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We saw one game with definite shades of AlphaZero’s praxis last month (White allowing ...Bxf3; gxf3), and have more this month. Anish Giri elects to advance his h-pawn over completing development, while we see in the Colle-Zukertort an early exchange sacrifice for a powerful centre backed up by the bishop-pair, although this idea actually predates AZ by a number of years.

Download PGN of March ’20 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...c5 3 Bxf6 gxf6 4 d5 Qb6 5 Qc1 f5 6 c4 [A45]

Last month we also saw that after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 c5 3 Bxf6 gxf6 4 d5 Qb6 5 Qc1 f5 and then the modern line 6 c4 Bg7 7 Nc3 d6 8 e3 Nd7 Black appeared to be doing OK with 9 Qc2 e5!?. As such, might White hold back on the queen deployment?

9 Nf3 does just that, with 10 Qc2 following only after 9...Rg8?! in Bomans, A - Stany, G.

The Torre Attack: 2...e6 3 Bg5 c5 4 e3 Be7 5 Nbd2 b6 6 c3 Bb7 [A47]

I was surprised to discover that after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 (we also examine White’s attempts to obtain an improved version of a Torre after 2 Bg5 e6 and then 3 e3 and 3 Nd2 - be warned that an early f2-f4 is not always wise!) 2...e6 3 Bg5 b6 4 e3 Bb7 5 Nbd2 c5 6 c3 Be7 7 Bd3 we haven’t considered 7...Nc6 in this precise position before:

Of course, 8 0-0 d5 would reach a main line we’re familiar with, but White preferred 8 a3 d5 9 0-0 0-0 10 Qe2 followed by breaking in the centre in Williams, S - Short, N.

The Torre Attack: 2...g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 e3 d6 [A48]

Following 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 e3 d6 going 6 Bc4!? sets an old trap:

Black can avoid it with 6...Nbd7 or 6...c5 7 c3 cxd4 (7...b6?? 8 Bxf6 Bxf6 9 Bd5 is White’s dream), whereupon a Kamsky-like 8 cxd4 was seen in Artemiev, V - Ivic, V, in which Black was instructively ground down.

The London: 2...e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 b6 [A46]

Plenty of black players still like to meet 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 by heading for a Hedgehog or Nimzo/Queen’s-Indian-like set-up with 2...e6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 cxd4 5 exd4 b6 when White has several options, including 6 h3 Be7 7 a4!?:

Touching both rook pawns so early might raise the eyebrows of the more traditional club player, but White made a decent case for his concept, which is especially directed against any ...Ba6 ideas from Black, in Vitiugov, N - Vidit, S.

The Jobava-Prié Attack: 3...e6 4 Nb5 [D00]

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 continues to gain adherents, intending 2...d5 3 Bf4. Following 3...e6 my current hunch is that White needs to side-step 4 e3 Bb4 with 4 Nb5 Na6 5 e3, which was even seen in a dramatic final game of the recent women’s world championship match.

It arose too in Short, N - Astaneh Lopez, A, where the retrograde 5...c6 6 Nc3 Nb8 produced that same position which might come about from a 4 e3 c6 move order.

The London: 3...e6 4 e3 Bd6 5 Nbd2 [D02]

One game from Wijk which did not obtain as much publicity as it might have was Giri, A - Vitiugov, N, which began 1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 Bf4 e6 (we also take a look at Daniil Dubov’s idea 3...c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 Nh5!?) 4 e3 Bd6 5 Nbd2!? (following in the footsteps of the world champion from the tail end of last year) 5...Bxf4 6 exf4 6...0-0 7 c3 b6 8 h4!?:

White avoids 8 Bd3 Ba6 and instead makes a useful gain of space. He was soon comfortably better, so it was no surprise to see Vitiugov switch sides and make good use of the London himself in Prague.

The Colle-Zukertort: 3...e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 Bb2 Bd6 [D05]

An important line after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 e3 d5 4 Bd3 remains the classical 4...c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 Bb2 Bd6 7 0-0 0-0 when White usually goes 8 a3. Following 8...b6 9 Nbd2 Bb7 10 Ne5 Qc7 11 f4 we’ve often seen that Black should drop back with 11...Ne7!:

Now 12 Rf3!? is rather route-one and not engine-approved, but is quite sneaky in that Black should not rush ahead with 12...c4?, as we’ll see in Fodor, T - Gormally, D.

Let’s hope there are more early exchange sacrifices and advances of the h-pawn to consider next month!

Until then, Richard

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