London System vs. the Benoni: 3. e3 and 3. dxc5!?
"London, Long Street" by Veronika Benoni

London System vs. the Benoni: 3. e3 and 3. dxc5!?

Jun 29, 2018, 3:32 PM |

It is widely thought by experts that the critical test of the "Neo-London" with 1. d4, Nf6, 2. Bf4 is the Benoni move 2...c5. In this two-part post I want to look at how White can play against this and to try to come to some conclusions (at least for myself), on which line is the most practical repertoire choice.

White can react to 2...c5 in three ways. First, he can defend the pawn with 3. e3. Next, he can capture with 3. dxc5. Finally, he can advance with 3. d5. In the first part of this post we will look at the first two, leaving the third one for the second part.

3. e3 - The Classical

White's most obvious response is 3. e3. This is mostly discarded due to 3...Qb6, which many people take to lead to a draw by repetition, at best (however, as we will see, things are not that clear). To understand what's going on, let's look at first at a similar line arising from the Nimzo/QID complex with Nf3 and e6 inserted which is good for White:

In contrast, without Nf3 and e6 insterted, these ideas don't work and the game could end in a quick draw as in this infamous instance:

However, White doesn't have to go for this. There are three independent options worth exploring, all of which leave plenty of play for both sides. The first two are in the same line as before:

Option 1: 6. a3 & 8. Qc1

White can choose to go after the Queen at all costs with 6. a3 and 8. Qc1:

Option 2: 5. Nge2!?

White can gambit the pawn and bank on a development lead with 5. Nge2!?:

Option 3: 4. Nf3!?

White could try to completely disregard the standard 4. Nc3 and bank on a development lead with 4. Nf3!?:

From a non-GM point of view one could choose 3. e3 for their repertoire and plan to take the draw against stronger players if they come out with Qb6 (because Black doesn't have any better either), while aiming to play for a win against equal or weaker players in any of the above ways.

3. dxc5 - The Capture

White could also capture with 3. dxc5. This is an off-beat line which has been tried by several strong players like Richard Rapport and Levon Aronian and that leads to interesting positions, but gives no theoretical advantage.

Here's Rapport vs Giri, 2014, continuing with 3...Na6:

Here's Aronian vs Kasparov, 2017, continuing with 3...Nc6 (see also the video):

Stay tuned for Part 2, looking at the critical 3. d5!? and drawing some, perhaps surprising, conclusions on which line is the most practical...