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"As early as the second move White dares to be different by developing his knight to c3, and in so doing he contravenes the conventional wisdom about Queen's Pawn Openings which states that you must never obstruct your c-pawn. In fact White has a far more ambitious idea in mind; he wants to play for e2-e4" Nigel Davies in his book The Veresov, Everyman 2003.

Download PGN of May '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Veresov [D01]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3:

So after having made a first step in the centre to limit the opponent's choice (d4), White envisages playing the other one, e4. What a scoop...! Alas, Black can durably nip this ambitious idea in the bud with the natural 2...d5!:

Davies actually uses the subtitle "Surprise your opponents with the tricky 2.Nc3!" , and fair enough: the psychological effect on the opponent can justify any dubious rule breaking, as Anand once did this himself in his World Championship match against Karpov in Lausanne. And I know lots of players, mainly Benoni fans, who would rather let White accomplish his design than put a pawn on d5!

In Game one White mixed this dynamic approach with the London idea 3.Bf4, which was naturally met by 3...c5!, profiting from the absence of pressure on the d5 pawn. White should have transposed into March's important game from Polak with 4.e3 Qa5! but instead took the pawn by 4.dxc5, with the intention of keeping it after 4...Nc6 5.Na4?:

This way of hanging on to the pawn is generally effective only when Black's a-pawn has advanced. Here it costs a piece thanks to an instructive "d-Pawn Special" theme that we should always bear in mind.

Thus, having seriously compromised his options with his second move, so that Black already has something to smoothly adapt to, the Veresov move, 3. Bg5, is probably the best choice, and we will be dealing with this these next couple of months:

Now 3...Nbd7 not only prevents a deterioration in the black structure, but is also a harmonious move considering the indications White has already given about his development: Black is ready to play ...e7-e5 in some cases or develop his queen's bishop onto the long diagonal and attack the enemy d-pawn with ...c7-c5, supported by his b6 pawn, an opportunity White relinquished with his second move...

4.f3 A second compromising move, though consistent with the first one... 4...c6 to which Black continues to adapt in the most effective way. 5.e4 dxe4 6.fxe4 e5 Standard procedure with which Black breaks the opponent's central unity while White's undeveloped kingside makes it difficult for him to use the opening of the f-file, even though this costs a pawn against best play. 7.dxe5 Qa5 reaching the first critical position of the dynamic Veresov where the importance of not having improved his bishop's position before White played e2-e4 now becomes evident:

In Game 2 White played the old fashioned line that is generally given as the principal one in books on the opening, 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.e6 fxe6, and now the natural 10.Bc4? hitting e6. Unfortunately for him, the thunderous reply 10...Ba3! (which apparently has been known for a long time, despite the absence of any recorded games with it prior to this one) signed the prelude to a general invasion on the dark squares enhanced by the forced deflection of the white queen from the d1-h5 diagonal.

The 10.Qg4 of Game 3 can be trickier for Black (especially if he follows Davies' recommendation of 10...Ne5 which allows 11.Qh5+) however, 10...Nb6 is simply the best: Black keeps the 5th rank free for his queen (particularly the key g5-square), and, possibly in connection with the manoeuvre ...Rg8xg2, prevents White from posting his king's bishop onto an aggressive square which aims at the potentially weak pawn on e6, and thus prepares long castling. In the game 11.Qh4? (11.0-0-0 is mandatory) 11...Qg5? forced transposition into a slightly favourable ending. Instead, Black could have used the recurrent idea 11...Ba3! which this time is immediately devastating because of the white queen's separation from the queenside.

Since then White has been looking for other possibilities to make up for the major disappearance of his queen's bishop. For instance, with 9.exf6 which is hardly any better at the end of the day, although it puts a bit of extra pressure on Black as he is momentarily a pawn down. Anyway, now guess what? Yes, 9...Ba3! is quite efficient once again. Why? Because it actually develops a piece with tempo, a piece that can annoyingly stay on a3 as long as is required - which is most important - and frustrates his opponent's defensive plans, that often include long castling. See the key note to Game 6 for this.

Instead, Black played the acknowledged 9...Nxf6 in the next 3 games anyway:

And whether it was met by 10.Qd4 as in Game 4 (for all sorts of reasons it is a good idea for White to at least threaten to castle long in this line) or the safer 10.Qf3 in Game 5 (relatively best I reckon, as it inaugurates an interesting defensive set-up for White that is more stable than the other ones) or even 10.Nf3 as in Game 6, Black developed the same strategy of ...Bg7 (putting the c3-knight in the line of fire), ...Be6 and long castles to obtain adequate compensation for the pawn. Although the opponent, under pressure after the disappearance of his dark-squared bishop, may have helped a little, Black managed to transform his temporary investment into convincing victories in all 3 cases.

8.exf6 Qxg5 9.fxg7 Bxg7 10.Qd2 represents the last attempt for White to win a pawn and seal the breaches on the dark squares as much as possible:

It worked nicely in Game 7 when Black innovated with the dubious 10...Qc5?!, allowing the opponent to regroup with Nf3, Bd3, 0-0-0, Kb1 before fighting back for the essential control of the black squares by the manoeuvre Nc3-e2-g1-f3 after the exchange of knights on e5. Then the weaknesses around the black king, who had sought refuge on the kingside to be able to launch his pawns against the enemy castle on the other wing, proved fatal.

However, the trade of queens as seen in Game 8, has long been reputed to be quite promising against this idea. 10...Qxd2 11.Kxd2 Nc5 12.Bd3 Be6 13.Nf3 (As suggested by Davies in his book, 13.Nge2 0-0-0 14.Rhf1! looks more solid) 13...0-0-0 14.Ke2 Rhe8!:

When White suddenly found himself helpless against the threat of ...Bxc3 and ...Nxe4 with a decisive pin on the e-file.

To finish, Game 9 tells why the interposition of 4...h6 (although previously given as the stem move of the e-book dedicated to the 3...Nbd7 main line of the Veresov!), is faulty, chasing the bishop to a better square (or diagonal...) when Black has already committed himself with his queen's knight. Of poor quality despite the eminence of its protagonists, at least it does cover a gap in the section about 5.Bh4 and 5...c5 - which is the only attempt to counter White's coming e2-e4 when the bishop does not hang on g5 anymore.

Till next month, Eric