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Some supernaturalism in this update; first, with its month of publishing actually preceding the month its headlight game was actually played (!), second, by the circumstances that allowed this game to occur in the first place, and finally, because it features no less than - well, for us 'special players' at least - the Novelty of the century!

Download PGN of April '09 d-Pawn Specials games

London System [D02]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4!? e6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.Bg3 0-0 8.Bd3 Qe7 9.Ne5 Nd7 is a basic position of the London System, often considered to be its refutation (for instance in IM Cox's "Dealing with 1.d4 deviations", Everyman 2006); with the immense advantage, from the black point of view, of suiting both the 1.d4 d5 and the Nimzo 1...Nf6 (1...e6) 2...e6 player:

A position I know well as I had dissected it in October 2008, but ... 10.Nxd7!! The most unpretentious move, and one I had not even considered then, when I left White with some food for thought and, to be honest, some concern.

10...Bxd7? 11.Bxd6! Qxd6 12.dxc5! White apparently continues to string naive moves together, not to smooth out the position just yet, but rather to attract the black queen to an undefended square on the 5th rank with that bishop on d7! 12...Qxc5:

13.Bxh7+!! Gee! 13...Kxh7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Ne4! followed by Ng5 which offered White a winning attack in Game One.

This phenomenal idea (That the software only 'sees' after having first been sent in the right direction, following the apparently ridiculous exchange of knights on d7...) had been whispered to me on the Forum section by a mysterious AlanG after the October update was out. Having analysed it, I found this stuff so hot that I was very careful not to give the AlanG idea any publicity and, by appearing unenthusiastic, to 'bury' the thread! May he forgive my prevarication!

Game Two, played just 5 days before and adding one more 2600+ player to the collection of London System followers, shows that it is easy to play with White, even without preparation, provided that you play the Slav as Black. However, to get something out of it, you really need to know what you are doing ... and that was not the case after 12.dxc5?!

London System [D00]

5.Nd2 (instead of 5.Nf3) presents White with the interesting opportunity after 5...d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.Bxd6!? Qxd6 to play 8.f4:

This is what J-K says about it:

"This must be the point of delaying the natural Nf3. Some authors seem to believe this set-up is the only independent idea behind 2.Bf4. And it indeed is an interesting concept: White is playing a Stonewall defence with colours reversed, but only after exchanging off his 'bad' dark-squared bishop. As an extra-bonus, he can still reach his ideal set-up with Qf3 (preventing ...Ne4 followed by ...f5) and Nh3-f2 before continuing the attack with Qf3-h3 and g4-g5. Nevertheless it has proved very hard to demonstrate an advantage for White in this position"

I agree and I am happy with this game, thus prolonging the previous update, to give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

Unfortunately this original idea fails to reunify the London forces; for instance if Black keeps the possibility of taking back on d6 with his c-pawn as I will show next month... Well, hopefully before the end of this month, anyway! :)

Secondly, the "Königspringerzuruckhatungpolitik" (the policy of keeping the king's knight back) as Wahls may say, when applied to the London System, appears essential only when Black does not shut his queen's bishop in with ...e7-e6 in order to adequately meet ...Qb6.

Finally, as I have murmured in game 1, I suspect there is something wrong for White after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 c5...

In Game Three, already played some 25 years ago, between two Grandmasters from the second chess nation in the World, Black showed the way towards equalization beginning with 8...Bd7 and after 9.Nh3 Ne7! 10.0-0 Qb6 11.Qb3 (since the more natural 11.Rb1 allows Black to exchange bishops with 11...Bb5) 11...Ng4! 12.Rfe1 c4 13.Qxb6 axb6 14.Bc2 f5:

This liberation of the f-pawn, freezing the structure, is Black's standard way of equalizing against this White stonewall. In return for a worse bishop, he will enjoy more space, or some pressure against the opposing centre with a pawn on c5. It is a recurrent theme throughout this survey while seriously clipping White's pretensions with this set-up.

This is why White has tried 9.g3!?, following the Neo-London theoretician's old suggestion, which now enables the recapture exd4, without having to worry about ...Nb4 anymore, and a more natural development of the king's knight to f3.

However, the fact that it only ever attracted one correspondence player seems to reduce its theoretical interest, and Black duly neutralized the attempt in Game Four.

Hence 9.a3! It may not be sufficient, but nevertheless White now has a plan: Qd1-e2 (and this is why the disruption of the black knight coming to b4 has to be absolutely forbidden), Ngf3 (so as to jump to e5 immediately in case of ...Nf6-g4 because the e3-pawn is now defended by the queen) and Ra1-b1 (to defend b2 in case of ...Qb6):

It worked perfectly well in Game 5 after the "nonchalant" 9...0-0.

And did so again after the abnormal 9...cxd4 10.cxd4 Rc8 11.Nf3?! (11.Qe2!) 11..Na5?! (11...Ng4! 12.Qe2 f5) which allowed White to concrete the c4 square, and therefore the whole queenside, by 12.Qe2, before launching an irresistible attack on the other side in Game 6.

8...cxd4 happens to be J-K's principle alternative, supported by those words: "This is extremely logical, as for the moment White cannot recapture with the e-pawn"

I struggle to see what is logical about reducing the central tension that you control to your advantage, and exchanging an active pawn advanced 2 squares from its original rank, for a passive pawn, advanced only one square, but that is another story...

Anyway, 9.cxd4 Qb4? 10.Rb1 Ne4 11.Bxe4 dxe4 12.a3 Qa5 13.Ne2 followed by Nc3 left White just very nicely better in Game 7. What he needed to do to make his advantage grow was simply play on the c-file.

9...Nb4 is their argument. However, the knight has nothing to do here. After two questionable moves in a row it is not surprising that Black will find it hard to equalize after either of the 2 white bishop retreats, in what J-K give as their main line... And this is indeed the case after 10.Bb1 Qb6?! 11.a3 Nc6 12.Qb3 as their "yet untested" improvement over the appalling 12.b3? of Game 8.

However, it is not too late to get back on the right track with 10...Bd7! intending ...Bb5, with a probable transposition into game 6 with a two move difference in case of 11.a3 Nc6. Then 12.Qe2! Ne7! 13.Bd3 Qb6 14.Rb1 Nf5! 15.Nf3 Nd6:

inevitably followed by the exchange of the bishops via b5, is the complex but approved manoeuvre to level the play. Another stone in the garden of the white set-up, whereas Game 9 followed a slightly different course ...

Still, the big question concerning this variation is: Does that 'bad bishop' on c8 really merit no better than being exchanged like this against his more luminous counterpart on d3?

If 8...Rb8 proved too slow in game 10, the question was left open in game 11 after the obvious 8...0-0, to which White replied with the innocuous 9.Nh3. 9.Nf3 is critical, though, when surprisingly 9...cxd4! 10.cxd4 Ng4! 11.Bxh7+ (as a consequence of early castling kingside) does not seem to work for White...

See you soon, Eric