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Originally, my knowledge of the 1.d4 d5 London setup went no further than the traditional 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4, which is ideally met by 3...c5! as we saw some time ago.

I had not suspected that the peculiar order of moves 2.Bf4 was so fashionable that it attracted not just the Croatian 'natural born d-Pawn Special player' Kovacevic, naturally enough, but also Grandmasters such as Winants, MacShane, Rowson, Stefanova, Sedlak etc.

Download PGN of December '05 d-Pawn Specials games

London [D00]

Incidentally, this early London bishop move is the subject of a recently released book (just out on 1-1-06) by GM Vlatko Kovacevic and Sverre Johnsen (rated 2162) funnily entitled "Win with the London System"...

The book is intended to open new horizons for the first player as well as attempting to get a decent position with White outside the Queen's Gambit universe: this is THE KEY QUESTION of this section to which the Colle, the BDG, the Veresov etc., hardly bring satisfactory answers... as soon as you start looking just under the surface!

In anticipation of an exhaustive review of the book (which was kindly offered to me by Gambit), that will come soon, one thing is sure: reading both this book and this section (of course!) is highly recommended for the amateur 'Londoner'!

Considering what is at stake, the 2 Bf4 London deserves a third dedicated update at the very least!

So, Game one started with 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6, transposing into last month's Bischoff - Estes after 4.e4 cxd4 5.cxd5 dxc3 6.dxc6, and then my suggested improvement 6...Qxd1+ 7.Rxd1 bxc6! was played. Quoting myself: "I do not believe that White will be able to develop such an initiative from this position as to win a pawn, as this is the only way he can hope for some compensation to make up for his damaged pawn structure." This is exactly what happened and after the little skirmish initiated by 8.Bc7:

best met by 8...e6!, was over, White quickly had to settled for a draw.

Game two saw 3.Bxb8? Rxb8 4.dxc5 When, if the immediate attack on White's d-pawn is correct in spite of the dangerous 2.e4 we saw last month, this attempt to refute it by exploiting the weakness of the a4-e8 diagonal, on the other hand, is wrong. Somewhat differently to the normal London, Black demonstrated this by instructively sealing every breach along the weak diagonal before the forced and advantageous pawn recapture. Only fear of the opponent seems to have prevented Black from playing for more than a draw later on.

The rest of the games will focus on 2...Nf6, cutting off the Albin reversed option, and White trying to take advantage of his order of moves by 3.e3 (instead of the obsolete 3.Nf3) 3...c5 with the original 4.dxc5:

White has enjoyed good results with this line but it seems that this was only due to the surprise factor persuading Black to rather play 4...Qa5+ as in Game three and Game four to ensure the immediate regain of the pawn.

In both cases play developed according to certain Queen's Gambit reversed schemes by 5.Nd2 Qxc5 6.a3, intending b2-b4 and c2-c4, which proved to be not quite enough in the first, and the more promising 5.c3 Qxc5 6.Nd2 Nc6 7.Nf3 g6 in the second, with a clear and interesting tempo up (had White continued here with the normal 8.Be2) on a well known line of the Slav with reversed colours.

4...e6 is already more double-edged, obliging White to make some compromising movement with 5.b4 in order to justify his 4th move:

In Game five Black directly fell into the trap of copycat play by using the 'old London' recipe 5...a5 6.c3 axb4 7.cxb4 b6?:

Unfortunately, the exchange of the moves Nf3 against e3 (opening the f1-a6 diagonal) made a considerable difference in White's favour since it allowed the lethal 8.Bxb8! Rxb8 9.Bb5+ forcing 9...Ke7 when after 10.c6, considering the awkward situation of the opposing king and bishops, White had more than enough 'compensation' ... for his extra pawn!

5...Nc6 is the correct move, to which White reacted with the tricky 6.c3 in Game six authorizing the opponent to take full possession of the centre by 6...e5 when 7.Bg3 was now threatening b4-b5 (winning e5) thus forcing 7...Ne4 8.a3 Be7 9.Nd2! Nxg3 10.hxg3 0-0:

The open h-file could play a role in the future but the action in the centre proved more relevant and provided Black with enough compensation to maintain a tense balance.

6.Bb5 is more steady but in Game seven White, quite astonishingly for a supposed specialist of the line, fell for the well-known cheapo 6...Be7 7.c3 0-0 8.Nf3 a5 9.0-0??:

(instead of 9.Bxc6 enabling him to hang on to the pawn without too many acrobatics.) when 9...axb4! 10.Bxc6 b3! emphasized the defect of having the bishop on f4 rather than c1 (or even better b2) one more time! White quickly collapsed after this shock!

The most challenging 6...a5 was played in Game eight, the game continuing 7.c3 Bd7 8.Qe2 axb4 9.Bxc6 Bxc6 10.cxb4 d4 11.Nf3 Nd5!:

Reaching a position that presented a certain similarity to an old line of the Semi-Slav with reversed colours except that in this case it was once again possible to see that the extra tempo provided by the London development of the queen's bishop will not be very valuable for White, if not actually harming him!

Fortunately for White though, Black got confused after 12.0-0 with 12...Nxb4?, instead of the logical and promising intermediate move 12...dxe3, and had to suffer a painful pawn loss after the small combo 13.Nxd4 Bxc5:

14.Nxe6! fxe6 15.Qh5+.

Game nine presents the refutation of the suspicious white idea of dissuading Black from using his c-pawn (in addition to the interrogation mark left after the previous game) with the best move which happens to be, as often, the most natural one, 4...Nc6! threatening ...e7-e5.

And this is not surprising in fact,, as in many lines if the tempo provided by the bishop manoeuvre to f4 is not very useful, his absence from b2 (which is the logical complement to the plan b4 and c3) can even prove critical! Probably aware of the problem after 5.Bb5 Qa5+! 6.Nc3 a6 White tried to get some counter pressure against d5 and the enemy structure by 5.Nc3 e5 6.Bg5 Be6 7.Bxf6 gxf6 8.Qf3:

but got rapidly overtaken by events after the precise reply 8...Qa5! followed by long castling with an initiative that could not be stopped.

Eric Prié.