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It’s time to discuss London openings for beginners with an explanation, defense, and accelerated London system. Played by Morphy, Capablanca, Larsen, and Spassky, it’s one of the oldest opening theories in chess for the white pieces.
What is the London Opening
The London Opening is a Queen’s pawn opening that utilizes mainly the same moves regardless of the opponent’s response limiting possible lines which suit a beginner player with less to remember but also has strong central control which suits advanced players with a solid pawn chain set-up.
London system openings in the Encyclopedia of Openings
|1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4.||ECO a46|
|1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bf4||ECO a48|
|1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4||ECO d02|
London Opening History
The first-ever game recorded in a London Encyclopedia of Chess Openings code (A46, A48 or D02) is Mason-Blackburne in London, 1883 although the London System took until 1922 to become popularised at the London BCF Congress Tournament of 1922.
London System Explanation
The London system has a negative reputation because it is thought to be played the same way every time by chess players, and to an extent, that’s not incorrect, but by the same token it is not boring – Far from it. The London is a very playable position.
Because it is played in a similar fashion, London system players are often called lazy but played the right way with the right level of aggression your opponents may have to think again about your solid position, and more about their defense against it than how they feel about you playing it against them
So to keep your black pieces opponents off your back for a ‘Boring and Lazy Opening’ let’s take a look at how we can attack and keep them on the back foot, and how to respond to the various ways they may try to play against you after the first couple of moves.
The first move in the London System is d4
So after d4, We must pay attention to how our opponents are putting their pieces together and what their first response is.
There may be a short pause as they consider the fact you didn’t pay the Kings pawn to e4 as they were expecting.
Most commonly you will see an opponent play d5.
This is the default response, especially from anyone that perhaps doesn’t have the knowledge to consider you have just played the first move of a specific opening, and it could be the London.
You will play Bishop f4
Let’s get started with a London from there but let’s not take things for granted, your opponent may well have identified your intention and you’ll need to be ready to deal with King’s Indian and other potential set-ups.
In the London Opening with d5 on the board you’ve got to always be monitoring a few things
- Does the c pawn come forward?
- Does your opponent move out the light-squared bishop early?
- Do they block the light-squared bishop in?
- Are you offered a dark square bishop trade?
Keep these things in mind as they will form how you play
Play e3 and wait for Knight f3
Your next move should be e3, waiting to play knight f3 at this stage, as that can be played next
Black has the option of attacking your white pawn on d5 with c5 but let’s consider that they play e6 instead
I now look to play Knight f3 and the chances are black will make a play for your bishop and make Bishop d6.
Trading the bishop is just fine but move it back one square, as the trade taking place on this square is on your terms and you can open up the h file to free the rook later you are in a comfortable position..
Imagine Black castles at this point and white play bishop d3
Black should continue development and it is only natural for them to play Knight c6 at this point.
Here you have the opportunity to play c2 and complete a nice triangle of pawns into which you can play Knight d2 shortly.
You could have, of course, played d2 now, but black’s knight is incoming and c3 prevents them from coming into b4
Black plays bishop to d7 and here you can make that knight d2 and let’s complete black development with Qe7
The most important central square in the London is e5, and blacks Queen going to e7 puts an opportunity for black to progress a pawn there.
So that square needs defending and grabbing the knight on e5 protected by the pawn on d4 and the bishop on g3.
If you see e5 coming you need to put your knight there.
With black castled, and your knight defended on e5 you can begin your move kingside.
You’ve already dropped your knight onto e5, so here you can move f4 for further bolster.
It might be that white has gone for a trade of pawns on e4 and that’s fine, you can bring your knight further into the game
And you have opened up your Queen to attack the h5 white square attacking the enemy kingside.
You could consider pushing your f pawn forward to f4 or you could use e4 to develop your knight further
maybe you’re launching forward the F pawn or even a simple pawn trade in the center to get your knight in the game and another piece attacking the King’s side.
There are a lot of different ideas and ways to go about the London System and that is why it is worth taking a much closer look and really learning the opening. It will make a huge difference to your game when playing and help you control the all-important center of the board, whilst opening up superb attacking options.
London System Defense
You may have come across this article having discovered you have played a game as black and have faced the London system, perhaps in defeat, and would like to know how to prepare for it in the future
Here are a few tips on how to defend against the London system, counter it, and even some traps you might be able to lay
How to defend against the London Opening, how to beat it
Whilst it is all well and good and learning the London system playing white, you will ultimately have to play black and face the London system at some stage.
Best moves to defend against the London System
- 1. d4 Nf6
- 2. Bf4 c5
- 3. e3 Qb6
This Particular position has not been reached that often, but is very playable, as while it is rather against the rule of not developing the Queen so quickly, black is now comfortable with this position and threatening white’s b-pawn.
but don’t rush to capture that b pawn before playing a6, it is very dangerous for your Queen, and the chances are your most powerful piece will be captured, and you’ll get maybe a pawn and rook in exchange – it’s not a good position.
- 4. Nc3 a6
- 5. a3 cxd4
After 5. a3 capture of white’s b-pawn is fraught with even more danger, so avoid it at all costs and look to continue your development in the center and getting pressure on d4
Accelerated London System
The difference between the London System and the Accelerated London System is that the white bishop is developed to the f4 square on move 2 after black plays Nf6 before white develops their Knight to f6. It provides stronger control in the center for a solid position to attack kingside.
This is perfectly executed with white’s queen’s bishop taking a huge diagonal capture of black’s h-pawn as demonstrated in this excellent video from GJ Chess.
I’ve played this successfully many times with black being completely surprised at the speed of the attack.
London system essential theory
The London System essential theory is quite simply studying all of the possible options of using the moves involved in the London system and understanding the lines based on your opponent’s defense, or lack thereof.
By learning the basics and the alternate lines, you can take devastating control of the center of the board and you’ll be in the end0game with a huge advantage before you know it.
This is a 10-minute video explaining the basic opening and variations which is really helpful in addition to the London System course posted above.
How do you play the London chess opening
The basics of playing the London System opening is opening with your queen’s pawn, developing your knight to f3 and bishop to f4.
From there you are looking to create a pyramid of pawns across the b-f files with your king’s bishop on d3 behind the queen’s pawn, queen’s knight on d2, and taking complete control of the e4 square without having to occupy it. All the while opening up a route for your queen to attack kingside regardless of whether black short castles or not.
Great for beginners
The London System opening is a great system to learn for beginners because, despite the variations, it has a solid core for center control to help you develop your attacking strategies when playing white and learning the game
Do GM’s play the London System
Grandmasters can and will play the London system but only if they consider it to be to their advantage against the opponent they are facing.
It is not as popular with Grandmaster as many other openings. namely the Indian and Sicilian, or Ruy Lopez Berlin Defense.
Let’s take a look at the most popular openings used by Magnus Carlsen as a pretty good guide
Playing Black or White
- Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense or Open variation (White or Black)
- Sicilian Defense (White or Black)
- Scotch Game (White)
- Queen’s Indian (Black)
- Queen’s Gambit Declined (Black)