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We’ve only the one online game to consider this month, with several games played over-the-board having caught my eye, not least from the 4NCL and the super-tournament in Shenzhen. There’s also an unusually high number of draws, but White was certainly pressing in three of those five games.

Download PGN of March ’24 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 h4 c5 4 dxc5 [A45]

While waiting for my Trompowsky book to be published by Everyman Chess, I couldn’t resist comparing the repertoire with any recent developments after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 h4 c5. I cover both 4 d5 and 4 dxc5, and after the latter, 4...Nxc5 5 Nc3 Nc6 is something of a sideline:

Here 6 e4 is standard and should give White a decent version of an Open Sicilian, whereas 6 Be3 was just rather strange from a leading 3 h4 exponent in Miladinovic, I - Sarana, A.

The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 c5 4 d5 Qb6 5 Nd2 [A45]

From time to time Mark Hebden likes to wheel out the gambit 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bf4 c5 4 d5 Qb6 5 Nd2!? when Black should really take on b2 immediately, but Hebden’s opponents have tended to prefer 5...Nxd2 6 Qxd2 Qxb2 7 e4:

This already feels like reasonable compensation and after 7...g6 8 Rb1 Qe5 9 Bd3 Bg7 10 c4 White’s strong centre already left him with a pretty pleasant set-up in Hebden, M - Iyengar, I.

The Trompowsky: 2...e6 3 Nd2 c5 4 e3 [A45]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 Nd2 c5 White probably can’t get away with 4 e4, but 4 e3 doesn’t have to head into Torre waters. Indeed, 4...Nc6 5 c3 b6!? 6 Ne4!? is a critical test of Black’s slightly ambitious approach:

It’s not totally impossible that White is already better here and I soon stood clearly for choice in Palliser, R - Villiers, T, before making a rather unfathomable and embarrassing oversight.

The Trompowsky: 2...d5 3 e3 c5 4 Bxf6 gxf5 5 dxc5 [D00]

Once upon a time the main line after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 was considered to be 2...Ne4 3 Bf4; nowadays it’s arguably 2...d5 3 e3 c5 4 Bxf6 gxf6 5 dxc5 when 5...e6 6 Nf3 Nc6 is perhaps a slightly strange mix of systems from Black. It’s far from unplayable, but 7 c4 dxc4 8 Nd2 c3 9 bxc3 Bxc5 10 Nd4 felt like a small edge in Carroll, T - Kirk, E.

After several adventures, the point was shared in this hard-fought encounter, in which White was heavily out-rated according to FIDE (2047 vs 2407), if somewhat less so according to the English Chess Federation’s ratings (2224 vs 2460).

The Trompowsky: 2...d5 3 e3 c5 4 c3 [D00]

Meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 d5 with 3 e3 c5 4 c3 might be described as solid, but that doesn’t mean it lacks bite, as shown by 4...Qb6 5 Qb3 c4!? 6 Qxb6 axb6 7 Bxf6 gxf6 8 e4!:

This central challenge is objectively unclear, but certainly asks early questions of Black and in another rating mismatch (FIDE: 2078 vs 2554; ECF: 2259 vs 2613), Badacsonyi, S - Erdos, V, White largely had the better of things when this position was reached after 20 b4:

In the game, Black was rescued by his rating and draw offer after 20...R5a6 21 a4! Nxa4 (22 Nxd5 is clearly better for White), but can you see how he might instead have maintained rough equality with an engine-approved positional sacrifice? Instructive stuff.

The Colle-Zukertort: 4 Nbd2 c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 Bb2 cxd4 7 exd4 [D05]

A relatively topical approach is 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 e6 4 Nbd2 when 4...c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 Bb2 cxd4 tries to take advantage of White’s move order. The idea is revealed after 7 exd4 Bd6 8 Bd3 0-0 9 a3 Qc7, taking control of the key e5 point:

Black will break with ...e5 and enjoys definite chances to hold solidly in the resulting IQP positions, as we’ll see in Bluebaum, M - Abasov, N.

The Colle: 4 Bd3 Be7 5 0-0 0-0 6 Nbd2 [D05]

With 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 Be7 5 0-0 0-0 6 Nbd2 White also keeps options open, but so too can Black by holding back on ...c5 and 6...b6 7 e4 dxe4 8 Nxe4 Bb7 was not dissimilar to a Rubinstein French in Bu Xiangzhi - Dubov, D:

If Black is content with a solid approach and equality against the Colle, Dubov’s method currently looks like a decent one.

Will the Colle remain topical into next month?

Until then, Richard

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