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The use of the London System against the King's Indian is all about the expert handling of the h2-h3 tempo, to preserve the bishop.
This month we enter into the heart of the matter, looking at how Black can profit from this omission to try to catch it.

Download PGN of April '11 d-Pawn Specials games

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London System v KID [A48]

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.e3 0-0 5.Be2 d6 6.0-0! it is my opinion that 6...Nh5!?, which uncompromisingly moves Black's king's knight off centre, is not to be feared at this stage:

As a rule this is generally the case when:

  1. the g5 square is available for the bishop
  2. White has not already played c2-c4
  3. a white piece can attack the h5-knight on the d1-h5 diagonal after an opposing ...g6-g5.

Following 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4, the move 8...f5?! intends ...g5 after having prepared the nice retreat square on f6 for the knight in case of an attack on the d1-h5 diagonal. After 9.Nc3!?, however, White showed the right idea in Game 1: play e3-e4 without worrying about the isolated bishop on h4, because of the 'isolation' of the h5-knight, in return.

8...g5 is normal and White should continue in the spirit of 'sell your London bishop's life dearly' by 9.Nfd2:

(Rather than the 9.Ne1?! of Game 2 which allowed Black to reach his goal without any deterioration of his structure after 9...Nf6 10.Bg3 Ne4)

Thus Black has destroyed his pawn structure in return for the material advantage of the two bishops. But this is NOT a Benoni as in the famous 3rd game of the Spassky-Fischer World championship in Reykjavik 1972! White has kept his 'good bishop', which means Black's dark-squared bishop is blocked by a solid d4-pawn. The latter has also irreparably weakened his king's position and has few real chances of creating any serious attack on the kingside by making use of the semi-open g-file.

So... Black naturally wants to increase the scope of his remaining bishop. Yet the main point of 9...e5 is to activate his queen and get a foothold in the centre. For this reason I would rate the 10.c3 of Game 3 as the less promising white option to containing the g7-bishop in this position!

9...c5 is more thematic from the Bg7 point of view, but then 10.Nb3! is a key move, ignored by theory and books... Of course, in this attacking position for White, c3 is the square for the queen's knight! Just as Black started to lack ideas in Game 4, with his bishops muzzled and the fragility of his king position starting to tell, he collapsed.

Black may refine this idea, however, by playing ...c7-c5 beforehand in order to provoke c2-c3. For instance by going 6...c5 7.c3 Nh5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4. Requiring testing then is 9...cxd4 10.cxd4 g5 11.Nfd2 (although 11.Bg3!? is interesting with this more static structure and the square c3 made available for the queen's knight) 11...Nf4!? 12.exf4 gxh4 13.Nf3 h3 14.g3 Qb6:

because of the unusual fragility of the white bind on the dark squares.

In Game 5 Black did not sense this nuance, opting instead for 9...g5 10.Nfd2 Nf4?!, which was just perfect for White after 11.exf4 gxf4 12.dxc5! dxc5:

Thus White only keeps the benefits of the exchange Nf6/Bf4: The g7-bishop is blocked even more economically by the c3-pawn; there is no tension in the centre making the pawn structure more or less stable and therefore making the material advantage of the 2 bishops relative; Black has 4 potentially weak pawns on h4 (or h3 when it advances), c5, h6 and e7.

White, on the other hand, enjoys enhanced control over the light squares. Even what could be a weakness under other circumstances has become an asset: the f4 pawn, by providing an anchor on e5 for a white knight via f3 or c4 and an excellent square for his king's rook along the semi open file.

All this finally contributes to the impression of a weaker king for Black rather than White who definitely stands better when considering almost every aspect of the game evaluation!

This was especially obvious in Game 6, after the improvement (by transposition) 13.Na3!:

4...d6(!) 5.Be2 Nh5(!) 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Nfd2 Nf4(!) 9.exf4 gxf4 10.c3 c5 (with the original exclamation marks in brackets) is a continuation praised by Johnsen/Kovacevic in their book Winning with the London System (Gambit 2005). Nevertheless, they omit the obviously best 11.dxc5!, which is bound to transpose into the previous games. They favour 11.d5?! instead:

which proved needlessly complicated in Game 7.

This theme of taking the London bishop is a recurrent concern of the authors all throughout their book. So there is a mini chapter even on 3...d6!? 4.e3 Nh5 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Nfd2 Ng7:

This manoeuvre of the knight reminds me of the North Sea (or Norwegian) defence of the Modern which was recently tried by Carlsen against Adams (1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.e5 Nh5, with the g7-square available in case of 4.g4).

The purpose is quite different here, however. It is not to make the white centre advance so as to better undermine it, but instead take the London bishop at all costs, and somehow 'punish' White for not having used the precious h2-h3 tempo in order to preserve it. After 8.Bg3 Nf5:

9.c4?! however, neglected the pseudo-threat of 9...h5, which undesirably forced White to move his h-pawn in Game 8.

Instead, 9.Qh5!? mechanically stops the advance of the opposing h-pawn. Yet it did not appear entirely convincing in Game 9...

See you soon, Eric

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