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Something of a 1 d4 d5 special this month as the London rather dominates proceedings. Eric will certainly approve and his favourite opening continues to contain a certain sting, as shown by both Magnus Carlsen and one of his potential challengers in years to come, Wei Yi.

Download PGN of January ’17 d-Pawn Specials games

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The London System: 5 Nd2 e6 6 Ngf3 Bd6 7 Bg3 0-0 [D02]

The modern move order 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 c5 3 e3 Nf6 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nd2 e6 6 Ngf3 Bd6 7 Bg3 0-0 brings about a certain tabiya and one which can arise from a number of move orders:


White must decide where to deploy his light-squared bishop. In the recent World Rapid and Blitz Championships, Carlsen thrice went 8 Bb5!?. I had thought Black had started to neutralise this, but recent developments suggest that the ball is firmly back in his court. 8...Ne7 9 Bd3 b6 10 e4! may well be an edge and 8...a6 9 Bxc6 bxc6 10 Qa4, as in Carlsen, M - Anand, V, packs more of a punch than one might well initially assume.

By no means everyone is, however, going 8 Bb5 with 8 Bd3 b6 an important and equally popular debate:

Despite Jorden van Foreest’s aggressive attempt to breathe new life into 9 e4, that and 9 Qe2 are by no means definitely better for White. However, neither is 9 Ne5 Bb7 10 0-0 Qc7 11 f4 Ne7 12 Qb1, despite White’s success in Korobov, A - Dominguez, L. In conclusion, 8 Bd3 b6 is far from played out, but for now Black continues to hold his own.

The Jobava-Prié Attack: 3...c5 4 e3 [D00]

We break away from the London proper to show another option for White after 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 c5 3 e3 Nf6, namely 4 Nc3!?, as also tried by Carlsen in Qatar. The main line is beginning to crystallise as the solid and sensible 4...cxd4 5 exd4 a6 6 Bd3 Nc6, a type of Exchange Caro-Kann:

Here Jobava’s latest try was 7 Nge2, as we’ve seen, but in Carlsen, M - Bok, B White preferred 7 Nce2!? and his queen’s knight soon stood well on d3, Carlsen going on to turn with remarkable speed something from almost nothing into a clearly advantageous endgame.

The London System v 1...d5: 3...c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 Qb6 [D02]

The more traditional London move order, 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 is still seen and after 3...c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 a rather risky try for Black is 5...Qb6!? 6 dxc5 Qxb2 7 Rb1:

Perhaps this is playable with very good computer preparation, but it feels like it keeps being played, and by some quite strong players, as over-the-board inspiration. The 7...Qa3!? of L’Ami, E - Lu Shanglei was new for us, but after just 11 moves Black should really have had to part with his queen!

The London System v 1...d5: 3...c5 4 Nd2 cxd4 5 exd4 Bg4 [D00]

We’ve already mentioned one type of Exchange Caro-Kann and another arises after 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Nf6 3 e3 c5 4 Nd2 cxd4 5 exd4 Bg4 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 c3 e6 8 Qb3:

In the Exchange Caro proper Black has a choice with his queen, but here he absolutely must go for 8...Qc8 and after 9 Bd3 Be7 10 0-0 0-0 11 Ne5 the players found themselves having transposed to a common enough Caro-Kann line in Wei Yi - Malakhov, V. With a thematic bishop manoeuvre round to g6 Black should be OK, but just watch how quickly even the normally solid Malakhov ran into trouble.

The Colle: 3...Bf5 [D04]

The game Shengelia, D - Sedina, E caught my eye while flicking through TWIC earlier in the month. White met 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 Bf5 not with 4 c4 and a transposition to a Slav, but rather 4 Nh4!? Bg4 5 Qd3:

Food for thought for sure, but I’m not sure how much I can recommend imitating Shengelia as, despite his fine win, Black seems to be absolutely fine after 5...c5!.

The Colle: 5...b6 6 0-0 Bb7 7 Nbd2 Be7 [D05]

It transpires that the world champion wasn’t just using 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 as a one-off weapon in New York and why do so when he must have spent some time studying the Colle’s various typical structures? After 4...c5 5 c3 b6 6 0-0 Bb7 7 Nbd2 Be7 White has often leapt with 8 Ne5, but that can hardly be promising. Instead, 8 b3 0-0 9 Bb2 Nbd7 10 Qe2 Bd6 11 c4 was seen in Carlsen, M - Giri, A:

Both sides have, of course, used a tempo more than they had to to reach this position and while Black can equalise, he cannot kill the game off. Carlsen gives a master class in the resulting hanging pawn position only to somehow fall short with the game at his mercy.

Let’s hope we have more high-level games to explore next month! Until then, Richard

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