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The return of Vladimir Kramnik to our column this month can hardly come as a surprise, both to regular subscribers and to those who’ve followed the leading events of 2018, but perhaps the presence too of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will surprise a few. Along the way we’ll see developments ranging from the whacky world of the 3 h4 Trompowsky to the solid and sedate world of the A49 ECO code.

Download PGN of March ’18 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 h4 [A45]

I’ve been pleased to detect a small growth in the popularity of 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 h4!? of late, even if unfortunately Baadur Jobava did prefer 3 Bf4 in a recent Bundesliga clash, as we’ll see.

After 3...c5 finally 4 d5 has become the move of choice, with 4...Qb6 5 Nd2 Nxd2 6 Bxd2 Qxb2 7 Nf3 already quite dangerous for Black, at least from a practical perspective, as shown by Sedlak, N - Yang Kaiqi.

The solid line 3...d5 4 Nd2 Bf5 is preferred in Flom, G - Moskalenko, A, where 5 Nxe4 Bxe4 6 f3 h6 7 Bf4 Bh7 8 e3 e6 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 Qxd3 c5 was seen:

I still suspect White should now capture on c5 à la Rapport and the exchange on b8 fails to impress in the game.

The Torre Attack: 2...e6 3 Bg5 h6 4 Bh4 c5 5 e3 cxd4 6 exd4 Be7 7 c3 b6 [A46]

A common motif in the ...e6 London lines of late has been an early ...b6 and ...Ba6 from Black, but when Gata Kamsky switched from his usual 2 Bf4 to 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 Nf3 he was still to face that positional concept, 3...h6 4 Bh4 c5 5 e3 cxd4 6 exd4 Be7 7 c3 b6 8 Nbd2 0-0 9 Bd3 Ba6!? occurring in Kamsky, G - Predke, A:

As we’ve seen a fair bit of late, this plan works well enough in the London and there’s no reason why it can’t too with White’s bishop on g5 or h4 instead of f4. At any rate, Predke gave a model demonstration of how to handle the resulting positions en route to comfortably holding Kamsky.

The Torre Attack v KID 2...g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 c5 [A48]

A critical test of 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 remains 4...c5 when 5 e3 cxd4 6 exd4 b6 was new for us...and you’ve likely guessed what was coming. Yes, 7 c3 0-0 8 Bd3 Ba6 followed:

Even here this freeing manoeuvre makes plenty of sense, but at least White has a few plans against it with 9 Bxa6 Nxa6 10 Qe2 Nc7 11 h4!? his aggressive pick in Mamedyarov, S - Svidler, P.

The Anti-King’s Indian Fianchetto: 3 g3 without c2-c4 [A49]

After 12...g6 3 g3 (we’ll also consider in passing Kramnik’s successful espousal of 3 b3 in the Candidates) 3...Bg7 4 Bg2 0-0 5 0-0 d5 ChessPub has tended to focus on 6 c4, but 6 c3!? has been tested of late by a trio of strong Russian GMs:

Initially Artemiev defeated Andreikin, who then switched to the white side, and now Vladimir Kramnik has joined the party, 6...c6 7 Nbd2 Nbd7 8 Re1 c5 9 a4!? seeing him going on to outplay Daniil Dubov from a roughly level position in Kramnik, V - Dubov, D.

The London System, Anti-Nimzo [D02]

The London remains pretty popular and after 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 e6 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 we’ll consider a couple of critical lines this month. Firstly, we haven’t looked at 6...Be7 7 Bd3 Nh5!? for a while:

After 8 Be5 Black has three main options, with the compliant 8...0-0 likely the worst of the lot, following which 9 g4 Nf6?! 10 g5! Nh5 11 h4 left White dangerously massing his pieces on the kingside in Berkes, F - Pfreundt, J.

Yes, it’s that man again, Ferenc Berkes. The Hungarian Grandmaster also stars in our final game, which sees the main line, 6...Bd6 7 Bg3 0-0 8 Bd3 b6 9 Qe2 Bb7 10 Rd1 Re8 11 e4 Be7 12 e5 Nh5 13 a3:

White’s attacking chances should once again not be underestimated and Black should really prefer 13...g6 to 13...a5, as we’ll see in Berkes, F - Raja, H.

Will the final rounds of the superb entertainment see any d-pawn specials for us to consider next time? Until then, Richard

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