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This month we continue our exploration of the fashionable position resulting from the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.e3! which appears of major importance for Tromp theory as it also embraces the possible transposition 2...Ne4 3.Bf4 d5, first blockading White's d-pawn, 4.e3!

    Download PGN of September '07 d-Pawn Specials games

    Trompovsky [A45 & D00]

    In the latter move order 3...d5 has been in the shadow of 3...c5 but due to the success recorded by White recently with Movsessian's 4.f3 Qa5+ 5.c3 Nf6 6.d5!? Qb6 7.Bc1 e6 8.e4!? it is presently regaining a lot of popularity. Possibly also because there seem to be a lot yet to discover with 3...d5, for both sides, in comparison with the overanalysed 3...c5, even at a very early stage...

    It was not exactly the case in Game One with the 2...Ne4 move order after the normal sequence 4...c5 5.Bd3 and now 5...Qb6 instead of the 5...Nf6 retreat I have mainly concentrated on (or the dubious 5...Nc6?!) because, following the legendary reference Adams-Xie Jun Hastings 96 6.Bxe4 dxe4 7.Nc3 Qxb2 8.Nge2! Bg4 9.Nxe4 Bxe2 10.Kxe2 cxd4 11.Qd3!:

    Black only now got around to trying the suggested improvement 11...Qb6 with an unclear position that may well eventually prove favourable to White in spite of the momentary exposure of his king that caused his loss here.

    In this sharp line, Black has to be careful to avoid executing the c5xd4 exchange at an inopportune moment as he did in Game 2 by 8...cxd4 as this provides the opponent with an even bigger advance in development, after 9.Rb1! Qa3 10.exd4!, for Black is denied the development of his queen's bishop because b7 would be hanging.

    Nevertheless, considering the numerous questions left in suspense or their introduction (to these questions...) in the 2 previous games, 5.Nd2!?, alleviating possible problems against b2, represents a decent alternative to 5.Bd3, in my opinion, provided that Black has already committed himself with ...c7-c5.

    Then, unless Black plays the sharp line with 5...Qb6!? 6.Nxe4 dxe4 which is largely overestimated by Wells (I guess because of the preconceived idea of advocating the line with e3 & Bd3, the other way to question ...Ne4 ...) from the black point of view as we shall see later, White will likely obtain a fixed Caro-Kann exchange structure in this line after the exchange ...c5xd4 e3xd4 unless, of course, Black shuts his queen's bishop in with ...e7-e6 in order to protect c5, or take the risk of sacrificing that very pawn, at the risk of never seeing it back, as could have occurred in Game 3...

    Exclusively in the 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 d5 move order this time (in the 2...d5 move order Black is happy to play 3...c5 directly after 3...Nd2) there is at least a way to play the Tromp in a static way with 4.Nd2!?:

    However, it appears less "promising" than in the previous game because Black is not forced to reply with ...c7-c5. This is what Wells says about it:

    "4.Nd2 seeking to exchange the piece off, aims at rather modest gains in terms of development and possible queenside play. This was once considered as the main line, but none too exciting at the best of times and is now under something of a cloud due to the sharp reply 4...c5"!?!?

    Exactly the contrary...Well, maybe not exactly... I agree that White has to take the chance of e3 first. Afterwards, choosing between Bd3 and Nd2 is another question that I will try to solve shortly.

    In any case, Black refrained from playing 4...c5 in Game 4 and Game 5 and thus practically equalized. Then the game started... and if White later mishandled the position and let the opponent escape with a draw in the first, he managed to cause the opponent some innocent problems in the second.

    So let's wait for ...c7-c5!

    And this is what White did in Game 6 with the move order 2...d5 3.e3 c5 4.Bxf6 gxf6, to double the pawns on f6 only now, ignoring the recent new awareness that 4.c3! must be the move in this basic position... With this order of moves, White at least avoided the recapture with the e-pawn which is known to be the easiest way to play for Black. Something that did not prevent White from rapidly getting into trouble after the mistake 5.c4 cxd4 6.exd4 Nc6 7.cxd5? Qxd5 8.Nf3 Bg4!

    The correct move is 7.Nc3, consequently reaching a position that had its importance in the edification of the 2...d5 Tromp theory as testified to by the number of big names playing black in the game notes. However, it should not be considered to be critical any more, chiefly from the black point of view, because the earlier deviation 6...Qb6! is the critical move in this position nowadays - as in the Torre-Tiviakov game some time ago and as more or less acknowledged by its later (2001) adoption by Peter Leko himself. In the 3.e3 c5 4.Bxf6 gxf6 5.c4 cxd4 6.exd4 (equivalent to 3.Bxf6 gxf6!? 4.e3 c5 5.c4 cxd4 6.exd4) branch and 5...dxc4! in case of 3.Bxf6 gxf6!? 4.c4 c5! 5.Nc3 instead of 5...Nc6 6.e3.

    Although White obtained a big advantage in Game 7 after 7...Be6 8.Nge2!, with a Caro-Kann Panov Attack position, known to favour White, practice and analysis suggests that the position arising from 7...dxc4! 8.d5 Ne5 9.Bxc4 may be of an opposite evaluation at the end of the day...

    In fact, the more accurate 5.dxc5 reaches a completely equal ending after 5...e6 6.c4 dxc4 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.Bxc4. We already had one example of this, and the different set-up adopted by White in Game 8, with short castling and Nf3, is not of dramatic importance for theory but once again highlights the topical vitality of 3.e3! and does not alter the general assessment in this variation after the exchange of queens.

    However it seemed clear during the game that White was quite fond of endings...

    This example, together with games 4 and 5, illustrates what I would call the "Dorfmanian" (Static-Dynamic...) rupture in the Trompowsky and a point I would like to put forward on general grounds:

    Looking for active play, White would like that there exists dynamic solutions to solve all his problems in the Trompowsky. Alas, ultimately these positions often turn out to be highly dubious for the first player. So it is just asking too much of the opening, as a matter of fact just like in all the cousin openings in the d-Pawn Specials galaxy...

    On the other hand you can always construct something out of such "over sterile" looking openings PROVIDED THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THEM BETTER THAN YOUR OPPONENT.

    Provided it is not really bad, the intrinsic worth of a position matters relatively little in comparison with the light heart and the happiness of playing something that does not give you the impression of escaping you.

    My intimate conviction is that this moderate ambition is the key to success in this section.

    See you soon, Eric