What are the main points, tactical or otherwise, backing up the Mason Attack?

I got the idea reading about the London System, but the Lichess engine calls it "Mason Attack". It starts out as follows:

[FEN "rnbqkbnr/ppp1pppp/8/3p4/3P1B2/8/PPP1PPPP/RN1QKBNR b KQkq - 1 2"]

I always try to achieve the following position, which I judge fairly solid and with good attacking chances on the King side (don't mind Black moves in this case -- it's just one of the many possible lines for Black):

[FEN "r2q1rk1/1ppb1ppp/p1nbpn2/3p4/3P4/2PBPNB1/PPQN1PPP/R3K2R b KQ - 2 9"]

I'm asking since I've enjoyed great success with this opening, but I cannot find much research about it. As a very beginner I don't exactly know how to analyze openings with Stockfish since it always gives the best lines, which I rarely encounter in practical play. Example games of mine:

[Site "https://lichess.org/r2ujDJpt"]
[Date "2018.04.03"]
[Result "1-0"]
[UTCDate "2018.04.03"]
[UTCTime "10:26:29"]
[FEN ""]

1. d4 Nf6 { A45 Indian Game } 2. Bf4 e6 3. e3 d5 4. Nf3 c5 5. c3 Nc6 6. Nbd2 Qb6 7. Qc2 Bd7 8. Be2 cxd4 9. exd4 Be7 10. h3 O-O 11. g4 a5 12. g5 Ne8 13. h4 Bd6 14. Be3 Nc7 15. h5 a4 16. a3 Na5 17. g6 fxg6 18. hxg6 h6 19. Bxh6 gxh6 20. Rxh6 Kg7 21. Rh7+ Kf6 22. Rxd7 { Black resigns. } 1-0


[Result "1-0"]
[UTCDate "2018.02.23"]
[UTCTime "12:10:06"]
[FEN ""]

1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 { D00 Queen's Pawn Game: Mason Attack } Nc6 3. e3 Bf5 4. c3 Nf6 5. Nd2 e6 6. Ngf3 Bd6 7. Bg3 Bxg3 8. hxg3 Ne7 9. Ne5 Ng6 10. g4 Nxe5 11. gxf5 Nc6 12. fxe6 fxe6 13. Bd3 h6 14. e4 O-O 15. e5 Nd7 16. Rxh6 Qg5 17. Rg6 Qf4 18. Qe2 Nb6 19. O-O-O Na5 20. Rh1 Nac4 21. Rh8+ Kxh8 22. Qh5+ Kg8 23. Rxg7+ Kxg7 24. Qh7# { White wins by checkmate. } 1-0
  • 2
    16. Rxh6 might be a mistake as black can take the rook. Apr 3 '18 at 12:50
  • I love this opening as White. Very solid.
    – ferit
    Apr 3 '18 at 14:31
  • @user1583209 Yes, that's a blunder. I thought that I had calculated correctly but after analyzing with Stockfish the evaluation goes from +3.2 to -0.7, so my calculations weren't sound.
    – rubik
    Apr 4 '18 at 8:26

What are the main points, tactical or otherwise, backing up the Mason Attack?

At least for normal (not top GM) players, the main points of the London system (never heard the name Mason Attack before), is to just get out the pieces to natural squares and take it from there. White is not really aiming for an immediate advantage. Pieces are not exchanged which can potentially lead to more rich positions later on. This can potentially favor the stronger player as it avoids drawish limited material/symmetric positions.

As you note, you can play this against just about anything that black does (so called "system opening"), which is another advantage for players who don't want to be bothered studying theory.

Typical middlegame plans can be a kingside attack supported by queen/bishop along the b1-h7 diagonal, various pawn breaks (e.g. with e4, c4), or play on the queenside supported by the bishop on the h7-b8 diagonal.

As for analyzing this or any other openings with a computer engine: This is really only useful if you know the opening very well and are looking for novelties, etc, so basically only for players around GM level.

For more mortal players, time is spent better by following (preferably annotated/commented) games of top players in that opening and see what plans or ideas they develop.

You can still use an engine to point out tactical errors in your own games including the opening phase, but they are not all that useful for finding the "best" move in the opening. To elaborate on this, openings are still too complicated for engines to find the objectively best move, since basically any evaluation of normal opening positions will be around 0.0. As a human you are not looking for the objectively best move anyway, but for the line that gives you positions that you are comfortable playing (and that are difficult to play for your opponent). There is no point going down a line that gives you a centipawn advantage if you have to make 20 accurate quiet (non-forced) moves or otherwise be lost.

  • Thanks for the in-depth answer! You make very interesting points.
    – rubik
    Apr 4 '18 at 8:27

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