How to Beat the London System: Chess Strategies 

how to beat the london system

Fed up being defeated by the London system?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. All you need is to brush up on the basics of Queen’s Gambit declined strategies and a few other tactics.

Yes, you can beat the London system without taking the pain of learning chess theory.

So, buckle up, and let’s get started with how to beat the London system without any delay. Before we go forward, let me provide a quick summary of what the London system is.

London System: A Brief Idea

What is it?

The London System, aka the “Mason variation,” is a chess opening for white. It’s a line from the queen’s pawn game (1.d4) that can be used against most black defenses with fruitful results.

As the name suggests, this opening strategy rose to popularity in London. It was used by the participants of the London tournament (an international tournament) held in Central Hall, Westminster, in 1922.

British player James Mason was one of the first players who extensively played the London system. Besides Mason, the other proponents of this opening strategy are Johannes Zukertort, Adolf Anderssen, and William Steinitz.

How to play the London System?

This is a counter opening to Queen’s Gambit’s declined strategies. White opens with 1.d4 to develop the dark-squared bishop at f4 instead of playing the Queen’s gambit.

The initial moves are 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4

How to Beat the London System

Common Variations of the London System

1. Classical line

White begins the London System by playing the knight first (1.d4 2.Nf3) and delaying the development of the bishop.

In the Classical line of the London system, 2.Nf3 plays the king’s knight to a regular square while waiting to see how black responds. This also provides white the flexibility to shift to other openings, including the Colle System with 3.e3 and Queen’s Gambit with 3.c4.

The series of moves is: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4

classical line variation of london system

2. The Modern London

White plays 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 instead of developing 2.Nf3. Like the Bishop’s opening, white opts for the bishop before the knight. In the Modern London variation, white ignores the opening principle of “knights before bishops.”

The series of moves is 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4

The Modern London

3. Rapport-Jobava System

The Rapport-Jobava London was named after Richárd Rapport and Baadur Jobava.

The series of moves is 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d5 3.e3 c5 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.exd4 Nc6 6.Qd2 Bf5 7.O-O-O

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How to Beat the London System?

The London system is an opening for white. It’s tactical, lesser-known, and can overthrow black at fewer moves than you can imagine.

So, you must know how to beat white when playing the London system. A player, especially beginners, must be ready to play and win as the second player against the London system.

I have a few opening strategies for you to destroy the London system.

1. The Dutch Defense (1. d4 f5)

how to beat the london system

The London system is a slowly developed opening. Try to destroy it before white can reach it.

Play (1…f5) against the London System to take positions that equalize black with white rapidly. It will control the e4 square and exert power in the center.

After playing 1…f5, black has options for various fruitful variations.

  • The Stonewall variation with the f5, e6, d5, and c6.
  • The Leningrad by playing the dark-squared bishop on g7 square.
  • The dark-squared bishop to e7 variation while playing with d6.
  • Playing the bishop pair–the dark-squared bishop to e7 and the light-squared bishop to b7.

Read: Dutch Defense in detail

2. The King’s Indian Defense (1. d4 Nf6)

If you want an opening strategy to crush the London System and take advantageous squares, I suggest the King’s Indian defense.

It pushes down the dark-squared bishop and blocks the convenient lines for White by playing Ne5 and f4. It makes white vulnerable from all sides.

The moves are: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 Bg7 3.e3 d6

The King's Indian Defense to beat london system  

3. The Old Indian Defense (2. Nf3 d6)

The Old Indian Defense is an effective opening in which Black avoids the main lines in the London system. Like the King’s Indian defense, black slows down the development of the dark-squared bishop, which often goes to e7.

It’s a good defense against the London system for several reasons. Firstly, it pushes back the dark-squared bishop and catches white by surprise. The best way to do that is to play Nh5.

Secondly, black gains the flexibility to play the King’s Indian defense by developing the bishop to g7.

The moves are: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3. Bf4 Nd7

Old Indian Defense to beat london system

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4. The Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5)

This opening is all about avoiding the London system from the very beginning of the game.

The Englund Gambit begins by playing 1…e5, followed by a pawn sacrifice. Black’s aim is to avoid every possible queen’s pawn opening lines.

Even though it’s often underestimated by many chess players because of its rareness in tournaments, I can vouch for this opening. It will help pieces develop quickly and put white in an unstable position.

The series of moves is 1.d4 e5

Englund Gambit to beat london system

5. The Queen’s Indian Defense (2. Nf3 e6)

This opening strategy is the perfect defense against the London System or any other Queen’s pawn openings.

The Queen’s Indian Defense (QID) controls the e4 square indirectly by launching a fianchetto on the queen’s bishop. It’s my personal favorite because it does not create any weaknesses in black’s pawn structure while developing pieces.

The series of moves is 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bf4 b6

Queen's Indian Defense

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What is the best defense against the London system?

The best defense against the London System is the King’s Indian defense. It not only pushes down the powerful dark-squared bishop but also blocks all the good lines for White by playing Ne5 and f4.

The moves are: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 Bg7 3.e3 d6

Does the London system work for black?

Generally, the London system doesn’t work for black. The second player can only achieve the pawn structure of the London system, but it will still keep white in an advantageous position. So, it’s always better for black to learn to play against the London system.

Is the London system a variation of the Queen’s gambit strategy?

Nope. The Queen’s gambit strategy and the London system are both queen’s pawn openings. But these are two separate openings.

As a matter of fact, chess players often play the London system to avoid the Queen’s gambit strategy, which is mostly countered with the Queen’s gambit declined strategies.

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The London system is undoubtedly one of the most pain-in-the-neck opening strategies for white. Besides attacking black, it also messes up the black pawn structure and hinders the development of the pieces.

If you want to beat the London system, try the above strategies. I am sure you’ll win.

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