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This month we definitely shut the cap on the 1...d5 London system.

Download PGN of July '05 d-Pawn Specials games

London System [D02]

In the highly expensive Game one, Black did not even wait for the white queen's bishop to come out and after 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 he played the tense 2...c5:

which tries to show that apart from 2.c4 there is no chance for the first player to dictate the course of events against 1...d5! A real concern for the d-Pawn Specials player...

Anyway facts proved him right after 3.c3 a5!? A surprising novelty on move 3 that pushed the opponent to transpose into a Queen's Gambit Accepted with reversed colours by 4.dxc5 Nf6 5.c4 e6 6.cxd5 Bxc5:

Thus already rewarding the n°1 Ukrainian player's eagerness to play an unbalanced position right out of the opening with the legitimate satisfaction of equalization. After this he pressed hard but White hung on and even managed to return the situation in time trouble.

Now back to our main subject:

This idea of immediately playing 2.Nf3 and 3.Bf4, without the prophylactic c2-c3, enjoys a totally inappropriate reputation of solidity. After 2....Nf6 and 3...c5! Black seizes the initiative right away. In the main and probably only line for White (4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qb3 c4 7.Qxb3 axb3 8.Na3) the question of which of the 3 moves 8...Bf5, 8...Ra5, or even the astonishing 8...Rxa3!?, is best is not yet clear-cut but White has serious worries ahead of him that a deeper analysis of the old reference game 8 after move 14 could only possibly soften.

White took the pawn and, unfortunately for him, tried to keep it in Game 2 by 2...Nf6 3.Bf4 c5! 4.dxc5 e6 5.b4?! (He should have played more humbly with 5.e3 Bxc5 where, compared to a reversed colours Slav, Black's lost tempo corresponds to the spared move ...a7-a5 and represents a genuine bonus!) 5...a5 6.c3 axb4! 7.Bxb8? (Better is 7.axb4 Nc6 Often the development of Queen's knight causes problem because it is in the way of the enemy b-pawn, but this is not the case when the a-pawn has been already exchanged 8.Qb3 b6 leading only to a minimal Black advantage.) 7...Rxb8 8.cxb4 b6!:

Which wins the pawn back with the big advantage of having gained a lethal dark-squared bishop because 9.Qa4+ Nd7 10.c6 just fails to 10...Qf6.

In the remaining games White supported his attacked d pawn with 4.c3 (or 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 which will likely transpose):

In Game 3 White managed to annihilate the opposing queenside initiative resulting from 4...Qb6 5.Qb3 c4 6.Qxb6 (6.Qc2 as seen last month is certainly safer and that is reason amongst others for preferring 5...Nc6! to 5...c4.) 6...axb6 7.Nbd2 (with the plan e2-e3, a2-a3, Rc1, Be2-d1-c2.) However, now, had Black played the recommendation 7...b5! Intending ...Bf5, ...h7-h6, ...e7-e6, ...Nbd7!-b6-a4 the estimation could have been altered...

Game four saw the thematic 7.Na3 Nc6 8.Nd2! Bf5 Where White, instead of playing the critical 9.Nb5!, unfortunately fell for the decoy on b6 once again by 9.Bc7? Kd7 10.Bxb6 Ra6 11.Bc5 b6 snatching the naive clergyman.

Games 5 to 6 showed the more accurate order of moves (from the Black point of view) 5...Nc6 6.e3 c4 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Na3 Ra5:

Already threatening ...e7-e5 when the b5-square is guarded, while the similar 8...Bf5 is also extensively analysed in the notes.

After the further 9.Bc7 Bf5! 10.Bxb6 Ra6 11.Bc7 Kd7 we reach the critical position of the 1...d5 London system:

In the first of the two games, Game five, White backed down with 12.Bf4? and after 12...e6 13.Nb5 Ra5 14.a4 Bc2 he did not succeed in holding the flank pressure after the opponent had won his pawn back.

But in Game six White went consistently forward with 12.Nb5! e6 13.Be2 Be7 (At this stage the problem of the fragile White setup on the queenside start to strike Fritz...!) 14.Bd1 Tha8 15.a4 Na7 With an exclamation mark and an assessed big advantage for Black that truly materialized in the actual game but that thorough analysis still struggles to demonstrate!

Black opted for an even more radical approach in Game Seven with the surprising 8...Rxa3!? 9.bxa3 Bf5:

A very interesting exchange sacrifice that also exists, with reversed colours and a tempo more for White, against the Baltic. Black will obtain one pawn for it and all the pressure because of the quasi impossibility for the opponent to activate his rooks even at the expense of some more material.

White's attempt to mix things up with 6.Qxb6 axb6 7.Bc7 (Instead of 6.e3 c4 7.Qxb6) turned sour in Game eight after the correct reaction 7...b5! 8.dxc5 b4 9.e3 (and not 9.cxb4 Nxb4 10.Na3? Rxa3!) 9...e6 10.Bd6 Ne4! Thus, winning the pawn back while conserving the advantage of the queenside pressure and the open a-file.

Black could not get bothered in Game 9 and simply transposed into an exchange Slav after 4.c3 cxd4 5.cxd4 Nc6 (His reasoning being that, had the standard sequence 3.c4 c6 occurred, then 4.cxd5 cxd5 could have been the continuation of the game. So why should Black strive to 'punish' his opponent for playing a London?!)

As a matter of fact, the higher rated White player was outplayed right out of the opening and, obviously not very familiar with the position, rapidly found himself in trouble against the power of centralization.

Till next month! Eric Prié.