ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
The vulnerability of the b2 pawn is the major issue in the "d-Pawn Specials" sphere, almost in every line of the Trompowsky, but also in minor systems like the Pseudo, London, Torre, Veresov, Barry Attack etc.

Usually White has to defend this pawn, but in some cases he may just sacrifice it, as in the fashionable line of the 2..c5 Tromp, and then sometimes the rook on a1 as well as we shall see!

Anyway, this specific opening (the 2..c5 Tromp, 'the variation of the Masters') is just a pretext to examine this central question, and also watch some great attacking games.

Download PGN of September '04 d-Pawn Specials games

2...c5 Trompovsky [A45]

Thus, in the first part of this update we will continue last month's work, by looking deeper into the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 c5 3.d5 Qb6 4.Nc3 Qxb2 5.Bd2 Qb6 6.e4 d6 7.f4 e6!? 8.Rb1 Qc7, about which most everything has already been said, and now, 9.Bb5+:

This is theory, apparently, but despite some impressive successes, I do not fully understand the utility of this move if White wants to capture on e6 later. In my view it only gives Black a free tempo for development and I would much rather play 9.dxe6 even if it gives Black's queen's knight the c6 square, which did not prove very effective in the game Puschmann - Adzic from last month.

Now Black plays 9...Nbd7:

9...Bd7, which seems best at first sight, turns out to be weaker, as I was somewhat astonished to observe and as we shall see some other time. The basic reason is this: after the exchanges, on e6 and d7, White will be able to take advantage of the light-squared weaknesses in the enemy camp by pressurizing his Achilles' heel on e6. There is no lack of ways to achieve this, Nf3-g5, Qe2-c4 and then the 'X-ray attack' after the thematic thrust e4-e5. Therefore Black will have no time to castle kingside, and will be forced to move his king to the queenside, colliding with the natural activity of White's rook along the open b-file, which already provides 'classical' compensation for a pawn; which is then enhanced by the weakening of the a5-d8 little diagonal caused by the inevitable ...a7-a6.

Game one saw 10. Qe2!? and Black almost immediately went wrong after 10...a6 11.e5 axb5? (For he should have played 11...dxe5 12.dxe6 with unclear consequences) and as a result he had to 'stalemate' his queen following 11.Nxb5 Qb8, and got 'fireworked' by White no later than 7 moves later, in fact as soon as the opponent had completed development!

White now played 18. Bc3!!.

White played 'classically' in Game 2 by 10.dxe6 fxe6 11.Nf3, and after 11...a6 12.Bc4 Nb6 bravely sacrificed the exchange by 12.Rxb6!? Qxb6 which could have become quite uncomfortable for Black:

Alas, the most rewarded youth in the chess World was then victim of his optimism and fell to a well orchestrated counter attack.

"Mr Tromp", the quasi inventor of the gambit line, reacted more conservatively in Game 3 with 12 Bd3 but after 12...c4 13.e5?! and an impressive series of precise defensive moves from the opponent, swiftly found himself with his back to the wall, leaving the viability of this particular line and the bishop's check with all sorts of unanswered questions.

Again with the same theme, and from the same opening variation, we deal with a completely different position in the second part of the update:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 c5 3.Bxf6 gxf6 4.d5 Qb6 5.Qc1 f5 6.c4

A continuation of minor theoretical interest to Trompowsky theory, but, surprisingly, representing one of the highest average ELO ratings (2375) in the Tromp from a sample of 100 games...

White reserves the c3 square for his queen's knight and thus consolidates his strong point on d5 so that the ideas of attacking it by means of ...Na6-c7 should be less effective.

Unfortunately for him, the opening of the long diagonal for the enemy king's bishop presents Black with a wide range of opportunities to try and gain advantage from his dark-squared domination. Indeed, although that famous theoretician GM Igor Stohl (or maybe was it Ernst? And then which one, the Swedish GM or the Dutch IM? It is never clear with the ChessBase multi-commented games....) even labelled this line dubious, in '94, it has been advocated by some strong players, seduced by the superior pawn structure.

In Game 4 Black plays 6...Qb4+!?, White replying 7.Nc3, more or less forcing the sequence 7...Qxc4 8.e4 Qb4 9.a3 Qa5 10.exf5 Bg7:

Black has swapped his doubled f-pawn defect, as well as his weakness on f5! Gaining a strong mobile queenside majority in the process, supported by a bishop on g7 which is stronger than ever. Taking into account every standard of evaluation, the last 4 moves should represent an improvement of his position.

On the other hand, the cover of his king has been slightly altered and White should play actively to demonstrate the pertinence of this. Well, in this high level correspondence game he did not, possibly missing such an opportunity, but still managed to hold the draw.

White decided to keep his c4 pawn in Game 5 with 7.Nd2:

Considering what happened in the previous game, this is then a sad necessity; as this square is OK for the knight, although preferably when it is heading for c4! Consequently, Black seized the initiative on the queen side with a timely ...b7-b5, which is obviously easier to achieve when the white queen's knight is not developed on c3, but later handled it inaccurately and gave the opponent, likely the most experienced "d-Pawn Specials" player of the planet, a great opportunity to completely reverse engines here:

... which he missed.

The last 3 games 'tackle' the line from one of the most legendary games in the Tromp, namely Hodgson-Van der Wiel Amsterdam op 1995, after the critical 6...Bh6 7.e3 (I recommend the very interesting alternative 7.Qc2 instead, although, as far as my database is concerned, this would be a novelty.) 7...f4:

This is the acid test of the 6.c4 line, for the evaluation of which it is absolutely essential to have carefully studied the following 3 games, rather than the flashy aforementioned one. Possibly this is what White did not, or not deeply enough, in Game 6, when he refused to embark on the complications and replied 8.e4?! which turned out to be a poor decision after the precise 8...Qg6!.

Hence White tried the exchange sacrifice 8.exf4 Bxf4 9.Qxf4 Qxb2 10.Ne2 Qxa1 in Game 7 which continued 11.Nec3 d6!:

For having wanted to bring his greedy lady back home, as quickly as possible, instead of maintaining the pressure right inside the enemy camp, Van der Wiel rapidly succumbed to a direct attack against his king after 11...Qb2? 12.d6! in the reference game.

The game continued 12.Qd2 (resolutely trapping the opposing queen) 12...Rg8! 13.g3 a6!:

After which Black found a way to somehow give back some material (which is often the best defensive policy when the opponent has sacrificed material for a long term initiative), emerged with a comfortable game and an extra pawn, which he then converted into a win.

Amazingly, the number one Byelorussian player played exactly the same opening a few rounds later in Game 8! So was this a bluff daring Black to reproduce the sacrifice? Or had he really found something against 13...a6! I would be really curious to know about it... Anyway, Black played 13...a5!? instead, with the interesting idea ...Ra6, ...Rb6 but this time did not find his way in the maze of complications.

Till next month! Eric Prié.