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After 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 I once wrote that 2...c5 was the refutation of White's early queen's bishop sortie, much as in the London system we examined some time ago with 2 Nf3 and 3 Bf4. It is not that clear however in this particular order of moves because of the central counter blow 3.e4!?, which is obviously impossible when the black knight already stands on f6.

Download PGN of November '05 d-Pawn Specials games

London [D00]

This is what we will focus on this month starting with 3 top level games just played this summer.

In each of them the 2600+ player of Black accepted the gambit by 3...dxe4 when the reply 4.d5 reaches a sort of Albin Counter-Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4, as recently brought again into the limelight by Morozevich; no losses, but wins against Sokolov in Wijk aan Zee, Topalov in Amber Monaco and Khenkin in Ordix Mainz just this year!!) with the reverse colours where the extra tempo provided by Bf4 can prove quite useful:

4...Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 follows, as the control of the b5-square (b4 for White) is usually very important with this pawn structure, especially with a bishop already on the b8-h2 diagonal in conjunction with the primary, though effective threat of Nb5.

Now White continues 6.Qe2 The difference with the 'normal' Albin Counter-Gambit, where Black usually plays the economical manoeuvre ...Nge7-g6 in order to win his pawn back, is that this would not be so effective in our case, after the thematic black kingside fianchetto, simply because the white queen's bishop is out of c1, and defending b2 no more.

In Game one Black decided to hang on to the pawn with 6...Bf5, which meets 7.0-0-0 as, on the other hand, the extra-tempo does fit well with this alternative, aggressive and rapid development, which more or less implies the idea of renouncing regaining the e4-pawn, but rather 'completely' sacrifices a pawn with the move f2-f3 as in a BDG, in order to develop the kingside and maintain Black's backward e-pawn under pressure.

This is exactly how the game went and although Black eventually managed to shut the 'deadly diagonal' h2-b8 (precisely, considering White's second move!) by returning the pawn, he had already given too much space and too many squares to be able to resist an invasion.

As a direct consequence of White's move order compared to a 'Black' Albin Counter-Gambit, Game two saw the opponent freeing his often backward e-pawn by 6...e6!?, with the idea of getting rid of the annoying thorn on d5 which restricts his space, controls important squares right in his own camp whilst splitting it into two parts.

The game continued 7.0-0-0 Qa5 8.d6?!, which is thematic in order to weaken the dark squares but more often after Black's preliminary ...g6.

Unfortunately, it only required a couple of moves for Back to surround it and trade it against some less important belongings, in the meantime gaining the initiative supported by a strong pair of bishops which he eventually failed to convert into something more substantial.

Game three shows the standard procedure against the Albin, intending to give back the pawn in return for attacking chances against the enemy's fragile long castle by 6...g6:

Nevertheless, the extra-tempo seems to play a major role here and White could have got a pleasant position, in my opinion, after 7.0-0-0 Bg7 8.Nxe4 Nxe4 9.Qxe4 0-0, and some natural continuation like 10.Nf3 or Kb1, Qe3 but instead played the provocative (or careless) 10.Bc4?, which was based on a wrong estimation of the opposing attacking potential and after 10...Bf5 continued 11.Qf3? which is a bad square for the queen, taking the square from the king's knight but intending to prevent...

11...b5!! that came anyway! And could have sealed one of the most rapid defeats with White of the English n°3's young career!

If the transposition into an Albin reversed evidently offers White adequate compensation and good play thanks to the almost pure extra tempo of Bf4, then 3...Nc6!? is my wild recommendation with the concrete idea of taking advantage of the bishop's placement:

Against this White, in Game four, reacted with the no less surprising sequence 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.exd5 dxc3 6.dxc6, when Black, instead of the steady equalizing 6...Qxd1+ 7.Rxd1 dxc6 could not resist the temptation of 6...Qa5?, however, as incredible as it may seem, he could almost resign after 7.b4!!:

And, as a matter of fact, he soon did after confessing his greediness for the second time by 7...Qxb4 8.Qd5!.

4.cxd5 Qxd5 5.Nc3 Qxd4 6.Nd5 is the critical line as in Game five:

From a strategical point of view, there is not much to say about it. Its validity for Black revolves around the one and only theme of being able (or not) to win a trapped enemy knight in the corner.

Instead of 6...e5, which just allowed him to survive on the razor's edge in the game, I suggest the enhanced idea 6...Bd7!, winning a tempo compared to the game that could prove crucial.

Trompowsky [A45]

The remaining three games conclude the study of the Trompowsky ending tabia that arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 c5 4.f3 Qa5+ 5.c3 Nf6 6.Nd2 cxd4 7.Nb3 Qb6 8.Qxd4 Nc6 9.Qxb6 axb6 10.Nd4 e5 11.Nxc6 exf4 12.Nd4:

In the main line featured in Game six, 12...Bc5 13.Nh3 Nd5 14.e4 fxe3 15.Bc4 Nf6!? is another stone thrown into the Trompowsky garden in the form of another even stronger novelty played this year, coming after Volokitin's impressive 15...Nb4 that we saw last month (which according to Ron Langeveld was actually first played by Borowiec, but even before that was proposed by Peter Wells in his 2003 book) which replaced the older and inferior 15...Nc7.

Game seven proposes the interesting alternative 12...Ra5!?, which is destined to prevent any advance of White's e-pawn while controlling some important squares along the 5th rank and directly mobilizes the queen's rook rather than more 'naturally' via the 8th which is always a concern for Black in this line because of his shut-in bishop on c8:

The game logically continued 13.g3 Bd6 14.Kf2 0-0 15.Nh3 Nd5 16.Nxf4 Nxf4 17.gxf4 Bxf4 18.e3 Bg5:

This should not be quite sound though, had White now played 19.Bb5! returning the poor "fugitive" to the prison while usefully starting to pressurize the opposing d-pawn isolani.

The last of the various tries to hamper White liberating his e-pawn (all of them appearing a lot less convincing than the 12...Bc5/12...Nd5 complex in the end) is represented by Game eight's 12...g6 13.g3 Bd6 14.Nb5! Bb8 15.gxf4 Bxf4 16.e3, but it failing to fulfil its duty as it eventually just transposed into a worse version of last month's 12...d5 13.g3 (13.e3!)

  • London System
  • Trompowsky

  • Till next month! Eric Prié.