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I’m delighted to say that this month’s entire update comes from recent over-the-board encounters. Yes, OTB! To many that may not seem so surprising, to some it will still seem painful I fear, but it must still be welcome news. The Colle gets a good look in, although once again the London rather dominates proceedings, including with our premier encounter, Caruana-Shankland from the Sinquefield Cup.

Download PGN of September ’21 d-Pawn Specials games

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Torre Attack: 2...e6 3 Bg5 c5 4 e3 Be7 5 Nbd2 b6 [A46]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bg5 Be7 4 Nbd2 c5 5 e3 b6 White usually plays 6 c3 and we’ll see a Miladinovicesque handling of that approach in the notes to Jacobsen, M - Haraldsson, H. There White prefers 6 a4!?, which makes sense, as did 6...Nc6 7 c3 0-0 8 Bd3 d5:

Here, however, White embraced full AlphaZero mode, punting 9 h4!? ahead of launching an all-out assault, which he was, arguably, fortunate to turn into a full point, having trailed by two pieces at one stage.

The London: 2...e6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 b6 [A47]

By no means everyone is meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bf4 with an early ...d5. An important alternative remains the so-called Hedgehog-type defence, 3...c5 4 e3 cxd4 (an immediate 4...b6 is also possible, although after 5 Nbd2 Black should probably avoid 5...cxd4 on account of 6 Nxd4!) 5 exd4 b6 6 Nbd2 Bb7 7 Bd3 Be7 8 h3 0-0 9 0-0 d6:

White has a few possible set-ups here, with 10 Bh2!? Gata Kamsky’s most recent preference, while a decent case is made for 10 Qe2!? Nbd7 11 Bh2 Re8 12 a4! in Cumming, R - Sarrau, J, a hard-fought encounter in which White’s kingside expansion eventually came back to haunt him.

More usually White prefers 10 c3 when 10...Nbd7 11 Re1 Re8 12 a4 a6 13 Bh2 is a string of sensible moves, keeping the queen flexible and off the e-file:

We’ve seen Vladimir Kramnik dealing with 13...Nf8 before and 13...Bf8 was likely a better defensive set-up in Harutyunian, T - Tologontegin, S.

The London vs KID: 2...g6 3 Bf4 Bg7 4 e3 d6 5 h3 [A48]

Sam Shankland surely didn’t expect 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bf4 Bg7 4 e3 d6 5 h3 when he faced Fabiano Caruana at the Sinquefield Cup, and he got his surprise in first with 5...c5!?. 6 Nbd2 cxd4 7 exd4 0-0 8 Be2 seemed a sensible reaction in Caruana, F - Shankland, S...

... except that here we’ve known that 8...Nc6 followed by 9 0-0 e5! or 9 c3 e5! is very comfortable for Black, ever since the days of Eric’s pioneering research. Shankland, however, allowed 8...Qb6?! 9 Nc4 and was eventually outplayed in highly instructive fashion.

The Semi-Colle: 2...g6 3 Nbd2 [D02]

Does 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nbd2!? have a name? At any rate it remains on the fringes of topicality, with 3...d5 Black’s most obvious and likely best response:

Here 4 Nb3!? Bg7 5 Bf4 Nbd7 6 e3 led to a rather unusual type of London, or Barry if you prefer, in Deac, BD - Demchenko, A, where 6...c5! was but the first big and good decision in this fascinating, important last-round encounter from the European Individual.

The Colle: 3...g6 4 Nbd2 [D04]

It might also arise from our last diagram and then 4 e3 or 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 g6 4 Nbd2, after which 4...Bg7 5 b4!? echoes Keith Arkell’s favourite ‘Speckled Egg’ (2...g6 3 b4!?).

Black ignores White’s early gain of queenside space at his peril and 5...a5 6 b5 c5! 7 bxc6 Nxc6 is likely critical, as we’ll see in Koellner, R - Wecker, M.

Colle-Zukertort: 3...e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 Bb2 Bd6 7 Nbd2 0-0 8 0-0 [D05]

White can keep his options open with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 Bd6 5 0-0 0-0 6 Nbd2 c5, but must now commit to 7 c3 or 7 b3, with the latter and then 7...Nc6 8 Bb2 b6 9 Ne5 Bb7 10 f4 seen in Nisipeanu, L - Kaasen, T:

Black countered with the extremely rare 10...Qe7?! when after 11 a3! Rac8 I’d prefer the thematic 12 Qf3 to Nisipeanu’s direct 12 Rf3!?.

Will there be more elite encounters next month?

Until then, Richard

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