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We’ll examine a number of topical and fairly critical lines in the London System this month. Look out especially for some fine meistering from Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and a humdinger of a scrap between young Nihal Sarin and Etienne Bacrot

Download PGN of November ’20 d-Pawn Specials games

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

One critical test of a 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 move order is 2...c5 when 3 d5 d6 4 Nc3 e5 5 Bd2 e4 was seen in Vachier-Lagrave, M - Oparin, G.

With the a-pawns both advanced, Magnus Carlsen opted for h3 here, but the French no.1 went for the immediate 6 Bf4 and after 6...h6 7 e3 Bf5 8 Nge2 Be7 9 Ng3 Bh7 he had to push 10 h4. However, the position is deceptive and it’s pretty easy to quickly land up in trouble as Black in this structure, as the game most certainly demonstrated.

The Jobava-Prié Attack: 2...g6 3 Nc3 [A45]

One very modern London line is, of course, 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 h4 when we’ll see a number of developments in Gumularz, S - Marchesich, G. There White met 5...h5 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Be2 c5 with 8 dxc5, but after 8...Nbd7 9 Nb5 Nxc5! Black was fine:

Indeed, it’s not so easy for White to improve on the sequence 10 Nc7 Rb8 11 Nb5 Ra8 and in the game 12 Nc7 Rb8 13 Ne8? Nxe8 14 Bxb8 Bxb2 gave Black too much play for the exchange.

Black doesn’t have to go 3...d5, with 3...Bg7 usually leading to Pirc waters. 4 Qd2 gave the play some independence in Thorfinnsson, B - Sigfusson, S, where 4...c5!? 5 dxc5 Qa5 6 e4 Qxc5 was Dragon-like:

The position might also be compared with a line of the Trompowsky and doesn’t seem too bad a version for Black.

The London: 2...g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 e3 d6 5 Be2 [A48]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 e3 Bg7 4 Nf3 d6 White doesn’t have to push the h-pawn, the alternative being 5 Be2!? when 5...Nh5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 is critical:

Black flicked in 7...c5 8 c3 ahead of going 8...g5 9 Nfd2 Nf4 10 exf4 gxh4 in Tristan, L - Oliveira, S, where White immediately went astray with 11 Bg3?.

The London: 2...e6 3 e3 [A45]

Sometimes after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 e6 3 e3 Black fianchettos without delay, but 3...b6 allows White the independent option of 4 Qf3!? d5 5 Nc3:

This is clearly like the Jobava-Prié Attack for White and can easily become a promising version of it, as we’ll see in Vaishali, R - Kravtsiv, M.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 e6 4 e3 b6 [D02]

We must also examine another rising Indian star’s games. Nihal Sarin twice went 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Nf6 3 e3 in the recent online version of the famous Cap d’Agde Chess Festival. Etienne Bacrot responded with 3...e6 4 Nd2 b6 5 Ngf3 Bb7 6 Bd3 Nbd7 7 0-0 Be7:

This is all very classical, but after the thematic 8 Ne5 White should have a small edge, as we’ll see in Nihal, S - Bacrot, E, where a classic battle soon developed between White’s kingside play and Black’s open lines on the queenside.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 e6 4 e3 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Bd6 7 Bg3 0-0 [D02]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Nd2 Bd6 5 Bg3 0-0 6 Bd3 b6 7 Qe2 c5 8 c3 Bb7 9 Ngf3 Nc6 10 Rd1 we’ll see a number of Gata Kamsky’s recent blitz games this month, while focussing on 10...Re8 11 e4 Be7 12 e5 Nh5 13 a3 a5 14 Nf1 in Hansen, SB - Bjerre, J.

This is a rather important position and one where it seems Black must prefer 14...Qc8! to 14...g6?, which quickly left him in some difficulties in this encounter from the Danish Championship.

Will we see more direct and successful attacks from White next month?

Until then, Richard

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