London System: The Ultimate Guide

 London System: The Ultimate Guide
William T Green

William T Green

Jul 09, 2023

I. Introduction

The London System is a chess opening that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among amateur players. It is a flexible and solid opening that can be used against many different responses from Black. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of the London System, common themes and ideas, and provide tips and advice for playing the opening successfully.

II. The Basics of the London System

The London System is characterized by the moves 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.Bf4, and 4.e3. These moves form a solid pawn structure and allow the development of the bishop on the f4 square. The idea behind this opening is to control the center with pawns and pieces, and to prepare for a kingside attack.

One of the advantages of the London System is its flexibility. Black can respond in a number of different ways, and the opening can easily transition into different types of positions. However, this flexibility can also be a disadvantage if the player does not have a clear plan in mind.

PGN: 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.Bf4, and 4.e3.

III. Common Themes and Ideas in the London System

The London System is a positional opening, meaning that the player aims to gain an advantage in space, pawn structure, or piece activity, rather than directly attacking the opponent's king. However, there are some common themes and ideas that can be used to gain an advantage.

Controlling the center is a key concept in the London System. The pawns on d4 and e3, along with the pieces on f3 and c3, allow White to control the central squares of the board. This can make it difficult for Black to find a good plan.

Another idea in the London System is to attack the opponent's king. This is typically done by advancing pawns on the kingside and creating weaknesses in Black's position. The bishop on f4 can also be used to put pressure on the h7 square, which is often a weakness in Black's position.

Trading pieces is another important theme in the London System. By exchanging pieces, White can gain a positional advantage, especially if the resulting endgame is favorable. This is often done by trading the bishop on f4 for Black's dark-squared bishop.

Finally, the use of pawn breaks can be important in the London System. The pawn on c3 can be pushed to create a passed pawn or to attack Black's pawn structure. Similarly, the pawn on e3 can be pushed to gain space or to create a weakness in Black's position.

IV. Sample Games and Analysis

Let's take a look at a basic game that uses the London System. In this game, White plays the opening in a straightforward way, controlling the center and developing their pieces. Black responds with a solid setup, but does not take advantage of any weaknesses in White's position. Eventually, White is able to gain a positional advantage and wins the game.

Magnus Carlsn vs Hikaru Nikamura



1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Bf4 c5 4. e3 e6 5. Nbd2 Bd6 6. Bxd6 Qxd6 7. dxc5 xc5 Qxc5 8.

c4 dxc4 9. Bxc4 O-O 10. Rc1 Qe7 11. O-O b6 12. Qe2 Bb7 13. Rfd1 Nbd7 14. Ba6 Nc5 15. Bxb7 Qxb7

16. Ne5 Ncd7 17. Qf3 Qa6 18. Nc6 Kh8 19. Nc4 Qxa2 20. g4 Nc5 21. Nd6 Nb3 22. Rc2 Qa4 23. Rc4 Qa6

24. g5 Nd7 25. Rh4 Nbc5 26. Nxf7+ Rxf7 Qe2 28. Rxd7 Nxd7 29. Rxd7 Rf8 30. Rf4

Key Moves & Analysis:

1.d4 Kf6 2.Kf3 d5 3. Bc4... Magnus plays the main line London system. He plays Knight f6, before bishop c4, which is a bit slower but is the fundamental line for the London System

...18 Kh8. Hikaru makes a slight inaccuracy because he was afraid of knight e7, which would have put him in check and forced him to move king h8. Instead, Hikaru should have gone ...18 Qa2, and then after knight e7, king h8. Black would have been in a much better position with this sequence, he would have had his queen on the second rank threatening to take the pawn on b2 and playing with a bit more tempo.

...21 Kb3. Here Hikaru practically loses the game by giving Magnus a 3.1 advantage. Once you give Magnus room to breathe there is little from stopping the coming onslaught.

25.Rh4... An amazing move by Magnus to set up a mate in three net, where Rook takes h7, King takes h7, Queen takes h5, King g8, and knight e7 checkmate.

Anish Giri vs. Nikita Vitiugov



1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. Bf4 6 4. e3 Bd6 5. Nbd2 Bxf4 6. exf4 O-O 7. c3 b6 8. h4 c5 9. h5 h6 

10. Ne5 Bb7 11. Ndf3 Nc6 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. Bd3 Rc8 14. Qe2 Rc7 15. a3 Ba4 16. Kf1 Bb3 

17. Kg1 Qd6 18. Qd2 a5 19. Re1 Rb8 20. Rh3 Ba4 21. Bb1 Ne4 22. Qe3 b5 23. dxc5 Qxc5 

24. Nd4 b4 25. axb4 axb4 26. Bxe4 dxe4 27. Qxe4 Bd7 28. g4 Rbc8 29. Ree3 Qa5 30. Kh2

Key Moves & Analysis:

1.Nf3... Giri opened with knight f3, a reti opening, which sets the tone of the match with tempo and could also set up various gambit situations for white.  In this opening you can notice how Giri did not follow the traditional opening line for the London, with pawn d4, instead he switched it up with knight f6 forcing his opponent to react to this obscure opening.

8.h4... White pushes the pawn h4, an aggressive more modern move seen played a lot by Magnus. 

19.Re1...  now we have two rooks that have room to move, one on the e file and one on the h file. Giri is attempting to set up an attack on the king's side. The bishop is staring down the b diagonal, the knight is looking for g5, which could pose serious problems.

28...Rbc8. Now it is not white attacking but black,  Nikita has two rooks on the c file and the queen.

30.Kh2... The game concludes in a stalemate. For there is really nowhere for either player to go.

Tips and Advice for Playing the London System

If you want to use the London System in your own games, there are a few tips and pieces of advice that can be helpful. First, be prepared for opponents who know the opening. Many players will be familiar with the London System and will know how to respond. You may need to adjust your play to take advantage of any weaknesses in their position.

Second, be aware of common mistakes that players make when playing the London System. These can include playing too passively, failing to control the center, or neglecting piece development. By avoiding these mistakes, you can give yourself the best chance of success.

Finally, remember that the London System is just one opening in your repertoire. While it can be a powerful and flexible opening, it is important to have a range of options to choose from depending on your opponent's response. The London System can be a great starting point for players who are new to opening theory, but it should not be the only opening you know.

V. Conclusion

In summary, the London System is a solid and flexible opening that can be a powerful weapon in your chess arsenal. By controlling the center, attacking the opponent's king, trading pieces, and using pawn breaks, you can gain a positional advantage and create winning opportunities. However, it is important to be aware of common mistakes and to have a range of openings to choose from. With practice and careful study, the London System can be a valuable addition to your game.