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Why the London System Is Actually Exciting!
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Why the London System Is Actually Exciting!

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The London System is arguably the most infamous opening in all of chess. The London, which involves a combination of d4 and Bf4, has been the butt of countless jokes in chess media, as players of all skill levels harbor a grudge against this system. Even chess.com has made fun of this opening multiple times on their social media platforms!


A microcosm of the majority opinion on the London

Of course, not everybody hates the London (this humorous piece from @PedroPinhata, a staff writer, comes to mind) so as I was preparing this blog, I decided to get some opinions from the community. To do this, I made a thread in a blogging club that I’m in, and although the majority opinion wasn’t lopsidedly stacked against the London, I certainly received some ― how should I put this ― passionate responses. 

Here’s what @Nimzo-IndianaJones, a Top Blogger whose opinion I normally respect (but not so much in this case tongue.png) had to say:


@SheldonofOsaka, another strong Top Blogger, who has maintained that the London System should be banned in the past, went a step further:


Their responses make it clear that I’m risking an abundance of ridicule by making this blog, but that’s what makes this defense even more fun! But before I explain why this hate is unjustified, first we must get to the bottom of the reason behind the London’s bad reputation.


Why Is the London So Infamous?


The main gripe with the London System arises from its most popular line at the beginner and intermediate levels. A large chunk of U1000 players see the London as an easy way to get familiar positions without memorizing theory, and so they play this system in response to almost everything:

It’s difficult to find an interesting counter, so most games in this line end up looking like this:

However, this doesn’t mean that the opening itself is bad, because there are many more interesting ways to play it. If we were to determine every opening’s value based on the way beginners typically play it, then we could say that the Italian is boring because an alarming amount of beginners play this abomination:


This logic has always been flawed because an opening should be decided by the best or most interesting way to play it, not what’s popular among beginners or even intermediate players. So the London’s bad reputation is problematic because there are so many better ways to play the opening than how beginners use it. This response that I got from @little_guinea_pig in my thread sums my thoughts up best:

“There are lines in the London that are fun, the Jobava, h4 lines, etc. Then there are all the people who play 1.d4 2.bf4 3.e3 4.c3 no matter what you play and you can't punish it well. Those people are the reason the London sucks, not the opening itself.”

This sums up brilliantly and concisely the reasons why the London gets so much hate; he even mentions a couple of exciting lines, which unsurprisingly are the lines that will be featured in most of the games that will be discussed in this blog. Two of the examples will be from my games, and three examples will come from people who actually know what they’re doing. The games illustrate different methods of spicing up the London.


London Kingside Attacks


This first game to be discussed is one that I played in November 2022, which was the inspiration for this blog (yes, I have been holding onto this as a potential idea since NOVEMBER). Although it’s a blitz game and isn’t perfect, it effectively demonstrates many sound London attacking ideas.

This game shows how if you play an h4 line, you can easily run over Black if they don’t actively respond. Of course, you have to be accurate and push the right pawns, but it’s certainly imbalanced and is not a line that indicates a “boring” opening.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to push your kingside pawns to initiate a kingside attack in the London, as this masterful game by Arjun Erigaisi demonstrates. Erigaisi, one of the hottest and most exciting players in the chess world, has employed the London on multiple occasions, and in this game from 2021 (before his excellent streak last year), he uses piece play to crush Sam Shankland in a miniature out of a seemingly innocent London line.

Absolutely outstanding! Erigaisi built up the pressure with his pieces until Shankland cracked, and he made it look so easy. And the best part about this game is that almost all of Erigaisi’s ideas can be applied to your games! Allowing the potential trade on f4 to open the e file is a common idea, as is placing a knight on e5 supported by a knight on f3. Some of his higher-level ideas, such as the queen reroute, castling during a kingside attack, and the delayed g pawn push, require more finesse to evaluate in your games, but advanced players can employ these skilled ideas in several positions, which makes this particular game instructive for multiple skill levels. However, the games in the next line are far more complicated.


The Jobava London


The Jobava London, named after GM Baadur Jobava, is one of the most well-known lines of the London and is quite possibly the most exciting London line. The main idea is to play Bf4 and Nc3 before pushing the c pawn, the point being that White can play a quick Nb5  to put Black on the defensive. Many examples show how imbalanced this opening is, but I chose two recent ones that drive the point home.

This first game is an example of how absolutely insane games in the Jobava can get. The game in question was played by Arjun Erigaisi (yep, he’s so incredible that I had to show another example from him) against MVL in last year’s World Rapid Championship. The annotations are taken from chess.com’s recap of the event (which is why they’re suspiciously good).

The first thing I noticed is that the annotations supported my argument by explaining the pros and cons of the main Jobava line and mentioning how modern London players like to play aggressively. As for the game itself, Erigaisi was masterful, attacking multiple sides of the board effectively. While this game was more complicated and less instructive than the last game, it is a prime example of how explosive the Jobava London can get.

Another Jobava example I will examine is probably the most famous game on this list, and one of the most exciting master games of 2022. That’s right, it’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs. Anish Giri, from the Aimchess Rapid. I simply could not make a blog defending the London without including this game. Shak shows off so many marvelous attacking ideas, and sacrifices so many pieces, is it any wonder it was the talk of the chess world after it was played?

Simply magnificent! I am shocked that the chess world didn’t collectively reconsider their judgment of the London System after it produced such a brilliancy. While this further proves how flammable the Jobava is, the fun doesn’t stop here!


London Sidelines


Besides the main lines that I demonstrated, there are certain sidelines that you can use to spice up the London, and although some of them aren’t cutting-edge, they will guarantee an imbalanced game. A good example is this innovative pseudo-gambit I played in a casual game a couple of months ago, which is around equal, but led to some craziness.

Although I lost the opening, that’s because I’m trash and I missed cxd5, not because of my e4 idea. Overall, I played decently, and it was a fun game, despite being a London sideline which most of you have likely never seen (although it has been played in a couple of master games). Once again, this demonstrates how many imbalanced ways there are to play the London. I hope you use some of these lines in your games to shock some unwitting opponents.

So, to summarize, while the hate for players that use the London System as a means of playing safe, boring games may be justified, the London System itself can be an exciting weapon, and it’s high time that we as a community start to respect and acknowledge that fact. If you have played any exciting London games, please share them in the comments. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my minions on alert, as I fully expect to receive multiple assassination attempts this week.