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This update tells the story of my conversion to the London System and explains, one year after I dropped the Tromp, the reasons for my renunciation of the Torre.

Download PGN of March '07 d-Pawn Specials games

Torre Attack [A46]

Black was not very precise with his move order in Game One, delaying ...c5, and after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 b6 4.Nbd2 Bb7 5.e3 h6 6.Bh4 Be7 7.Bd3 d6 8.c3 Nbd7 9.Qe2! this allowed White to castle long 9...c5 10.0-0-0:

As he has spared the usual move a2-a3, which is generally compulsory to stop the manoeuvre ...Nf6-d5 and ...cxd4, when the recommended white recapture towards the centre would authorize ...Nb4 seizing the light-squared bishop on d3.

Then White set his centre into motion with e3-e4-e5 but this proved just too slow because the Torre bishop rejoined the good b8-h2 diagonal, controlling the important f4-square, one tempo too late!

Thus 7...c5 is more precise than 7...d6 because after 8.c3 Nc6 the move 9.a3 is practically mandatory here to stop the above-mentioned manoeuvre.

By comparison with an Exchange Slav, Black estimated he could equalize in Game 2 with the central reduction 9...cxd4 10.cxd4! d5 and in fact, this is what he succeeded in doing after the uninspired 10.Rc1?! (instead of the stronger 10.0-0 0-0 11.Qa4 or Qb1 both directed against the coming thematic exchanging manoeuvre) 10...Rc8 11.0-0 0-0 12.h3?! Ne4! (Another way to take advantage of the Tromp-Torre bishop's position) 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 leading to a series of completely levelling exchanges.

Black came out with the even more cunning 7...d6! In Game 3 to which I replied with the no less artful 8.h3 with the idea of keeping the long castling option open, instead of committing myself to the less promising a3 + 0-0 alternative. Alas, my young opponent was awake that morning (or more likely well prepared) and pursued precisely with 8...Nbd7 9.Qe2 Nd5!:

(This has to be played in this move order because of the old trick 9...cxd4 10.cxd4! Nd5 11.Ne4! which is made possible by the obstruction of the d6 defence by the knight on d7!) 9.Bg3 - once again the apparent paradox that White should keep the dark-squared bishops to hope for an advantage (and it was after this I became convinced that if I was anyway forced to play the same moves h2-h3, Bg3 with a bishop on h4, then it was advisable to develop it onto the b8-h2 diagonal straight away! See below) 9...cxd4! 10.exd4 I was caught and forced to take back away from the centre, but I thought I could exploit some dynamic assets to make up for it. I was soon disillusioned by 10...Ndf6!! 11.Bb5+ Kf8 12.Ba6 Bc6! 13.Bb5 Bb7 Forcing White to take a shameful draw by repetition against the troublesome threat of ...Nh5-f4.

London System [A46/7]

Whilst I am aware that the London idea is unplayable against 1...d5! (unless White first plays a prophylactic move to prevent the freeing ...c7-c5 shot prior to developing his dark-squared bishop), and only acceptable (with a good deal of knowledge) against the dark square systems with ...g6 and ...d6, I am persuaded that it is perfectly adapted to the early commitment 2...e6 or 2...b6, as Nimzo players are forced to play after the neutral move 2.Nf3.

And the reason is simple: after 3...c5 4.c3! d5! followed by ...Nc6, ...Bd6 White will get nothing out of any opening, as usual, after deep examination, and more particularly with a 'd-Pawn Specials' approach; a decent "nothing" nonetheless, with a certain tolerance because of the lesser pressure against b2 due to the shutting in of Black's queen's bishop.

So, practically overnight, and without any preparation, my first experience with 1.d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3.Bf4 resulted in a fiasco in Game 4 after 3...b6 4.h3?! (erroneously hurried as I wanted to preserve the bishop against ...Nh5, a problem that did not exist, at least not in this primitive form, in the Torre) 4...Ba6!:

The continuation proved that my delaying the decision to advance e2-e3 as long as possible was right, but the truth is that I had been stressed by not being able to castle early on, and thus perturbed by the course of the game (with my boring repertoire, I am not used to have to think of solving development problems in the opening as White!) and not in my normal state, I missed an obvious (and thematic!) defence after my opponent had done something totally overoptimistic (relying on his advance of development)... as I expected.

I was more successful in Game 5 and Game 6 by playing the right move 4.e3 Bb7 and only now 5.h3 c5 6.c3 where in both cases I managed to mount a nice attack, after castling kingside, with the idea e3-e4-e5.

Game 7 shot off at top speed with 2...c5 but 3.c3 quickly calmed the black ardour!

3...e6 - For some reason, the B's spirit (Benoni, Benko, Blumenfeld...) does not seem compatible with the Exchange Slav. And that is fortunate because with Black's queen bishop not having signed away his future with an early ...e6, 3...cxd4 and 4...d5 is clearly what would annoy me most in this position!

4.Bf4! and I was again in business...with the same attack, somewhat complicated by the fact that Black exchanged the light-squared bishops on a6 in a typical French structure (c3, d4, e5 against c5, d5, e6) and therefore had serious counterplay on the queenside.

Black implemented the typical, and critical, Queen's Indian idea 5...Be7 6.Nbd2 0-0 7.c3 d6 8.Bd3 Nd7 in Game 8, threatening to win a piece with ...e5 because of the fork on e4 or the bishop hanging on d3 after the exchanges, so I played 9.Qe2 to defend d3, simply waiting for the normal 9...c5 but then came the shuddering 9...e5? 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Bxe5 Nd7 13.Bh2 Nc5 14.Bc2! Bf6 15.0-0-0:

And with the quite optimistic asset of the well placed knight on c5 proving insufficient to generate enough initiative for the pawn, something that was not too hard to forecast by the way, Black fell back on 15...Bxg2, opening the g-file in front of his king...

3...c5 immediately is considered to be the problem for 3.Bf4 e6 4.e3, and this is the main response because after 4.c3 cxd4 5.cxd4 Qb6 is considered critical. Of course I replied 4.c3! in Game 9 relying on my secret preparation (to be unveiled next month) which was met by the rare 4...Qa5?! Intending to force White to recapture on d4 with his e-pawn, but after 5.Nbd2! cxd4 6.cxd4 Nc6 7.e3 Ne4 came 8.a3! My trademark, threatening b4, when Black soon got outflanked, having just lost time and disorganized his pieces with his unsophisticated aggressiveness.

Bonus Game 10 reached exactly the same position as game 8 but with reversed colours after 1.b3 d5 2.e3! Bf5 except for the detail that Black had spared the h-pawn move! With the Londoner as usual centrally outplaying the opponent, I thought it was something interesting enough to be mentioned in this update despite the odd ECO code...

I have 100% so far in FIDE-rated games with (1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6) 3.Bf4, if you exclude a transposition and the emotion of the 1st time... Thus making the link with what Tony covered last month, would you seriously like me to consider 3.e3 in this position instead??!

See you soon, Eric