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A (happy) new year (adult) World champions update with no less than 4 of them trying their hands at our 'd-lightful' specialities this month!

Download PGN of January '08 d-Pawn Specials games

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

First, we finish updating the 1.d4 d5 Neo-London with the critical position resulting from 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5!? 3.e3 Nc6 4.c3 Nf6 5.Nbd2 Bf5! 6.Qb3 Qd7!:

In comparison with last month's first 2 games, where White played the better 6.Nf3 e6 (6...Qb6!) and only now 7.Qb3, in this position the black queen can now rejoin this better square of d7 because Bb5/Ne5 is not threatened when the white knight does not already stand on f3!

Now, after 7.Nf3 Black continues 7...c4! 8.Qd1 when I advocate 8...e6! , defending against b2-b3 indirectly, instead of the 8...b5 of Game One, which provided White with another opportunity to break the opposing bind on the queenside by 9.a4!?

Being aware of this problem for White, Game 2 features my radical recommendation to prevent the opposing queen's bishop from developing, 5.Qb3!?. Although, as it turned out, this is not ideal either, I must admit, since after 5...c4! 6.Qc2 g6 7.b3 Bf5 8.Qb2 Qb6!:

The b2 square for the white queen is not much better than the c1 one because of this move. Although it will need another costly tempo to unpin it, at least White managed to play b2-b3!

With this move order, 4.Nf3, accepting a transposition into the Classical London were Black to play 4...Nf6, is an option, of course. Only god knows what the strongest ELO rated player ever likely to appear as White in this section had planned in Game 3 in that case... Be that as it may, his opponent replied with the interesting 4...Bg4!?:

Black was probably not fully acquainted with the 'unusual' subtleties of the set-up at this level and soon had to part with this very piece against the opposing king's knight; a concession that White exploited luminously afterwards.

4.dxc5?! is already known to be dubious by this section's subscribers. Nonetheless, it was gratifying for its prime mover to witness a former World champion falling to my suggested refutation beginning with 4...Nc6, attracting the bishop, 5.Bb5 and only now 5....Qa5+ 6.Nc3 a6! in Game 4:

Note that this game actually started with the alternative Trompovsky move order, but transposed.

Unfortunately, another 'immortal' was not aware of this refutation in Game 5 when she (unmasked!) embarked on the line 4...Qa5+ 5.Nc3 Qxc5?! Colliding with 6.Nb5! this time.

London v Grünfeld [D02]

The way to combat the Grünfeld set-up against the Neo-London is far from evident for the first player. Still, it is reputed to be dubious for the fianchettoed side because of the dark-squared dragon spitting his craving for space against the heat-resistance of the c3-d4-e3 wall.

This was something that White was able to demonstrate after the moves 2...Nf6 3.e3 g6 (instead of 3...c5) 4.h3 (Things can become complicated after ...Nh5, so when you can afford the time to preserve the bishop...) 4...Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Nbd2 (Controlling e4 now. It is not a good idea to attack the d5 pawn with c4, Nc3 because Black would then react in a typical Grünfeld way with ...c7-c5.) 6...Nbd7 7.c3 b6 8.a4!:

The time has not yet come to decide where to develop the king's bishop. It can be e2, or, more rarely d3 or c4 - if Black allows the exchange of knights on e4 - or even b5.

Now, after both the 8...a5?! of Game 6 or the better 8...a6 of Game 7, Black's task of finding a good square for his queen, in order to complete his mobilization by linking his rooks, was made harder. Consecutively White could smoothly organize the retreat of his bishop to a more secure square than f4, against the opposing reaction of ...e5 (possibly backed by the move ...f7-f6), and assemble his rooks in the centre ready to break through in front of the opposing queen.

This is the hidden feature of the combination of moves c3/a4/Qb3. In addition to gaining space on the queenside because of the pseudo-threat of advancing to a5, and freeing the d1 square for the rook, it hampers Black from playing ...c5 because of the x-ray action of the queen against b7 AND the immobilization of the Black queen on d8 in defence of b6.

That is why playing a2-a3 too early as in the "Prié attack" is safe and solid, but would bring absolutely nothing against an opponent aware of the subtleties of this set-up (d5-Bg7 against d4-Bf4) which is so difficult to handle as Black...

Vorotnikov-Kogan-Hebden Attack [D00]

What difference does it make when White, with a London bishop, puts his queen's knight on c3, instead of the pawn, against exactly the same opposing Grünfeld set-up?!

The current World champion gave an enlightening response in Game 8 by 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.Qd2 0-0 6.Bh6 Nc6! Forcing 7.Bxg7 Kxg7 that actually leaves Black ahead of development in a wholesome position:

I understand that the threat of ...Ne4 is not easy to parry, but if 8.Ne5?! does not presuppose that the exchange on c6 may be foreseeable at some point (although it would open the b-file for Black's queen rook, that did not ask for so much, and bring an extra pawn to the centre, which would be easy to undouble after ...Qd6, ...c6-c5...) then it is just another loss of time. In any case this game continued shockingly, after 8...Bf5!? 9.e3 Qd6 10.Nb5?! Qb4! 11.c3 Qa5 12.Bd3 Ne4 14.Qc2:

by 13...Nxe5 14.dxe5 Nxf2!! winning.

The unfortunate leader of the white pieces in the previous game is supposed to be the reference in this VKH (for Vorotnikov-Kogan-Hebden) Attack after the opening was co-blessed with his name. However, in his games so far, the least we can say is that he has not showed the way against 6...Nc6!

Indeed, although he won nicely 4 years before in Game 9 with 10.f4 which 'makes a better impression', after his opponent got carried away by 10...Ne4 11.Nxe4 Bxe4 12.Bd3 Nxe5? 13.dxe5 Qb6? 14.Bxe4 Qxb2 15.0-0 dxe4 16.Rfb1 Qa3 17.Rxb7 Rfb8 18.Rb3!

Had the latter simply replied 12...Bxd3 13.cxd3 Nxe5 14.fxe5 Qe6, inevitably followed by ...f7-f6, White would have obtained, at most, nothing out of the opening!

See you soon, Eric