Why The London Is The Best Chess Opening

Why The London Is The Best Chess Opening

| 106 | Opening Theory

Nowadays, there are two things every new chess player learns very fast. The first is how to move the pieces, the second is that you must hate the London System.

With millions of memes dissing the opening, the perfectly fine London fell into public disgrace. Play 2.Bf4, and you'll be instantly judged by everyone around you—including those who play the Reversed London Slav Defense as Black. 

Meme all you want, but it's time you face the cold, hard truth. The London is the best opening in chess, and I dare you to prove me wrong.

So Much Love You Have To Hate It

Apparently, everybody loves the London, and that's why everybody hates it. Very paradoxical, so let me explain. London haters claim they can't hit Play without being transported into the chess version of a toothpaste commercial—"nine out of 10 players use the London." 

This seems like a reasonable argument. Ever since world champion Magnus Carlsen popularized the opening, it looks like everybody wants to emulate him. And who can blame them? After all, who wouldn't want to play like the guy who beat none other than GM Ding Liren in 24 moves like it was nothing?

Annotations by GM Rafael Leitão, a London hater in recovery.

It's games like this that make this opening so popular. Our London content is consistently the most visited on our Openings page, and many beginners do choose to play it. It seems like the London is a lot like TikTok dances: everybody disses it, it looks really embarrassing, but most people are willing to do it if it pays dividends.

But is that really what's going on here? Is the London truly butchering the beauty and plurality of chess?

Let's look at the numbers. Every day, approximately 200,000 games start with this opening on That really is a lot of games using the same opening. One tiny detail, though: that number represents roughly 2% of the games played on our servers.

Do you know what this means? If you think too many people are playing 2.Bf4, that's not math—it's trauma. And you should seek help.

The Most Boring Opening Ever

Chess players are notoriously drawn to danger. It's not uncommon for top performers like GM Hikaru Nakamura to wrestle shirtless with lions or for super grandmasters like Fabiano Caruana to play with knives while blindfolded. It's just part of every chess player's nature.

Maybe that's why many of them yawn at the sight of 2.Bf4. There's simply no adrenaline involved in that move. I mean, how can anyone in their right mind compare it with the almighty 1.e4 and the grueling tactical skirmishes that ensue after this opening move?

It's almost too much action for one to handle:

I understand. With the wonderful world of fighting chess 1.e4 can provide, who wants to go through the slow and boring torture that is the London?


What a snoozefest.

London haters, what can I say... You clearly won this one. 

'It's Not For The Cultured'

Much of the hate against the London stems from the fact that it is not really an opening but rather a system. You can play more or less the same setup against most of the things Black throws at you. Because of this, the chess elite started pointing fingers and claiming the London was bad for your chess development. 

I remember a few years ago when I started playing chess again after a long, long break. Like almost every beginner pre-chess boom, I would always play the respectable Italian Game with White. One day I was talking about openings with my coworker and US Chess expert Colin Stapczynski when he said I should give the London a try. 

Surprised and outraged, I exclaimed: "how dare thee? Is this not a game commencement for the uneducated and witless pedestrian?" (or something like that). At that time, I was approaching a 1400 blitz rating, and I basically thought that the London was "just for noobs." Meanwhile, this is the kind of brilliancy I was producing:

The London is clearly not worthy of such a magnificent player, right?

It took some convincing, but I eventually embraced the London, and let me tell you: it did wonders for my chess. Obviously, I'm not saying it stopped me from blundering pieces and playing like a baboon. Years later and I'm still doing it. My point is that maybe we should be a little more realistic about what a "good opening" is for most people. 

The majority of players on are rated between 600 and 1000. As my game above clearly illustrates, even 1400s struggle with simple things like, you know, realizing when pieces are hanging. So we, mere mortals, are far from the point where we need to understand the intricacies of the positional battles in the Queen's Gambit or the Catalan.

Honestly, if we can get to move 15 without dropping a piece, that's a huge win. And the London should help you with that.

Prove Me Wrong: The London Is The Best Opening Ever

As you can see, if you're looking for something that isn't boring, the London is for you. If you're looking for something that will help you not to gift your pieces to your opponents (at least in the opening), the London is for you. If you want to play something unique, do you go with 1.e4? No way, Jose Lopez. Hit them with 1.d4 2.Bf4. And if that's not enough, here are a few other reasons to play this beauty:

A Player Is Judged By The Company They Keep

What do GMs Carlsen, Wesley So, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Nakamura, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Gata Kamsky, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexander Morozevich, Vladislav Artemiev, Ruslan Ponomariov, Boris Gelfand, Le Quang Liem, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Baadur Jobava, Wei Yi, Richard Rapport, Anton Korobov, Nigel Short, Bu Xiangzhi, Maxim Matlakov, Alexei Shirov, and Daniil Dubov all have in common? 

Let me give you a hint: it starts with 1.d4 and it ends with 2.Bf4.

Almost No Theory

As a casual player, you basically have two choices. You can adopt a time-old opening, study really hard the millions of possible lines, variations, and ideas behind it, and still play them all terribly. Or you can choose the London, learn the basic ideas you should play against the few setups Black can try against it, and mostly get decent games and have some fun. 

It's really just a matter of taste.

Play It As You Want

Do you want to be a Solid Samuel and play it safe? The London's got your back. Are you feeling adventurous and want to play a dubious sacrifice to shake things up? Get your cup of tea ready, my friend, for the London can also grant you that. And when your opponent is about to fall asleep while staring at your mighty pawn triangle, you can play that famous Bxh7+ to win with a brilliant attack!

It's Double The Fun

Winning with the London is a lot of fun. And when you're done playing, you can still enjoy memes about it! Win-win.


I just gave you irrefutable evidence that the London is the best chess opening in existence. Maybe one day, when we have flying cars and the technology to live on Mars, a supercomputer armed with an engine twice as strong as Stockfish will prove me wrong. But today the London thrives.

Now obviously, I'm joking. There is no such thing as the "best chess opening" (although there is such a thing as the worst opening). I don't even play the London regularly anymore.

But while poking fun at London players is a lot of fun, messing with London haters is just as great!

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