King’s Indian Defense: Opening Guide for White & Black


Table of Contents

The King’s Indian Defense is for players who enjoy playing for a win with black and are willing to take risks to achieve this goal.

  • The King’s Indian Defense was a favorite of two chess legends – Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.
  • Although the King’s Indian Defense was played in the 19th century, it did not become a popular chess opening until the 1940s, thanks to all the work done by David Bronstein and Isaac Boleslavsky,
  • The principal battleground of the King’s Indian Defense is the Classical Variation. This variation has been the most favored of all variations within this opening.
  • There are other dangerous systems you must know how to face if you are going to play the King’s Indian Defense with success. Among these are the ever-popular Samisch Variation (5.f3) and the dangerous Averbakh Variation (6.Bg5).
  • The Averbakh Variation contains a particularly nasty trap, but if you are well-prepared, you can obtain at least equality with black.
  • Positional players tend to favor the Fianchetto Variation against the King’s Indian Defense. This subtle approach is more dangerous than it appears on the surface. Do not take it lightly or adopt a dismissive attitude towards this variation.

The King’s Indian Defense offers winning chances to both sides and promises many exciting chess games.

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Lifetime Repertoires: King's Indian Defense - Part 1

Why Play the King’s Indian Indian Defense?

The King’s Indian Defense is a fighting defense that shakes things up early in the game. Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer used the King’s Indian Defense as one of their primary responses to 1.d4.

One of the reasons for playing the King’s Indian Defense is that you can use it to reach familiar middlegame positions against any opening move by white except 1.e4. There is no need to learn a separate opening against the English Opening (1.c4) and another against the Reti (1.Nf3).

Many chess players choose to play the London System because it is a system and system-based chess openings are usually easier to learn. There is undoubtedly a significant amount of theory in the main variations of the King’s Indian Defense, but a lot less than if you studied a different opening for all of White’s possible opening moves.

Despite being a universal system, the King’s Indian Defense makes all three chess game outcomes a possibility. You can win, draw, and lose with the King’s Indian Defense, making all your games exciting.

The main starting position of the King’s Indian Defense is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6

The King's Indian Defense starting position is reached after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6.
Lifetime Repertoires: King’s Indian Defense – Part 1

Black plays 4…d6 to prevent 5.e5 and ensure his knight is not kicked from f6. White can play 5.e5, but it loses a pawn after 5…dxe5 6.dxe5 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1 Ng4, threatening …Nxf2+, forking the king and rook, and …Nxe5.

When choosing to play the King’s Indian Defense or any other opening, it is essential to know your pawn breaks. In the King’s Indian Defense, black will attack the white center with either …c5 or …e5.

If white meets …e5 with d5, black will typically advance the kingside pawns, and white will play on the queenside. Note that if white captures with dxe5 and black keeps the symmetry with dxe5, then black gets the d4 outpost.

For example: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8

White can occupy d5, but Black can play …c6 to drive the piece away. White has already played c4 and e4, which means there is no pawn to help drive a piece away from d4.

The Samisch Variation

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3

The Samsch variation remains a popular way for white to play against the King’s Indian Defense. White supports the center and provides a safe haven for the bishop on e3 because it cannot get harassed by …Ng4.

Although it has gone out of fashion, an excellent approach by black is the Panno variation with 6…Nc6 followed by …a6 and …Rb8. The Panno Variation was more popular in the 1970s and 80s, which means you could take your opponent by surprise.

5…0-0 6.Be3 Nc6 7.Nge2 a6 8.Qd2 Rb8 9.Rc1

Black prevented white from castling queenside, so white in turn prevented black from playing …b5. The rook is lined up against the undefended knight allowing white to capture twice on b5 with cxb5 and Nxb5.

Black can seek to take advantage of the fact that white has weakened his kingside – especially if white castles short.

White Plays an Early h3

Like f3, the move 5.h3 keeps black from playing …Ng4 and allows white to develop the bishop to e3. White can also play Bg5, knowing it has a safe retreat square.

In the King’s Indian Defense, it is not only black who has ideas of attacking the kingside. The move h3 lends support to a pawn storm with g4.

The drawback to 5.h3 is that it is not a developing move, but this is not a big deal because the center gets closed almost immediately.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.h3

The most apparent differences between the Samisch and variations with an early h3 are that White’s knight can develop to its natural square on f3, and unlike 5.f3, the move 5.h3 does not defend the e4-pawn.

The e4-pawn can come under attack if black can establish a knight on c5 with Na6-c5. In order to develop his knight on c5, black must provoke white into playing d5.

This pawn advance is achieved with the thematic …e5 since dxe5 does not lead to any advantage for white. Fortunately for white, the e4-pawn can get defended after Be3 and Nd2.

5…0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.d5 Na6 8.Be3 Nh5 9.Nd2 Qe8 10.g3 f5

Even if white seeks safety by castling long, black can create a breakthrough on the kingside. The black queen can find an excellent attacking square on g6 after exf5 and …gxf5.

After the exchange of pawns on f5, the black knight can get back into play with …Nf6-d7-c5. Do not rush to place the knight on c5 because if you advance with …e4, the knight can become powerful on e5.

Shyam managed to play …Ndc5 with tempo in his game against Sethuraman by attacking the queen on b3. The final flurry got highly tactical, with Shyam managing to outplay his higher-rated opponent.

King’s Indian Defense: Averbakh System – 6.Bg5

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5

The Averbakh System was extremely popular in the 80s, and it remains a dangerous weapon for white. The Averbakh System can easily catch the unsuspecting King’s Indian Defense player.

One of the main goals of the Averbakh System is to prevent e5. Playing 6…e5 loses material to 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nd5. making use of the pin on the f6 knight and attacking it with a second piece. The knight on d5 also threatens to capture on c7 and win the a8-rook.

When white develops their queenside bishop early, it is best t attack the center with …c5 instead of …e5.

In theory and at the board, the move 6…c5 has helped white equalize, in theory and at the board, against this dangerous variation.

6…c5 7.d5 h6 8.Bf4 e6 9.dxe6 Bxe6 10.Bxd6 Re8

In return for the pawn, black has open files in the center and a lead in development. Do not be afraid to play …Bxc3 to eliminate an important defender of the e4-pawn.

The King’s Indian Defense Four Pawns Attack

White decides not to back down and is willing to throw everything at black. There is no slow build-up of the position by white in this hyper-aggressive system.

Black must attempt to destroy the white center, which is no easy task. The last thing black wants is to give white time to consolidate their position.

A good approach for black is to close the center and start advancing pawns n the queenside.

When your chosen defense can stand up to such outright aggression, you know it is a sound defense.

The mainline of the Four Pawns Attack usually transposes into positions you would expect to find in the Modern Benoni. However, these positions are more likely to be reached through the King’s Indian Defense.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4

There is no denying that White can generate a powerful attack, but if black survives the onslaught, there will be lots of weakened squares in the white camp.

Of course, all of these pawn moves give black the chance to take the lead in development.

5…0-0 6.Nf3 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Be2 exd5 9.cxd5 Bg4

In this position, black has a queenside pawn majority and will seek to advance the pawns. A black pawn on c3 supported by the bishop on g7 will severely limit White’s pieces.

Take a look at how John Nunn used the pawn on c3 to launch a winning kingside attack.

The Fianchetto Variation

In the Fianchetto Variation, white delays playing e4, and this delay gives black the option of transposing into the Grunfeld with …d5 or …c6 followed by …d5. Another option for black is to play in Benoni fashion with …c5.

However, it is possible to remain faithful to the King’s Indian Defense against the Fianchetto Variation. A solid approach is to play 6…Nbd7.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 Nbd7

The knight on d7 supports …e5, and after exchanging pawns on d4, the knight can go to c5 or …e5. The knight will place pressure on White’s central pawns from either of these squares.

White must not underestimate the possibilities open to black in the seemingly innocent positions that arise in this variation.

7.Nc3 e5 8.e4 exd4 9.Nxd4 Re8 10.h3 Nc5

Both of Black’s knights and the rook on e8 are suddenly attacking the e4-pawn. There are enough resources in the position for White to defend the pawn, but pieces tied down to the defense are not able to attack.

Remember to be on the lookout for an opportunity to bring your rook into the attack with …Re5. After exchanging on d4, the e5-square makes an excellent entry point for the black pieces.

The King’s Indian Defense Classical Variation

As the name suggests, in the Classical Variation of the King’s Indian Defense, white develops in classical fashion with Nf3 and Be2.

The moves c4, d4, and e4 give white excellent control of the center, but the c4 and e4 advances mean white cannot defend d4 with a pawn. Thus, d4 becomes a natural point of attack for black.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2

Now black can play 6…e5 because 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nxe5 does not win a pawn. Black can capture the pawn on e4 with 9…Nxe4.

Note that 10…Nxf7 Kxf7 11.Nxe4 would win a pawn for white, but black can play 10…Bxc3 with a check before …Kxf7. This wins a piece for black after 11.bxc3 Kxf7.

6…e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5

One of Black’s vital pawn breaks in the King’s Indian Defense is f5. Knowing this, White played 9.Ne1 to prevent black from moving the knight to h5.

Black, in turn, knows white would like to advance with c5 and plays …Nd7 instead of …Ne8.

This is a rich and complex position that has appeared in thousands of games. Black will advance on the kingside, while White will advance pawns on the queenside.

In Conclusion

The King’s Indian Defense is a defense rich in strategy, piece play, and pawn breaks. There are chances for both sides in the complex positions that often arise in the King’s Indian Defense.

When you start learning this chess opening, you will not lack for master games to play through. Many of the strongest players in the past seventy years have played the King’s Indian Defense, and it remains popular among strong players today.

Go ahead and inject some fun and excitement into your games with this tremendous attacking defense.

King’s Indian Defense: Frequently Asked Questions

Is King’s Indian a good defense?

Yes, the King’s Indian Defense is a good defense. This defense was a favorite of two chess legends – Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

What is the King’s Indian Defense?

The King’s Indian Defense is a defense to 1.d4 where black allows white to take control of the center. After white takes control of the center with pawns, black will generate counterplay by attacking the center pawns.

Why is it called the King’s Indian Defense?

Indian defenses involved the fianchetto of a bishop, and because the kingside bishop is the fianchettoed bishop in this defense, it is called the King’s Indian Defense. When the bishop gets developed to b7, it is called the Queen’s Indian Defense.

Is the King’s Indian Defense aggressive?

Yes, the King’s Indian Defense is very aggressive. Black invites White to take control of the center and grab space by advancing his pawns. White advances the c, d, e, and f-pawns two squares in the Four Pawns Attack, giving him a lot of space to develop.

Is the King’s Indian defense for Black?

All chess openings that include the word “defense” in their names are chess openings for black.

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Lifetime Repertoires: King's Indian Defense - Part 1

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