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January 2004 Update

"2...c5 is not only the most challenging line against the Trompowsky but also the richest by the variety of instructive positions that its practice comprises".

This month's update is another demonstration of my previous statement, since it is dedicated to one of the most fascinating opening lines (excluding "unsound" gambits ;o)) in chess theory: 3.Nc3.

GM Eric Prié,


You can download the January '04 d-pawn specials games directly in PGN form here: Download Games

If Black is not in a greedy mood with 3...Qb6, he usually captures with 3...cxd4, otherwise White will confidently play d5 this time, having solved the b2 problem. After 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qh4 we reach a position which resembles nothing else:

Especially not the main line of the 'Belgo-Portuguese Scandinavian' with reversed colours (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.Nf3 Qxd5 5.Be2 Nc6 6.Nc3 Qh5) and certainly not 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 either, as the fact that the e-pawn, and not the c-pawn, was exchanged against the d-pawn obviously makes a huge difference. As the game develops, it can acquire a certain similarity to an open Sicilian Richter-Rauzer when White doubles the pawn on f6 but never more than that.

Basically, it revolves around the interesting theme of the annoying combined pressure exerted on the same diagonal by the white bishop-queen couple against a knight on f6, and how to release it.

The fascinating 3.Nc3 ? Game one is the perfect illustration of it. Indeed, in which other opening can you see one side long castling, with a useful semi-open d-file, as early as move 6? In which other opening (in GM practice) do you see, from the very earliest moves, one camp exchanging a wing pawn against a central one, together with an early sortie of the queen to the middle of the board? Although this game was played in a serious tournament, between 2 top-class GMs, it should not be shown in Chess schools for you will witness, at one stage, 3 knights on the edge of the board to add to the previous liberties taken with the classical rules of general opening theory!

In Game 2 Black tried to prevent the opponent from long castling... or at least frighten him a bit, with the strange sequence 5...d6 6.e4 Be6?!:

Nevertheless, it did not help in solving his chronic problem of how to develop his f8-bishop when refraining from playing ...e7-e6 at all, and this idea turned out to be a complete fiasco. Eventually, he had to sacrifice a pawn to avoid suffocating to death, although he then even collected a full point "by magic".

In both Game 3 and Game 4 Black sacrificed the f6 pawn, but was outplayed in the first one from an apparently equal position when the opponent declined the offer. In the second one he could have landed in a very dodgy situation too, after acceptance this time. Fortunately, White then decided to go for a second pawn instead of playing actively, to end up crucified on the dark squares.

Game 5 shows Black starting to develop more "academically" with 5...e6 6.e4 Be7:

in this game White found the interesting plan of gaining control over the e5-square (for the king's knight) with the sequence e4-e5 against Black's d6 pawn. This does imply, on the other hand, that he had to part with his light-squared bishop against Black's queen knight in the critical line, which is a major concern. Anyway, it helped to build a lightning attack, which proved successful after a nice rook lift along the third rank.

In Game 6 White "forgot" to castle queenside and lost a pawn after 7.f4?! Qb6!

White played the mainstream order of move 6.0-0-0 Be7 7.e4 in Game 7 and Game 8, although the moves may be invertible. Black then castled on the "cemetery side", 7...0-0, with the idea of using his unpinned h-pawn to create problems for the opponent on the "heavily laden" d8-h4 diagonal. It worked in the first encounter. White should have succumbed to a lightning attack on his queenside precisely because of the loss of his dark-squared bishop after a fantastic triple pawn sacrifice. But this strategy proved a bit naive in the second game, against stronger opposition, as it was Black's turn to get mated this time in 22 moves after blundering in a delicate position.

Serious things start with the last games and the fun stops for White after 7...d6 (or Qa5) 8.f4 Qa5 (or d6), when Black sets up his Sicilian "little center" naturally and first evacuates his queen from the d-file before taking any interest in the g5-bishop:

In both games White sacrificed a pawn, although it looked more complicated in Game 9, than in Game 10.

In the end the compensation turned out to be illusory; which makes me say, by way of conclusion, that this idea is great fun to play, for sure, and can bring sizzling victories against not-so-well-prepared opponents, but may not be quite sound.

Till next month! Eric Prié.