ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
'Theory' is not so important in the various London systems.
What matters, for both sides actually, is the fastest natural development with the maximum activity for the pieces, the overall understanding of the set-up and the side knowledge of some useful "d-Pawn Special" themes such as: the promising attacking structures, the attack on the b2 pawn by ...Qb6, the status of the bishop on f4, against both the knight attack ...Nh5 and the exchange proposal ...Bd6 in the case of the Nimzo-London, with extension to the historical London when a black pawn stands on d5 as considered in this update.
This is why I tend to comment so many of my own games in this column, simply because I understand and can therefore explain them better!

Download PGN of September '08 d-Pawn Specials games

London System [A47]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bf4 b6 4.e3 Bb7 5.h3?!:

On the occasion of this virgin subject, I nevertheless reopened both references which were kindly sent to me free of charge by their respective editors: "Win with the London system" Sverre Johnsen/Vlatko Kovacevic (J-K) Gambit 2005 and "Dealing with d4 deviations" John Cox (JC) Everyman 2006. So I was very pleased to observe that in the former we had the same punctuation as for 5.Bd3! and the text move, however for completely different reasons which will be clarified in game 5.

5...Be7 A bit deceptively though, it is not a surprise for me to find Super Grandmasters, and even an ephemeral World n°1 in the live rankings, with flawed preparation in our openings! Otherwise, with perhaps more time on the clock he may have come up with the annoying double-fianchetto set-up beginning with the flexible 5...d6! examined last month. 6.Bd3 (Normal service resumed) 6...0-0 7.0-0 d6 8.Bh2 c5 9.c3 Nc6 10.Qe2:

White's idea to postpone the development of his queen's knight as long as possible was probably directed against the idea ...c7-c5-cxd4 when he would have the nice c3 square at his disposal. On the other hand it does nothing to counter the typical Nimzo idea of installing a knight on e4 supported by the f-pawn. The usually imaginative Ukrainian could have been inspired to go for it since after 10...Rc8 11.Nbd2 controlling the e4 square eventually, he seemed stumped by the white set-up and never really entered Game One; therefore attesting to the considerable potential of some d-pawn specials concepts... in good hands though, presumably not mine!

6...c5 7.c3 cxd4 8.exd4?! 0-0 9.0-0 Ba6! The plan that refutes the white set up, as in Topalov against Kamsky at the time, about which it has to be remarked that the order of moves 8...Ba6! 9.Bxa6 Nxa6 10.0-0 0-0 is probably even more precise. 10.Bxa6 Nxa6 11.Qd3 Qc8 12.Nbd2 Qb7:

An ideal square for the black queen following the exchange of the light-squared bishops; a prelude to a minority attack that proved powerful in Game Two.

3...c5 (As the rounds passed, the noose was tightening around Grachev's conception of the Nimzo-London...) 4.e3 More than a hint this time! However, Black again let the occasion pass to immediately alter the pawn structure to his advantage with 4...cxd4! as per Topalov. As a matter of fact, he did it only after 4...b6 5.c3 Be7 6.h3 0-0 7.Nbd2 (The move I would have been happy to play, or 7.Bd3 Ba6 8.0-0 when 7.Bh2 at least would have pursued a certain White logic) 7...cxd4 8.exd4 (Still I would prefer 8.cxd4!? although Black's problems, uniquely linked to the poor positioning of his queen's knight, do not appear insurmountable after the same continuation) 8...Ba6! 9.Bxa6 Nxa6 10.Qe2 Qc8 11.0-0 Qb7. Reaching the same position as in the previous game with White to move, and his queen possibly slightly inferiorly placed on e2 than d3; (the difference in the move count being solely due to the direct exchange ...Bc8-a6 instead of ...Bc8-b7-a6 against Bf1-d3, consequently without alteration of the game tempo) The 12th World champion's type of position but apparently not the 14th former challenger's in this Game 3.

Reutilizing the order of moves of Game 2, an instructive illustration of the virtues of the recapture towards the centre is presented in counter-argument by 8.cxd4!, at least this poses Black more problems than 8.exd4, as testified by last month's update on the one hand, and the way White got outplayed in both previous games on the other. 8...Nc6 9.a3 0-0 10.Nc3 d5 11.0-0 Rc8 12.Qe2 Na5:

This position without any pawn rupture may be leaning towards equality (and I know how it feels on the other side!), but all the same it is more pleasant and easier to play for White. I cannot demand more from my openings. Black actually could have felt uncomfortable in Game Four after the correct 13.Rc1! without fear of any intrusion on b3 but with the idea Nb5 which is not so easy to meet.

3...b6 4.e3 Bb7 5.h3?! c5 6.c3 d5 Therefore transposes to the parsimonious J-K refutation of White's 5th move inaccuracy given as 5...d5! with the following comment: "followed by ...Bd6 is a comfortable version of the double d-pawn positions for Black, as h3 is normally not very useful for White in those lines". Which is quite right: I would prefer to have this pawn one square further forward as in game 8 with the black bishop on e7, preventing Bf4-g5 and therefore threatening to catch my bishop. However, Black's 2 spent tempi with ...b7-b6, ...Bc8-b7 (and possibly the unavailability of the b6 square for the queen as well as the early weakening of the c6 square, in comparison to the main line of the last 3 games) provide room for improvement. As a result, White somehow managed to mount a dangerous attack in Game 5 after 7.Nbd2 Bd6 78.Ne5!?.

London System [D02]

3...d5 immediately is a widespread response, at least at club level, with the continuation 4.e3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Be7 instead of the more testing 7...Bd6 I will deal with next time. "Normally a bit passive, but it's often justified if Black, as here, threatens to win the bishop-pair by ...Nh5." write J-K who recommend 7.Ne5!? and even blessed it with an exclamation mark, but once again for the wrong reason! On the other hand the more flexible 7.Bd3 is a move I cannot objectively recommend... unless you feel somehow that your happy-go-lucky, unprepared opponent, little acquainted with the subtleties of the London approach (especially from a Nimzo move order) is going to go 7...0-0? Because of 8.Ne5! as in Game 6.

Of course the concern is 7...Nh5 8.Be5 f6 (Or 8...Nxe5!? after which White should probably take back with 9.Nxe5 Nf6, with equality, instead of trying to take advantage of the knight on the edge by 9.dxe5 g6) 9.Bg3 g6!:

Since just as in similar positions with colors reversed, Black can probably wait before taking the bishop, therefore asking the opponent to show his cards first. Capturing immediately by 9...Nxg3? 10.hxg3 f5 gave White the hit 11.g4! in Game 7.


Appears to be my Novelty, with the idea 7...Ng4 8.Ne5 Ngxe5 9.dxe5 Qc7 10.Qg4 without fearing any ...g7-g5 this time, 10...g6 11.Nf3, and rather paradoxically, the knight appears inferiorly placed on c6 instead of d7 because of the impossibility to undertake the strong manoeuvre ...c5-c4, ...Nd7-c5!

In Game 8 Black, in unison with the most powerful engines, castled 'coffin side' by 7...0-0?! 8.Bd3! This is the point: White can quietly reinforce his position before bouncing into attack by Ne5, whereas Black has not such an adaptive opportunity at his disposal such as 8...Re8 - Deep Rybka3's second choice after the even more frightening 8...h6. Then only two moves are required to hit the beast's horizon and make it turn its coat in face of the danger of White's attack after 9.Ne5 Played at the most promising moment, of course.

See you soon, Eric