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When White does not play 4.f3 against the main Veresov defence, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7, he more or less contradicts the essence itself of the opening: "White ... wants to play for e2-e4" quoting GM Nigel Davies from his reference book.

Download PGN of October '06 d-Pawn Specials games

Veresov [D01]

This is the case with 4.Qd2, a tricky variation judging by the maze of different move orders it generates, that exists independently of the transposition 4.f3 c6! 5.Qd2 that we studied in August:

The automatic 4...e6 gave White the opportunity to "hoist the pirate flag" in Game 1 after 5.e4!? dxe4 6.f3 in the spirit of a BDG. This was the advantage of having preferred Qd2 to Nf3. Nonetheless, things were not that simple but White duly obtained the kind of unconventional play I imagine he seeks when obstructing his c-pawn with his queen's knight.

Black is not forced to cooperate with that intention however and can insert the preliminary question 4...h6! as in the next 3 games:

For a reason that will be obvious later, White chose to retreat his bishop to the London diagonal in Game 2 while discreetly threatening Nb5 by 5.Bf4 when 5...a6 was not exactly forced but fitted well with the black set-up since with the queen on d2, he could not rely on the manoeuvre ...Bb4+ and ...Ba5 to defend c7 after 5...e6? The game continued 6.0-0-0, missing a unique chance to follow up with f2-f3, e2-e4. An opportunity that did not arise again after 6...e6 7.f3 b5!, intending ...b4 in case of e4. Although White then consistently pursued his plan of pushing his pawns on the kingside, it soon became clear that the reaction against his king on the opposite flank was considerably more effective.

So White kept the bishop on the Veresov diagonal in Game 3 by 5.Bh4 but after 5...e6 failed to sense the essential difference with Game 1, and played 6.e4?:

when after 6...Nxe4! 7.Bxd8 Nxd2 8.Bxc7 Nxf1 9.Kxf1 b6 White ended up in a miserable ending because of the concession of his powerful light-squared bishop in connection with annoying queenside prospects for the opponent.

This trick is the main drawback of all the Veresov set-ups comprising Qd2 when the support of f2-f3 only makes it more spectacular. Yet it really stupefies me to see experienced Veresov faithfuls like IM David Pruess, the Estonian WIM Tatiana Fomina, once quite near 2300, or to a lesser measure German FM Tilmann Vogler (in August) falling to this same cheap theme!

6.e3 is a lesser evil and White succeeded in inducing a typically messy position after Black had played a timid ...c7-c6 instead of the thematic ...c7-c5 in Game 4. White treated the position with inspiration afterwards, to the great enjoyment of all Veresov aficionados!

If we take stock of all the information White has shown us with 4.Qd2, it is easy to circumvent the range of generated possibilities and they are not many; this is the reason why 4.Qd2 is not very popular in the Veresov. Thus White wants to play 0-0-0, Qe1 and e4 or achieve a favourable way to sacrifice a pawn with e2-e4 and continue in a BDG-Hübsch Gambit style with f2-f3.

To continue in the same spirit which guided my acknowledgment of 3...Nbd7 as being Black's best move, it is not now clear to me which is the best way of adapting to both plans.

At this moment I still hesitate between 4...h6, and the 4...c6 of the next 4 games, so exceptionally I will deal with both.

It is not so much a question of pros and cons but rather a matter of taste since both seem equally good to me!

White collided with Black's views in Game 5 following 4...c6 5.0-0-0?! b5! after which his endeavours to distract Black from taking his a2-pawn by some central action proved unfruitful.

This means that he had better revise his ambitions with a move like 5.Nf3, for instance.

Incidentally, this is the only slight problem I see with 4...c6: It probably makes it less "readable" than ...h7-h6 and ...e6. Indeed, in the systems with Nf3, e3, Bd3 Black really needs to play a swift ...c5 and here he has lost a tempo with ...c7-c6; this is of relative importance, though, because of the inferior placement of the White queen on d2.

Anyway, Game 6 continued 5...h6 6.Bh4 which is less promising than 6.Bf4, in my opinion, because, as in the Colle with c3-Nbd2, when White, after many precautions eventually achieves the liberating thrust e3-e4..., he only manages to equalize!

The 5...Ne4 6.Nxe4 dxe4 7.Ng1 of Game 7 is a critical alternative:

but despite the fact that Black won this battle brilliantly, more accurate play from the opponent would have faced him with his responsibilities for having altered his structure so early.

...c6, ...Nbd7 and ...g6 go well together and this is the set-up Black opted for in Game 8 against 5.e3. Inexplicably, alas, he then renounced playing for ...e7-e5 and found himself slightly worse when all of a sudden the opponent overlooked an elementary tactic, and should have lost.

Game 9 is a goodie, transposing from the Bishop's Attack to the Torre visiting just about all the d-Pawn Special scenery to finish in a vulgar Veresov through the most unexpected (and irrelevant!) order of moves one can imagine!

It introduces the forthcoming chapters on the presumably better options 4.Nf3 and 4.e3. When White played 7.Qd2??, presumably to avoid the doubling of his c-pawns with a black bishop on b4, he may just as well have resigned.

See you soon, Eric