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A small interlude this month with the updating of another system with the bishop on f4, the Neo-London 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4, before going back to black fianchetto systems.
Indeed, my coverage of this capital system in these columns seems to have contained a few snags that seriously needed mending ... preferably before the end of the year because of their topicality.

    Download PGN of November '07 d-Pawn Specials games

    Neo-London 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 [D00]

    I was aware of this when I prepared a survey for the NIC Yearbook 83, considering the amount of literature that had blossomed on the subject since my last update, with the respective authors superbly ignoring each other!

    The correction of Miles' old idea of 2...c5 3.e3 Nc6 4.c3 Qb6 5.Qb3 Bf5 6.Qxf5! Qxb2 7.Qxd5 Qxa1 8.Qb5 is essential for the variation:

    Things have advanced greatly in this line just recently and White made short work of his opponent in the first 3 games, although in 3 different styles: Concentrating on Black's trapped queen in Game One, grabbing pawns to make up for the exchange in Game 2, and taking everything at the cost of his majesty bravely taking a good breath of fresh air in Game 3.

    In spite of the complications and because of the crucial improvement 8...a6 9.Qe4! Nf6 10.Qc2, the tendency is that the ball is in Black's camp now, likely to stay there, I am ready to bet.

    Unless... Black plays pushes his e pawn first 6...e5! 7.dxe5 Bf5:

    This is GM Rainer Knaak's suggestion in Chessbase Magazine 113 that came out in August 2006 under the title "A finess (sic) that does not work" and admitting it was his Fritz's second choice: "Black would like to win back the pawn; White will find it hard to hang on to it because he would first need to protect e3. In many lines Black makes it a real sacrifice with ...f6."

    Game 4 rapidly deviated from his analysis anyway, when White did not hang on to the pawn and emerged out of the opening slightly worse.

    Game 5 is important as it illustrates an interesting feature of playing ...c5 before ...Nf6, in the order of moves 3.Nc3 Nc6!? 4.e3 (This position with the knight on f6 is well analysed and we have seen in Karlik-Polak that Black should play 4...Qa5! here, intending ...Ne4.) 4...cxd4!, the most simple, and a direct consequence of Black's move order preventing Nc3-b5 (if his knight stood on f6 instead of c6), because of the control of the e5-square, 5.cxd4 Bf5:

    immediately equalizing because of the poorly placed knight on c3 in this structure, and as 6.Nb5? leads nowhere due to 6...Rc8.

    Still, there is the Morris-Winants gambit 3.e4!?:

    About which I would not feel entirely secure as Black, even if know a lot about it. Hence the reserves I am entitled to express about playing ...c5 before ...Nf6 which, incidentally, will rejoin my aim as I intend to show next month...

    3...Nc6! is the long-diagnosed problem of this sort of reversed Albin with the useful extra-tempo of Bf4 for White: Black has a way to favourably decline the offer precisely by taking advantage of the exposed position of the bishop.

    This makes me think of this important line of the Trompowsky I examined a few months ago: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 d5 4.f3 Nf6 5.e4 ( 5.Nc3 e6! 6.e4 Bb4) 5...dxe4 6.Nc3 which is refuted by 6...Nd5! when instead the acceptance of the Greek present is just too dangerous.

    Then Game 6 showed up a big problem for White over the board that both Greenfeld in NIC Yearbook 78 and I had spotted after 4.cxd5 Qxd5 5.Nc3 Qxd4! 6.Nd5 e5 7.Nc7+ Kd8 8.Nxa8 exf4 9.Ne2? Qd6! 10.Nxf4 Bd7:

    But this had apparently gone unnoticed by the Belgian specialist with the white pieces...

    It seems this game had a big negative impact on the 'theoretical moral' of the most prominent regular advocate of the Neo-London, since a few rounds later, in the same tournament, he revised his ambitions with his e-pawn, just devoting it to the classical role of a d-pawn support with 3.e3...

    Nevertheless, he was back with a vengeance 8 months later with Game 7's better looking 9.Nf3 Qxd1+ 10.Rxd1 Bd7 11.Bb5 (improving on Klaric's 12 year old reference 11.Bc4) and the interesting new idea 11...Kc8 12.0-0 f6 13.a4 Be7 14.Re1 Bg4 15.a5 intending to install a nail on b6 and open the a-file in return for leaving the a8-knight to its destiny:

    Seemingly by force, however, it eventually only led to a dead drawn opposite-coloured bishop ending after a precise defensive sequence, which, by the way, was not so difficult to work out.

    Thus, in order for my views to prevail (2...Nf6! instead of 2...c5!?), I would have liked to put forward a more convincing case for White than the position arising after French n°5 Christian Bauer's suggestion of 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5!? 3.e4!? Nc6! 4.dxc5!? but unfortunately, not necessarily sharing his motivations, this is the best I have found for White!

    Black correctly reacted to this, in Game 8 by 4...Nf6! 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bg3 e5:

    Soon leading to the recapture of the c5-pawn, but the last word might not have been said here, yet...

    See you soon, Eric