Playing Against The Trompowsky: A Standard Response

Playing Against The Trompowsky: A Standard Response

Trompowsky variation has been faced many times as black during tournaments or casual online blitz. It is certainly an awkward opening, especially if black does not know what he is doing. The Trompowsky has been employed by many attacking players, such as Nakamura, Grischuk, Mamedyarov, and many others.

Trompowsky variation – 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5


Naturally, they employ it mostly in short time control competitions in order to put pressure on black right from the start. This variation should not be underestimated. I remember being crushed by less strong opponents due to my lack of knowledge after 2.Bg5. To be more precise, I knew very little, which is worse than not knowing anything at all, so after a move like 2…Ne4 3.Bh4 I would get into trouble very soon. There are several reasons to avoid entering the main lines of the “Trompo”.

The positions arising from 2…Ne4 or 2…c5 lead to very double-edged positions – one mistake and black is lost. Also, white has many tricky lines and there is a high probability that as black, one could fall into a trap and the game would end fairly quickly. After a couple of defeats trying the main lines, with either 2…Ne4 or 2…c5, I started looking for a safer way to meet 2.Bg5 and found more than just one solution to it. Black has a few choices that we will mention here and explain the plans behind them.

So after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 what can black do in order to stay away from the main path?


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Trompowsky variation – Option A

Black can try 2…e6!? – This is a popular way to meet 2.Bg5. The idea is that after 3.Bxf6 black can recapture with the queen and, although white obtains full control of the center, black is solid and has the positional plus of the bishop pair.

Option B

Black can try 2…c6!? – This was the choice of the Romanian Grand Master Mihai Suba and it is certainly a very interesting move. Not compromising at all the pawn structure and after 3.Bf6 black can recapture with either pawn. To add more to this move, if white does not capture on f6 and plays 3.e3 (??) Black can win a piece with 3…Qa5+! This has happened at the master level, more than once.

Trompowsky variation – Option C

Black can try 2…d5! – This move has the approval of all the elite players including Kasparov and it seems like the safest way to deal with the Trompowsky variation. After 3.Bf6 exf6, black develops his bishop to d6, the double pawn will move to f5 controlling the center and the b8 knight is going all the way to f6.

In this article, we will analyze a game with each one in order to let our readers choose by themselves which one of these continuations is more fit into their own style.

Plan A

2…e6 The choice for practical players, employed by Karpov, Korchnoi, Anand, and many other strong Grandmasters. Not too much theory to learn, black gives up the center but grabs the two bishops and develops any way he can. He can either play in Hedgehog style or adopt a French-type structure. Definitely the most flexible choice. See more in the following game.

Trompowsky variation – Plan B

2…c6 As we explained before, this is a tricky but also flexible option for black. The idea is to continue with d5 and Bf5 developing in a normal way. Black may also consider ideas with Qb6 attacking the b2 pawn. This continuation leads to unclear positions.

Plan C

2…d5 This is a very solid choice. It was played by Kasparov in rapid events and other strong Grandmasters like Radjabov, Ponomariov, Tiviakov, and many others. Black’s main idea is to capture with the E pawn and later develop his bishop to d6, a pawn to f5, and later Nd7-f6. This is the choice we feel is the safest way to play for black.

Trompowsky variation – Conclusion

After all the examples explained here we hope our readers increased their knowledge and have one or two more weapons against the tricky Trompowsky variation. Good luck!

We also recommend reviewing Online Chess vs. Over The Board Chess.

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Updated 12.22.2023