Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Origin of a Name

I am always careful not to dive too deeply into historical background when writing about an opening. Research of this kind can be very time consuming and most chess-players have a very practical approach to their game; they simply don’t want to be bothered with historical facts that will not help them winning games.

Nevertheless you occasionally stumble into questions that you really should know a bit about in order to consider yourself an expert on a theme. Personally I would like to know a bit more about the origin of the name “London System”. So far I can say this:

The name "London System" doesn't occur anywhere in the tournament book for the London 1922 tournament. The first use of the name which I have come across, is in the New York 1924 tournament book. There the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 followed by Bf4 generally are referred to as "Reti's Eroffnung im Nachzuge" (Reti's Opening Reversed) but there is one interesting exception:

Janowski-Reti, New York (9) 1924
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.h3
Quite curiously a consensus seems to have been reached among the top players at the time that the immediate 3.Bf4 was premature. This already seemed to be accepted in the later rounds of the London 1922 tournament. Can it be that 3.Bf4 Nh5!? was considered inconvenient?
3...Bg7 4.Bf4 b6
Probably a set-up with ...d5 (followed by ...c5, ...Nc6 and ...Nfd7, preparing ...e5) is the way to demonstrate that h3 was too slow. This is discussed in some detail in "Win with the London System".
5.e3 c5 6.c4
Here Aljekhine comments: "Hier hatte besser 6.c2-c3 nebst Lf1-d3 (c4) geschehen sollen, was zu einem Kampfe zwischen zwei Systemen (Reti's und dem Londoner) gefuhrt hatte." Or in a rough translation to English: "6.c3 followed by Bd3 (c4) would have been better here. That would have lead to a battle between two systems (Reti's and the London).
6...cxd4 7.exd4 0-0 8.Nc3 d5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.b3 Ne4 11.Rc1 Nxc3 12.Rxc3 dxc4 13.bxc4 Nc6 14.Rd3 Na5 15.c5 Qd5 16.0-0 Qxa2 17.Re1 Qd5 18.Bf1 Ba6 19.Rc3 Bxf1 20.Kxf1 Nc6 21.Be3 Rfd8 22.Qc1 b5
Now the queenside passed pawns decide.
23.Rd1 b4 24.Rc2 a5 25.Ng1 a4 26.Ne2 b3 27.Rcd2 a3 28.Nf4 b2 29.Qc3 Qf5 30.Nd3 Bxd4 31.Bxd4 Rxd4 32.Kg1 (Dia)

Now come some nice and correct but totally unnecessary tactics:
32...Rxd3 33.Rxd3 Qxd3 34.Qxd3 a2 35.Kh2 a1=Q 36.Rb1 Rb8 37.h4 Qa4 38.g3 Qd4 39.Qc2 Qf6 40.Kg2 h5 41.Kg1 Nd4 42.Qd1 Qf5 43.Kg2 Qxc5 44.Qd2 Qd5+ 0-1

Aljekhine's comments don't give the impression that he introduces a new name for the system, he rather takes it for granted that the reader already is familiar with it. So where did the name originate? Possibly in a chess magazine issued some time between these two tournaments?
Any information or suggestions from readers would be appreciated.

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