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The dictum "tried and trusted" served as a guideline for this update which features a giddily high average ELO rating for Black.
It deals with the Veresov's "solid", or rather "more solid", option according to my predecessor, although he was very careful not to cover its critical line.

Download PGN of November '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Veresov [D01]

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.Nf3 is a sound developing move, not compromising anything, unlike 4.f3 or 4.Qd2, and with the idea of pushing Black to reveal his intentions first and then to adapt to them:

4...h6! is the problem, alas, when White has to commit himself first anyway. This is the difference with 4...e6, as after this latter move White is not forced to sacrifice a pawn after 5.e4 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Nxe4 8.Nxe4 dxe4 (of which I have been forced to postpone the study to next month due to lack of space). Instead, he can take on f6 and maintain the central tension with Qe2 or Qd3.

In reply to 4...h6, 5.Bf4 is the first issue, to which Black calmly replied 5...e6 in Game 1, not being the least bit worried by 6.Nb5 because of 6...Bb4+ 7.c3 Ba5, and soon the famous old curse "he who lives by the Veresov knight, dies by the Veresov knight" made its grip felt!

6.e3 is less cavalier, and instead of the 6...Bb4 I analysed in the Buchal-Batka whim last month, Black opted for the steady 6...a6 in Game 2. After this he developed the standard set-up of ...c7-c5, ...Be7, ...b7-b6 (or ...b7-b5) ...Bb7, and ...0-0 which is typical of this update, and emerged out of the opening with a healthy promising equality, that White really struggles to manage by playing natural moves in the Veresov!

5.Bh4 is a better retreat, therefore, and 5...e6 6.e3 is the main subject of this update:

This "quiet" move "may be objectively better" than 6.e4 according to Davies "but does not pose Black particular problems after 6...Be7", end of quotation.

Since 6.e4 is probably the best bit of his book (which finally concludes with the equalization of the second player), and furthermore completely matches the philosophy both of the opening and the spirit in which it was played by its father, we would have appreciated that the author could have developed his thoughts... in a brighter way.

After the further 7.Bd3 Black has a choice: 7...b6?! was picked with success by two Grandmasters in games 3 and 4, White falling to the classical cheapo 8.0-0? Bb7 9.Re1 0-0 10.e4?! Nxe4!:

in Game 3, practically winning a pawn because after 11.Bxe7 Black has the intermediate move 11...Nxc3 hitting the white queen, whilst the 9.Ne5?! of Game 4 was also bad since this idea functions even worse when Black has spared the tempo ...c7-c5, as this is weakening and not at all useful for the forthcoming attack on the opposing king.

Thus Black was able to keep lines closed on the queenside where his king had sought shelter, while the defective opposing pawn structure, creating points of contact on f6 or g5, permitted the opening of the g-file with devastating effect when combined with the bishop on b7.

Unfortunately, all this clear and concise theory was to collapse when I discovered the astonishing reply 8.Bb5! while preparing this update:

It meant Black had to play more subtly with the practically untested 7...a6!? if he wanted to keep the c5 square free for his d7-knight after the exchange on e5. However, this interesting idea also had a drawback: 8.Ne2!? allowing White to repost his shameful knight which, to be honest, is the only worry in his position.

This is the reason why the principal move in this position is 7...c5!:

In Game 5 a fine connoisseur of the opening began to play as if he was going to reproduce the same mistake of game 3 after 8.0-0 0-0!? 9.Re1 a6!, but improved with 10.Qc1 (with the idea of playing e3-e4 by concealing his queen from the Nxc3 intermediate move) however, after 10...b5 he quickly realized this was not going to be feasible and switched to 'plan B' with 11.a3 Bb7 12.Bf1 as if he had developed his bishop indifferently to e2 in the first place.

After 12...Rc8 followed 13.Ne2, which illustrates the only positive aspect of the Veresov: When White has reached deadlock, at least he always has a plan: bringing his queen's knight to a good square ;o) and he saved the draw.

Otherwise, it turns out that 'plan C', Nf3-e5, is the only non-defensive idea in the solidly "quiet" Nf3-e3 Veresov. So White executed it on move 9 in Game 6, since, compared to the rout of game 4, it should work a little better when Black has already committed his king to White's stronger side, the kingside.

The game continued 9...Nxe5 10.dxe5 Nd7 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.f4 f6! as in the case of mutual short castles Black has the idea of undermining the White pawn on e5 and then freeing his queen's bishop onto his original diagonal with ...e6-e5. After the forced exchange sequence 13.exf6 Nxf6 it became obvious that, compared to a Torre where White played the same idea of Nf3-e5 and then Nd2 to e5 in two moves, which we had some examples of last year, the knight on c3 was far from the scene of action.

Yet, 8...a6!, or to a lesser measure 8...b6, are more accurate than castling and practice does not lack examples of White getting crushed on the kingside after playing 9.Ne5 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Nd7 with Black castling on the other wing. Anyway, White only postponed the idea for one move in Game 7 by 9.a4 b6 10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.dxe5 Nd7 12.Bxe7 Qe7 13.f4 Bb7, to get stuck as usual, and come out with the terrible admission 14.Nb1, which actually prevented the terrorized Black from castling queenside but did not prevent acute central problems to occur after he did it on the kingside instead.

In Game 8, the strongest player ever to have handled this position with White understood that he had to attempt "THE IDEA" as early as possible, and so played 7.Ne5!? Ne5 8.dxe5 Nd7 9.Bg3!:

He also understood that it facilitated the opposing development to exchange the dark-squared bishops as Black was probably not going to castle kingside anyway. It is strange that his example has never been reproduced because White clearly increased his chances to obtain interesting play by remaining flexible about the development of his king's bishop and the side he was going to castle to.

See you soon, Eric