London System: An Overview of Books

London System: An Overview of Books


This is the first post on a new series on the popular London System. I've written about an interesting way to play London against g6 setups before (see here, here, here, and here). However, this series won't really be on mainstream theory, but on other stuff like tricky move order issues and unexplored or less well known positions, including some likely to arise only in non-master play.

For mainstream theory there are books so I thought I'd kick things off with an overview of what's available. I think it's fair to say that even though there was some stuff published before, the first book that needs to be discussed is Sverre Johnsen & Vlatko Kovacevic's Win With the London System (Gambit, 2005):


Kovacevic is a London pioneer and their book is structured into 30 illustrative games, many of which are absolute London classics like Kovacevic vs Byrne 1980, and a theory section. The authors cover both the Classical move order with 2. Nf3 while recommending, for the first time, the "Modern" 2. Bf4. Their main reason is the contrast between the following bad and good line:

J&K look at both d5-setups as well as KID, QID, Benoni, and Dutch. The book is very nicely written and enjoyable to read (even if Eric Prie was quite critical of it and some of its theory, see here). However, unfortunately it's by now completely outdated, especially given the elevated interested in the London over the last few years.


Next in line is Cyrus Lakdawala's Play the London System (Everyman 2010):


Lakdawala plays the London himself and the book is structured into 92 annotated games. He advocates a mixed approach with 1. d4, d5, 2. Bf4 and 1. d4, Nf6, 2. Nf3. Interestingly, and in contrast to most other sources, he recommends the Morris (EDIT: or, actually Norris, see comments) Gambit (1. d4, d5 2. Bf4, c5, 3. e4!?) which deserves a post of its own. Otherwise, all Black options are covered, if rahter unsystematically (compared to both J&K and newer books), including some lines which you'll rarely encounter. Lakdawala has also written a special chapter for what to do if Black gets smart and tries to trick white with 1. d4, Nf6, 2. Nf3, d5! upon which 3. Bf4 would lead to the bad line above (I'll mention his solution towards the end). You can look at reviews here and here. Sadly, like J & K's book, it's again outdated and contains some mistakes by White which go uncommented on.

This isn't to say J&K's and Lakdawala's books are useless. In fact, they contain some older gems which might be very useful for newcomers to go through since they're likely to get at least some similar non-current-theory games. However, it means that you can't really rely on either alone. To give just one example, J&K only very briefly mention the current main line with a Classical setup with e6 and 8... b6, whereas Lakdawala doesn't mention it at all, only covering 8...Re8. Neither covers the trendy Carlsen move 8. Bb5. I will talk about all of this in more depth below.

From 2005 & 2010 we jump to 2016 which gave us not one, not two, but THREE (!) very different, more or less cutting edge books on our topic (Side note: it also gave us Lakdawala's First Steps: The Colle and London Systems (Everyman, 2016), but he recommends Colle against d5 and only covers London against g6 setups)

Let's start with the least well known book, Markus Schmücker's The London System - Properly Played (Joachim Beyer, 2016):


Now, I don't own the whole book and have only looked at the excerpt. However, a few things stand out immediately. First, Schmücker covers only 1. d4, d5 lines and no 1. d4, Nf6 lines with the justification that the London setup is strongest against the former (true, see also Sedlak's opinion below). Second, Schmücker recommends the Classical move order with 2. Nf3. Accordingly, it's important to look at his solution so as not to to end up in the bad line above:

You can decide for yourself whether you want to play like this. Towards the end I will show how most GMs currently handle the position.

Now we come to the big two books on the London. First, Alfonso Romero's and Oscar de Prado's The Agile London System (New In Chess, 2016):


R&P's book consists of 71 heavily annotated games together with 60 puzzles (yay!). Again, I've only looked at excerpts and look forward to getting it and studying it in the future. However, one thing can be said immediately.  Like J&K it recommends 2. Bf4 throughout while covering both d5-setups as well as KID, QID, Benoni, and the Dutch. It is thus the only up to date book on the market you could potentially get all your info on 2. Bf4 from and is to be recommended on that score alone. It also covers non-standard stuff like the Barry Attack, the Jobava Attack (see links to my posts above), and what they call the Pereyra Attack with an early Ne5 & h4.

Second, we have the other big London book, Nikola Sedlak's Winning With the Modern London System (Chess Evolution, 2016):


Sedlak's book is really well structured and consists of a theoretical chapter introduction followed by annotated games (see excerpt). He starts in Ch. 1 with 1. d4, d5 2. Bf4, c5 3. e3, cxd5, the Exchange Caro, and everything builds logically from there. For example, Ch. 2 is 1. d4, d5 2. Bf4, c5 3. e3, Nc6 4. c3, Qb6. I've studied it in depth (about halfway through all the games) and will perhaps write a longer review later. Like R&P it recommends 2. Bf4, but in contrast to them and like Schmücker he only covers d5-setups (including the Grünfeld) with the justification that he doesn't believe in the position of the bishop when Black can play d6. 

I can't really compare Sedlak's book to R&P's in depth because I haven't studied the former one as deeply (but see John Hartmann's review of both here). Let me just say that I really like this book and have updated my repertoire in several places. Here are two examples, the first from Sedlak's Ch. 3 and the second in the aforementioned current main line with e6 & 8...b6:

It's clear that R&P's book and Sedlak's book are the ones an aspiring London player should get. However, there are two newer books of a somewhat different nature that one should also be aware of.

First, Sedlak has relatively recently published Winning With the Modern London System, Part 2 (Chess Evolution, 2017):


One might've naively hoped that Sedlak has changed his mind and completes the repertoire with 1. d4, Nf6 2. Bf4. However, this is not the case. He does complete the repertoire, but rather, like Lakdawala, with 1. d4, Nf6, 2. Nf3. The first chapter deals with what the IM dealt with in his last one, namely 2...d5! where Black tries to transpose into the bad line for White (see excerpt). However, unlike Lakdawala or Schmücker, Sedlak gives the latest theory recommendation which is how most GMs in the past year or two have handled the position:

Fascinating stuff and perhaps this saves 2. Nf3 altogether (look out for my next post on 2. Nf3 vs 2. Bf4). The 2nd chapter looks at 1. d4, Nf6, 2. Nf3, e6, 3. Bf4, but only at positions where Black avoids d5 (since those with d5 were covered in the first book). The 3rd chapter recommends the Torre Attack against the KID (so no London at all!) and the final one looks at the Anti-Benoni with 1. d4, Nf6 2. Nf3, c5 3. e5. All in all, this looks very interesting, and I'm sure I'll pick it up once I'm done with the first book (if anyone tied to the publisher is reading this and wants to send me a copy to review, I'd be happy to oblige lol  )

And finally, for something completely different, there's Kiril Georgiev's Fighting the London System (Chess Stars, 2017):


Georgiev starts from the fact that the sharper the opening (e. g Meran), the narrower the path, meaning less room for error, but also less to memorize. He claims that if this path is correctly followed then it ends in a computer analyzed draw around move 40 (see excerpt).  The current reaction among GMs is to choose openings without a narrow path and to get a game. He thinks that one of the best such openings is the London system, he plays it religiously himself, and in this book he outlines a variety of interesting and novel ways to play against it. To be more specific, he offers Grünfeld-based d5&g6 setups, an original plan based on delaying c5&b6 (which I haven't seen anywhere else), an idea in the main line, and the Benoni setup. I think it's clear that the White players would benefit from this book as much as Black.

This concludes our overview. As a little extra, here's my Youtube Playlist on the London System, comprising what I've found to be the most useful videos on it (both instructionals and annotated games, especially by Mato).