ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
'To b or not to b', that is the question!
Indeed the question of when to play/react with Qb3/Qb6 can be asked in the Neo-London when both queen's bishops have left their original square to leave the b-pawn unprotected. In a more insistent way though, when it is Black who has got his c-pawn in contact with White's d-pawn rather than the opposite, as examined in the 2 previous updates.

Download PGN of July '12 d-Pawn Specials games

>> Previous Update >>

The symmetrical Neo-London System 1...d5, ...Bf5, 6.Qb3 [D00]

After 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2! Bf5! White goes for the target first with 6.Qb3!?, which is actually not that bad. New ideas have emerged (or have been specified and acknowledged by GM practice) since the last time I updated the subject almost 3 years ago. Black could indeed be surprised by the return of this variation, which had fallen into the background!

6...Qd7! is now "The toughest nut to crack" which had left the whole London complex waiting at the time. Following 7.Nf3 c4 8.Qd1 h6?! is faulty as Black does not need this move to preserve his bishop at this stage, as White's most dangerous idea happens to be Ne5 rather than Nh4.

The concern is how White may take advantage of the black queen position on d7? As it could be exposed on the a4-e8 diagonal and does not defend the Ra8 anymore, brings to mind the undermining idea 9.b3! which practically won a pawn in game 1.

Instead, 8...e6! (With the idea 9.b3? Ba3) is the correct first step:

and after 9.Be2 b5! is the second , that I had indicated on the occasion of Berkes-Shulman in the archives, and which is now officialised by GrandMaster play.

10.0-0 Bd6 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Nh4 - When the dark-squared bishops have been exchanged, White may play this idea in a safer mode without having to worry, for instance about any ...Nf6-h5 counter against his own bishop. However, game 2 shows it is less than nothing for White, in spite of the final result...

Instead, 9...h6?! is again dubious for the reason cited above. White revealed the second idea behind his strategy in game 3 following 10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.Bxe5 Be7 12.g4!? Bg6 13.h4:

with interesting play.

As it turns out, and completely contrary to Bxh7+!! in the e6-Bd6-Nf6-Nc6-c5 line, 8.Nxc4?! dxc4 9.Bxc4 is not the sacrifice of the year which is going to turn the tables in this 5...Bf5 line:

This is more bluff than anything, but having studied it for a while (and needing to materialize this attempt with a game of my own :) ) I thought it good enough to take a good point in rapid play against a slow but generally well prepared opponent (The London system is not a surprise in our region with me and all my pupils...) However, I was going to come down to earth with a bump in game 4.

Symmetrical Neo-London - 6.Ngf3 [D00]

Rather than Qb3, 6.Nf3 is the normal line, findings in which made me switch from the Prié attack to the Neo-London 3 years ago. Apart from the previous game (which acted like a vaccine against 6.Qb3 on me!), this is the line I have always put forward and practiced.

6...Qb6! The field is clear. Now 7.dxc5 is considered to be the refutation of Black's play in 'old theory', which for this reason recommends first protecting the c5 pawn by 6...e6.

After 7...Qxc5? in game 5 I had not made up my mind on how to protect the b2 pawn Qb3, b2-b4 or Nb3 after the queen's necessary retreat to b6. Thus I decided to concentrate on development by 8.Be2, rather than trying to take immediate advantage of the Qc5 position, with any of the same moves actually, and was rewarded.

Instead, after 7...Qxb2! comes 8.Nd4 with a big advantage for White according to Vlado Kovacevic in an old Informant:

nonetheless... 8...e5! Only this game 6 appears in the databases. This is without the numerous examples I have witnessed in the various tournaments, blitz, rapid and classic of the region by myself or my pupils.

This is the realm of assisted preparation. There is no strategy, there is nothing to explain, just let the moves do the talking!

Hence the only attempt left for any opening advantage is 7.Nh4!? Bd7! 8.Qb3 c4 9.Qc2:

with a good head for White, notwithstanding 9...Nh5! 10.Bg3, and instead of long castling on the dangerous side that White opened by b2-b3 in game 7, Black would have better opted for a development based on ...g7-g6, ...Bg7 and short castles, with at least equality.

This update already contains new and interesting material at the cutting edge of the developing 1...d5 Neo-London theory. Yet, rather than postponing it till next time (which should therefore be much lighter...) I thought it interesting for a question of unity and proximity to extend the study to 6...e6 7.Be2! Qb6 8.Nh4! - the bishop is protected but the e6-pawn prevents it from retreating...

As a result 8...Qxb2 proves a lot more risky than in the previous line because of the direct implication of White's queen's rook into the initiative following 9.Nxf5 exf5 10.Rb1 Qxc3 11.Rxb7:

White is also only one move away from castling whereas Black needs to move his king's bishop prior to this which, contrary to the previous game, cannot be done more effectively by taking the pawn on c5.

The consequence of this is an ending after 8...Be4 9.f3 Bg6 10.Qb3 c4 11.Qxb6 axb6 12.Nxg6 hxg6 13.Kf2 b5 and then 14.a3 was the safe way to sacrifice the London bishop on the altar of blockading the queenside after 14...Nh5 15.Bg3 in game 8.

I only discovered and analysed the correct continuation 12.e4! (which provides the London bishop a retreat on e3) subsequently. The key is 12...b5 13.0-0 b4 14.a3! An instructive device in the arsenal of the London player. Contrary to game 6 it is not purely tactical but follows an 'explainable' course. For instance, 14...bxa3 15.bxa3 Rxa3 16.Rxa3 Bxa3 17.Rb1 Nd8 18.Be5! is a straightforward approach:

White wants to weaken the d5-pawn, win it and emerge with an extra pawn after c4 falls, that Black struggled to cope with in game 9.

15...b5! Intending 16.Rfb1 Ra5 is probably Black's best then:

when it is unclear White has better than the repetition 17.Bc7 Ra7 18.Bf4 Ra5, but instead 14...b3!? is an interesting attempt which forces White to act with precision starting with 15.exd5! to force the freezing of the structure after which he has a plan... Black recaptured the wrong way in game 10 just to see his position collapsing a few moves after.

Symmetrical London [D02]

Game 11 is a curiosity (and a reminder of the previous updates) where White obtained exactly the same position Black got in game 4 by using a similar device out of a completely different move order!

See you soon, Eric

>> Previous Update >>