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Studying a complicated line at home with the benefit of a computer and having it in front of you on a proper board are two completely different things!

Download PGN of October '11 d-Pawn Specials games

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London System 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3 [A45]

The main black attempt at directly refuting the London System (which is annoyingly gaining popularity!) provides a good case for this:

Following 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3 Qb6 4.Nc3 Qxb2 5.Nb5 Nd5:

White can take the draw immediately with Rb1-Ra1, but at this stage he runs no risk trying 6.a3 (although this allows a great deal of complications resulting from 6...Nc3?!) However, 6...a6! 7.Rb1 Qa2 is now critical, where White has to decide between the draw (which means that White, playing 3.d5 on a regular basis, may change this choice and opt for 3.e3 against higher rated opposition when not eager to win!?) and burning his bridges by 8.Qc1!? axb5 9.Ra1 Qxa1 10.Qxa1, when 10...Nc6!:

Must be best as it deprives White of the possibility of Bxb8 (which is essential in case of 10...b4?), whereas 10...Nxf4!? 11.exf4 c4 is interesting too. Now 11.dxc5?! is an obvious first try. However, the position resulting from 11...b4 12.a4 Nc3 13.Nf3 Rxa4 14.Qc1 f6! proved unpleasant for White in Game 1, with ...e7-e5 coming to exile his London bishop to an observer state on g3, followed by ...Bxc5 adding a second pawn in Black's favour to the material ratio of pieces vs queen.

The better 11.Bxb5 was tried 3 days after, with the idea 11...cxd4 12.Bxc6 bxc6 13.Qxd4, planning to sac the bishop on e5 (likewise if Black had recaptured on c6 with his d-pawn) after 13...f6 with an altered material ratio of queen + pawn vs rook and two bishops (theoretically favouring Black this time...) but with the initiative and the h8-rook out of play for quite a while. Black refrained from doing so in Game 2, which went 14.c4 Nxf4 15.Qxf4 e5!? 16.fxe5 Bxa3 17.exf6 0-0:

leading to inhuman complications. Yet the machine stays cool and shows why it artificially tends to add a hint of decimals in favour of the queen in his evaluation...

5...Na6 is inferior to 5...Nd5 as it takes away the possibility of attacking the Nb5 by ...a7-a6 from Black. As a result White could then deal more annoyingly with the opposing queen's encirclement in Game 3.

Having found nothing better than the forced draw, I had decided to try 4.b3?! should the line reappear for the 3rd time in a week. The two interesting points I found in its favour were the possibility of direct refutations to turn against the opponent, as well as what I reckon is the most important factor nowadays (especially in Round Robins where the players do not have 2 or more rounds to play each day...): to take the 'preparation initiative' by hitting with the first surprise.

As he told me after game 4, the future winner of the tournament had one such surprise ready for me... which did not prevent him from reacting with the naturally good kingside fianchetto set-up following 4...d6 5.Nf3 g6.

4...e6 is another acid test that White roughly passed in game 5, watching out for the motive ...Nd5, ...cxd4, ...Bb4+.

4...d5! is the main concern, however:

for a tempo actually makes a big difference in comparison with the line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c6 4.e3 Qb6 5.b3! c5?!, for instance. In game 6 anyway, the free black queen's bishop dealt the fatal blow after White opened lines, including the fragile a5-e1 diagonal (after the development of his queen's bishop to f4 and the move b2-b3) when he was already behind in development.

London System 2.Bf4 c5 3.d5/Trompovsky 2...c5 [A45]

3.d5 Qb6 4.Nc3 Qxb2 5.Bd2 Qb6 6.e4 d6 7.f4 e5 8.f5! Was offered a topical test at grandmaster level in game 7, and continued 8...Be7 9.g4 h6 10.h4 Na6!:

A new idea found over the board (although after almost an hour's blindfold thought due to an inappropriate triggering of a fire alarm...), and stronger than our previous references 10...Qd8 or 10...a6.

London System v KID [A48]

As for game 8, featuring another favourite white gambit, but this time with the London VS KID which we shall return to next month, it materialized a long and decisive analysis I had given here almost one year ago (see the February '11 Update), almost right up until the end... beneficially assisted by the computer this time!

An annoying game, but at least I learnt a lot about the fight of rook against knight! ;)

See you soon, Eric

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