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We have Kirkland, Washington to thank for a number of major online events in recent months, for it’s the home of the Pacific Northwest Chess Center (PNWCC). These have included not just some strong blitz events - many of them excellently chronicled on TWIC by Mark Crowther - but classical events too, including the PNWCC Masters - World Online Open and the PNWCC Super Invitational from which we can enjoy two 90+30 encounters this month. Elsewhere, we’ll see another win with the London for the champ and sufficient early activity on the h-file to keep even the most unstodgy d-pawn exponent happy.

Download PGN of August ’20 d-Pawn Specials games

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The London: 2...g6 3 Nd2 [A45]

I have to confess that I’ve rarely considered the move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nd2!?, but White doesn’t have to hurry to follow up with Ngf3. Indeed, he didn’t in one encounter from the Rising Stars group at the PNWCC Super Invitational, where 3...Bg7 4 e4 c5!? was seen:

This is almost virgin territory and we’re only four moves in. Liang, A - Tabatabaei, M, continued 5 d5 Nh5 6 Be3 Bxb2 7 Be2!?, throwing more wood on to the fire.

The London: 2...g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 h4 [A45]

Somewhat more furrowed ground these days is 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 h4 when we’ll catch up with Boris Grachev’s latest adventures as White. 5...c5!? is not such a bad choice, but after 6 Nb5 Na6 7 c3 Black does need to react correctly:

Here 7...Bg4! is required, as played by leading d-pawn expert Mark Hebden, whereas 7....0-0?! 8 h5!? was already practically quite dangerous for Black in Grachev, B - Romanov, E.

The London: 2...c5 3 e3 [A45]

In recent months after that critical test of 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4, namely 2...c5, we’ve given a fair bit of attention to both 3 d5 and 3 dxc5. Some white players, though, are still going 3 e3 when Black doesn’t have to go in for 3...Qb6, angling for an early repetition, but might instead try 3...Nd5!? 4 Bg3 Qb6:

Here I would suggest that White should look more closely at 5 b3!?, as I just don’t entirely trust 5 Nc3 Nxc3 6 bxc3 for reasons we’ll see in a recent OTB rapid encounter, Babula, V - Movsesian, S.

The London: 2...e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 b6 5 Bd3 [A46]

A couple of Titled Tuesday games also caught my eye after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bf4. We’ll begin by examining the provocative 3...c5 4 e3 Qb6, which is certainly risky for Black should White know what he’s doing with 5 Na3!. We then move on to 3...b6 4 e3 c5 5 Bd3 Bb7 6 0-0 Be7 7 c3 0-0 8 Nbd2 d6 9 h3 cxd4 10 cxd4:

This is, of course, the Kamsky and Prié-approved recapture in such positions. Black should be OK after 10...Nbd7 11 Rc1 Rc8, but the manner in which he was outplayed in Le Tuan Minh - Kapitanchuk, T, is still most instructive.

The London: 2...d5 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 e6 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Nh5 [D02]

We return to the PNWCC Super Invitational in Xiong, J - Fedoseev, V, which involved the winner of the top section, the Summer of Seattle, Jeffery Xiong. After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 d5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 he was faced not with 6...cxd4 7 exd4 Nh5, but the immediate 6...Nh5!?:

Xiong followed a recent path for White in 7 Be5 f6 8 Bg3, going on to win both a pretty nice and very instructive encounter.

The London: 2...d5 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 e6 5 c3 Bd6 [D02]

Magnus Carlsen continues to fly the London flag - and well. He twice faced 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 e6 5 c3 Bd6 in his Tour Finals semi-final match with Ding Liren. On both occasions the champ was happy to allow Black to double his pawns, first with 6 Nbd2 and then 6 Bd3. After the former, 6...cxd4 7 Bxd6!? was already a dangerous new idea, with 7...dxe3 8 Ba3 exd2+ 9 Qxd2 leaving White with decent compensation:

Carlsen, M - Ding Liren continued 9...Nc6 10 Qg5 Rg8, which avoided further dark-square weaknesses, but even on the queenside the black king didn’t prove entirely comfortable, Carlsen quickly triumphing in crushing fashion.

The Colle: 2...d5 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Bd6 [D05]

In response to a query about meeting the Stonewall at club level, I’ve taken a look at 1 d4 d5 2 e3 Nf6 3 Bd3 e6 4 c3 c5 5 Nbd2 Nc6 when 6 f4 Bd6 7 Ngf3 cxd4! continues to be a well-timed exchange (if 8 exd4? Bxf4), and hold up quite well for Black. At higher levels, White is much more likely here to prefer 6 Nf3 when 6...Bd6 7 0-0 0-0 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 e4 is, of course, the main line of the pure Colle:

Iranian star Sarasadat Khademalsharieh recently switched sides and was rewarded with 9...dxe4?! 10 Nxe4 Nxe4 11 Bxe4 Qxd1 12 Rxd1 and an extremely pleasant edge in Khademalsharieh, S - Krush, I.

That was quite a busy update! Let’s hope for more enjoyable and instructive games next time.

Until then, Richard

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