There are many GMs who sometimes play the London system, but none of them play it exclusively. By "exclusively" I mean play it in over 99% of my games when I'm White, I mean adopting the London system not as a secondary weapon but as my only weapon. So if I continue to learn and improve and become stronger over time, at what rating will I need to stop playing the London system exclusively?

Note that with Black I ALSO play the London system exclusively, I play the Slav and the Caro-Kann.

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    doesnt kamsky exclusively play london. maybe not 99% of the games tho. also i have seen Minh Le play it almost everytime but havent seen his otb games
    – cmgchess
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 4:52
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    Unless you're thinking of challenging for the world championship, you can play any opening you want as long as it's not total garbage. The thing is, thoguh, why would you want to do that to yourself?
    – David
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 10:23
  • @cmgchess: Kamsky played 1.e4 40% of the time, 1.d4 50% of the time, and when he played 1.d4 he played the London about 65% of the time. As for Tuan Minh Le, I have failed to find any of his games on ChessBase, it's probably because his name is complicated.
    – Fate
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 11:47
  • minh le's chessbase profile. if you are using chessbase software. search for Le (last name) and go down the list until you find first name Tuan Minh
    – cmgchess
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 12:04
  • @cmgchess: Thanks. I found him. Before 2018 he didn't play the London. Around 2018 he started playing the London in about 90% of his games, but he doesn't play the London against ...g6. My database only goes up to 2020, so I don't know if he continued to play the London after 2020. He only started playing the London when he was 2500 Elo. I would be interested in finding the opposite: a player who started playing exclusively the London when he was low rated and then gradually improved and became high rated while continuing to play nothing but the London.
    – Fate
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 12:49

2 Answers 2


Problem with London is not that it gets bad at certain rating - problem is that it's very monotonous opening, so you don't get to experience many structures (variety is crucial for improvement).

What can happen is that you will progress very quickly to 1800/1900 fide or something like this and then tilt due to this. At least according to IM Andras.

Note also that Slav and Caro-Kann are not really similiar to London except in most superficial aspects. It's true that in all of these you play c6+d5+Bf5 (and even this depends on particular line, just look at exchange Caro-Kann), but tactically and strategically they are totally different beasts.

Chess is complex game. The trick to getting good at it it's embracing this complexity in all of its various forms, not trying to make it simple. So the answer is that you probably won't reach a rating at which London is not good enough (because it is always good enough), you just won't improve as fast as possible at some point.

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    Big +1 for your final paragraph. Well said! Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 13:43
  • My reason for using the London as weapon of choice is not much about simplifying, more about trying to take out as much margin for error as possible in the opening, and trying to get as cleanly as possible to the middlegame. That, while trying to get some opening theory if possible
    – clabacchio
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 13:58
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    @clabacchio problem is that from London you can reach only a very limited set of middlegame positions. If you play d4+c4 mainlines you have to engage with plenty of structures - with isolani, hanging pawns, various KID setups, with benoni structure, myriads of central configurations in nimzos, ... While with London you can only reach 3-5 different structures (and even that not neccesarily if you unambitiously reply to, for example, 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 c5 with 3. e3 instead of with critical 3. d5). What do you think is better for your chess development? Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 15:00
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    But do you have to get better at playing positions that you never reach? ;)
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 18:56
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    @DonQuiKong Yes! Understanding a wide variety of positions will improve your overall chess skills.
    – David
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 22:12

Matija Sirk's answer is very good and it's true that learning different sorts of positions will improve your overall chess skill. If your goal is to be the best chess player you can possibly be, and if you are young and talented enough that that may be very good, then I say you should definitely play lots of different openings.

BUT ...

"Chess is a lake in which a mosquito can bathe and an elephant can drown" (Indian saying).

Suppose you are more like the mosquito?

Suppose that, in addition to chess, you have a job, a spouse, some kids, maybe even (gasp!) some other hobbies! Maybe you want a good portion of your total time playing chess to be actually playing chess, rather than studying?

In that case, you can play the London exclusively, forever.

Even at the highest level, it is only recently that players play all sorts of openings. Bobby Fischer had a relatively limited opening repertoire. Lev Alburt, who was a GM (if not quite at Fischer's level) played the Alekhine's defense as Black pretty much all the time.

I think that, unless you are going to try to make chess your career, your goal should be to get as much enjoyment as possible out of the game. If the London makes you happy, go for it.

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