London System: Dealing with ...Bf5

London System: Dealing with ...Bf5

Apr 29, 2018, 6:00 AM |

Most players who take up the London System are probably attracted to the kingside play one gets in the main line where Black plays ...e6, shutting in his own bishop. Relatedly, one of the most common questions beginners ask in the comments of London videos etc. is what to do when Black refuses to play ball and develops the bishop instead. In this post I'll give an overview of White's best play when Black plays the copycat with ...Bf5 at all the different moments he can (in the next post we'll do the same for...Bg4).


White's two main plans upon copycat bishop developments are the same as in the QG-Baltic-Slav when faced with an early ...Bf5 and the mirror image of what Black can try to punish Bf4:

1. Exploit the absence of the bishop from the Queenside with c4 and Qb3 to put pressure on b7 (much like Black tries c5 and Qb6 to put pressure on b2)

2. Try to hunt down or at least harrass the bishop with Nh4 (much like Black tries Nh5)

1. Black plays the Baltic Defense with 2...Bf5 or Slav with 2...c6...and 3...Bf5 

Black could develop the bishop on the 2nd move. However, you can get variations of the same setup also on the 3rd and 4th move. Here the plan is c4-Qb3 and leads to a Baltic defense-style middlegame (upon Bxb1), or the famous London endgame:

Here's a video by GM Damian Lemos on this line (notice the mistaken recommendation of 6. Qb6):

2. Black plays the Chigorin with 2...Nc6 and 3...Bf5

Black could play the Chigorin...Bf5. Here one plan is to play against both the knight and the bishop and on the c-file with c4.

Here's Loek van Wely winning in this line against Ivan Sokolov:

3. Black plays Qb6-c4 and tries to get the bishop out by tactical means

Black could try playing Qb6-c4 and then develop the bishop to Bf5 by sacrificing it to get pressure against b2 and the rook on a1. This doesn't work when White plays the right move order:

Here's a video where Sedlak crushes his opponent in this line:

4. Black plays the Exchange Caro with 5...Bf5

Black could play c5, exchange on d4 and then play ...Bf5. Here the plan is Ngf3, Qb3 & Nh4 to win the bishop:

Here's a game of Kramnik in this line:

5. Black plays Classically in QG Style with 5...Bf5

Finally, Black could play c5, but keep the tension and play 5...Bf5. This is perhaps the murkiest line as far as plans and toughest to meet. Here White plays 6. Ngf3 and then waits to see whether Black plays ...e6 or ...Qb6 to chooses a response, but still using the same 2 thematic ideas:

Here are two relatively recent games in these lines:

Next week we'll look at Black's other bishop development...Bg4.