We recently looked at what a “fianchetto” is in chess. Today we will explore an opening that is well known for its use of a kingside fianchetto: the King’s Indian Defense.

In the world of chess openings, the King’s Indian Defense (KID) stands out as a fascinating choice for players seeking a dynamic and complex game. This opening embodies the spirit of counterattack and resilience, making it a favorite among players who enjoy rich, tactical battles.


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

The KID allows White to occupy the center with pawns, while Black develops minor pieces and prepares for a vigorous counterattack, typically on the kingside.

King’s Indian Defense: Table of Contents

King’s Indian Defense Background

Name Origins

The “King’s Indian Defense” is a chess opening named for its distinctive strategy, where Black moves their bishop to guard the king. The “Indian” part reflects strategies linked to ancient Indian chess, emphasizing piece movement over controlling the center. “King’s” indicates it’s a response to White’s initial queen’s pawn move.


Popularized in the mid-20th century by legends like David Bronstein and later by Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, the KID has been a crucial part of the opening repertoire of many aggressive and creative players.

Modern exponents of the KID include Hikaru Nakamura and Teimour Radjabov, both known for their dynamic and imaginative play.

King’s Indian Defense Theory

Classical Variation

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

About: The most popular line. White develops naturally, controlling the center. Black’s plan often involves the …e5 break, aiming for central counterplay.
Key Ideas: Black can play for …e5 or …c5 breaks. White might respond with d5, leading to a closed structure, or maintain tension in the center.

Mar del Plata Variation

Within the Classical system, after 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7

  • About: A highly aggressive line for Black, aiming for a kingside attack with moves like …Nh5, …f5, and possibly …g5.
  • Key Ideas: Black launches a pawn storm on the kingside while White typically plays on the queenside with moves like c5 and b4, leading to an attacking race!

Sämisch Variation

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

  • About: White aims for a solid setup, supporting the e4-pawn and preparing to develop the bishop to e3. This often leads to a slower, more positional game.
  • Key Ideas: Black might opt for a quick …c5 strike or play …e5. The game can transpose into structures resembling the Benoni Defense.

Fianchetto Variation

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 (Or 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3)

  • About: White fianchettos the king’s bishop, leading to a battle of fianchettoed bishops. This line is more positional and not as sharp as the others.
  • Key Ideas: Black often goes for …d6 and …e5, aiming for central and kingside play. White may counter with d5 and look for play in the center and on the queenside.

Four Pawns Attack

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

  • About: An aggressive approach from White, pushing four pawns in the center. This leads to sharp play with chances for both sides.
  • Key Ideas: Black must counterattack in the center quickly, usually with …c5 or …e5. White aims to maintain the pawn center and launch a kingside attack.

Averbakh Variation

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

  • About: White attacks the f6-knight to hinder …e5. The line can lead to diverse structures, sometimes resembling the Classical Variation.
  • Key Ideas: Black may break with …e5 or opt for a queenside strategy with moves like …c6 and …a6.

Learn to play the King’s Indian Defense

Books to Learn From

First Steps: The King’s Indian Defence

Publisher: Everyman Chess
Author: Andrew Martin
Level: Beginner

The King’s Indian According to Tigran Petrosian

Publisher: Russell Enterprises
Author: Igor Yanvarjov
Level: Intermediate

Opening Simulator – King’s Indian Defence

Publisher: Quality Chess
Author: Esben Lund and Andreas Skytte Hagen
Level: Intermediate

Have an opening suggestion? Let us know in the comments below!

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