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Subject: Seeking advice from experienced chess players regarding the London System. rss

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Christian Sperling
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In our chess club the London System becomes more and more popular:

Under strong chess players it hasn't a good reputation, it's considered as a boring opening, mainly because white gives up his opening advantage. Though even world-class players use this opening; it's pretty solid and not harmless at all.
Normally I play the semi-slave variantion against Queen's Gambit openings.
But this London System annoys me. I don't really know what to do. White just places his Knight on e5 and/or makes a Queen side attack and crushes my pawn structure on the Queen side (with moves like Qb3, c5 and so on).
My game is always pretty narrowed. In the internet I don't find anything against the London System, just "Pro London System" informations.
So, does anyone know good variations or plans with black against the London System?


 
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Peter Mumford
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never heard of this plan.. suppose you attack white's d-pawn with your c-pawn and then bring your other night out?
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Christian Sperling
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An early advance with my c pawn attacking white's d pawn and pressure the center myself seems to be a good alternative. Because now I have the option of playing Qb6. Threatening whites b2 pawn. Just the opposite of white's plan (c3, Qb3).
But this can lead to very sharp variations:

Like this:
1. d4 d5
2. Bf4 c5 (immediately)
3. e3 Nc6
4. c3 Qb6
5. Qb3 c4 (forcing white's Queen to retreat. If he takes my Queen I have an advantage with the open a file and can advance my b pawn, common theory).
6. Qc2 and now Bf5
7. Qxf5 Qxb2 and so on.

But like said this leads to wild games.

I've found a variation with an early b6 and fianchetto of the bishop.
This seems interesting.

But I think I should look deeper into the variations with an early c pawn advance as it could give black an edge or an active play.
And normally I'm not the guy who avoids wild positions.

But maybe there are other concrete variations or plans.
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With this opening, black will often bring its bishop up to threaten the knight. Usually white then counter-threatens the bishop with the pawn, but frankly the exchange favors black. Admitted whether one considers a bishop or a knight more valuable depends on the board position and style of play, but it undermines white's support.
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How about a plan based on:

e6, Bd6 (if he exchanges great take back with c7 which ruins e5 for him and gives you the c-file), assuming he doesn't then 0-0, N (f) d7, f6, e5 starting a k-side attack.

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You first must understand why white usually plays 3.e3 - to protecting the d-pawn for white is important when he wants to normally develop the rest of his minor pieces. Therefore, 3.Bf4 should be met by the counterattacking 3...c5, then if
4. e3 Nc6
5. c3 Qb6!

is highly annoying threat against the b-pawn. So, perhaps white tries

5.Nc3

But then,

5...Bg4
6.Bb5 e6
7. h3 Bh5
8. g4 Bg6
9. Ne5 Qb6!
And black should be fine.




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Christian Sperling
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Just for clarification.
The London System is an all purpose opening for white, which requires no (or lesser) opening theory because white always play the same moves against allmost all black openings. It's some kind of improved Colle System because white brings his dark squared bishop into play.
The standard moves are:
1. d4
2. Lf4
3. e3
4. c3
5. Nf3
5. Nbd2
6. Bd3


This is the basic London System position.



The basic Colle position with the bishop on c1.

The pawn structure d4,e3,c3 is typical for those kind of Queen pawn openings like the London System or Colle.
Its some kind of semi-slav with reversed colors.

whac3 wrote:
With this opening, black will often bring its bishop up to threaten the knight. Usually white then counter-threatens the bishop with the pawn, but frankly the exchange favors black. Admitted whether one considers a bishop or a knight more valuable depends on the board position and style of play, but it undermines white's support.

Do you mean with ...Bg4 ?

2ndinBeautyContest wrote:
How about a plan based on:

e6, Bd6 (if he exchanges great take back with c7 which ruins e5 for him and gives you the c-file), assuming he doesn't then 0-0, N (f) d7, f6, e5 starting a k-side attack.


This sounds really interesting. You just look for an exchange of the f4 bishop and pressure e5 yourself (+ c file and ruined e5 if he takes). I like this idea. I'll look deeper into this variation.

markgravitygood wrote:
You first must understand why white usually plays 3.e3 - to protecting the d-pawn for white is important when he wants to normally develop the rest of his minor pieces. Therefore, 3.Bf4 should be met by the counterattacking 3...c5, then if
4. e3 Nc6
5. c3 Qb6!

is highly annoying threat against the b-pawn. So, perhaps white tries

5.Nc3

But then,

5...Bg4
6.Bb5 e6
7. h3 Bh5
8. g4 Bg6
9. Ne5 Qb6!
And black should be fine.

Absolutely! I also think that an early c5 is appropriate. This variant was played between Nimzowitsch and Alekhine (1912). In my other games I just played my normal semi-slav, but I think I have to play a bit more agressive. So I'll look for games with c5. The other idea with Bd6 is also worth a look.

 
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konsum24 wrote:

whac3 wrote:
With this opening, black will often bring its bishop up to threaten the knight. Usually white then counter-threatens the bishop with the pawn, but frankly the exchange favors black. Admitted whether one considers a bishop or a knight more valuable depends on the board position and style of play, but it undermines white's support.

Do you mean with ...Bg4 ?

yes
 
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Christian Sperling
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whac3 wrote:
konsum24 wrote:

whac3 wrote:
With this opening, black will often bring its bishop up to threaten the knight. Usually white then counter-threatens the bishop with the pawn, but frankly the exchange favors black. Admitted whether one considers a bishop or a knight more valuable depends on the board position and style of play, but it undermines white's support.

Do you mean with ...Bg4 ?

yes

This is absolutely new for me. It looks like some kind of Trompovski with reversed colors (I play Trompovsky myself), where white goes for an early bishop, knight exchange:

(Trompovsky opening)

So, based on this position,

the plan of black is to develop his bishop on g4 and go for an exchange of the Knight on f3.
This would suit my playing style and white's usual development with the knights on e5 and f3 is hindered.
Must have a look...
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Nick West
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I play the London System pretty much all the time - I'm not strong (1350 or so) so the type of opponents I meet are not going to crush me just because I may not retain an edge in the opening.

It's more that I am a club player with a real life and demanding job so a system which gets me into the middle game without disaster suits me well. And it is a system which can be played against just about anything black may choose to do.

Early development of blacks queens bishop suits me fine - I just get the opportunity to get the attack in on the weak b-pawn first using after c3 and e3 via Qb3.

As white I always play 2.Bf4 and often delay development of my kings knight. This is to leave the d1-h5 diagonal controlled by my queen avoiding irritating attempts by Black to exchange Kings N for the f4 B early on.

White generally is relying on piece play behind a c3,d4,e3 pawn structure. Then either a pretty crude attack on the king, if black is inexperienced enough to castle early kingside, or after a4 - with a queenside attack especially if black's white bishop is absent.

The black plan of Bd6 aiming to control e5 ultimately to get a pawn on there, is indeed I think the most challenging. White of course will not exchange bishops but will either still try to get a N to e5 and/or drop the bishop back to g3 - any black exchange there will only lead to an open h-file with attitional attacking options with the d3 bishop.

I have used "Win with the London System" Johnsen & Kovacevec
(http://www.amazon.com/Win-London-System-Sverre-Johnsen/dp/19...) for many on the basic set ups - but it is useful too to get if you meet it as black and are struggling, as it is fairly even minded in the theoretical section and the games section will show you a multitude of ways for black to go wrong.

You can of course vary things around my using the Colle, Tromp and Barry Attack, as they all share the same pawn structure which makes life a lot more simple. If you know your way around the sort of games that will result from those pawn structures you already may have an advantage over many weaker opponents, like those who aim to get their pawn to c4 and think they are doing well in consequence.

Beware those of you just looking at an early c5 unless you are prepared for the minority of us booked up London players - or are happy to enter an Albin Reversed (especially if you don't like wild gameplay). 1.d4,d5 2.Bf4,c5 3.e4?!,dxe4 4.d5,Qb6?! (not e6?, 5.Bb5+,Bd7 6.dxe6!,Bxb5?? 7.exf7+,Ke7 8.fxg8+) 5.Nc3 (white cannot wimp out with Qc1),Qxb2 6.Nb5,Na6 7.Eb1,Qf6 8.Qd2 with a serious development advantage for two pawns and white better in most lines.

I am sort of embarrassed to use it, and will need another weapon in the next year or two but to score very well against the sort of weaker oppenents I meet (which I aim to do, and then draw against the stronger) - it has served me well. It has been referred to as "anti-Chess" my some of my stronger club colleagues so do not expect it to earn you much respect!!


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Christian Sperling
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Recently we played a blitz tournament in our club.
Against the London System I've tried the d5,Nf6,c5,Qb6 move order and it was far easier for me to play than with my normal semi-slav opening.

notquitekarpov wrote:
I play the London System pretty much all the time - I'm not strong (1350 or so) so the type of opponents I meet are not going to crush me just because I may not retain an edge in the opening.

It's more that I am a club player with a real life and demanding job so a system which gets me into the middle game without disaster suits me well. And it is a system which can be played against just about anything black may choose to do.

I'm also not a strong player (1700) and for exactly that reasons I had chosen the Trompovsky opening, sometimes I play Colle-Zuckertort.

notquitekarpov wrote:

I have used "Win with the London System" Johnsen & Kovacevec
(http://www.amazon.com/Win-London-System-Sverre-Johnsen/dp/19...) for many on the basic set ups - but it is useful too to get if you meet it as black and are struggling, as it is fairly even minded in the theoretical section and the games section will show you a multitude of ways for black to go wrong.

This book and "Play the London System" http://www.amazon.de/Play-London-System-Everyman-Chess/dp/18... is famous in our club.
I think I should have a closer look...

notquitekarpov wrote:

Beware those of you just looking at an early c5 unless you are prepared for the minority of us booked up London players - or are happy to enter an Albin Reversed (especially if you don't like wild gameplay). 1.d4,d5 2.Bf4,c5 3.e4?!,dxe4 4.d5,Qb6?! (not e6?, 5.Bb5+,Bd7 6.dxe6!,Bxb5?? 7.exf7+,Ke7 8.fxg8+) 5.Nc3 (white cannot wimp out with Qc1),Qxb2 6.Nb5,Na6 7.Eb1,Qf6 8.Qd2 with a serious development advantage for two pawns and white better in most lines.

The Morris Gambit. It can be very annoying for black.
Therefore, Nf6 first.

notquitekarpov wrote:

I am sort of embarrassed to use it, and will need another weapon in the next year or two but to score very well against the sort of weaker oppenents I meet (which I aim to do, and then draw against the stronger) - it has served me well. It has been referred to as "anti-Chess" my some of my stronger club colleagues so do not expect it to earn you much respect!!

I think you don't have to be embarrased. I know players with over 2000 who play it. Even GMs play it from time to time.
Ok, it hasn't a good reputation. I also know the disparaging term "Beton-Schach" (concrete chess), but its dangerous to underestimate this opening(s).

 
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When facing a system like this, in which White doesn't try to accomplish much more than a solid development with his fair share of the center, it's best to adopt a calm approach. White still has the advantage of the first move and with all of his moves being reasonable you're not likely to get the advantage from the opening yourself. One of the strengths of these quiet systems is that Black sometimes tries for too much and gets hurt.

Since the White system typically involves a c3/d4/e3 pawn structure a Q-side fianchetto is a pretty reasonable idea for Black. This helps control the central light squares and offers the potential of ...Ba6 to exchange light-squared bishops and leave White with potentially a bad bishop.
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My advice about the London System is to not play it. It is too generic in nature, results in closed positions much of the time, and does not allow for alot of creativity. You're basically saying to your opponent you give him free reign to develop and do what he wants and you're taking a pass on the opening.

Jump in with some 1.e4 open games and learn how to play the middlegame on your own terms. Explore the Giuoco Piano, the Petrov, the Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian, to name a few. You'll become a better player for it - certainly you'll take your lumps at first, but hiding behind a 'booked up London System' and wallowing at the sub-1400 level is no way to exist in chess.

The reason I say this is because once you invest time in those openings, you can use them for your entire chess career, no matter what level you reach. The middlegames are dynamic.

The London System will become too stagnant for you should you improve beyond a category C player.
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Nick West
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Just because you are an 1.e4 player does not mean everyone has to convert!

I have never played e4 and cannot see that I ever will but, as you say the London System, does have a certain shelf life or perhaps grade life as I will expand my rep.

But there is lots of d4 openings to explore without having to start again as an e4 player.
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notquitekarpov wrote:
Just because you are an 1.e4 player does not mean everyone has to convert!

I have never played e4 and cannot see that I ever will but, as you say the London System, does have a certain shelf life or perhaps grade life as I will expand my rep.

But there is lots of d4 openings to explore without having to start again as an e4 player.


Fair enough - 1.e4 is not required. But, 'start again' is said with such finality! You really are not starting again - you're merely taking a different path on your journey. Think of it as google maps going across country and you started in Boston and began driving towards Maine - wrong way!



Since you have an aversion to 1.e4 and seem to want to play 1.d4, then your first step should be to:

1) Don't play the London System
2) Play any standard 2.c4 opening system that you like.

The point is to get away from the c3-d4-e3 pawn structure, and go more for a c4-d4-e3 structure, which contests the center much better and is more dynamic, and is especially helpful and better for your chess development than hiding behind the London.

Of course, this is all opinion. You are free to do what you please.

 
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Nick West
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No, no, fire away. I see your moniker all over the chess threads and you clearly know what you are talking about.

Rest assured I am not stuck in a pawn structure with c3. I regularly get c4 in immediately especially if my queens knight belongs on c3 rather than d2 in the position in question.

Seriously though, the London System can be quite tactical, especially if black castles king side too early and I can launch a mating attack given the shear number of pieces the London System can generate on or near to the kings side. I am not adverse to the odd sac or two - so tactics do not scare me. I find opponents can get complacent and assume that as I play d4 I am adverse to tactics so sometimes can work to my advantage.

I know I need to branch out, but I have to do that on my own account in club championship and congress games whereas the majority of the games I get are for Edinburgh Civil Service 2 in the Edinburgh League or in the SNCL where I need to do my best for the team. Switching to e4 and taking some hammerings would not be popular when I have to produce the goods if I am going to get picked.

It's the old "limited time for chess" problem - all my games are competitive currently and with married life and a demanding job I cannot see more time for chess magically appearing until I retire!

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Sounds to me you got a good handle on it.
 
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I prefer d4 openings myself. Maybe it is only because I know these systems better.

I find that with 1. d4 I can open up the game when it is to my advantage, or keep the game closed if that works better. This seems to be the key decision in forming a middle game plan. It all has to do with the choice of whether I'm playing with my knights or my bishops, and who has the most space, etc.

Naturally if I am playing against a stronger opponent I'll be unlikely to control the game, but thats no reason not to try..
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Christian Sperling
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markgravitygood wrote:
My advice about the London System is to not play it. It is too generic in nature, results in closed positions much of the time, and does not allow for alot of creativity. You're basically saying to your opponent you give him free reign to develop and do what he wants and you're taking a pass on the opening.

I would say that this opening is not recommended for beginners, because it hinders the development of creativity.
But it's an absolut valid opening for amateurs and beyond.
It's dangerous to underestimate this opening. Especially on amateur level.

markgravitygood wrote:

Jump in with some 1.e4 open games and learn how to play the middlegame on your own terms. Explore the Giuoco Piano, the Petrov, the Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian, to name a few. You'll become a better player for it - certainly you'll take your lumps at first, but hiding behind a 'booked up London System' and wallowing at the sub-1400 level is no way to exist in chess.

The recommendation of e4 is good for beginners who have to find out what kind of player they are. Do they like closed positions or more open ones.

markgravitygood wrote:

The reason I say this is because once you invest time in those openings, you can use them for your entire chess career, no matter what level you reach. The middlegames are dynamic.

You can use the London System (queen pawn openings) also for your entire career. Unless you want to reach GM level, of course (though even GMs play it).
The middlegames of those openings can also be very dynamic.
In addition you don't have to learn all the different variations of other openings (very appealing for amateurs).
Just don't underestimate them.
If you want to take full advantage of your first move with white you need to be a very good player anyways. The same counts for black playing against those openings.

markgravitygood wrote:

The London System will become too stagnant for you should you improve beyond a category C player.

This system isn't stagnat at all. Especially if you improve your game.

markgravitygood wrote:
notquitekarpov wrote:
Just because you are an 1.e4 player does not mean everyone has to convert!

I have never played e4 and cannot see that I ever will but, as you say the London System, does have a certain shelf life or perhaps grade life as I will expand my rep.

But there is lots of d4 openings to explore without having to start again as an e4 player.


Fair enough - 1.e4 is not required. But, 'start again' is said with such finality! You really are not starting again - you're merely taking a different path on your journey. Think of it as google maps going across country and you started in Boston and began driving towards Maine - wrong way!

Players should try out different openings in their chess life.
Preferably at the beginning to find out their play style.
But it's a bad advice to recommend e4 openings to players who like closed positions or are more position orientated.

markgravitygood wrote:

Since you have an aversion to 1.e4 and seem to want to play 1.d4, then your first step should be to:

1) Don't play the London System
2) Play any standard 2.c4 opening system that you like.

The point is to get away from the c3-d4-e3 pawn structure, and go more for a c4-d4-e3 structure, which contests the center much better and is more dynamic, and is especially helpful and better for your chess development than hiding behind the London.


If he likes d4 openings then he can absolutely use the London System or other queen pawn openings. Why not. Even when he has lesser time to learn all the variations of other openings.

Those queen pawn openings can also be very dynamic and it can be fatal to think that London System players just hide behind their opening if you are too careless.

There's a famous chess player (well he is famous in my hometown), who has beaten Boris Spassky and the Polgar sisters (also "fans" of the London) on various tournaments with the London System. He played those queen pawn openings his whole life. But he changed to the queen gambit when he reached a higher level (he is Grandmaster now).
My former trainer is also a fan of those openings and played it against Mikhail Tal once. But it was not enough against Tal.

Don't get me wrong. I also don't like the London System. I'm fine with my Tromp, it's far more flexible. But sometimes it's really annoying to play against it. But I think the important thing is to not underestimate
those openings and to keep calm.

It doesn't depend on the opening anyways (especially under master levels). An opening can help to reach trusted positions of course, maybe it gives you an edge, but in the end the player with the better chess understanding will succeed.
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That's all great - of course, my recommendation was directed towards a 1350 player notquitekarpov, and playing the London System at that level is certain chess death, to me anyways. That is why I recommended 1.e4 - you learn so much more about tactics and middlegames right off the opening, than in the London, so there is that.
 
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Nick West
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I could get offended by clearly being being viewed as a beginner just because I am not very strong! But I won't... kiss

Despite being only 1350 I have been playing long enough to know the style that suits me thanks!

One day you will get your ass kicked as black against the London System. Think of us when it happens and try to smile...

I think this thread has run its course. For me anyway!

Now I have to run - playing in a League match tonight...
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Hate to break it to ya, but I've been playing for over 30 years and I have gotten my ass kicked at some point in every opening ever created, on both sides, more than once. The London System is no exception!

CHESSblankROCKS

I've experimented with everything imaginable under the sun on the 64 at some point or another over the years. Very few games have that staying power, which is the great appeal to me for chess.

CHESSblankROCKS

Which is exactly why I prefer 1. e4 in a stylistic sense.

EFOURblankROCKS

 
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Christian Sperling
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markgravitygood wrote:
That's all great - of course, my recommendation was directed towards a 1350 player notquitekarpov, and playing the London System at that level is certain chess death, to me anyways. That is why I recommended 1.e4 - you learn so much more about tactics and middlegames right off the opening, than in the London, so there is that.

That's right.
For novices e4 is recommended.

But with his first helpful answer in this thread "notquitekarpov" showed that he isn't a beginner at all. He talks about weak pawns, development, control of squares and diagonals, pawn structures, open files, pointed out concrete variants, e.g.
This shows that he is quite experienced despite his rating.
But ratings are overrated anyways.
 
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Ok, that's probably semantics.

At 1350, you are a chess novice, maybe not a beginner, however, but you are barely in the upper third percentile of all rated chess players (USCF) and are a Cat. C/D player. The point is that when someone with his (lengthy?) experience says they've played the London System for a long time (exclusively?), then my first thought is 'why'? It obviously is not teaching what you need to know to get better in chess, namely tactics and open positions, especially at that 1350+ level.

I'd bet dollars to donuts that every game lost is a result of tactical oversights, and not positional inaccuracies. In chess improvement, you address the big problems first, and based on a lengthy stay at circa 1350+, you've plateaud, and it's time to change your game, which you should be doing anyway when ever you plateau in competitive chess.

My guess is that the problem is tactical play and the handling of open positions which clearly there is a lack of experience in, based on the opening choices, because you just don't get them using that opening as readily as you would playing 1.e4.

But again, that's my personal experience. Not everyone agrees with me in that regard, and I'm just trying to help.

Nice discussion. Thanks again.
 
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Nick West
Scotland
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"Only two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity....
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....and I'm not certain about the universe." Albert Einstein
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Hopefully reviving this thread is okay as I thought I would share a recent game of mine that I certainly enjoyed and might be encouragement for those who wonder what happens when a stronger player underestimates the London System...

I'm down to 1278 at the start of this new season, my opponent is graded 1587 so I should be up against it. By the way these are Chess Scotland grades not US or FIDE - I don't know the conversion to US but when Chess Scotland players get FIDE grades they seem to higher than domestic grade- up to 150 points higher exceptionally.

Anyway, it's the first (seeded) round of our Club Championship, I have white:

1. d4, d5
2. Bf4, Nf6
3. e3, e6
4. Bd3,

I like to keep the d1-h5 diagonal open for the moment to avoid any attempts to exchange knight for my f4 bishop.

4. - Be7
5. Nd2, 0-0

Surely too early to be commiting to which side to castle. After the game black told me it was a deliberate invitation to attack him. Obviously he was confident he could handle it with his 300+ grading point superiority.

6. Ngf3, Nd7

I was not bothered now if he wanted to exchange N for B, as I would allow it on g3 if I could get an open rook file to his castled king.

7. h4, b6

"Charge!" say I, "no worries" is the reply.

8. Ne5, Nxe5

Surely, again too early to be making that exchange?

9. dxe5, Ne8

Suddenly he is showing slight concern. Nd7 would be more usual.

10. Qh5, f5
11. g4, g6

The standard way to leaver open fresh lines is g4 although I realised it left my queen exposed in front of the pawn mass.

12. Qh6, Rf7
13. gxf5, exf5
14. h5, Bf8
15. hxg,

Offering my queen up for two pieces and open lines to his king, which he accepts.

15. - Bxh6
16. gxf7+, Kxf7
17. Rxh6

I did not see a direct mating line yet but was sure I had the better position and trusted my instincts. I am not sure yet (still looking into the various lines) if black is actually already busted, but I don't think he played very well from here.

17. - Ng7
18. 0-0-0, Qh8
19. Nf3,

Opening up additional tactics down the half open d file should it be needed.

19. - Bb7
20. Rf6+, Ke7

Staying on the black squares as the white are instantly deadly.

21. Bg5, Rf8?
22. Rxb3 1-0

I have to say I rather enjoyed that. No doubt it will now be promptly ripped apart but I still contend the London is not the tactics-free zone some contend when faced with passive or overconfident play.
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