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This month we continue our exploration of the Veresov main line with 3...Nbd7 4.f3.
As he develops an opening repertoire for White, Nigel Davies does not cover 4 f3 much in his book, believing there are more promising 4th move alternatives. Whatever these alternatives may be worth they are certainly easier to handle than 4.f3, where Black must really know what he is doing.

Download PGN of June '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Veresov [D01]

The first three games go back over May's update with at least two recent games I had missed after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.f3 c6 5.e4 dxe4 6.fxe4 e5 7.dxe5 Qa5:

In Game one White chooses one of the most testing lines of the Veresov (as we saw last month) which puts Black under pressure as he is asked to exchange queens a pawn down after 8.exf6 Qxg5 9.fxg7 Bxg7 10.Qd2:

Since entering an ending is often a difficult decision to make over the board, unprepared, when you have a far from perfect structure, and a pawn less, and you do not have a clue how to recuperate the investment, Black declined the proposal with the weaker 10...Qh4+? when 11.g3 Qf6 12.Qf4! was correctly fighting to recover some control over the dark squares, and as a result of which White got out of the opening with a solid extra pawn and then a mating attack when the opponent guiltily parted with his dark-squared bishop in order to regain it.

Game 2 illustrates the danger of an unstable king position in the line 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.e6 fxe6 10.Be2 Bb4 (as usual 10...Ba3! is very strong here!) 11.Bh5+ Ke7 12.Qf3 Bxc3+?:

In the Veresov, it is generally not recommended to deliberately part with this very strong dark-squared bishop just to demolish the opposing queenside without gaining a majority in the process. This piece is often the key element in Black's compensation for the pawn and, in any case, is obviously a lot stronger than the knight on c3. In this game Blacks' king situation appeared delicate and it looked like attempting the impossible to extricate him towards the safe queenside. Had Black not managed to exchange queens thanks to an opposing blunder, he was bound to face serious tactical problems.

Game 3 once again shows the power of the recurrent 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.exf6 Ba3! resource in the 4.f3 line that gave him a crushing attack after 10.Qc1 Nxf6 11.Bd3 Ng4 (11...Be6! is better, pre-emptively covering a white queen check on e5) 12.bxa3? Dxc3+ 13.Ke2 Qd4 14.Nh3 Rg8!

7.Nf3 is a tricky move where the idea is a swift short castles to profit from the opening of the f-file, even if in general it has to cost the minor b-pawn:

As a matter of fact, this is the only move I ever faced over the board in those rare cases where I was confronted with the Veresov, and this particular position. It is almost as if the lessons of the previous games with 7.dxe5 Qa5! had been duly acknowledged by White and there was nothing more to be found in that direction anymore.

Black reacted erroneously in Game 4 with the tempting 7...Qa5? which was naturally met by 8.Bc4! Intending 8...Nxe4 9.0-0 and disaster soon swooped down on the black king.

The move 7...Qb6 of Game 5 is a bit better but White can still pride himself on interesting compensation after 8.dxe5 Qxb2, and either 9.Bd2 Ng4 10.Rb1 Qa3 or 9.Rb1 Qxc3+ 10.Bd2 Qc5 11.exf6 Nxf6 12.Bd3, as played.

Game 6 features the refutation of the line with the intermediate 7...h6!:

This is more promising than the equalizer 7...exd4 8.Qxd4 Qb6 put forward by Davies on the base of a Zhang-Benjamin game 'commented' by Aaron in this section, which I found useful to revisit...

After 8.Bh4 Qb6! is much stronger now that the bishop has been driven away from the critical c1-h6 diagonal, 9.Qd2 (if 9.dxe5 then 9...Qxb2 is the reason why, when White no longer has the retreat Bd2 at his disposal) 9...Bb4!:

This is better than the game's 9...exd4 10.Nxd4 Bb4 which could have given White the opportunity to fish in troubled waters with 11.a3! instead of 11.0-0-0?, thanks to the semi opening of the e-file.

As Davies rightly points out, without further analysis (which is very normal considering that this is a repertoire book for White): "Black's nicely centralized knight leaves White struggling for equality" after Game 7's natural 8.Qd2:

However, to be exhaustive and conclude this 1st chapter on the Veresov it was interesting to see how play can critically develop for White after 8...Nxe5 9.0-0-0 Be7, which allowed Black to mount a crushing attack against the opponent's long castle, or the apparently even stronger 9...Bb4!, exerting annoying pressure on the a5-e1 diagonal that eventually led to the win of a queen for little material in Game 8 after 10.Nf3 Be6 11.Nxe5 Nxe4! 12.Nxe4 Bxd2+.

Related to this same comment, nevertheless, I am inclined to think that 8. Bd2! is White's best option in the 4.f3 Veresov, thus contradicting Davies' advice to switch to the 5.Qd2 line we will examine in August. And it is a sign that the highest rated Grandmaster to ever play the Veresov, for more than just the one surprise game, opted for this move in Game 9...

Till next month, Eric