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It’s hard to believe that it’s almost a year since the first Magnus Carlsen Invitational (OK, some Subscribers may wish to correct me and say that for many, it’s unfortunately been a very long year). The second took place this month, staged as part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. While Anish Giri’s success will live long in the memory for many, d-pawn Systems fans also had much to celebrate with the London making a welcome return to elite praxis, in no small part due to the efforts of Levon Aronian, Alireza Firouzja and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Download PGN of March ’21 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bh4 c5 4 f3 g5 [A45]

Before we debate whether it’s fair to view the glut of London Systems this month as fulfilling the common phrase that ‘You wait for ages for a bus and then two come along together’, we should catch up with developments after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4. Luke McShane is the latest convert to 3 h4, while other grandmasters have preferred 3 Bh4 as a surprise weapon. After 3...c5 4 f3 g5 5 fxe4 gxh4 6 e3 a fairly critical position is reached:

As subscribers should be well aware, the critical move in this tabiya is 6...Bh6 and not 6...Qb6?! on account of 7 Nc3!, as we’ll see in Indjic, A - Amin, B.

The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 c5 4 f3 Qa5+ 5 c3 Nf6 6 d5 Qb6 7 Bc1 [A45]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 White’s main move still very much remains 3 Bf4, with the old main line 3...c5 (we’ll also see Alireza Firouzja in action against 3...d5) 4 f3 Qa5+ 5 c3 Nf6 6 d5 Qb6 7 Bc1 being debated twice in the TCEC.

Notably both games proceeded not with 7...e6 which has been considered critical, but 7...d6 8 e4 e6 9 c4 g6 10 Ne2 Bg7 11 Nec3. White’s knights are perfectly set up for an exchange on d5 (the one on b1 would love to emerge on c4), but Black doesn’t have to rush to resolve the central tension, as we’ll see in Stockfish-LCZero.

The London: 2...c5 3 d5 [A45]

A critical test of the move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 remains 2...c5 when you may remember after 3 d5 d6 4 Nc3 a6 5 a4 e5 Magnus Carlsen winning a most instructive encounter against Ian Nepomniachtchi with 6 Bd2. Perhaps matters aren’t so clear there, or at least 6 Bg5 Be7 7 Nf3 was preferred in Firouzja, A - Nepomniachtchi, I:

Once again, the Russian superstar couldn’t resist seizing space and 7...e4!? quickly led to a position where Black enjoyed decent counterplay.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 e3 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nd2 [D00]

Another key test of the modern London was seen with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 d5 3 e3 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nd2 Qb6 6 Qb3 c4 7 Qc2 g6 in Vachier Lagrave, M - Karjakin, S.

Here 8 e4! is the critical move, as we’ve covered before and Vachier Lagrave had previously employed, whereas after the strange 8 Ne2?! Bf5 9 Qc1 Bd3 only Black was able to be better.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 [D02]

We must also examine another important tabiya for the modern-day London, 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 c5 (Levon Aronian has also been in action after 3...Bf5 4 c4, as we’ll see in the notes) 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2:

Here White has gone Ngf3 rather than c3, which allows both sides some extra options. 5...Bg4 is considered in Aronian, L - Firouzja, A, and should be fine for Black, while the critical 5...Qb6 6 dxc5 Qxb2 7 Rb1 Qc3 8 Bb5 e6 9 0-0 Be7 is seen in Firouzja, A - So, W:

Here White’s attempts had been based around 10 Ne5, but a good case can also be made for 10 e4!?, not that the advance appeared to catch the well-prepared new U.S. citizen by surprise.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 e6 5 c3 Bd6 [D02]

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 c5 4 c3 offers transposition to the Exchange Slav, but Black most certainly doesn’t have to accept, with 4...e6 5 e3 Bd6 6 Bg3 Qc7!? reaching a relatively topical position of late:

This small nudge with the queen prepares ...Nbd7, appears in decent health for Black so far, and certainly 7 Nbd2 Nbd7 8 Bd3 0-0 9 e4?! appeared too aggressive from White in Vachier Lagrave, M - Aronian, L.

Will the London buses keep arriving into next month?

Until then, Richard

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