Modern Defense Chess Opening

The Modern defense is a hypermodern chess opening that starts with 1. e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 in which Black allows White to occupy the center with pawns and then aims to undermine the broad white center at a later stage. White has pawns on d4 and e4 and has a lot of space but black argues that white has over extended his center. This opening is also called the Robatsch defense and is a brother of the Pirc defense.

Why play the Modern Defence:

  • The Modern Defence can be played against all white moves e4, d4, c4, Nf3 anything.
  • The structure remains the same for black in most cases, as a result there is not much opening theory. As a result it is perfectly suitable for tournaments with double rounds where there is not much time to prepare.
  • It is an aggressive opening that takes a sharp character.

The Modern defense starts with the moves 1.e4 g6.

This opening is highly transpositional and can take it’s way to many other openings like the King’s Indian defense or the Pirc defense.

Difference between Modern and Pirc defence:

In the Pirc, black plays a very early ……Nf6, which usually induces Nc3 from White. Black in the Modern, on the other hand, delays the development of the g8-night. This means White has the option of entering e4, d4, c4 King’s Indian defence structures.


1. The Pseudo-Dragon:

In Pseudo-Dragon the opening lines start with 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.Qd2 Nd7 6.f3

Dragon players will opt this structure and I genuinely feel that this is a favourable version of the Sicilian Dragon because of two reasons:

  • Black’s king, unlike in most dragons remains uncommitted. White has trouble hunting down a moving target. Black can even castle queenside, keep his king in the middle or castle kingside, depending on the situation.
  • Black’s pawns are rather fixed in most dragons. In the Modern, the case is the opposite. White may attack the same way as in a dragon, with f3,g4 and h4 but Black has access to many shifts in structures and pawn breaks. This increases the flexibility of Black’ structure.

2. Classical line

The classical line start with 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Be3 a6 5.Nf3 b5

Usually white plays a4 loosening up our queenside pawn front, and follows with a later c3, engaging us in some heavy duty strategic manoeuvring.

Play might continue 6.Bd3 Bb7 7.a4 b4 Ne2 Nf6 with chances for both sides.

Black can also play 6….Nd7 which is more safe and flexible.

3. The Austrian Attack:

This variation starts with the moves 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4

It is important to know that the 4.Be3 line can also transpose to the Austrian Attack. We do not know where White’s f-pawn ends up. It may stay on f2, push it up to f3, or in this case move to f4.

4…a6 5.Be3 b5

White’s e pawn is the root of all the problems for white in the Austrian attack since he cannot protect it with f3. By playing an early ….b5 we prepare to hit e4 with  ….Bb7. Also a future …..b4 may undermine the c3-Night which supports the e4 pawn.

Play continues 6.Bd3 Bb7 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.e5

White gains more space and tries to blunt the g7 bishop.

8….Nh6! This move is his best move and has scored well for Black.

4. The Nowhere 4.Bg5

The opening goes like 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5

Unhappily, chess is one of those endeavours where kindness and a lack of killer instinct constitute anything but virtues. An opponent who fires his bishop off to the mysterious g5-square on the fourth move is very likely one who is out to mate you quickly. A move like this may appear rather thuggish to us refined Modern folk (it is!), but I must remind you that religious ritual tends to appear as vapid, insincere dogma to those without faith. The Bg5-loving opponent definitely generates faith in his or her own ability to deliver checkmate. We all jealously guard that part of our chess which emphasizes our uniqueness, and White does just that.

White’s position remains quite flexible. He may play Qd2 and follow with Nf3, or even f4, with a hybrid. White often gets inferior versions since his d4 point is less well-protected than normal.

5. The Bc4 variation :

The variation goes like 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4

The bishop is actively placed on c4 but these systems are often easy for black to combat. The bishop on c4 is vulnerable to a pawn attack from Black and White, and often has to lose time.

The main line runs 4…Nf6 5.Qe2 Nc6 6.e5 and now there are two moves 6…Nd7 and the more fighting 6…Ng4.

6. The Fianchetto Line:

This variation starts with the moves 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.g3 Nc6

White opt for a positional setup. The show’s real star is heavyweight strategic manoeuvring, while tactics merely play a supporting role. In this variation, Black temporarily abandons …..a6, ……Nd7 and …b5 plan and rather goes for ….Nc6 and ….e5 ideas which lead to equality.

7. Coward’s Variation:

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.c3 is the starting move order of this line.

People who play an early c3 are normally ultra-safe players who tend to want to avoid a fight. The arising positions are very quiet and easy to learn. Black can play Nc6 or play ….c5 followed by Nc6 to pressurise the d4 pawn.

8 .The Averbakh Variation:

This is a very popular variation of the Modern defence. Most of the positions we enter tend to become some sort of King’s Indian.

The Averbakh variation line is 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.e4 d6 4.Nc3 e5

If White takes on e5, we recapture with the pawn which offers a strange but very playable ending.

White can also close the position with d5, and the play becomes like a KID. White will look for counterplay on the queenside and black will watch out for the f5 break.

8.Unusual lines:

There are many unusual third choices by white like 3.h4 or 3.Be3. The resulting positions are very dynamic and there is enough to be explored.

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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