2-b8 diagonal was an asset well worth one move, then Black, as an improvement on a classic Exchange French sequence (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3), can simply do the same - 7.c3 Bd6 when, alas, the virulent attack I soon launched against the White king only brought two extra pawns that my pathetic endgame technique did not manage to fully exploit!

Nevertheless, since White cannot interpose the queen because of the hanging d4-pawn, the disruptive check 6...Qe7+!, as in the next two games, may be even stronger:

In addition, it integrates naturally into Black's plan of castling queenside, while his king's bishop may find a bright future on g7 (or rather h6) with both superb bishops turned towards the white queenside. The only drawback is the development of the g8-knight. A minor concern considering the benefits, and one that can easily be solved, in any case, at the price of just one tempo, when the black queen moves again from e7.

In Game 2 White parried this with 7.Ne2 Bf5 8.Nc3 0-0-0 9.Qd2, trying to castle queenside (instead of the 9.a3 h5! that proved too slow in a couple of games -see the note to move 9), when 9...g5? 10.0-0-0 Nb4 11.Nb5! led to double-edged complications in which Black showed better nerves.

Had he played ...Nb4 one move earlier, instead of 9...g5?, he would probably not have needed them...

The interposition, 7.Be2!, although allowing a check on b4 that deserves to be analysed meticulously, made a better impression in Game 3, which continued 7...Bg4 (logical, to prevent Nf3) but after 8.Nc3! 0-0-0 9.h3! to place the black bishop in the way of the h-pawn, Black may have regretted that he did not free it with 7...Bf5! instead, for in the ensuing complications (when the opponent managed to castle queenside) it was Black who lost the thread this time.

4.Nf3, instead of 4.e3, is tempting, to prevent ...e7-e5, but the closure of the d1-h5 diagonal allows Black to freely expand on the kingside now with 4...g5! when, as a sort of pitiful admission to the premature foray of the bishop, White retreated it all the way back again in Game 4 by 5.Bc1, giving the opponent a sort of dream Albin-Baltic-Chigorin Defence after the further 5...Bf5 c4 6.c4 e6 (6...e5!?) 7.e3 Qd7 (7...Nb4!?) 8.a3 Nge7 9.Nc3 a6 10.b4 Bg7.

White courageously maintained the bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal in Game 5 with 5.Bg3, but after 5...h5 6.h4 (6.h3 is critical but also very dangerous for White in view of the plan 6...Nh6-f5, ...g5-g4, winning at least three pieces for the queen when White thematically takes on c7 after the opening of the h file.) 6...g4 7.Ng1 Nh6?! (8...e5! was more precise) that could have permitted White to fish in troubled waters with 8.e4!, but instead, White carelessly continued 8.e3 Nf5 9.Bf4? (9.Bd3) 9...e5 10.dxe5 fxe5 11.Bg5 Be7 12.Bxe7 (half of the moves with the same piece in the opening must be a kind of record at Master level!! Especially when it gives the impression of not having gained anything in return, apart from a weakened position...) 12...Qxe7!:

And White should never have survived the opening.

It is my intimate conviction that the retreat 3.Bh4 is inferior because of the ideal reply 3...Nh6!, especially after 4.e3 (Due to lack of space 4.f3 will be treated in a couple of weeks together with my conclusion on the Pseudo-Tromp and some Qd2, f2-f3 Veresovs, with which it has some amusing similarities, by the way) 4...Nf5 5.Bg3 (5.Bd3 h5! is a more common move order, transposing to the same position where White is forced to take the knight by 5.Bxf5 Bxf5 6.h3 e6 7.Bg3 h4 8.Bh2 c5 to end up in a miserable situation.) 5...h5! 6.Bd3? losing a piece that the 2383 Black player failed to see in Game 6 after 6...h4 7.Qg4:

Black to play and win!

The wild 6.Be2 enjoyed some popularity in the infancy of the Pseudo-Tromp, but it is clearly insufficient at the end of the day because of 6...h4 7.e4 dxe4 8.Bh5+ Kd7 9.Bf4 g5 10.Bc1 c6 (with this move order or another) 11.d5 Kc7 12.Nc3 e5!:

When White cannot capture it en-passant, Black's e-pawn obviously stands better one square farther up the board, thus securing an anchor on d4 for the f5-knight. After 13.dxc6 Nxc6! 14.Nxe4 Nfd4! Black emerged out of the opening with a winning position in Game 7, threatening ...Bf5, as well as ...Rxh5 followed by ...Nxc2+.

Instead, 7.Bh5+ Kd7 8.Bg6 (blockading Black's g-pawn) was instructively refuted in Game 8 by 8...e6! 9.Bf4 Ne7 10.Qd3 Na6! 11.c3 (giving both bishops by 11.h3 Nb4 12 Qb5+ c6 13.Qxb4 Nxg6 14.Qd2 Nxf4 was a lesser evil) 11...Nxg6 12.Qxg6 Qe8!, forcing the exchange of queens after c7 had been protected.

As a result, the holes on the white light squares, and the opposing space advantage, rendered the task of finding a safe shelter for White's king, in order to link the rooks, difficult, and after failing to react on the e-file with e3-e4, White chose to be slaughtered on the queenside after Black unlocked his castle by ...c7-c5, ...b7-b5-b4.

Never provoke a former Candidates semi-finalist who (usually) sleeps (peacefully in the realm of shared points!) is a lesson that White ignored in the magic Game 9 after 4.Nf3?! Nf5 5.Bg3 h5 6.Bf4 g5 7.Bc1 g4 8.Ng1:

Has 'overextended' Black (whilst still to move by 8...c5!) really so horribly weakened his position?

Till next month, Eric