Bf5 in the London System is a very tricky opening to meet, especially if you don’t know how to react against it. In this article, we will show you how to meet it with the White pieces.
By the end of it, you’ll have a clear idea, with what moves to play, when Black chooses to go for …Bf5 setups.
1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nd2 Bf5
After this move, Black’s main idea is to activate their light-squared bishop and eye the b1-h7 diagonal. The problem is that White cannot challenge this bishop with their own Bd3.
However, this piece activation comes at a cost. The bishop is vulnerable to being trapped after Nf3-Nh4. In this way, White will have the bishop pair advantage that they can slowly press.
White now continues
And now, there are 2 important moves for Black.
We’ll have a look at both of them, understanding the ideas behind each.
After this move, White plays
7. Qb3 Qc8 8.Nh4!
Exploiting the fact that the …Bf5 has no retreat square. The main idea is to exchange the knight for the light-squared bishop and gain the bishop pair advantage.
Black has two tries
The other try is 8…Bg6. But then, we continue 9.Nxg6 hxg6 10.h3 Be7 11.Be2 O-O 12.O-O. The position is equal but White can try to make the most out of their bishop pair.
9. f3 Bg6 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. g4
The position is objectively equal but White has the bishop pair. A typical plan would be to play Bg2, 0-0 and then prepare to take a break in the centre. White’s strategy would be focussed on slow play, gradually improving their position with Rc1 Re1 and then trying to open up. The endgame will favour White, as long as they keep the two bishops.
Now let’s look at what to do if Black chooses to go for 6… Qb6.
After this move, White has 3 different options. One is sharp, the other gives Black equality while there’s one where White can continue the fight, even if the position looks equal.
We will discuss three of them as they suit different players.
1 – 7.Qb3
White offers a queen trade. After exchanging the queens, Black achieves an equal position. This happens after
Forcing the trade…
8.Qxb6 axb6 9.a3 b5 10.Rc1
Even if the position is objectively equal there’s still a lot of fight left in the game. There are still many plans for both sides here. This is a perfect position for endgame players who love to play without the queen.
However, you may not be some who like to play the endgames. In that case, there is another line for you which is razor sharp. We will see that next.
2 – 7.dxc5
This is a critical line both the sides have to be precise. We strongly advise you to prepare and solve this line with the computer.
Black has to take on b2 to justify 6…Qb6. After,
Notice that because of Black’s …Bf5, White can’t go Rb1. This is one of Black’s main opening ideas – control the light squares around White’s camp.
White now plays
After this, Black must start complications with
There are other moves like 8…Bg6 which are really slow and bad for Black. White then plays 9.Bb5 Rc8 10.0-0 and is ready to launch an attack.
After 10…Nd7, White continued with 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Ba6 in Kamsky – Guiterrez and eventually won on move 17!
After the move 8…e5, play could continue
Another crazy move. White gives up their bishop, knowing that Nxf5 will follow immediately, but Black continues
Making complicated things even more complicated. If 9…Nxe5, then White has a slightly better position after 10.Nxf5.
White should find
We are now at the position below. Feel free to examine on your own with a computer to see how play might continue.
The complications continue. In the end, position is imbalanced with both sides having their own trumps. We have been using the analysis of Andrey Stupokin from his game against Le Quang Liem.
We strongly recommend you check this out with the engine as it’s not possible to give a concrete evaluation of it here.
If you love complications and working the engine, then this line would be a good fit for you.
Now let’s see the final line, White keeps the queen and defends their b2-pawn.
3 – 7. Qc1
In this line, White’s strategy is to keep as many pieces on the board as they can while finishing their development. Only after that, they will start thinking about active strategy.
7…e6 8.Be2 Be7 9.h3 h6 10.O-O O-O 11.a3 Rfc8
White has nothing to worry about on the c-file. The d4-pawn is firmly protected. Once development is finished, White can continue with
12.Bd1 Qd8 13.Bc2 Bxc2 14.Qxc2 Bd6 15.dxc5 Bxc5 16.Rad1
In the game, White went for opening up the position with e4 and eventually won the game.
This line is perfect for those players who love to play strategic middlegames, patiently waiting for their opponent and slowly building up the pressure. Like the spirit of the London System!
Your Playing Style Dictates How To Proceed Against Bf5
You have to admit that there’s no direct way to gain an advantage in the …Bf5 system. However, you can choose what lines you like to play.
After 6…e6, aim to exploit the fact that f5-bishop has no retreat square and go for Nh4. This way, you’ll be able to exchange a pair of minor pieces and gain a double bishop advantage.
If Black goes 6…Qb6, you could either go for an endgame, create complications or keep the queens and continue. Choose the appropriate move depending on your playing style.