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I dare to maintain that the bishop's sortie 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bf4! (especially in comparison with the 'diminishing' 3.e3...) is remarkably well adapted to the information Black has so far given about his intended set-up. That is not entirely the case after 2...g6 and even less after 2...d5, as my opponents often play in order to skip 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4.
I am convinced that 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 represents the core of the "d-Pawn Specials" around which everything has to be constructed.

Download PGN of August '08 d-Pawn Specials games

London System [A46-47]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bf4:

I may stop playing 3.Bf4 against 2...g6, or 3.c3 (intending Bf4 next) against 2...c5 to avoid a smoothing Slav Exchange by 3...cxd4 4.cxd4 d5, I am now prepared to play 3.c4 after 2...d5 a lot more often, but I do not think I will ever find a reason to make me drop the London approach against the Nimzo-Queen's Indian!

Classically, 3...b6 4.e3 Bb7 5.h3?! is the move I have always played in this position when it is just an inaccuracy! Indeed, Black is not really threatening ...Nh5 when the reply Bg5 is available, to be compared with the study of 3...Nh5 at the end of the update.

It seems strange to me now that only the guru of 'Olala' chess (and a Ukrainian Grandmaster with 5...Bd6!? - similar to Alekhine's idea against Rubinstein) thought of ways to take advantage of White's tempo loss right from the start by 5...d6! 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.Bd3 g6!:

Here we are: It is not the first time I had to face this double fianchetto set-up, either beginning with 2...e6 2...d6 or 2...g6 as we will see later with the KID London, but previously I had always had the opportunity to develop with c2-c4 and Nb1-c3. Goddamn it, I got 'move-ordered'!!

Consequently White lost the battle of the opening in Game One because he was soon forced to move a correctly placed item for the second time just to parry the opposing threat of ...Qd8-e7, ...e5-e4.

5.Bd3! is the improvement, all the more since ...Ba6, exchanging White's strong bishop, before or after ...c7-c5 c2-c3, would not allow Black to win a tempo. In Game Two Black walked in the previous disaster's footsteps (from my point of view...) with 5...d6 but then came 6.Qe2!:

This is the idea: White is ready to play e3-e4, possibly followed by a more active development of his queen's knight to c3, while Black is absolutely not yet ready to counter this intention with ...e6-e5.

Following 6...g6?! 7.e4 Nbd7 8.Nc3 Bg7 9.Ba6! (In order to be able to move forward with his e-pawn and thus seal the activity of the g7 dragon, White has to first get rid of the other bishop to avoid any capture on f3 leading to the loss of his spear on e5.) 9...Qc8 10.Bxb7 Qxb7 11.e5! dxe5 12.dxe5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 Qxd5 14.0-0:

signed a complete success for the new move order, already with some annoying concrete problems for Black to solve.

5...c5 appears like a normal reaction. However, with a pawn here it will be practically impossible for Black to fianchetto his king's bishop as the d6 point is too fragile. 6.c3 Be7 7.h3 (On the other hand, Black was now more or less threatening to take the London bishop with ...Nf6-h5.) 7...d6 8.Nbd2 cxd4 Keeping the central tension and the pawn on c5 does not really help Black as my experience indicates. So he seizes the first opportunity to test White's desire of an unbalanced position as soon as his knight cannot develop to c3. There followed 9.cxd4! 0-0 10.0-0 Nc6 11.Qe2:

reaching an important crossroads for the system, with this move order or another.

In Game 3 Black thought he could disorganize the nice disposition of the opposing forces with 11...Nb4 12.Bc4 (There is no check on c2 so the bishop can safely escape) 12...Nfd5 13.Bg3 but this desertion of the kingside in fact rebounded on him at a gallop!

From a different move order Game Four's 11...Rc8 looks logical. However, after 12.a3 Qc7 13.Rac1 (Not with the idea of doing anything on the c-file especially when a black rook already stands there, but rather in order to stop ...e6-e5, and exile the black queen to the back of her queenside.) 13...Qb8?! (As predicted. How could Black have played the better 12...Qd7!?) 14.Bh2 Qa8 15.e4 White again managed to carry out a textbook attack.

10...Nbd7 Prefigures an interesting idea of rearranging the knights which is only possible when Black's queen's knight develops this way. In comparison with the ...Nc6 development of the previous games, it maintains the b7-bishop's diagonal open, but it is clear that the knight will quickly have to move again to unblock the rest of the army.

Since the plan ...a7-a6, ...b6-b5, ...Nd7-b6 may be too weakening for Black's kingside, in addition to having 2 pieces for only one square on d5 after the e3-e4-e5 thrust (think then of the possible later move Qe2-e4 threatening h7 and forcing ...g7-g6, when Black had better have a strong discovery against the white queen after Bf4-h6 keeping this strong bishop in attack...), should White continue his natural central expansion, it means that it will cost some precious time. Amply to make up for White's e2-e4 in two goes, especially when he is also able to economize the pre-emptive a2-a3.

So White reacted swiftly without any frills in Game 5 by 11.Qe2 Re8 12.e4 Nf8 13.Rfe1 Ng6 (Indeed, from this post the knight somehow secures the kingside while keeping an eye on the key f4-square. An important issue when White's plan includes the central thrust e4-e5, giving up the d5-square for the f6-knight in the meantime, before Black had time to play ...e5 himself.) 14.Bh2 a6 15.Rad1 b5 16.e5:

Alas, the black kingside revealed itself more solid than expected, as the trade of strong knight on d5 against strong knight on e4 heading for d6, did not prove that promising for White.

3...c5 4.c3 cxd4 5.cxd4 Qb6 is a crucial line for the London System (If you consider the amount of worries Black experienced in the previous games in his quest for counter-play based on ...a7-a6, ...b7-b5, after having exchanged on d4, when White's queen knight had been denied the development to c3, you also start considering John Cox' suggestion of 5...b5 in this position, as mentioned in his book "dealing with 1.d4 deviations", with a Nimzo approach, more seriously) that White must handle with the greatest care, beginning with 6.Qc2! Nc6 7.e3 Nb4 8.Qb3 Nbd5 9.Qxb6! axb6 10.Bg3 Nb4 apparently winning at least a pawn 11.Na3! Rxa3 12.bxa3 Nc2+ 13.Kd2 Nxa1 14.Bd3 Bxa3 15.Rxa1 Bb4+ 16.Kc2:

White's preparation, already published as analysis, materialized rock solid in Game 6.

The last four games of this update present the opportunity to again discuss another book on the London System, namely "Win with the London system", Gambit 2005, by Johnsen/Kovacevic V, where the move 3...Be7(! Sic) is granted no less than one exclamation mark!!

Had this statement been backed up by anything other than ridiculous variations, then the purpose of the authors privileging the move order 2.Bf4 e6 3.e3 would have appeared more credible.

Anyway in the same chapter they also mention the more critical (from a theoretical point of view) 3...Nh5 4.Bg5! (4.Bd2!? also allowed White to gain space and a frightening advance in development in return for the 2 bishops in Game 7.) 4...Be7 5.Bxe7 Qxe7 but naturally avoid to consider the strong and 'called for' 6.e4!N (the authors preferring the mild 6.c3 instead!)

In January this year I played a mini blitz training match with a German friend starting with this novelty. In Game 8 Black went for the b2-pawn after 6...d5 7.Nc3! dxe4 8.Nxe4 Qb4+? 9.c3 Qxb2? Unfortunately it loses immediately to 10.Ne5!:

with the dual threat of Nc4 winning the queen, and the capture of the knight on the edge.

6...f5! is the critical continuation. White should not then release the central tension, either by taking on f5 or by advancing 7.e5 b6 as in Game 9. Instead, the somewhat paradoxical 7.Nfd2!, first questioning the knight on h5, appears quite strong. In Extra - game 10, Black did not dare to accept the pawn sacrifice resulting from 7...Qf7 8.e5 Nc6 9.Nc3!:

but after 9...a6 10.Nf3 b6 11.d5 he rapidly ran into trouble anyway.

See you soon, Eric