The following is a position that frequently arises in my games when I play the London System as White:

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1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 Nf6 3. e3 Bf5

At this point I am unable to place my light-squared Bishop in its best square (d3) without allowing an exchange of Bishops which does not seem favorable to me as the White light squared Bishop is better than the Black (all White pawns in the center occupying black squares - especially after c3 which will also be played at some point).

Yet, when browsing the database at lichess.com the most frequent continution is 4. Bd3 which invites exactly such an exchange. I' ve toyed with ideas of Nf3 followed by Nh4 in an attempt to drive off the Black Bishop (or exchange him with my Knight) but without much success.

How should White approach this Bishop exchange? Should it be avoided and, if not, how does the London System plans (for White) change after the light squared Bishop is lost?

  • 4
    I don't know the theory of these variations, but sometimes an early Bf5 can be exploited with the agressive c4 and Qb3, putting pressure on d5 and in particular b7 (which is no longer defended by the bishop on c8). Another common approach is indeed going for Nf3-h4 at some point to obtain the bishop pair. Trading with Bd3 is probably ok too, but seems a bit unambitious to me.
    – TMM
    Jun 15, 2017 at 4:12
  • 1
    Note that "most frequent on lichess" does not mean "best" at all, because (1) such "averages" are based more on games by amateurs than by top players, and (2) in fast time controls people play much less accurately (and white may sometimes even premove Bd3 in extreme time controls).
    – TMM
    Jun 15, 2017 at 4:15
  • 4
    According to my ChessBase opening book, white scores well after c4, where play may continue for instance 4. c4 c6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. Qb3 and now 7... Qb6 is well met by 8. c5! with an edge for white after 8... Qxb3 9. axb3. White may also opt for Qb3 earlier, and of course black could play differently as well, but I think c4 is the most promising option for white.
    – TMM
    Jun 15, 2017 at 4:19
  • I like the approach with early c4 trying to exploit Bf5, but Bd3 with idea to recapture with a pawn can be also interesting.
    – hoacin
    Jun 15, 2017 at 6:09
  • @hoacin It makes white's structure less flexible though. Having a c-pawn, it is favorable both tactically and strategically for white to play c4 and put pressure on black's position. After Bd3 Bxd3 cxd3 white will have a harder time challenging black's center, as he cannot play c4, and e4 would need a lot of preparation due to the weak d4-pawn. (Also the open c-file is probably not that useful here as black can play c7-c6, where it is defended by the b7-pawn.) It's not a bad idea, but in this particular position c4 is probably stronger.
    – TMM
    Jun 15, 2017 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


There are many solutions to this problem .

  1. The first thing is that I feel that you have a problem without the light square Bishop . You must learn to play with Bd3 and look for games in chessgames.com how white scores the rest of the game . Rather than an opening it is more of a psychological problem . Playing London from White does not necessarily mean you have to do a K-side attack . The exchange of light square bishop prohibits the K-side attack . You need to change your plans .
  2. You can play c4 -c5 and then bring out the Bishop .When you play c4 then Black plays e6 in most occasions this cuts off the Bishop on Q-side . When c5 then b6 from Black White can take advantage and play Bb5+ with Queen on a5 putting some pressure . Knight can jump to e5 in next moves .

  3. You can develop the Bishop on e2 and after Nf3,Ne5 you play g4 ,h4 .

  • I am accepting this answer as it discusses a number of plans and also contains the crucial (and very helpful) assertion that after exchanging off the light-squared Bishops White should no longer plan to attack the K-side. I infer from that that White must also castle K-side in those lines as well. Jun 16, 2017 at 2:05

The best way to deal with the "copycat" is to switch to the Queen's Gambit with c4 with the idea of following up at the right time with Qb3 to take advantage of the weakness on b7.

  • It's not even a Queen's "Gambit" anymore, having played e3 already. So it's both strong and "safe" for white - dxc4 can always be answered with Bxc4.
    – TMM
    Jun 15, 2017 at 17:34

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