Learning the Neo-London with Henrik Danielsen

11/13/2013 – Recently John Hartmann decided to rework his repertoire with the help of a new ChessBase "60 minute" video in which Icelandic GM Henrik Danielsen sketches a system for White after 1.d4 d5. His fundamental premise is that it is advantageous to play 2.Bf4, thereby delaying Nf3 – an approach called the "Neo-London". Hartmann describes what he learnt and how it influenced his tournament results.

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Learning the Neo-London

Review by John Hartmann

Danielsen, Henrik. Pressing Straight Away: The London System 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4. Digital download available from ChessBase or your favored chess seller. €9.90 at ChessBase.com; roughly $13.50 USD.

After a semi-debacle that was the US Open, I decided that I needed to change my opening repertoire and my approach to the opening. I played 1.d4 years ago as a rank amateur (ha!) but turned to 1.e4 in recent years, thinking that I could force myself to play more actively with King’s Pawn openings. (The jury is still out on that one.) What I need, I now think, is some kind of basic opening repertoire that would be solid, stable, and trustworthy, all while keeping me out of immediate opening peril and letting me set the initial terms of the game. This way I can spend more time working on my attacking skills and endgame play, and less time obsessing about opening preparation. I can add new variations as I go and as time permits, keeping the ‘solid’ lines as a baseline.

Eventually, I decided to take up the Trompowsky against 1…Nf6 and the Neo-London against 1…d5. This decision was, in no small part, prompted by the new Trompowsky book by Richard Pert, previously reviewed on this site, and also by Henrik Danielsen’s new video on the London available from ChessBase.

Steadfast readers will remember my admission of mixed emotions regarding chess databases, videos, etc. I find it hard to read books on the screen regardless of the platform, with the odd exception of fiction on an e-reader. (This difficulty may be changing, at least for chess books, with the introduction of E+Books; more on that in the coming weeks.) The study of individual games, however, is not too difficult, and opening work is in fact easier for me in ChessBase. I was therefore curious to test my reaction to videos viewed through ChessBase, and I thought Danielsen’s effort an interesting test case.

ChessBase has, wisely, added a line of ‘60 minute’ videos to their avalanche of DVDs and digital downloads. The idea is that 60 minutes should be enough to cover a specific opening variation or, in two videos by Mikhailchishin, a strategic concept. Most of the usual ChessBase authors appear in the series, and a lower price point makes up for the diminished content when compared to traditional ChessBase DVDs. I tend to think that this idea is a real winner for everyone involved. The price is better, the content is more focused, and busy players can spend their limited time learning exactly interests them.

Danielsen’s video sketches a opening system for White after 1.d4 d5. There is no explicit coverage of 1…Nf6, save those variations where Black combines …d5 and …Nf6, and there are no Dutch lines, etc, so this is not a complete solution for players of the White pieces. Still, what Danielsen manages to explain in just an hour is rather impressive, even if – as I will discuss – I have a few quibbles.

Danielsen’s fundamental premise in this video is that it is often advantageous for White to play 2.Bf4, thereby delaying Nf3. This approach, the so-called ‘Neo-London,’ was first advanced by Vlado Kovacevic in the 1980s, and has recently been championed by ChessPublishing’s Eric Prié before his current sabbatical from the site. (Kovacevic wrote a book on the London in 2005 with Svere Johnsen; see Prié’s less-than-thrilled review.) Prie’s analysis at ChessPublishing.com is stellar, and anyone wanting to play this system would do well to sign up there and study it.

Over the course of seven short videos Danielsen manages to boil the Neo-London down to its essentials, communicating them clearly and concisely. I was surprised at how much I was able to retain from the video presentation; for example, in this position:

Black has two main moves: 6…Be7 and 6…Bd6. Danielsen explains White’s responses to both in such a way that, even were I to forget the concrete analysis, I would be able to navigate my way to a playable position and perhaps even an advantage. Danielsen makes good use of graphics on the board (arrows, colored squares) to illustrate his points, and he makes the ideas underlying his recommendations quite clear.

Danielsen packs an admirable amount of content into his allotted hour. There are a couple of points, however, where he really should have offered viewers a bit more. Take the key position that arises after 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3 Nf6 (or 2…Nf6, 3…c5).

Danielsen recommends 4.Nc3!?, a controversial recommendation to say the least. Johnsen and Kovacevic offer 4.Nf3 in their book, and Prié, for his part, rates 4.Nc3 as ‘?!’ and analyzes 4.dxc5 and 4.c3 at ChessPublishing. The analysis of 4.Nc3 in the video runs for roughly five minutes, covering up to move seven in the main line and move 10 in one of the variations. I’m not sure that this is sufficient coverage for such a central variation in the Neo-London, and I would really have like to have seen some additional analysis offered, even if only in a database file.

More analysis in the attached database – or, better, additional analyzed games – would have improved this product. There is only so much that can be covered in an hour; even though Danielsen really packs a lot into that time frame, some additional study material would have been beneficial.

My experience of the video was, generally speaking, positive. I was left feeling that I’d learned a lot, and that – after some additional analysis of a few positions like the one above – I could play the Neo-London with confidence. The real test of the video, of course, is in the results. How did I do in my games? The answer is: surprisingly well.

My OTB (slow) rating right now is 1731 USCF. In rated USCF quick and blitz games, my score with the Neo-London is roughly 80% against players from 1300-2000. In three standard games, against players averaging roughly 1875, I am at 1.5/3. The most recent of these games was a draw against former Nebraska State Champion Joseph Knapp, and I offer it (with light notes) below.

[Event "Great Plains Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.10.12"] [Round "2"] [White "Hartmann, John"] [Black "Knapp, Joe"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D00"] [WhiteElo "1717"] [BlackElo "1971"] [Annotator "jh"] [PlyCount "147"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [SourceDate "2013.10.12"] 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. Nc3 e6 5. Nb5 Na6 6. Nf3 c4 7. a4 Bd7 8. c3 Qb6 9. b3 Qa5 $146 ({RR} 9... Bxb5 10. axb5 Qxb5 11. Nd2 Rc8 12. Be2 Be7 13. O-O O-O 14. bxc4 Qc6 15. c5 Ra8 16. Qa4 Nb8 17. Rfb1 Nbd7 18. Qb3 b6 19. Bb5 Nxc5 20. Bxc6 Nxb3 21. Rxb3 {[%emt 0:00:11] 1-0 Heinzel,O (2366)-Besner,B (2182)/ Austria 2013/ Mega2013 Update}) 10. bxc4 $5 (10. b4 $6 Qb6 (10... Bxb4 $6 11. cxb4 Qxb4+ 12. Nd2 Bxb5 13. axb5 Qxb5 14. Be2) (10... Nxb4 $2 11. Nc7+ Kd8 12. Nxa8 Na6 13. Qc2 $18) 11. Nd2 (11. Na3 $2 Ne4) 11... Bxb5 12. axb5 Qxb5 13. Be2 Be7 14. O-O O-O $13) (10. Nd2 $1 cxb3 (10... Bxb5 11. axb5 Qxb5 12. bxc4 dxc4 13. Nxc4) 11. Nxb3 Qd8 12. Bd3 $16) 10... Bxb5 11. axb5 Qxc3+ 12. Nd2 Nb4 13. Rc1 Nd3+ 14. Bxd3 Qxd3 15. Qe2 Qxe2+ 16. Kxe2 Bb4 17. c5 O-O 18. f3 (18. c6 $5 bxc6 19. Rxc6 Rfc8 20. Ra1 $14) 18... b6 19. c6 Nh5 (19... Rfc8) 20. Bg5 h6 21. Bh4 a6 22. bxa6 Rxa6 23. Ra1 Rxa1 24. Rxa1 Rc8 25. Rc1 g5 26. Be1 Bd6 27. Nf1 ( 27. g3 f5 28. e4 $5) 27... Kf8 28. Ng3 Nxg3+ 29. hxg3 Ke7 30. e4 Ba3 31. Rc2 b5 32. e5 b4 33. Rc5 $1 b3 34. Rb5 b2 35. Bb4+ Bxb4 36. Rxb4 Rxc6 37. Rxb2 {I offered a draw here, as the position is clearly drawn. Knapp decided to test my hypothesis.} Rc1 38. Rb7+ Kf8 39. Rb2 Kg7 40. Kd2 Rc4 41. Kd3 Ra4 42. Rc2 ( 42. Rb3) 42... f6 43. exf6+ Kxf6 44. g4 Kg6 45. Rc6 Kf7 46. Rc7+ Kf6 47. Rc3 Ra1 48. Rc8 Rd1+ 49. Ke3 Re1+ 50. Kf2 Rd1 51. Ke3 Ra1 52. Kd3 Ke7 53. Rc3 Kd7 54. Rc2 Rd1+ 55. Ke3 Kd6 56. Ra2 Re1+ 57. Re2 $1 Rb1 $1 (57... Rxe2+ 58. Kxe2 Kd7 (58... e5 $2 59. Kd3 Ke6 60. dxe5 Kxe5 61. g3 $18) 59. Kd3 Ke7 60. Kc3 Kd6 61. Kb4 Kc6 62. g3 $1 $18) 58. Ra2 Rb6 59. g3 Ke7 60. Ra3 Kf6 61. f4 Kg6 62. Rc3 h5 63. gxh5+ Kxh5 64. fxg5 Kxg5 65. Kf3 Rb4 66. Rd3 Kf5 67. g4+ Kg5 68. Kg3 e5 69. dxe5 Rxg4+ 70. Kf3 Rf4+ 71. Kg3 d4 72. e6 Re4 73. Kf3 Rxe6 74. Rxd4 1/2-1/2

Practical results aren’t everything, but they are something. We study chess because it’s beautiful, but also because we want to win. Danielsen’s video gave me another weapon in my arsenal to help me win, and along the way, I think I learned about the game and its nuances. Seems well worth the price of admission to me.

Source: Chess Book Reviews

Sample video


Henrik Danielsen

Pressing straight away -
The London System 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4

Languages: English
Delivery: Download

€9.90
$13.30

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