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This month's update continues to look for possibly more promising alternatives to the London triangle (c3-d4-e3) when Black attacks d4 with his c5-pawn.

Download PGN of December '12 d-Pawn Specials games

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The London System 2 Bf4, 4.Nc3 [D00]

In this regard, after 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 (avoiding the dangerous Morris gambit 2...c5 3.e4!) 3.e3 c5 4.Nc3?!:

is a dubious move that has gained unexplainable popularity of late, and that I have been tackled about on the d-Pawn Specials Forum recently.

But why call it dubious when White develops a piece onto a good square?! The first reason is that Black has an easy equalizer (as demonstrated further). This immediately raises another sub-question: is this so terrible, then, to let Black level the play? Incidentally, isn't this also the case in every other opening!?

Perhaps I am being subjective, as by possibly having analyzed the London System more than anyone else (noticeably for ChessPublishing!), and by having played quite a few Carlsbad structures (as White c4xd5 ...e6xd5 with pawns on d4-d5, but also as Black in an Exchange Caro or related), and also by not having been able to find one single playable line for White in the Veresov (because of this pesky knight on c3), but I dare cherish greater ambitions for my pet opening as White!

4...e6!? (A move that is not so bad in itself, but if White's only concern in the position is his misplaced knight on c3, is it really such a good idea to let him solve it?!) 5.Nb5 Na6 6.a4 and White was rewarded for keeping the central tension in Game 1 with a strong attack against the opposing short castle.

In Game 2, however, Black followed the engines' suggestion, after 6.c3 Be7 7.dxc5 (One advantage of this capture is to save the h2-h3 tempo, because when attacked by ...Nh5 the London bishop may navigate via Be5-d4. Another advantage is the possibility of developing White's king's bishop directly to d3, as otherwise this would be subject to the tempo gain ...c5-c4 with the pawns still on c5/d4. The drawback is obviously the release of the central tension in Black's favor.) 7...Bxc5 8.Nf3 0-0 9.Bd3 Bd7 10.a4 but here he erred with 10...Bxb5?! 11.axb5 Nb8?!

The good move is 10...Be7! and this allowed Black to equalize in game 3 after 11.0-0 Nc5 12.Bc2 a6!.

Instead, then, 11.b4!? was critical, stopping ...Nc5, that is to say keeping the Na6 momentarily out of play, but seriously weakening the c3 pawn down a semi-open file:

Instead of 4...e6, in the sole previous reference of Karlik-Polak, I had favored 4...Qa5(!) which only transposes after 5.dxc5! to the well known variation 4.dxc5!? Qa5+ 5.Nc3, to be checked next month. Simultaneously I made an analytical mistake by granting an exclamation mark after 4...cxd4! to 5.Nb5(!), which only turns out to be interesting/dubious (hence the change in punctuation and roadmap...) depending on the maze of complications generated by the resulting whole rook sacrifice: 5...Qa5+! 6.b4 Qxb4 7.c3 dxc3 8.Nc7+ Kd8 and now 9.Nxa8:

when after 9...c2+ 10.Qd2 Qb1+ 11.Qc1 Qb4+ 12.Qd2 is drawn and should therefore theoretically close the line. Nevertheless, depending on the opposition (and the danger of being ground down as White in the main line of game 6...) this can be either seen as an 'interesting' (!?) or 'dubious' (?!) result.

However, 12...e5!? is interesting. The pawn on c2 is a monster, the black king is safe (which is absolutely not the case of his white counterpart), and the digestion of the Ra8 is complicated. Should White lose his London bishop (and this is exactly what happened in game 4 after 9.Bd3? Nc6! 10.Nxa8 e5) he would simply be lost with his trapped knight on a8. This will probably be clarified in the future.

Exchange Caro with Nc3 [B13]

Instead of this, in practice White has systematically taken back by 5.exd4, transposing to an Exchange Caro with Nc3, when 5...a6 is an elementary way to equalize, for it is impossible for White to prevent Black's queen's bishop developing outside the pawn chain, in spite of what could appear (at first glance) to be a tempo loss in order to prevent Nb5. Black did not do this in game 5 after 6.Nf3 g6? (6...Nc6 7.h3 Bf5) presenting White with a good version of a sort of Barry Attack.

In game 6 White solved the concern of his bad knight at the price of a complete levelling of the position after 6.Be2 Nc6 7.Nf3 Bg4 by 8.Ne5 Nxe5 9.Bxe5 Bxe2 10.Nxe2:

which he should have kept soporific by using the 'magic knight' policy of transferring this knight to d3 against the danger of the opposing minority attack - see the notes.

The London System 2 Bf4, 4.c3, 6...Bf5 [D00]

4.c3 Qb6 5.Qb3 Nc6 6.Nd2 Bf5?! is another line that, without presenting any significant improvement for the black side, continues to attract carelessly prepared titled players, whereas 6...e6, keeping b7 protected, is the only move in the position.

After 7.dxc5! Qxb3 8.axb3 e5 9.Bg3 Bxc5 10.Ngf3! the move 10...e4 then is new:

however, it did not change the overall assessment of this line as favorable for White in game 7.

Likewise 10.Bb5?! in game 8, despite the inaccuracy of the move.

Still, more from the perspective of confirmation/revision than any theoretical advance, game 9 was already more relevant following 10.Ngf3! Nd7 11.b4 Bd6 12.Be2! (the pawn has to stay on b4 for the moment so as to provide an anchor for the manoeuvre Nb3-c5/a5, and keep this key square from the black pieces.)

There followed 12...0-0 13.0-0 f6 when White had 14.e4!:

With excellent prospects.

See you soon, Eric

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