An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence: Part 2

A few weeks a go I published an article highlighting the idea of fighting the London System using principles derived from Chigorin’s Defence.  Given the prevalence of the London system in amateur circles and its reputation for being stodgy, I wanted to try to showcase a line that was more tactical and open in nature. The article proved very popular and promoted a lot of conversation, particularly around the 4. Nc3 lines.  Today we revisit this line to update our analysis and build upon this blossoming approach to fighting the London.

First of all, if you haven’t read my first article on this anti-London system then I strongly recommend that you do as it introduces the wider system and the four major lines of 4. Nf3, 4. e3, 4. cxd or 4.Nc3 and their respective merits. The rest of this article will not make much sense otherwise…

It was the 4. Nc3 lines that caused the most conversation online. IM Frendzas from Greece rightly questioned and then found a much superior line in the Nc3 variation that I had overlooked in the first article.  Lets take a look.

1.d4 d5 2. Bf4 Bf5 3. c4 Nc6 4. Nc3 e5?! 5. cxd5 Nb4

AL1

IM Frendzas puts our initial choice of 5…Nb4 in jeopardy

Previously I had suggested 6. e4 for white with a messy position but IM Frendzas found a nice alternative leading to a clear advantage for white, 6. Bxe5!

AL2a

“Go ahead, I don’t care about the c2 square!”

At first it seems astonishing that white can play this and voluntarily leave his king in the centre but as we will see, whites king is more than safe and ends up running to the queenside.

6…Nc2+ 7. Kd2 Nxa1 8. e4!

AL3

Black has won a rook and forced whites king to the centre yet unbelievably is in an inferior position

As IM Frendzas points out:

  • white has two pawns and a massive centre for the rook;
  • The knight on a1 is ultimately doomed;
  • The white king can run to the queenside (probably being the one to gobble the a1 knight)
  • Black is sorely lacking good squares to develop his pieces too.

Having debated the merits of the above position (the computer agrees too, giving an evaluation of between +0.7 and +0.9 for white) its hard to find much pleasure in the position for Black, no matter how great it initially looks.  The initial recommendation of 5…Nb4 doesn’t seem to be holding up  in the Nc3 lines so we need to find an alternative if our anti-London system is to survive past its infancy.

Line #4a – 4. Nc3 e5 5. cxd5

Having looked extensively at 5…Nb4 its too good for white.  Our subsequent discussions and analysis shows that the best line for black in this variation is likely to involve accepting weak pawns with the interesting move 5…exf4

AL4

Black accepts weak pawns to remove whites annoying black squared bishop

This leads to the almost forced line of 6. dxc6 bxc6 7. Qd2 Bd6 8. g3!

AL5

Black retains the bishop pair and has a clear plan of development

The position is unusual (something we wanted to achieve in our anti-London philosophy) and whites black squared bishop is no more.  The computer evaluation of this position gives us +0.3 so it would seem to give a playable position for black.

Conclusion

So our anti-London Chigorin system is still alive and kicking albeit with a necessary re-evaluation of the tricky Nc3 lines.  My thanks to everyone who has commented and contributed thus far but especially to IM Frendzas for his insight and analysis. So what is next?

Well despite almost all theory and top masters agreeing that after 2…Nf5 whites best response is 3.c4, I have still received a lot of comments from London players wanting to stick to their system with c3, e3 and the traditional London structure.  It seems that a third article may be required to look at blacks options in the event of the player of the white pieces proving particularly reticent to push the c pawn two squares.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence

The amateur chess world has been flooded recently with the London System, thanks in no small part I expect to GM Simon Wiliam’s excellent three part series on this opening (his three videos on “learn the London System have amassed 180,000 views on YouTube). If like me you are tired of facing this frustrating system as Black, then today I want to share an approach I have been working on based on principles taken from another of GM Simon William’s opening choices, the Chigorin Defence.

The approach I am advocating in this article is based upon the “copycat” sideline (as nicknamed by GM Williams) where Black initially mirrors White with 2…Bf5.

AL1

GM Simon William’s advocates that in this sideline of the London, Whites best response is to play 3. c4 with plans to play a quick Qb3 hitting b7.  Indeed, 2..Bf5 is the one move where GM William’s is advocating playing c4 (rather than c3).

So basically after 2…Bf5 White is left with two choices:

  1. Continue with the usual London System setup with c3, e3 and Bd3 leading to (in my opinion) a one way ticket to a boring line where Blacks moves are easy and Whites core plan is neutralised;
  2. Transpose into a Queens Gambit style position with 3. c4.

It was this “admission” to abandon the traditional London setup and enter a Queens Gambit type position that inspired me to try a response based on Chigorin’s Defence.

Chigorin Principles

The move order I am advocating involves transposing into a type of Chigorin defence with 3..Nc6 quickly followed by a later e5 break.

AL2

White is faced with four choices of which three score highly in practice for white, hmm.

From ChessBase, White scores the following:

  • Line #1 – nf3 – 77 games with a score of 67% and a computer eval of +0.20;
  • Line #2 – e3 – 49 games with a score of 71% (bare with me readers!) and a computer eval of +0.24;
  • Line #3 – cxd – 0 games (?!) with a computer eval of 0.00;
  • Line #4 – nc3 – 11 games with a score of 54% and a computer eval of +0.08;

Lets look at the main lines.

Line #1 – 4.Nf3

4…e5

AL3

Chigorin would be proud (if not slightly unsound…)

Played twice on Chessbase with a win and a draw for Black!

5. Nxe5 Nb4 6. Na3 f6?! 7. Nf3 dxc

AL4

Not exactly the nice closed systemic approach that most London players are hoping for out of the opening.

8. e3 Nd5 9. Bg3 Bb4+ 10. Nd2 c3!

AL5

The style of game and position is open and dynamic.  In the amateur chess world where the London is so pandemic at the moment, I would certainly like my chances of scoring well from here.

Line #2 – 4. e3

Again we stick to our Chigorin Principles with 4…e5

AL6

Played five times on ChessBase with a score of 60% for White:

5. dxe dxc

6. Nc3 (not 6.Bxc4 when the following equalises: 6…Qxd1 7. Kxd1 Rd8 + 8. Nd2 Be4 9. f3?! Bb4 fxe4 Rxd2+ =) 6… Bd3 7. Bxd3 cxd3 8. Nf3 Qd7 9. 0-0 Ne7

AL7

White has a pawn, and although not exactly the type of game that most London players want I’m not convinced by this line for Black. A better alternative to 5…dxc we can also look at 5… d4!

AL8

Whites best response here is 6. Nf3 followed by:

6…dxe 7. QxQ+ Rxd8 8. Bxe3 f6?! 9. exf Nxf6

AL9

A nice open board where Blacks loss of a pawn is compensated by open lines and great development.  The computer gives an evaluation 0.00 in this position.

Line #3 – cxd

Unbelievably no-one seems to have played this line.  The key seems to be the removal of the b1 knight before it gets chance to jump to c3.  As below:

4. cxd Qxd 5. Nf3 (protecting d4) Bxb1 6. Rxb1 e5!

AL10

This line appears to be the strongest so far for Black, breaking up the centre and resulting in very unlike London formations.

7. Nxe5 and the game can continue in a relatively equal position.

The mistake 7.dxe leads to advantage Black with the following two lines: 7. dxe Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Qxa2 OR the very nice line 7.dxe Qe4! 8. Qc1 Nb4 9. Ng5 Nd3+ 10. Kd1 Nxf2+ 11. Ke1 Nd3+ 12. Kd1 Qxf4 with a clear advantage to black (see below)

AL11

7. dxe appears to be a mistake as demonstrated with the resulting position above.

Line #4 – 4.Nc3

The lowest scoring line for White but it seems a sensible plan.  Lets strike again with e5 and see what happens:

4…e5 5. cxd Nb4 6. e4?! 

AL12

White is provoked into a very un-London like e4 leading to a messy position

6…exf5 7.exf4 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bb4 9. Bc4 Nf6

AL13

In this line both sides get a game as they say with active piece development.  But at risk of sounding like a broken record, how many London System players envisage this kind of position at the start of the match?

Conclusion

Obviously there is a greater level of depth required to this analysis in all these lines. For the sake of this article I have ventured only a handful of the most obvious positions. At the time of writing I have only tried this approach in online chess with modest / good results.  However, I am excited by its potential and the reason for this is threefold:

  • In the world of amateur chess where the London System has become so prevalent, psychology and clock time play a huge part in leading to mistakes.  By forcing confrontation in the centre of the board with an early Nc6 and e5, Black is ultimately saying to white “I will not play on your terms“.  I would predict this approach to the London will leave the amateur white player atleast feeling uncomfortable, if not worse on the clock as well.
  • From move two you are forcing the player of the white pieces to make a choice.  Either accept that their conventional setup of c3, e3 and Bd3 will be immediately contested in a dry boring, drawish opening line OR go into a range of tactical lines involving high-levels of early calculation.  This choice is not one that I would predict most players of the London System are thrilled about, particularly in amateur club circles.
  • I admit that their might be some queries around theoretical soundness but even the initial analysis shown in this article indicates that white is at best only half a pawn ahead in the best lines.  Personally a cost I am prepared to pay in order to gain the psychological and time advantages mentioned above.

When you put the above three points together, you can see that here we have a potentially interesting line against the London System with strong practical chances. Just like the real Chigorin Defence, another advantage is that many of Blacks moves are thematic in nature such as nc6, e5, Nb4 and Bb4.

I hope you have enjoyed this line and if you have any thoughts, or better still, venture this line in one of your games then please let me know. I would love to develop the theory on this Anti-London System further!


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Beating the London System from two pieces down

Today on the Bristol Chess Times we welcome new columnist Mike Fielding from North Bristol Chess Club.  A club well in the ascendancy who are rapidly growing and striving for Division 1 status, North Bristol have been combative all season.  

The London seems to be everywhere in amateur chess at the moment so here is a recent game from the recent North Bristol B vs. Hanham B clash where Black launches a lovely attack against this tough opening system.

[Event “North Bristol B Vs Hanham B”]
[Site “Ratepayers Arms, Filton.”]
[Date “2018.01.25”]
[White “Kevin Marshall”]
[Black “Michael Fielding”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A80”]

1. d4 f5

The Dutch isn’t something I usually play so I thought i’d trot it out to try to catch my opponent out.

2. Bf4

The infamous London System. Buckle up.

2… Nf6 3. e3 b6 4. Nf3 Bb7

In the Dutch it’s usually good to fianchetto the queen’s bishop if white doesn’t fianchetto the kingside bishop.

5. c3 e6 6. Be2 Be7 7. h3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Nd5

mf1

Probably not the best move but I though I can either kick his bishop back to a worse square or win the bishop pair.

9. Bh2 Na6 10. Qc2 Nf6 11. O-O-O c5 12. Rhg1 cxd4 13. exd4 Ne4 !?

mf2

13… Nb4 is a good try but I couldn’t really see where the knight was going. My main aim was now to hit hard and fast.

14. Rdf1 (14. Bxa6 Bxa6 15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Qxe4 )

This line would give up a pawn but the bishops become a bit better and I’ve got a simple plan to pawn storm the queenside. Although I’m a pawn down I’ve always thought the 2-2-2 pawn formation is favourable.

14… Rc8 15. Kd1 ?

The king is definitely asking for trouble coming back into the centre !

15. ..Nc7

I think I copped out a bit with this move. I always worry about missing tactics so I thought just reroute my knight back in and try to open up. Nb4 is better I’m sure.

16. Bd3 Nd5 !

Let the fun begin. Things soon start to open up with the king still in the centre.

17. Nxe4 fxe4 18. Bxe4 Nxc3+ 19. bxc3 Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Rxc3

mf3

This is the line I calculated. White’s king is stuck in the centre with the rest of his pieces stuck awkwardly in the corner. Now I just need to pile in.

21. Qb1 Ba3 22. Kd2 Qc8 23. Ng5 (23. Rc1 Bxc1+ 24. Rxc1 Rxc1 25. Qxc1 Qa6)

mf4

I though that white would give the exchange back to free his pieces. Even after the mass trade off I can’t help but feel I’d pick one of his loose pawns up.

23… g6 (23… Rf5 The better move. 24. Ne4 Rc4 25. Qd3 Bb4+ )

24. Ne4 Rc4 25. Kd3 ?

Stepping out the frying pan and into the fire.

…Qa6 26. Ke3 d5 27. Nd6 Rc3+ 28. Kd2 Rc6

mf5

28… Bb4 This moves to a forced checkmate. I applaud any human that would have found that over the board and had the bottle to play it! 29. Kd1 Rd3+ 30. Kc1 Bd2+ 31. Kc2 Rc8+ 32. Nxc8 Qc4+ 33. Kd1 Bb4+ 34. Ke2 Rb3+ 35. Kd1 Rxb1#

29. Qb5 Bb4+ !

mf6

Trading queens just ends up in a losing endgame for me. Sacrificing the second piece allows me to infiltrate and keep the advantage.

30. Qxb4 {Forced.} 30… Qxa2+ 31. Ke3 Rc2

Now the rook has infiltrated white has nowhere to go. Although I’m two pieces down they’re doing nothing. I can start to rearrange my pieces and cause more problems.

32. Qe1 {White cracks.}

32. Kd3 Rb2 Was the only try but white’s completely tied down. With perfect play white can probably wriggle out of it but with less than 20 minutes on the clock it’s easier said than done.

32… Qb3+ 0-1

mf7

Play through full game

So what can we learn from this game? Sometimes you’ve got to speculate to accumulate and quality over quantity. I know that computer evaluations should never be blindly followed but after the sacrifice on move 20 the silicone based overlords always had black as having an advantage, even when I was two pieces down the evaluation never went positive. Although my moves may not have been computer accurate it’s much harder to defend than attack and eventually that told..


Michael Fielding (1)

Mike Fielding

Mike can be found throwing the kitchen sink for North Bristol or hustling some backpackers in a remote youth hostel; trying to help turn North Bristol into a Division 1 side. Ex-Weymouth. UK NATO Chess Team 2015. MOD Chess Champion 2017.