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It’s been a good couple of months for our favourite openings. Seeing the London System employed in the leading rapid tournaments isn’t such a surprise, but Alireza Firouzja also honed it into quite a fearsome weapon at Wijk aan Zee, where Fabiano Caruana even wheeled out the Jobava-Prié Attack!

Download PGN of February ’21 d-Pawn Specials games

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Barry Attack: 4...Bg7 5 e3 c6 [D00]

Classifying the world no.2’s encounter with Anish Giri isn’t so easy, but while 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bf4 g6 4 e3 Bg7 5 Be2 c6 6 Qd2!? (continuing to hold back on Harry) 6...a5!? was all very Jobava-Prié-like, after 7 Nf3 play had officially entered the waters of the Barry Attack, aka 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bf4. Giri sensibly offloaded his potentially problematic minor piece with 7...Bg4 and after 8 Ne5 Bxe2 9 Qxe2 a4 10 a3 Nh5! Black was surely quite comfortable:

Here Caruana began to fight back though, finally touching Harry and 11 h4!? Nxf4 12 exf4 left matters roughly balanced in Caruana, F - Giri, A.

Jobava-Prié Attack: 3...c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 Bg4 [D00]

1 d4 d5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bf4 was also employed at Wijk by young Andrey Esipenko and in a game he really needed to win. Black too didn’t back down and 3...c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 Bg4!? quickly led to quite an unbalanced middlegame, where White was the more creative and Black generally played the stronger chess. One key position:

Where should White now develop his bishop to and with what idea in mind? To find out more, do enjoy Esipenko, A - van Foreest, J !

London System: 3...e6 4 e3 Bd6 5 Nbd2 [D02]

Levon Aronian twice deployed 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 against Hikaru Nakamura in the Airthings Masters. After 4...Bd6 he initially tried 5 Bb5+ before refining the idea with 5 Nbd2 c5 6 Bb5+!?:

White soon enjoyed a grip on the dark squares and Black was outplayed in instructive fashion in Aronian, L - Nakamura, H.

London System: 3...e6 4 e3 c5 5 Nbd2 Nc6 6 c3 Nh5 [D02]

A very modern line is 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 e6 4 e3 c5 5 Nbd2 Nc6 6 c3 Nh5!? 7 Bg5 f6 8 Bh4 g6, as occurred in Firouzja, A - Esipenko, A, where 9 h3 probably wasn’t the greatest of novelties. A lively struggle quickly flared up, though, not least after 15 b4:

Could Black have got away with 15...g5 here or is allowing 16 Bxg5 fxg5 17 h4 just too dangerous? Clue: there’s a remarkable defensive resource.

London System: 3...e6 4 e3 c5 5 Nbd2 cxd4 6 exd4 Bf5 [D02]

Firouzja also starred with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 e6 4 e3 c5 5 Nbd2 in Firouzja, A - Anton Guijarro, D, where Black opted for the solid 5...cxd4 6 exd4 Bf5 before introducing at a high level 7 Bb5 Rc8!?. White might still try 8 c4 here, but the super-talent preferred 8 c3 e6 9 Qe2 Nd7 10 h4!?:

White can, indeed, calmly seize space so, while preparing to tuck the king away on f1, and eventually ground out a win after upping the ante in the run-up to the first time control.

The Colle: 3...c6 [D04]

Matthias Bluebaum kept wheeling out 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 in the preliminary rounds of the Opera Euro Rapid. He was often ground down, but the opening stage was normally at least satisfactory for him, as when he went 3...c6 4 h3!?:

The idea was the Grob-like 4...Bf5 5 g4 Bg6 6 Ne5 when Black had to avoid 6...Nbd7?! 7 h4! in Bluebaum, M - Shankland, S.

The Colle-Zukertort: 3...e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 Bb2 [D05]

We also see the strong German Grandmaster in action after 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 e6 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bd3 c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 0-0 b6 7 Bb2 Bb7 8 Nbd2:

Now 8...Bd6 would, of course, be standard, but the world champion no less preferred 8...Rc8!? and after 9 a3 equalised with 9...cxd4 10 exd4 g6! 11 Qe2 Bg7 in Bluebaum, M - Carlsen, M. Colle-Zukertort players should instead investigate here their standard leap: 9 Ne5!?.

Will there be more elite encounters next month?

Until then, Richard

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