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Apologies for the delay to this month's column. Seconding Gawain Jones in his match with Romain Edouard took up a fair amount of time, although it was also very rewarding. In the meantime the London System's latest king, Alexander Grischuk, has continued to fly the opening's flag at the SportAccord Games in Beijing. The newest member of the 2800 brigade has ventured 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 in 13 blitz and two recent rapid games, amassing a pretty useful +7 =6 -2. No less interestingly, Grischuk's fellow super-GM opponents have tended to counter directly: four opting for 2...g6, three for 2...d6 and three for 2...c5, in contrast to just three and two respectively for the more classical 2...e6 and 2...d5.

Download PGN of December '14 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky 2...Ne4 3 Bh4 c5 4 Nd2 [A45]

This remains quite a popular choice at grandmaster level, especially as a surprise weapon. Even Ivanchuk has employed it of late, recently adding 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 Bh4 to his repertoire. After 3...c5 he opted for the unusual and rather solid 4 Nd2:

4 f3 may be risky, but 4...Nxd2 5 Qxd2 cxd4 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Nxd4 Qb6 was all rather too easy for Black who drew comfortably in Ivanchuk - Areshchenko.

The Trompowsky 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 d5 [A45]

More common is, of course, 3 Bf4 when 3...d5 continues to attract adherents and usually reaches something of a tabiya after 4 e3 c5 5 Bd3:

As Nakamura recently demonstrated, 5...Qb6?! is more than just a bad choice against him, and the solid 5...Nf6 is fast becoming the main line. We've previously seen some clever ideas from White after 6 c3 Nc6 7 Nd2 and then 7...g6, but 7...Qb6!? 8 Rb1 g6 makes some subtle differences, as we'll see in Megaranto - Swapnil.

The Tromp 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 c5 4 d5 Qb6 5 Nd2!? [A45]

The big alternative is 3...c5 when 4 d5 Qb6 5 Nd2!? has been repeated by Mark Hebden:

After 5...Qxb2 6 Nxe4 Qb4+ 7 c3 Qxe4 8 e3 e6 9 c4! White was able to obtain enough for his pawn, if no more than that in Hebden - Cherniaev.

The Tromp 2...e6 3 e4 h6 [A45]

Another line which has received some attention in 2014 is 2...e6 3 e4 h6 4 Bxf6 Qxf6 5 c3 d6 6 Bd3 e5 7 Ne2 g6 8 0-0 Bg7 9 f4, which is actually quite a clever move order from Black:

At this point Black normally retreats his queen to e7, but 9...exd4!? is more critical and likely superior - see Wen Yang-Li Shilong.

The Barry, Vorotnikov-Kogan-Hebden Attack 4...a6 [D00]

Via a London and then a Jobava-Prié, play reaches the position after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bf4 a6 5 Qd2 (5 e3 is also fine, perhaps even preferable from a pure Barry move order) in Ivanisevic - Volokitin. After 5...Bg7 (5...b5!? might improve) 6 Bh6 0-0 7 h4 matters are already rather double-edged:

The Ukrainian Grandmaster finds a way to keep the kingside closed, but never quite equalises, so should have preferred the principled 7...Bxh6 8 Qxh6 and then 8...c5!? from what I can see.

The London System 2...d6 3 Nc3 Nbd7 [A46]

We conclude appropriately enough with two of Alexander Grischuk's outings with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4, covering a fair amount of new territory for the site in the progress. 2...d6 3 Nc3 Nbd7 4 Nf3 sees the Russian no.1 following in Eric's footsteps:

Black has a few sensible tries at this stage, if not the 4...d5? 5 Nb5 of Grischuk - Bacrot.

The Neo-London 2...c5 [A46]

More of a test for our London star was a game played in the Tal Memorial Blitz, moved this year to Sochi to coincide with the world championship match. The game in question, Grischuk - Gelfand, where 2...c5 3 d5 d6 4 Nc3 g6 5 e4 Bg7 6 Bd3 0-0 7 Nf3 reached an extremely unusual line of the Schmid Benoni:

There White's bishop would normally be on e2 or b5, so I've strayed into 'A43' territory to provide coverage for London players tempted to follow in Grischuk's ambitious footsteps.

Happy holidays! Until the new year, Richard

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