London System


The London System is a chess opening in which the following moves are played:

The idea behind the London System is: White defines a scheme for development and sticks to it, virtually regardless of what Black plays.

This means that theory is not as important in a “system” opening like this one, and that the ideas do not vary much from one variation to the other.

The London System has a reputation for being extremely solid, and it can often be a great way to beat set defenses against 1.d4

The London System can be divided into three major variations.

Black’s first choice is between the moves 1...d5 and 1...Nf6, although they usually change into one another.

If Black is a King’s Indian Defense player, he will most likely start with 1...Nf6 and follow up with g6, Bg7 and d6. This is the first line.

The other two lines include systems with 1...d5 (or 1...Nf6 followed by 2...d5).

Black, then, has a choice between breaking in the center with c5 or playing more modestly with the pawn on c6 or c7.

The three major variations are:

  • London System with g6
  • London System with e6 - no c5
  • London System with e6 - c5

In the London System with g6, the Bishop is fianchettoed on g7, the Knight goes to f6 and the pawn to d6.

After developing pieces and castling, Black will want to do a pawn break by playing either c7-c5 or e7-e5.

A pawn break is a pawn move designed to free the player's position.

This is a good set up and borrows from the ideas of the King’s Indian Defense.

Black always plays the same way, virtually regardless of White’s options.

In the London System with e6 (so c5 isn’t played), Black decides not to fianchetto his Bishop and puts it on the e7 or d6 squares instead.

By not breaking through in the center - at least right away - with c5, Black is playing in a more modest and solid way.

This is an easy variation to approach the London System, especially for quiet players who play 1...d5 followed by 2...e6 against the Queen’s Gambit.

In the London System with e6 and c5, Black sets up a counter attack by using an early pawn break in the center.

Counter-attacking the center (with a pawn break) is an effective strategy to win with the Black pieces.

What is The London System?

The London System is a chess opening that starts with 1.d4

White usually develops pieces in the same way regardless of the system Black chooses to play: the Bishop to f4, Knight to f3, pawns to e3 and c3 and castles short.

You can see what it looks like below.

How To Reach The London System

  1. First, White must move the Queen’s pawn two squares (1.d4).
  2. Then, Black’s reply is usually to move the King’s Knight (1...Nf6) or the Queen’s pawn two squares (1...d5).
  3. Now, Black brings out the Bishop (2.Bf4).

Take a look at the moves below.

Why Play The London System

The London System is an opening where White aims to achieve a solid set up by placing his pieces in the same squares, regardless of what moves black plays.

It is called a “System” for this reason - opening theory is not very important, and neither are move orders, and that is why it is the preferred weapon of many chess players.

Every move explained

London System with g6

How To Reach It

The London System with g6 appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. d4 Nf6
  2. Bf4 g6

You can see the moves here.

Why play the London System with g6

The London System with g6 is a good way to face this opening, because Black also plays like a system: the pieces are developed to the same squares, regardless of White’s move order.

Since Black will plan to break through in the center with e5 or c5 later on, it can be an ambitious setup for Black to play for a win against the London System.

White's Moves

Create room for the Bishop with h3

It is possible that White’s Bishop on f4 may be attacked by Black’s Knight going to h5 or even by pushing the Kingside pawns with h6 and g5.

For this reason, a rule of thumb in nearly all variations of the London System is to play h3 in order to create an escape square for the Bishop on h2.

Secure the center with c3

Since Black’s plan will, eventually, be to attack the center with either c5 or e5, White wants to maintain a solid central position.

The best way to do this is by supporting the center with the c-pawn.

Black's moves

Make a pawn break with c5

Black wants to create space for his pieces, and can do so by playing a pawn break in the center.

Usually, Black will want to play c7-c5, which also creates room for the Knight to be developed to c6, behind it, and also put pressure on White’s center.

Play b6 to develop the Bishop to b7

It is not easy for Black to find a good square for the light-squared Bishop, as White’s h3 move takes away the g4 square.

For this reason, Black should adopt a double-fianchetto system and place the light-squared Bishop to b7.

London System with e6 (no c5)

How To Reach It

The London System with e6 (no c5) appears on the board after the following moves.

  1. d4 d5
  2. Bf4 Nf6
  3. Nf3 e6
  4. e3 Bd6

You can see the moves here.

Why play the London System with e6 (no c5)

Black’s idea is to develop pieces and prepare a pawn break in the long term instead of going for it right out of the opening.

It is a solid and easy set up, where Black achieves comfortable positions and does not have to know much theory.

It’s mostly suitable for players who play Queen’s Gambit Declined positions (1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6) with the Black pieces.

White's Moves

Retreat the Bishop to g3

In this system, Black attacks White’s Bishop on f4 early on by putting his Bishop on d6.

Usually, the best way for White to deal with this situation is just to retreat the Bishop to g3, from where it is protected by the g and h pawns.

This does not allow Black to take over this diagonal or double White’s pawns on the f-file.

Break through in the center with e4

In the long run, after developing all of his pieces, White’s plan will be to open up the center by playing e3-e4.

This move should be well-thought and prepared: White should first secure the center and wait for the right moment to break through.

Black's moves

Play b6 to develop the light-squared Bishop

A recurrent idea in the London System with e6 is to put the light-squared Bishop to b7 or a6.

Play Ne4 followed by f5

Although Black chooses not to break open the center in this variation, there is another way of fighting for it.

One of the main ideas is to place a Knight on the e4 square, from where it controls many squares, and to support it later on by pushing f7-f5. The Knight will be Black’s best-placed piece.

London System with e6 and c5

How To Reach It

The London System with e6 and c5 appears on the board after the following moves:

  1. d4 d5
  2. Bf4 Nf6
  3. Nf3 c5

You can see the moves here.

Why play the London System with e6 and c5

The London System with both e6 and c5 is one of the main lines of the London System for Black.

It is a great choice, because Black fights for the center from early on in the game and limits White’s alternatives.

This variation is suitable for Queen’s Gambit Declined players, but also, especially, for players of the Tarrasch Defense.

White's Moves

Secure the center with e3 and c3

Since Black ops to break open the center immediately, White must play a couple of moves in order to ensure he does not lose control of this vital area of the board.

Those moves are to push the e and c pawns one square (e3 and c3).

Break through in the center with e4

A central breakthrough with e4 is one of the most common themes in the London System, and this variation is no exception.

Even though White has played modestly with e3 in the opening, a middlegame idea should be to point many pieces to e4 in order to achieve this push under favorable conditions, and fight for central control.

Black's moves

Black has trouble with his light-squared Bishop, as its path will be blocked by the pawn on e6.

For that reason, Black seeks an alternative route to develop this Bishop.

With the move b7-b6, Black can develop the Bishop to b7.

Fight for the b8-h2 diagonal with Bd6

Black should not allow White to have control over the b8-h2 diagonal.

To control this, black should play Bd6, which is a good developing move and also fights for the control of this diagonal.

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