King’s Indian Defense Chess Opening

King’s Indian Defense is a Queen’s Pawn Opening that starts with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7. This is also a very popular choice from black against the queen’s pawn advance.

Many variations lead the game to a double-edged position with opposite wings attack and closed center. This opening is a good choice for players who like to have positional and strategic battles.

The main line goes 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5

Black advances center pawn without worrying about losing a pawn. Because after 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nxe5 black can play 9…Nxe4! 10.Nxe4 Bxe5 Regaining the pawn and reaching equality.

So capturing on e5 is not good for white. The main line goes 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 and we reach the position below.

The center is closed and both sides are ready to carry out pawn storm on opposite wings. White wants to play c5 and attack on the d6 pawn by weakening it. Black on the other hand wants to play f5-f4-g5…and try to create an attack on the king. Thus, the game becomes very interesting.

The main line continues 10.Nd3 f5 11.Bd2 Nf6 12.f3 f4 13.c5 g5 14.cxd6 cxd6 15.Nb5 Ng6 and we reach a sharp double edged position.

It is clear that if the game reaches this point, both players are quite aware of their plans. White can play against the weak squares c7 and d6 with the help of open c file. Black has a bit unclear plan of attack, but his target is white king. So if he succeeds in conducting a good attack, white can easily get into trouble. It is recommended to study reference games well before getting into this position.

The Averbakh variation

White has various ways of avoiding this theoretical home-prepared battle. One of them is to play 6.Bg5, which is called the Averbakh variation.

The idea is to stop black from playing e5 because now 6…e5 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nd5 and black will lose material. So black attacks the center with the other pawn, 6…c5. After 7.d5 h6  8.Be3 e6 9.Qd2 exd5 10.exd5 Kh7 11.h3 Re8 Bd3 black has an interesting idea of pawn sacrifice here.

12.cxb5 ruins white’s pawn structure and after 12…Nd7 13.Ne2 Ne5 black has very actively placed pieces as compensation for the pawn. And after 12.Nxb5, black can play 12…Ne4. And after 13.Bxe4 Rxe4 14.Rc1 a6 15.Na3 f5 black has an active game for the pawn.

The Samisch variation with 5.f3

White can play 5.f3 with the idea of creating a pawn storm with g4, h4 and queenside castle, an idea similar to some variations of sicillian dragon variation.

The most popular choice for black is to play 5…0-0 and accept the challenge. After 6.Be3 e5 7.Nge2 c6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.d5 cxd5 10.cxd5 a6 black has discouraged white’s queenside castle by opening up the c-file. White will soon castle on kingside and the game will continue with a sharp positional play.

The four pawn’s attack with 5.f4

White can choose the seemingly aggressive line with 5.f4, which is called four pawn’s attack. Black has nothing to be afraid of. He can keep developing with 5…0-0 6.Nf3 c5 and the game is about equal.

White’s four central pawns create only an illusion that white has more space. But in reality black’s position is very solid. It can’t be broken that easily. That is why four pawn’s attack is not a popular choice at top.

Also remember that every pawn advance weakens space behind it. Move f4 also weakens white’s kingside considerably, which if given chance black can exploit in the future.

The fianchetto variation with 4.g3

White can step aside all these theoretical lines and simply go for 4.g3, the fianchetto variation. Of course, the safe line for white is also a safe line for black. So black is less concerned to see this move on board. He can simply go 4…0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.Nf3 Nd7 with the ideas of e5 or c5 at appropriate moment in the spirit of King’s Indian defense.

Game Played with King’s Indian Defense

Here is a game played between So, Wesley (2779) vs Nakamura, Hikaru (2814)


If well prepared, this opening serves as a good tool against players of similar or even higher strength. Because many theoretical lines are long and well researched, it makes a big portion of the game a ‘home preparation’. So this is surely an opening to keep in one’s pockets. But at the same time, if white chooses to step aside with something like 4.g3, black should be well equipped to play a long positional game

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

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