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Continuing from last month's introduction, this update focuses on the 4.c3 Torre.

It is more practical than its 4.e3 counterpart and its understanding is full of knowledge which is useful for the whole "d-Pawn specials" spectrum including some efficient set-ups that Black can use with reversed colours.

Download PGN of March '05 d-Pawn Specials games

Torre Attack [A46]

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 c5 4.c3:

Black reacted 'reflexively' in Game one by 4...Qb6, which is wrong because it is well known that the queen exchange 'blackmail' proposed after 5.Qb3, with the goal of isolating the doubled b-pawns, always favours the side with the better development.

Eventually, he only saved the draw thanks to his opponent's technical incompetence in the ending.

So, if the direct attack on the b2 pawn fails, can Black combine it with the opening of the a5-e1 diagonal after 4...cxd4 5.cxd4 ?

This is the question developed in games 2 to 8.

In the first series of 3 games, Black played the attempted disruption 5...Qa5+, intending 6.Bd2 Qb6 but instead had to face the more accurate, 6.Nc3! more or less forcing the sequence 6...Ne4 7.Bd2 Nxd2 8.Qxd2:

It is a matter of taste, but if you like simple positions with nicely developed pieces I can advise you to try this position which I find pleasant for White in spite of the pair of opposing bishops.

Game 2 saw 8...b6?! with the idea of playing actively with the bishops. Black was soon to be disillusioned and not only had to part with his dark-squared bishop, but also had to cede complete domination of the centre to the opponent as well as the open c-file to stay in the game. Tortured in the ending, his queen's knight never saw any other square than a6!

In games 3 and 4 Black correctly responded with 8...d5:

Thus preventing the establishment of a strong, constricting white centre but making the lack of perspectives for his light-squared bishop even more perceptible.

There are two plans for White in this position:
-Play against the black queen with a2-a3, b2-b4 (implying that his queen's rook should stay on a1 to protect the a3 pawn) and then thematically bring a knight to c5 via a4;
-or leave the black queen where it is (badly) placed and open the centre to try to make something out of the better coordination of the pieces.

The first strategy worked out smoothly in Game 3 after the opponent culpably weakened the important b6 square but showed its limits in Game four against better defence.

So, as the check leads nowhere Black tried the straightforward 5...Qb6 in the remaining games, to which White replied with the gamble 6.Bxf6?! in Game five and was successful after 6...gxf6?! 7.Qd2 d5 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.e3 Bd7:

Alas, he forgot about the essential rule of piece development in the opening which tells us to make the obligatory moves BEFORE the optional ones. So he did not play Rc1! on move ten nor on the next move, neither on the move after when his opponent had given him two more chances to get back on track. Consecutively he erred with his knights while Black was setting his centre in motion supported by the bishops and White eventually blundered a pawn in a difficult position.

Black accepted the challenge in Game six by 6...Qxb2 7.Bxg7 Bxg7 8.Nbd2 Nc6 with the double threat ...Nxd4 and ...Nb4-Nc2+ which leads to the loss of the a-pawn, and White never seemed to have adequate compensation for it.

After the correct 6.Qc2 Nc6, then, White attempted to keep his strong Torre bishop with 7.e3?! in Game Seven. But this failed instructively to: 7...Nb4 8.Qb3 Ne4 9.Bh4 Da5 10.Nfd2 g5 11.Bg3 h5 12.Nc3 Nxd2 13.Kxd2 (Incidentally it is possible to award every black move with an exclamation mark):

13...h4! 14.Be5 f6!! 15.Bxf6 Rh6 16.Be5 d6 17.Bb5+ Kf7 winning the bishop and the game.

White correctly parted with his bishop in Game eight by 7.Bxf6 gxf6 8.e3:

and although the 'great' Chessbase expert Tsesarsky once said: "Of course, opening strategy like this cannot be recommended for White. Black equalizes without problems by various ways." about this position, it is not so easy to accomplish in practice! The game continued 8...d5 9.Nc3 Bd7 10.a3! in order to develop the bishop to its most active square on d3.

Later Black always suffered from his inferior structure which somewhat spoiled his king protection and he finally succumbed, after a couple of reciprocal mistakes, to a blitz attack from the opponent's h-pawn.

Game Nine first issued from a 2.c3 'special', then from a Trompowsky, to finally meet our subject with the neutral 4...Be7 5.Nbd2 cxd4?!. Instead, Black should have quietly continued 5...d5 without fearing 6.Bxf6? Bxf6 7.dxc5 as he has 7...Nd7 winning the pawn back. White would have played 6.e3 instead, reaching a 'knot' of the "d-Pawn specials" section with legions of games coming from every horizon: Tromp, Pseudo, Torre, c2-c3 systems; not the pure Colle however where the pawn structure is the same... but where the queen's bishop stands on c1! 6.cxd4 d5 7.e3:

These Exchange Slav positions are always comfortable to play for White, wherever his queen's knight may be, when the opponent's queen bishop is locked inside the pawn chain. Black was always defending in the game, cracked up at the end and fell to a cheapo.

Till next month! Eric Prié.