The London System is a well-known opening system in chess that has been employed by players at various levels, from club players to grandmasters.
It is characterized by a specific set of moves that lead to a solid and often closed game.
Below we look at the London System in detail, including its move order, theory, variations, history, suitability for different levels of players, and its frequency in grandmaster play.
Move Order of the London System
The London System consists of a set-up for White employing the following moves: d4, Nf3, Bf4, e3, Bd3, Nbd2, c3.
The move h3 is often also played, enabling the bishop on f4 to drop back to h2 if attacked, thus remaining on the same diagonal and continuing to influence e5.
A sample line in a real game might include: 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 Nf6 4. e3 Bb4+ 5. c3 Be7 6. Nbd2 c5 7. Bd3
Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the London System
The London System is designed to provide White with a solid and flexible structure.
By developing the dark-squared bishop to f4 and supporting the d4-pawn with pawns on e3 and c3, White aims for a stable position that can be adapted against virtually any Black defense.
The rapid development of the dark-squared bishop contrasts with the Colle System, where the bishop typically remains on c1 during the opening phase.
Variations of the London System
There are several variations within the London System, depending on Black’s responses.
Common options include:
- Queen’s Gambit Declined-type defence: d5, e6, Nf6, c5, Nc6 (or d7), Bd6 (or e7), 0-0.
- Queen’s Indian-type defence: Nf6, b6, Bb7, e6, d6, Be7, Nbd7.
- King’s Indian-type defence: Nf6, g6, Bg7, d6, 0-0.
A modern development named the Rapport–Jobava System combines Bf4 with Nc3, creating potential threats against Black’s c7.
How to WIN with the London System!
The Rapport-Jobava System is a modern variation within the London System, named after grandmasters Richárd Rapport and Baadur Jobava.
It diverges from the standard London System by developing the knight to Nc3 instead of d2, combining it with Bf4.
This creates unexpected threats against Black’s c7 pawn, adding an element of surprise to the opening.
A sample line might include:
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 d5 3. e3 c5 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. exd4 Nc6 6. Qd2 Bf5 7. O-O-O
Accelerated London System
The accelerated London System works by bringing the bishop out on move 2 after 1.d4.
Best Defense Against the London System (Counter)
The best defense against the London System can vary based on personal playing style.
But generally, playing solid and symmetrical setups like the King’s Indian Defense or the Slav Defense can be effective.
It’s also beneficial to counterattack the central and queen’s side pawns, and to develop pieces actively to challenge white’s setup.
History of the London System
The London System’s history dates back to the late 19th century.
James Mason was the first master-level player to regularly employ it, including at the strong 1882 Vienna Tournament.
The name “London System” derives from its appearance in the London tournament of 1922.
Although it remained rare in master practice for some time, it became the standard response for Black against the Réti Opening, named the New York Variation.
Is the London System Good for Beginners or Intermediates?
The London System is popular amongst club-level players due to its solid nature, clear plans, and lack of aggressive responses by Black.
It is considered suitable for beginners and intermediates as it comprises a smaller body of opening theory than many other openings, allowing players to focus on understanding strategic concepts rather than memorizing extensive lines.
It is analogous to the Colle System with the focus on:
- Good pawn structure
- Developing knights to the inside of the board
- Developing bishops
- Avoiding early queen development
- Prepare for castling to protect the king
How Often Is the London System Played at the Grandmaster Level?
Although rare in grandmaster tournaments, the London System has been played occasionally by players including Bent Larsen, Tony Miles, Teimour Radjabov, Vladimir Kramnik, and Fabiano Caruana.
More frequently, it has been employed by players such as Gata Kamsky, Levon Aronian, and Magnus Carlsen.
One of the most famous games of the 21st century utilizing the London System was round 6 of the 2023 World Chess Championship between Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Learn the London System | 10-Minute Chess Openings
FAQs – London System
What is the London System, and what are the main moves?
The London System is an opening strategy in chess where White opens with the move 1.d4 and continues with a specific set of moves: Nf3, Bf4, e3, Bd3, Nbd2, and c3.
An additional move h3 is often played to safeguard the bishop on f4.
The dark-squared bishop’s rapid development to f4 distinguishes it from other systems, like the Colle System.
This setup often leads to a closed game and can be used against virtually any Black defense.
Does the London System always start with 1. d4?
Yes, the London System typically starts with the move 1.d4.
This opening move is followed by a specific set of developments, including the dark-squared bishop to f4, and supporting the d4-pawn with pawns on e3 and c3.
The London System’s characteristic structure is built upon this initial d4 move.
How does the London System compare to the Colle System?
The primary difference between the London System and the Colle System lies in the development of the dark-squared bishop.
In the London System, the bishop is developed to f4 early in the game, while in the Colle System, the queen’s bishop usually remains on c1 during the opening phase.
This distinction gives the London System a more aggressive posture compared to the Colle System.
What is the historical background of the London System?
The London System has a rich history, with James Mason being the first master-level player to employ it regularly in the late 19th century.
The name “London System” comes from the London tournament of 1922, where it was played on several occasions by famous players.
Though once rare in grandmaster tournaments, the London System has gained popularity in the 21st century, especially among club-level players.
What are some famous games that have utilized the London System?
Some renowned players, including Bent Larsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, and others, have occasionally used the London System.
One of the most famous games utilizing the London System was round 6 of the 2023 World Chess Championship between Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
How can Black respond to the London System?
Black has a wide range of possibilities to respond to the London System.
Higher-level players may also employ an early …c5, followed by …Qb6, aiming at White’s weak b2-pawn.
What is the Rapport–Jobava System in relation to the London System?
The Rapport–Jobava System is a modern development within the London System, named after grandmasters Richárd Rapport and Baadur Jobava.
This approach combines Bf4 with Nc3, instead of the usual Nbd2, creating potential threats against Black’s c7 pawn.
It adds a twist to the conventional London System and has considerable surprise value.
What criticisms does the London System face?
While known for its solid nature, the London System has faced criticism for its perceived tedious nature and lack of dynamic play.
Its reputation for being somewhat unexciting may dissuade some players from adopting it, though its clarity and straightforward plans continue to make it popular among others.
How has the publication “Win with the London System” influenced the London System’s play?
The 2005 book “Win with the London System” by Sverre Johnsen and Vlatko Kovačević has had a significant influence on how the opening is played.
One common change is the development of the queen’s bishop to f4 on move 2, rather than playing 2.Nf3 and then 3.Bf4.
This sequence aims to avoid certain lines that may favor Black and has become a standard approach for many players using the London System.
What is an example game involving the London System?
An example game involving the London System is the 2023 World Championship game between Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Ding won the game playing white.
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Nbd2 cxd4 6.exd4 Bf5 7.c3 e6 8.Bb5 Bd6 9.Bxd6 Qxd6 10.0-0 0-0 11.Re1 h6 12.Ne5 Ne7 13.a4 a6 14.Bf1 Nd7 15.Nxd7 Qxd7 16.a5 Qc7 17.Qf3 Rfc8 18.Ra3 Bg6 19.Nb3 Nc6 20.Qg3 Qe7 21.h4 Re8 22.Nc5 e5 23.Rb3 Nxa5 24.Rxe5 Qf6 25.Ra3 Nc4 26.Bxc4 dxc4 27.h5 Bc2 28.Nxb7 Qb6 29.Nd6 Rxe5 30.Qxe5 Qxb2 31.Ra5 Kh7 32.Rc5 Qc1+ 33.Kh2 f6 34.Qg3 a5 35.Nxc4 a4 36.Ne3 Bb1 37.Rc7 Rg8 38.Nd5 Kh8 39.Ra7 a3 40.Ne7 Rf8 41.d5 a2 42.Qc7 Kh7 43.Ng6 Rg8 44.Qf7 1–0 (Black resigns)
The London System is a versatile and solid opening that offers a range of strategic possibilities.
Its history, variations, and adaptability make it an appealing choice for players at various levels.
While it may face criticism for its perceived lack of dynamism, its enduring presence in both club-level play and grandmaster tournaments attests to its effectiveness and depth.
Whether you are a beginner looking for a reliable opening or an advanced player seeking to explore new strategic landscapes, the London System offers a rich and rewarding chess experience.