For the sake of ease, we will concentrate on the particular move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.e3! Ne4!?:
(Although in Game One Black immediately played 3...c5, instead, which poses numerous questions related to the Chigorin Reversed/Veresov in case of Nc3 after the exchange on f6 or not.)
So, the attack on the bishop denies White the possibility of transposing into the 3...c5 Veresov and after 4.Bf4 c5 5.Bd3!? Nf6! avoids any defect in the structure while Black has already achieved his goal of attacking White's d-pawn with no harm. Following the further 6.dxc5?! Nc6! 7.Bb5:
We reach the subject of this update, a position, "resulting from the most 'natural' moves from one part and the other (...) around which, without any doubt, theory will gather and develop in the future." As I wrote in the notes to Radjabov-Polgar, Benidorm 2003, sometime at the beginning of 2004. It is a pleasure to see that the evolution of theory has proved me right.
This position crystallizes the 2 characteristics of the d-Pawn Specials which are the initiative of the central tension generally conceded to the second player as the consequence of the accelerated development of the queen's bishop.
Now, bishops are intrinsically not very good in the combat for the centre, contrary to pawns and knights. In fact, they should position themselves according to the situation of the opposing cavalry.
As I have said before, this is the sense of the old rule of always developing the knights prior to the bishops, and which makes this position so fascinating, almost like a clash of schools: Dynamic, with the help of the first move, against Static, trying to systematically adapt to it.
7...e6 is the first move that comes to mind here, and I got instructively outplayed in Game 2 after the poor novelty 8.Qd4?, when there followed 8...Nd7! 9.b4 Be7! 10.Nf3 Bf6 11.Be5 Bxe5 12.Nxe5 Qg5! winning the exchange after the capture on g2 followed by ...Ba6.
7...Bd7 is another logical attempt with ideas against g2 after the clearing move ...d5-d4 when White eliminates the knight on c6. So White should refrain from doing this immediately by 8.c3!? with every likelihood of transposing into game 9, instead in Game 3, after 8.Bxc6?! Bxc6 9.Nf3 Qa5+ 10.Nbd2 Qxc5 11.0-0 e6 12.Ne5 it was just a question of time before White's dark-squared blockade was lifted.
Game 4 shows a more common order of moves to reach our key position in the 2...Ne4 Tromp after 3.Bf4 d5 (rather than the wilder 3...c5) when 4.e3! is once again the best move and where the 2 most popular branches of the opening meet. This time Black tried 7...Bg4?!, where the idea is to play ...e6 and ...Nd7 but with the bishop outside the pawn chain, from where it can exert some pressure on White's king knight. This appears to be a lot more dodgy than the 2 previous attempts because the bishop may prove to be exposed here in some lines and if White has to part with his king's bishop on c6 in any case, which is likely, Black's bishop would be better placed on a6 as in game 10 and 11. In this game White was surprised, apparently, and completely messed up his opening.
Game 5, on the other hand, emphasizes the problem after the simple Ng1-f3!, by transposition, because when Black exchanges his bishop against the knight on f3, generally doubling the pawns because the White queen has unpinned the knight by moving to d4, it just reinforces the opponents position:
- by winning precious time
- by opening the g-file
- by bringing a wing pawn towards the centre to control e4 and back up this same thrust by White.
In the game, Black was even denied this chance and lost material after the fantastic 9.b4!!:
crucially improving on some very officially published analysis, published after this thrust was played...
Game 6 unveils the "pot aux roses", the exact same position, but this time thanks to the London move order (with 2 moves less each): 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.dxc5?! Nc6! 5.Bb5. However, this is exactly the same position my readers know to be suspect for White for exactly one year because of 5...Qa5+!:
After 6.Nc3 a6! 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.Qd4 e6! (The true discovery instead of the poor 8...Bf5?) 9.b4 Qa3 10.Bc7?:
Instead, 10.Ne2! a5 11.b5 Bxc5 12.Qa4! was the beginning of the line I considered most important last year after which, perhaps surprisingly, Black does not seem to obtain more than a 'playable' equality. Instead, the text move is strongly met by the exchange sacrifice 10...a5! 11.Bxa5 Rxa5 12.bxa5 Bxc5 which leads by force to the gain of at least 2 bishops for a rook in a very favourable position.
Game 7 shows two other improbable move orders to reach our position and, considering the level Black displayed in this correspondence game after 7...a6?, this is its sole virtue.
Game 8 is of a totally different calibre. Still, with precise play ...g6?! should not prevent White from obtaining the "fantastic dark-squared bind" he is dreaming of after exchanging his pawn on d4.
With this latter order of moves, Game 9 indicates how White should continue after 7...e6, by 8.b4 Bd7 9.c3 a5 10.Qb3! the second thematic move I had previously mentioned on the occasion of the game Rowson-Dorfman, that had seen 8.Qe2... It is not surprising to see that the Belgian GM (who also happens to be one of the most prominent specialists of the 1...d5 2.Bf4 Neo-London) really gives the impression of knowing what he is doing with White here.
An impression White did not give in Game 10 by leaving the monstrous a6-f1 diagonal open for Black's queen bishop after 6.b4 a5 7.Bxc6+? (Never deliberately give your bishops against knights! "The worst bishop is stronger than the best knight" - Kasparov!) 7...bxc6 in the London move order, presumably to prevent the eventual recapture with the bishop. After 8.c3 the move 8...Nd7 followed, intending ...Qf6, 9.Nf3? Ba6! with a quick crush.
In Game 11 11.Ne2 makes a better impression, yet after 11...Ba6 12.Nd2 e5 13.Bg3 h5 14.Nf3 Qf6! the current World no 7 quickly had to admit that, in spite of having managed to avoid every trap and complete his development, he was still left with a contorted position lacking activity or any plan to utilise his extra (doubled) pawn.
Eventually, game 12 shows the right way to handle the Tromp move order statically after the retreat of the knight: 6.c3!, of course, maintaining a strong 'special' pawn on d4! With the idea of meeting 6...Qb6!? with 7.Qc2! and when Black defers this option for one move (by the unjustified fear of 7.Qb3) with 6...Nc6 then 7.Nd2! landing in a 1...d5 Neo-London with a valuable extra tempo in case of 7...Qb6 8.Rb1. In return, it allows Black to get his queen's bishop out of the pawn chain by 7...Bg4 8.Nf3! with surprising tricks based on the move Qd1-a4 induced by the extra tempo in case of 8...e6.
In his book "Winning with the Trompowsky" (Batsford 2003) GM Peter WELLS is right in saying that "the Bd3xe4 idea has added hugely to the punch of the Trompowsky, and poses Black tricky and un-stereotyped problems." It is just abandoning the centre with 6.dxc5 that is suspect.
Indeed, all the way from the Tromp with 2..Ne4 or 2...c5 (A45), the Indian Neo-London 1...Nf6 2.Bf4 c5 (in A45), the Pseudo-Bishop's attack 1...d5 2.Bg5 Nf6 or the Tromp with 2...d5 (both identically ECO code D00), the Neo-London 2.Bf4 (in D00), the classical London 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 (D02), right up until the Torre 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5 (in D03), the key word is UNIVERSALITY.
Without its possession, it is impossible to comprehend an opening in its all its global nuances. Relying on moves one after the other, rather than strong, solid, general concepts can only lead to a highly unstable evaluation of the position.
And this is what happened to Wells by underestimating the recoil 5...Nf6! with the unpleasant consequence of leaving the whole chapter on 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 d5 4.e3! sort of 'hanging in the air...'
See you soon, Eric