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Continuing the update of the main d-Pawn Specials weapon against 1...d5 (the Neo-London System) as first theorized by GM Vlado Kovacevic in the early eighties, this month shows the exceptional longevity of what were, basically, at the time, fresh, non engine assisted, concepts and we examine what masters have done with them nowadays ... or alas, more often, have forgotten what to do with them!

Download PGN of March '09 d-Pawn Specials games

London System [D00]

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3 Nc6 4.c3 Bf5!? - The development of the queen's bishop prior to the king's knight, as logical as it may appear, has rarely been seen so far in Master practice. 5.Qb3?! is the only idea to challenge it, especially in the light of last month's update with the inclusion of Nd2+Nf6 ... except that White should start with 5.Nd2 first, since after 5...Qd7 6.Nd2 f6!?:

was the original feature of Black's move order in Game One. Instead, he could have immediately equalized, at the very least, by the thematic 6...c4!

In order to avoid this concern, stigmatized last month, after 4...Nf6 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.Nf3 e6, White tried 7.Be2!? in Game Two with the idea 7...Qb6 8.Nh4!, where Black does not have ...Bg4 at his disposal anymore:

Hence 7...h6 8.0-0 Be7?! (This is the last time for 8...Qb6) which gave White a strong initiative after 9.dxc5! Bxc5 10.Nd4.

4...Qb6 5.Qb3 c4?! is presently supposed to be dubious for Black, and this actually proved to be so in Game Three after 6.Qc2 Nf6 7.Nd2 g6 8.e4! This enhances the advantage of the 'Neo-London' by comparison to the 'old school London': The knight on d2 (instead of f3) not only prevents ...Bf5, by alleviating the pressure against b2, but also enables this central thrust, which undermines the support of the c4-pawn.

But what if, instead of 7...g6, Black profits from the move order to chase his opponent's best piece, his London bishop, by 7...Nh5 ?! Then comes a well known manoeuvre in this section... 8.Bg5! h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Be2!:

"With a big White advantage" estimated White quite officially some 26 years ago. It quickly proved effective in Game Four following 10...Ng7 11.Bg3 Nf5 12.Nf3 Bg7 13.e4!

In this same line, 11....Bf5 produced a much more recent attempt to improve Black's play that fell flat in Game 5 after 12.e4! Bg6 13.h4, emphasizing the unhappy position of the g7-knight.

It seems I have delayed (until now) the study of an important possibility signalled at the time in Informant 35: 5...Nf6 6.Nd2 Bf5?! 7.dxc5!, which is why I have constantly examined Bf5 first... On the further 7...Qxb3 8.axb3 e5 9.Bg3 Bxc5:

In return for only one 'bad' piece (the bishop on g3, although exerting some pressure on the opposing centre...) White generates considerable activity on the queenside, almost out of the blue, by opening the a-file for his rook and winning squares there using his doubled b-pawn, by 10.b4 Bd6 11.b5 Ne7 12.Nf3 Nd7 13.Be2 f6 14.0-0. Now, instead of the poor 14...Kf7?! that allowed the attacking 15.e4! in Game 6, Black should have castled short, therefore reaching the critical position of this sub-line.

However 10.Nf3! is the most canny, not fearing the 10...d4?! that lost a pawn in Game 7. Since 10...Bd6? is also just bad on account of 11.Bb5! Nd7 12.Nd4!, it should quickly transpose above after 10...Nd7 11.b4 Bd6. Then 12.Bb5 happens to be J-K's suggestion for the mainline ... when 12...0-0 is an obvious concern, that they do not even consider.

Well... as for me, I reckon b5 is the place for the pawn, and not the bishop, for maximum expansion on the queenside in order to put pressure on Black's a-pawn (in return for the concession of the centre). As in the case of the 10.b4 Bd6 11.Bb5?!, that was countered by 11...0-0! 12.Nf3 Nh5 in Game 8.

Game 9 illustrates another example of the freshness of Kovacevic's analysis, with the closely-related attempt 6...Qxb3 7.axb3 Nh5. The antidote 8.Bc7! intending Bb6 to profit from the pin on the a-file, had already been found by him almost 3 decades ago:

instead of this, the game continued 8.dxc5!? e5 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Be2 Ng7 12.Bg3 f5 13.h3 Bxc5 with complications.

6...e6 might therefore be best for Black, to temper the inopportune impetuosity of his previous move, however it led to passivity as usual in game 10 after 7.h3! preserving the bishop, and White, who does not have to fear ...c5-c4, Qb3-c2, ...Bc8-f5, is simply better thanks to his superior bishops. This is similar to what Black can get against the 1.d4 d5 Colle when White refuses to transpose into the normal lines of the Slow Slav.

Interestingly this time, the old recommendation 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Bc7 is certainly what we would call now a 'mouse slip':

because of 8...c4! with the idea 9.Bxb6? Bd6 followed by ...Nd7.

See you soon, Eric