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These days those who like to follow up 1 d4 with Bf4 also have a key issue to ponder: to throw in Nc3 or not throw in Nc3? Of course, it does all depend on the position, since White doesn’t have to rush with Nc3 and enter the standard Jobava-Prié Attack. Instead, many hold back on Nc3 for a timely moment, as shown by Gukesh and others this month.

Download PGN of October ’23 d-Pawn Specials games

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The London: 2...e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nc3 [A46]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 e6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 Nc6 a traditional London player would no doubt go 5 c3, but the Jobava-Priéesque 5 Nc3!? is pretty tempting here. Then 5...cxd4 6 exd4 Bb4 7 Bd3 0-0 8 0-0 sees White’s thematic moves flowing rather easily:

Objectively Black should be OK here, but he can easily drift into trouble as was quickly the case in Banh Gia Huy - Shahil, D, where 8...Ne7!? 9 Nb5! zoned in on the potential dark-square weaknesses. Check out too this position from there at move 15:

White now channelled his inner Fischer-Petrosian and went in for 15 Nxc7!? Qxc7 16 b4 with a pleasant edge, but would you have made such an exchange or kept pieces on? It’s a tricky call.

The London: 2...e6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 Be7 [A47]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 e6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 Be7 what moves occur to you?

Did 5 h4!? make the shortlist? It was seen in Gukesh, D - Kevlishvili, R no less, where 5...b6 6 Nc3! (that move again!) 6...cxd4 7 Nfxd4! left White with a souped-up version of an Open Sicilian.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 c5 4 e3 d5 5 Nc3 [D00]

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 d5 White doesn’t have to go 5 Nbd2 or 5 c3 as, yes, 5 Nc3!? is also a valid option:

This Jobava-Prié approach angles for 5...Nc6? 6 Nb5 which was even seen in a Troff-Oparin blitz game, while we’ll see American GM Kayden Troff in action after 5...Bd6 6 dxc5! Bxf4 7 exf4 in Troff, K - Womacka, M.

The London: 2...c5 3 e4 [D00]

All this early Nc3 made me think of the Morris Gambit, 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 c5 3 e4!? dxe4 4 d5, which Anton Korobov has dabbled in of late. 4...Nf6 5 Nc3 g6!? has previously been criticised on ChessPub, but seems perfectly respectable these days, with 6 Nb5 Na6 7 d6 Be6 8 c3 already all rather messy:

Black has a few decent options here, including the simple 8...Bg7 of Korobov, A - Rakhmangulova, A, a game which concluded with a slightly surprising repetition.

The Jobava-Prié Attack: 3...c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 a6 [D00]

Both 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Nf6 3 e3 c5 4 Nc3 and 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 do, of course, lead to the same position where 4...cxd4 5 exd4 a6 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Ne5 Bd7 remains an important line:

Here 8 g4!? is likely critical, with my old suggestion of 8 Qd2 e6 9 f3 getting a test in Fiorito, F - Brodsky, D, which quickly became a cautionary tale for Jobava-Prié practitioners as White fixated on the c5-square at the cost of ignoring the more important battle for control of e5.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 Bg4 [D02]

You may sigh ‘At last!’ as we come on to a more traditional handling of 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 d5 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 Nc6 with 5 Nbd2, although after 5...Bg4 going 6 Bb5!? instead of 6 c3 is a recent trend.

It was seen in Eljanov, P - Parligras, M, from the new Bundesliga season, an instructive encounter in which White took almost every opportunity to ask questions of Black and was eventually rewarded with the full point.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 e3 c5 4 Nf3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 e6 6 c3 Be7 [D02]

After 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 e6 6 c3 Be7 White must be aware of the possibilities of 7 Bd3 Nh5 and 7 h3 Bd6!?. Perhaps as a result, Eric’s old favourite 7 Ne5!? was seen in a game from the Russian Championship:

Here 7...Nd7 is very sensible and was met by 8 h4!? no less in Esipenko, A - Sychev, K, White going on to win, albeit only largely because Black opted for an overly ambitious approach involving queenside castling.

Will we see more London players flicking in an early Nc3 or even h4 next month?

Until then, Richard

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