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As I am quick to point out my colleagues' omissions or analytical mistakes, I can not avoid criticism myself, for having 'forgotten' a crucial possibility in what I thought was a completely exhaustive study of the 1.d4 d5 London System for ChessPublishing!
So, I've corrected that omission this month, and also continue my look at the Vorotnikov-Kogan-Hebden Attack.

Download PGN of December '07 d-Pawn Specials games

Neo-London 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 [D00]

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3:

To recap: my main objection to this particular move order (from the black point of view) is that White may now seize the opportunity to advance his king pawn one square further instead... as seen last month!

3...Nc6 4.c3 Nf6 (instead, having successfully passed the acid test of White's 3rd move, I suppose Black should now be consistent and continue as in the November game Basha-Gibbons with Knaak's suggestion of 4...Qb6 5.Qb3 c4 6.Qc2 e5!?) 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.Nf3!

(Instead of 6.Qb3 Qd7! With the idea 7.Nf3 c4!) As far as my knowledge of the system is concerned it is along this unique narrow path for White that the d4-d5 London theory will probably develop in the future:

In the first two games, Black reacted with the casual 6...e6, but in return had to face the queen sortie 7.Qb3, which is made stronger by the fact that the b5-square is immediately available for the bishop in case of 7...Qd7 before Black has had time to shut the diagonal with ...c5-c4. So he had to content himself with the 'lesser' 7...Qc8. And now, at the relative cost of a single tempo, this queen placement on the c-file gave White the idea to open the position with 8.c4!? in Game One, at the same time preventing an annoying pawn advance from the opponent onto this very square!

With the black queen now a bit out of play, getting rid of the bishop on f5 with 8.Nh4 also looked interesting in Game 2. Then after the thematic continuation 8...Be4 (It is tempting to provoke f2-f3 to weaken the b8-h2 diagonal but as in similar cases in the Slav, it also helps White to gain squares and space and that may well be the most important factor) 9.f3 Bg6 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.g4 (To preserve the f4-bishop from the very same manoeuvre!) 11...Be7 12.Bg2 a6 White should have sought to eventually castle long by 13.dxc5! with the idea 13...Bxc5 14.0-0-0 e5 15.Bg3 Bxe3 16.Rhe1 with clear compensation as correctly pointed out by Van der Werf in the recent 5th issue of Secrets of Chess openings (S.O.S!)

For this reason, being the first to occupy the 'blackmail' position on the b-file with the queen against the opposing b-pawn by 6...Qb6! represents the critical line in this attempt to bring the 1.d4 d5 London complex back from the dead.

However, the difference with the classical London is that after 7.Qb3 c4 8.Qxb6! axb6 9.a3 (Although Game 3 saw the poor 9.h3?! which did not prevent Black from executing his plan on the queenside with ...b5-b4) 9...b5 (while it was Black's turn to take unnecessary precautions in Game 4 with 9...h6?!, which gave White time to link his rooks and avoid losing a tempo by moving it from the semi-open a-file) 10.Rc1 Nh5! (Black again let the prey escape in Game 5 after 10...h6?! 11.h3) 11.Bg3 (The bishop has to be exchanged on this square.) 11...Nxg3 12.hxg3 h6 13.Be2 e6 14.0-0 Be7 15.Bd1 Kd7 16.Bc2 Bg4 17.e4:

This is the position that I must be ready to play as White - although is not that exciting from a white point of view, I have to admit - specifically against 'ChessBased' opposition, when I am being unfaithful to the Prié attack (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.a3! or 2.a3).

Thus it seems that in this "improved" version of the neo-London, if White actually manages to avoid the greater concern of his b-pawn in relation to the theme ...Qb6, ...c5-c4, ...Bf5, he cannot avoid the worry of having to part with his London pride, because his pawn is already on e3 while his opponent can retreat his bishop to d7 in the analogous case! This is synonymous with equality in the ending, where the opening of the h-file and the possibility of playing e3-e4 appear less effective with the queens off.

Vorotnikov-Kogan-Hebden Attack [D00]

Developing the bishop on f4 in the d4-d5 structure obviously appears better against an opposing fianchetto. Alas, this can only be achieved through the commitment of blocking the c-pawn with the queen's knight in the sequence 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 Bg7 4.Nc3 d5 5.Qd2, when 5...0-0 6.Bh6 Ne4 (rather than taking on h6 as in October) was once considered (at least in a statistic way!) to be the refutation of the white set-up... after the further 7.Nxe4 dxe4:

Simply because d4 is now hanging in case of 8.Ne5? Bxh6 9.Qxh6.

Instead, in Game 6 White opted for the adventurous 8.Bxg7 Kxg7 9.Ne5?! when it rapidly became clear after 9...c5 that this knight placement was more a source of worry than anything else.

However, 9.Ng5! has been known to be the best move for 30 years already...

The difference with the analogous variation beginning with 5...Ne4 is that d4 is not hanging now after the exchange of the attacking piece on g7, and that e4, on the other hand, has become a real target!

So Black defended it with 9...f5!? in Game 7, and now 10.h4 was useful in order to play e2-e3 with the knight protected, when 10...e5 brought unclear play.

Nevertheless, the acknowledged way to defend the pawn, while continuing to embarrass the knight, remains 9...Qd5, when the 10.h4 of Game 8 only offered the opponent a valuable tempo to react in the centre.

10.c4! is the move that challenges the queen foray by swapping a side pawn against a central one, while pleasantly opening the useful c-file for the queen's rook in the meantime, as Game 10 showed:

However, this was not to Black's taste in Game 9 and instead he jumped directly out of the frying pan and into the fire after 10...e3? 11.cxd5 exd2+ 12.Kxd2 Rd8 13.e4 c6 14.Rc1!

when he was never able to move his queen's knight from b8!

See you soon, Eric