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The London remains extremely fashionable and to please Eric, as well as its adherents, old and new, we have something of a London special this month focussing on all those lines where Black avoids an early ...d5.

Download PGN of July ’17 d-Pawn Specials games

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The London: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 e6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 [A46]

We begin by tackling the ever-popular, ‘Hedgehog-type’ defences after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3. First up is 4...cxd4 5 exd4 b6, which restricts White’s options to some extent, and after 6 Nbd2 Be7 7 c3 0-0 8 Bd3 Black has to decide what to do with his light-squared bishop:

Of course, there’s nothing too much wrong with 8...Bb7 followed by ...d6, but 8...Ba6 may well just equalise, as we’ll see in Van Foreest, J - Van den Doel, E.

By contrast the immediate 4...b6 gives White some extra options. I still quite like 5 Nbd2, but the Jobava-Priéesque 5 Nc3!? has been topical of late:

After 5...a6 6 d5 it’s easy for Black to get into an early pickle, as, indeed, he does in Sedlak, N - Bosiocic, M, and 6...Bb7!? may well be best.

The Neo-London System 2...c5 [A45]

If there is a downside to the modern 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 move order, it’s got to be 2...c5. Gata Kamsky continues to meet this solidly with 3 e3, but after 3...Qb6 White must switch out of any solid mindset:

As we’ll see, 4 Nf3!? Qxb2 5 Nbd2 deserves attention, while the critical 4 Nc3 saw Black decline the b-pawn in Agrest, E - Gdanski, J.

As played by Magnus Carlsen no less, the critical test of 2...c5 must be 3 d5:

3...d6 has been quite popular and after 4 Nc3 Nepomniachtchi went for 4...a6 5 a4 e5, as we’ll see. Kramnik’s 3...b5!? also seems quite viable, but I’d be less keen on 3...Qb6 4 Nc3 as Black. That said, he doesn’t have to go in for the Vaganian Gambit, as we’ll see in the highly instructive Hebden, M - Golding, A.

The Neo-London v KID 2...g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 e3 [A48]

Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave have duelled twice of late after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 e3. In their second encounter, MVL went for the unbalancing 4...d6 5 Be2 Nh5!?, but never quite equalised, while in their slower first battle, 4...0-0 5 Be2 d6 6 h3 c5 7 0-0 Qb6 8 Nbd2 was seen:

Black is ill advised to snaffle b2 here, but 8...d5!? is possible, as well as the highly sensible 8...cxd4 9 Nc4 Qc7 10 exd4 Nd5 of Carlsen, M - Vachier-Lagrave, M.

The Neo-London v KID 2...g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 c3 [A48]

By contrast Gata Kamsky still quite likes his 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 c3 move order and keeps facing 4...0-0 5 e3 d6 6 h3 c5 7 dxc5 dxc5 8 Qxd8 Rxd8 9 Nbd2 Nc6 10 Bc7 Rd7 11 Bh2 Rd8:

We’ve seen this solid line a few times before and it was more of the same in Kamsky, G - Almasi, Z, except that this time Kamsky didn’t manage to convert an endgame pull.

The Jobava-Prié Attack: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bf4 g6 4 e3 Bg7 [D00]

A topical choice amongst aggressive players after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 is 3 Nc3 whereupon 3...d5 4 e3 Bg7 reaches a position which can also come about in the Jobava-Prié and where 5 h4!? is quite critical:

Black has a few possibilities with the Carlsen-approved 5...h5 looking the best, unsurprisingly, whereas 5...h6 6 Be2 c5?! 7 Nb5! Na6 8 c3 gave White an early grip on proceedings in Naiditsch, A - Warmerdam, M.

Will all our other favourite openings get a look in next month? I do hope so! Until then, Richard

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