The London System – Play the Opening as White & Black


Table of Contents

The London System is a queen’s pawn opening without the usual 2.c4 move. This chess opening is suitable for players of all levels.

  • The London System is an excellent way to avoid all the opening theory of the Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) since White continues with 2.Bf4 or 2.Nf3.
  • Beginners will find it easier to adopt the London System because it is a system-based opening that prioritizes rapid development.
  • Yes, indeed, Black will often reach positions where White has a slight advantage, or the position is theoretically equal. These assessments are not a significant hindrance since there are chances for both sides to play for an entire point.

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The London System: Essential Theory

3 Main Setups Within the London System

Within the London System there are three main setups:

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 e6 3e3

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 g6 3.e3

Knowing how to face these three systems will give you a solid grounding in the London System. If you are to meet these three systems, you need to understand the main ideas, strategies, and tactics of the London System chess opening.

The London System has come a long way since the 1922 London tournament. One of the most noticeable changes is modern players tend to prefer 2.Bf4 over 2.Nf3.

Advances have occurred on both sides of the London System and 2.Nf3 invites 2….c5 because 3.Bf4 allows 3…cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nd7. The critical center squares in the London System are e5 and e4, and with the knight moving from f3 to d4 White has lessened his grip on e5.

Black Plays in Queen’s Gambit Declined Style

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Nd2

The starting position of the London System Queen's Gambit Declined setup is reached with the moves: 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 e

Developing the queenside makes it easier for white to defend the b2 pawn, which often comes under pressure from …Qb6.

Although playable the Queen’s Gambit Declined approach plays into White’s hands, because thanks to his active dark-squared bishop White usually has a slight edge in the resulting endgames.

…c5 is met with c3 to support the center, and if Black pushes the pwn to c4 then White looks to play e4 as soon as possible after Bc2.

Along with providing the bishop a retreat square, the c3 advance also allows White the added option of meeting …Qb6 with ..Qb3.

4…c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Ngf3 Bd6 7.Bg3

Capturing on d6 is a valid approach for White, but it aids Black’s development. The retreat to g3 gives black the option of capturing and opening the h-file.

Giving your opponent the option to help open files against his own king is almost always a good strategy.

By retreating the bishop White can support a knight on e5 with f4. Ideally, White would like time to bring the knight on d2 to f3 too, but if Black cpatures early on e5 White has a nice central pawn wedge.

7…0-0 8.Bd3 Re8 9.Ne5 Bxe5 10.dxe5 Nd711.Nf3

White would like to play 11.f4 but loses a pawn after 11…c4 12.Bc2 Qb6 attacking the b2-pawn and e3-pawn.

Although it is typical for both sides to castle kingside Bacallao castled long and opened up the kingside with a nice bishop sacrifice on g6.

Black Plays in Queen’s–Indian Fashion

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 e6 3.e3 b6

Of course, Black can easily transpose into a Queen’s Gambit Declined setup with 3…d5 instead of 3…b6. By playing 3.e3 White gives Blackthe chance to transpose into a variation that is slightly easier for White.

4.Nf3 Bb7 5.Bd3 Be7 6.h3 c5

White delays developing the queen’s knight to d2 to keep the option of playing Nc3 after …cxd4 cxd4. It is important for White to create a safe haven for the bishop with h3 when Black plays …Be7.

Developing the bishop to e7 prevents White from meeting …Nh5 with Bg5-h4. Exchanging a knight for White’s London bishop would be a favorable exchange for black.

7.c3 0-0 8.0-0 d6 9.Qe2

The queen supports the e4-advance which gains White space in the center. Unsurprisingly, against a stout defense like the Queen’s Indian Defense white does not get much of an edge-if any.

Peter Weber managed to win a pawn against Hendrik Seegers and went on to win the game with black. A possible improvement might be to meet …Nc6 with a3 to keep the knight from b4.

The Kings Indian Formation versus the London System

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Nf3 d6

All of the Indian Defenses make it extremely challenging for white to obtain an advantage in the London System. Still, it is equally challenging for Black to create pressure.

In many instances the sides reach and equal middlegame position and the better player goes on to win. That’s really all you can ask from an opening nowadays.

5.Be2 c5 6.0-0 0-0 7.c3 Qb6 8.Nbd2 Be6 9.Ng5 Bd7 10.Nc4 Qb6

Black runs into trouble with 8…Qxb2 after 9.Nc4 Qb5 Nxd6 with a discovered attack on the queen by the bishop on e2. White then saves the knight with Nxc8 and has a pleasant positional advantage.

In Conclusion

The London System might appear unambitious on the surface but it is deceptively dangerous. White will often generate a strong attack on the kingside with enough tactical blows to please any attacking player.

However, black is doing fine and can look forward to reaching a perfectly playable middlegame where their opponent has at best a slight edge.

For chess players without much time to study the opening the London System is an excellent choice. You can reach a perfectly playable position and do not need to worry about getting caught out early in the game by a novelty.

The London System is a positional system that packs a punch. To learn more and start playing this chess opening learn the essential theory of the London System from IM John Bartholomew

This video is from The London System: Essential Theory course by IM John Bartholomew

The London System Frequently Asked Questions

What is the idea of the London System?

In the London System, white aims for rapid development, a solid central pawn structure, and gets good attacking chances on the kingside.

Is the London System any good?

The London System is a dangerous weapon in White’s arsenal and is today used at the highest levels by the current world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen.

Is London System good for beginners?

Because it is a system-based opening with rapid development, the London System is excellent for beginners. You can play the London System from beginner to grandmaster levels.

Why is it called London System?

The London System was used in an international chess tournament held in Central Hall, Westminster, in 1922. The tournament became known as the 1922 London tournament, and it is from this the London System derived its name.

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The London System: Essential Theory

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