Saturday, March 29, 2008

London from a Different Angle

Two days ago I finally received my copy of Schmücker's 'Das London-System'. I have not had time to look at it in any detail and will not have for a few weeks, but here are a few quick observations:

The cover illustration is nice but otherwise the book's lay-out appears rather amateurish: the pages look a lot like ChessBase print-outs; all variations are in square brackets; there are no chapter headings (except for the headers - together with the page numbers) and frequently there are no introductions to the chapters (at first you have to wonder why the right-hand side columns on pages 44 and 95 are empty; then you discover that there actually start new chapters on the next pages).

There seem to have crept in some typos - a rather visible one is diagram 174 which shows the initial position whereas the text indicates that it should show the position after 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 Bf5 4.c4 c6. There also are a few misspelled names. More importantly I wouldn't expect there to be any illegal or very poor moves as ChessBase would prevent this.

The main question of course is the quality of the chess content; the analysis, the research work and the textual explanations. I cannot really say much about his analysis yet, but it seems he has caught at least one serious omission in our London book. Except for a 2007 game by the author I couldn't find many recent (2005-2007) game references. I saw a 2006 reference and I probably have missed some more. Nevertheless my guess it that the manuscript were mostly done in 2005 and after that has only been spot wise updated. Schmücker's textual explanations appear sufficient and generally clear enough even though he hasn't bothered much with making complete sentences.

A main point of divergence between ours and Schmücker's recommended repertoire seems to be the line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qb3 c4, where we suggests 7.Qc2 (or avoiding the line completely with the 2.Bf4 move-order) whereas Schmücker recommends 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Na3 (Dia)

For our London book we too had originally planned a chapter on this line. However, when space limitations became an issue it was among the first lines we sacrificed - mainly because we were unable to demonstrate any advantage after 8...e6 9.Nb5. When 8...Ra5 too proved a tough obstacle, and 8...e5!?, 8...Rxa3!? 8...Na7 and 8...Ne4 each required rather deep analysis and corresponding space, simply skipping the line seemed an obvious decision. Schmücker provides extensive analysis of 8...e5, 8...Rxa3, 8...Bg4, 8...Na7 and 8...Ra5. I don't now why he doesn't mention 8...Ne4?! as the refutation is rather instructive. As for the quality of his analysis I can only guess but he obviously must have put a lot of work into it so probably it's quite good.

The big surprise is that Schmücker proposes to meet 8...e6 with the untested and modest looking 9.Nc2!?. Can this really be sufficient to fight for an advantage? I will not completely rule it out; Black has as Schmücker points out locked in his light-squared bishop and White can fairly easily neutralize Black's play in the a-file. Pure analysis isn't likely to reveal much in this quiet position so I hope to see some practical examples soon.


Class A Player said...

Does Schmuker analyze the move 8...Bf5 after 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qb3 c4 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Na3? 8...Bf5 is recommended in James Rizzitano's How to Beat 1 d4, John Cox's Dealing With d4 Deviations, and Larry Kaufman's The Chess Advantage in Black and White.

Sverre Johnsen said...

No, remarkably he doesn't. It's also a bit embarrassing that we don't mention the move in our book but after all we didn't recommend taking on b6 (even if Vlatko did so in a 1988 game).

8...Bf5 is Black's most popular move and Black scores a nice 74% with it in 66 games. This seems to be roughly the same in those games where both players are rated above 2300. It must be said that these scores are fairly typical for the entire 7.Qxb6 line (Black's overall score after 8.Na3 is 73%).

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on Andrew Martin's London System DVD by Foxy Openings and Nigel Davies' London System DVD by Chessbase?

Sverre Johnsen said...

I may be old-fashioned but opening DVDs don't excite me much. I spend too much time with my PC and prefer to relax with a good book. DVDs also tend to contain too little information per buck (compared to books at least). I really don't know why that is. It wouldn't be hard to include well organized ChessBase files but this is quite rare - maybe DVDs are intended to be watched on TV?

As for these two particular London DVDs, I only learned about Davies' a week ago or so, and have not ordered it yet (maybe I will today). Davies is an honest worker and good at communicating his knowledge - at least on paper, so I expect it to be of at least decent quality (as all of his works are) and wouldn't be surprised if it's excellent.

Martin's CD I bought a year ago or so, but I have not got around to watch it yet! This would never have happened with a book. I started watching it a couple of times but never lasted more than 15 minutes or so. The problem is not Martin's presentation - he is engaging and professional - it's more that I don't really expect to learn anything new and have better ways of spending my time. You can hardly blame a professional chess author for being too productive. Martin needs his monthly income as we all do and is a good writer and chess teacher. Nevertheless I find most of his recent products lacking in depth and research.

But of course you never know. I honestly hope that Gambit will allow me to update "Win with the London System" in a not too distant future (5 years from now maybe?) and when that happens I will consult all available sources, including these two DVDs.

For the moment there are a few chess subjects that engage me more than the London system does - primarily the Dutch Stonewall!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you've had Andrew Martin's London System DVD for a year and haven't watched the whole thing yet. I thought by now you would be itching to know what is on the DVD. There isn't that much new to learn from the DVD if you know everything from Win with the London System except for one line. Martin analyzes the idea of playing Nd2 instead of Nc3 to accelerate the Queenside attack in the line line 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Bf5 3 c4 c6 4 e3 e6 5 Qb3 Qb6 6 c5 Qxb3 7 axb3 Nd7 8 b4 a6 (This isn't the move-order Martin uses on the DVD but I think this is the most accurate move-order). Martin uses several of the same illustrative games that Win with the London System uses so I think it would be fair to say that Martin's DVD is kind of like Win with the London System's illustrative games section, the main difference being that Win with the London System has a lot more illustrative games and more notes (advantages of a book). Both Martin's DVD and Win with the London System's illustrative games section don't concern themselves too much with teaching the optimal move-orders. The goal is for the student to understand the main ideas.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Thank you for the summary!

I am a busy man - I have a family and a full time job. I am a chess organizer and coach and the leader of a youth chess club with close to 1000 members. I write chess books and instructional material for kids and I try to keep this blog alive.

In order to somehow manage this I have to sacrifice something. So I don't watch TV or movies and I don't play tournament chess (I miss the tournaments more than the TV shows!). I still read books but mainly on the bus, train or tram and mainly on subjects that are relevant to the chess projects I am working with at the moment. Now I am working on a book on the Dutch Stonewall and consequently the London System and the Closed Ruy Lopez have been relegated to the back of my mind.

I expect my life to be like this for a few more years but I will certainly find the time to watch the DVD sometime. However, it probably will have to wait until I start working on the London system again - either for an update of the book or for the use in my own games.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Yesterday I received Davies' DVD too. However, it came with three Dutch books which could be relevant for the Stonewall book so it will have to wait - even if I expect Davies to have more new to offer than Martin.

Anonymous said...

What is the one serious omission from your London book that Schmuker analyzes?

How much of Schmuker's Das-London System overlaps with your London book?

Would Schuker's book be worth getting if I already have your London book?

John Watson's and Eric Schiller's newish book How to Succeed in the Queen Pawn Openings seems to be the only book that covers how to deal with the 2 Bf4 move-order in at least a little bit of detail. I was wondering if you have heard of this book, and if you have a copy, could you tell me what they recommend against the 2 Bf4 move-order?

Sverre Johnsen said...

1) I need consult the Schmucker book - I honestly don't remember. I may return to your question but I must carefully consider whether a detailed answer would be against my contract with Gambit which prohibits me to publish updates of the book.

2) I cannot estimate a percentage as the material is differently organized (Schmucker doesn't consider the 2.Bf4 move-order and not 1...Nf6 lines). There is considerable overlap but also major differences.

3) That mainly depends on your budget. It will definitely not be a waste of money but you may find better use for your money elsewhere.

4) I don't have a copy of the Watson/Schiller book but I somewhere have a photocopy of the pages on the London System. Funnily they seem to mix up mr. Kovacevic with another GM (which make me suspect that the London chapter was written by mr. Schiller).

I don't agree that this book is the only one with serious analysis of the 2.Bf4 London. Van der Werf's discussion in Secrets of Opening Surprises 5 ( is quite good as is Prie's in New in Chess Yearbook 83 (

Sverre Johnsen said...

I notice that one of the links in my comment above is too long for the text field. If you cannot see it in normal view, try reducing the text size in your internet browser.