Is The London System a Good Chess Opening?

The London System basic setup

Yes, it most certainly is. The London System is a very solid way to place your pieces as White and it has played by many Grandmasters throughout the years.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen has even been playing The London System quite a bit in GM games lately and with great success. It is particularly popular when it comes to blitz chess or rapid games.

Some really hate The London System saying it is not real chess. Much of the might come from frustrated players have trouble combatting The London System themselves.

In this article we are going to have a look at the main ideas of The London System and also show you some example games, so you can get a good idea of how the games might evolve.

We will also be looking at what you need know. There are certain rules that you need to know in reaction to Black’s moves.

How To Place Your Pieces In The London System

The great thing about The London System is that it is so easy to learn how to get started. The basic setup works against basically any moves Black might throw at you.

Let’s start by going over the opening moves for White, and then we look briefly at a couple of sample games to show you how the games might continue.

Firstly, you open with 1. d4 and regardless of Black’s first move you go 2. Bf4. This frees the dark squared Bishop getting it outside the pawn-formation that you will now proceed to establish.

After this the move order can vary depending on Black’s moves but the goal for your setup remains the same. Move your pawns to e3 and c3 so you create kind of a house or hat structure. Your Knights goes Nf3 and Nd2. Finally your light-squared Bishop comes to Bd3.

Now we have the basic London System setup. After this a key idea is to go Ne5.

This gives us the following moves but not necessarily in order.

  • d4
  • Bf4
  • e3
  • c3
  • Nf3
  • Nd2
  • Ne5

Now we will take a look at a few games demonstrating how play in London System Games might proceed. After this we will take a closer look at why The London System is so good and who is it best for, but we will also take a look at why some people hate The London System.

Read  London System - How To Meet Black Bishop Bf5 And Gain Advantage

Best Way To Learn The London System – Study Illustrative Games

So, what is the best way to get a feel for how to play The London System beyond the basic opening moves?

The best way is to simply study games of masters who play the London. Grandmaster Gata Kamsky is famous for playing mostly The London System as White – so we will have a look at one of his games.

The game is a very well know London System game because it shows how the setup can be deadly for Black if he is not careful.

The match is between Gata Kamsky playing White and Sam Shankland with the black pieces.

Both players in this game were strong Grandmasters, but White got the upper hand. Play through the moves a few times to get to know how you can achieve the ideal setup as White.

As we can clearly see in this game Black has to be very careful not letting White develop as he wants – since it will eventually lead to a kingside attack that can be hard or even impossible to refute.

Basically all White’s pieces are developed to be pointed towards Black’s kingside. At the same time the formation allows for an easy transition to a queenside attack if Black decides to go for long castles.

Why Do Many Players Dislike The London System?

Many chess players dislike or even hate The London System. Why is that?

Probably the main reason is the fact that you develop your pieces roughly the same way every single game. This means you do not have to put in the same efforts into opening study that is necessary in almost all other openings.

For many chess enthusiasts this is just considered a shortcut for lazy people. We do not agree, though.

It has to be said also that The London System has risen in popularity the past few years. This also means there are not as many London haters as there used to be.

Anti-Lonondites claim that The London System is not real chess. It is just remembering a few key moves, that you can then play under all circumstances as White.

Read  London System - How To Meet Black Bishop Bf5 And Gain Advantage

The real reason for a lot of the hate, though, is probably more a result of frustration. If you are not prepared on how to deal with The London System you will often get run over by just following the usual opening principles.

For example it is generally a good idea to castle kingside early in the game. This can be a big mistake in The London System when all of White’s main forces are pointing towards Black’s kingside.

3 Rules You Must Know When Playing The London System

There are two rules that you need to know when starting out playing The London System. They are pretty straightforward and common sense moves for experiences player, but if you are not an expert player the moves might not be so obvious.

  • If Black captures on d4 you take back with the e-pawn.
  • If you get your Knight to e5 and Black takes – you take back with your pawn.
  • If Black develops his Bishop to d6 you retreat your Bishop to g6.

First rule is that if Black captures the tip of your pawn-chain on d4 you almost always want to recapture with the exd4. Not cxd4. This seems to violate another solid opening principle of always capturing toward the centre, but you want to keep the pawn chain intact on the queenside to keep Black’s dark squared bishop from developing to Bb4.

The second rule comes into play efter you get your Knight to e5. The rule here is that if Black takes on e5 you always want to take back with the pawn. The idea is to chase away any potential Black pieces from d6 and f6 and if none are present at the moment keep them from getting there later.

Later in the game this pawn can also play a strong role in the attack on Black’s King. Remember this rule. It is a very important idea in The London System.

Third rule is if Black develops his dark squared Bishop to d3 pointing at your Bishop. Here you retreat to Bg6. It is important not to take and if Black takes your Bishop this is good for White.

If Black decides to take with Bxg6 you always want to take back with your h-pawn. This opens up the h-file for your Rook and gives you great attacking possibilities along this file.

Why is The London System a Good Chess Opening And Who Is It Best Suited For?

The London System is a great opening for all to know. You also need to know how to combat it as Black if you do not want to get crushed early in your games.

Read  London System - How To Meet Black Bishop Bf5 And Gain Advantage

In rapid and blitz it is especially efficient. This is because the opening moves are so similar against all Black’s responses. You want to develop your pieces in the same fashion against all setups, so you can save important seconds early on in the game.

Many chess players do not have a lot of time to study countless openings and variations, but want to get started playing without too much memorization. If you are one of these player The London System is perfect for you.

Playing against a well prepared opponent in an opening you don’t really understand fully can lead to fast defeats. Nobody wants this and the perfect solution for the busy player is The London System.

Just learn the basic setup – practice – and maybe study some available ressources for just a day or two and then you will already be well prepared to play a solid opening as White.

The reason that The London System is a very good opening is also that it is very hard to go wrong as White. Know where to put your pawns, knights and bishops and you will never get cut off guard or trapped in the opening.

This is a solid feature the pretty much no other opening can offer. Usually it is mandatory to be aware of all common traps and pitfalls in the openings you play.

Where To Go From Here? Online Ressources and Book Recommendations

By now you should have a good idea about what The London System is and why it is in fact a very good and solid opening for White.

In this article, though, we have only scratched the surface and there are a lot of material to explore further if you really want to get proficient Londoner.

First of all you can just search online for The London System and you will be presented with a bunch of material. Look for writings or videos from GMs or IMs to be sure the quality is good.

A lot of great material is available on YouTube where both Grandmasters and International Masters explain ideas in The London System. These include very strong players like Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura and Levy Rozman (GothamChess).

The best way is probably still to get a dedicated book on The London System. If you go this way you get a much deeper understanding of the system and how it should be applied. You also get a guided to tour on playing The London against virtually all Black’s possible setups.

  • Win With The London System by Sverre Johnson and Vlatko Kovacevic
  • The Agile London System by Alfonso Romero Holmes and Oscar De Prado
  • Play The London System by Cyrus Lakdawala

The rest is up to you. To explore and have fun playing The London System.

Recent Posts