Understanding The King's Indian Attack
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2
Author: Saint Emilion


The king's Indian Attack is not, strictly speaking an opening, but a path for White to follow regardless of Black's opening moves. As the setup is a compact structure on White's side of the board, Black cannot prevent it without unreasonable play. The one exception to this may be1…f5, when White does better to transpose into a Dutch Defense or English Opening.

The King's Indian Attack is a creature of modern times. It was popularized in the US by Evans and Fischer, although now it is seldom used by Grandmasters. It can arise from the French Defense, the Caro-Kann Defense or the Sicilian.

The king's Indian Attack is one of those openings where White stays behind the frontier line and sets up pieces, ```awaiting developments. White's play is almost formulaic, with all of the pieces destined for designated squares: Knights at d2 and f3, bishops at c1 and g2, rook at e1, queen at e2, and an advance of the h-pawn. It really has little in common with a King's Indian Defense, because Black is already committed to …6, whereas White rarely chooses e3 against the King's Indian. For this reason, the opening is most often approached from the Sicilian (1.e4 c5; 2.Nf3 e6; 3.d3) or French Defenses.

The King's Indian Attack can be use as a universal opening system for White, allowing you to develop one corner of your repertoire while limiting your work in another. In fact, the most important branches of the KIA tree sprout after 1.e4 - more King's Indian Attack games result from the French, Sicilian and Caro-Kann connections than from 1.Nf3 lines.

The King's Indian Attack has two somewhat divergent goals. The first is to achieve a comfortable development before engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat; the second is an all out assault on the enemy King.

Depending on how black decides to play it, after all we did leave him with the cards by abandoning the center in the first place, we end up with one of two kinds of positions. Either black hurls a challenge on the queenside and invites a kingside attack by white, or he settles for a solid positional maneuvering that makes it difficult for either side to score a big play.

The most exciting KIA landscape finds the white e-pawn firmly wedged at e5, dividing the board into two courts. While white hurls bombs at the black king, black shoves his queenside pawns forward. In practice, white has a much higher rate of success in games between average players because a single mistake often spells disaster for the black king.

But it's important to familiarize yourself with a wide range of patterns. The final disposition of the black pieces lies outside your control, and learning only the flashier, more cavalier lines will leave you with an empty sail on quieter seas.

Basic Principles

1.Nf3 is the most flexible way to get into the King's Indian Attack, but far from the most common. The KIA is often used by strong players to shore up their own opening repertoires by avoiding variations they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. For example, a player who likes to play the King's Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4) and who feels uncomfortable facing the Sicilian (1.e4 c5) can play an early d3 instead of the normal d4 and transpose into the King's Indian Attack. This chameleon-like flexibility is especially valuable when you are facing a know French )1. e4 e6), Sicilian or Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6) specialist, and you want to play the game in your won ballpark.

1.e4 Well over 50% of all King's Indian Attacks begin with 1.e4. Fewer than 40% start with 1.Nf3. White hopes black will either play into his 1.e4 preparations or commit to an unfavorable KIA structure. The most famous example of the strategy was American World Champion Bobby Fischer's insistence that the KIA was especially favorable against the Sicilian after black commits to an early …e6.

Now we will look at white's options dealing with some major defenses to 1.e4; The French, the Sicilian and the Caro-Kann.

1. The French 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2

The French is one of black's most popular responses to 1.e4, creating twisted and dramatic couterplay. Rather than tangle with French specialists on their home turf, many white player are opting for the KIA. In fact the KIA is reached more often via transposition from the French than from any other order.

With the knight at d2 shielding white's queen from premature exchange after …dxe4/dxe4, white can follow up with g3 and the standard KIA formation. Refraining from d4 leaves white with less space and more flexibility. More importunately, perhaps, white is the specialist in this position, frustrating black opponents who thrive on standard French fare. Also a plus is the pawn at e6 incarcerating black's c8-bishop.

2. The Sicilian 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3

Bobby Fischer never played the KIA against the Sicilian unless black had committed himself in the center with …e6. He believed that the opening is good for black if the c8-bishop is free to go to f5 or g4. The numbers seem to bear him out. White has only scored about 42% in this position at the professional level. This is not a sufficient reason to forego the conveniences of the KIA altogether, but it is a compelling incentive to invest more time in these variations before playing them over the board.

2…e6 (Chessbase opening report: B30 2…e6 47%) (White will enjoy a 53% advantage if black plays 2…e6.) Fischer's ideal position, often merging by transposition with variations from the French. White is often able to cut black's forces in half with a timely e4/e5, instituting a kingside attack with h4/h5/h6 and ganging up on black's king. White has scored a more respectable 53% in this position, but all-in-all the King's Indian Attack has been less successful against the Sicilian than against the French and the Caro-Kann. Of course, there is much to be said for being better prepared than your opponent is, and for the amateur specialist, that is the goal with the KIA. Play it but the moral is to "Do Your Homework!" and become a Master Amateur Specialist! And always remember this adage, "After all is said and done, much is said and little is done" So to succeed. do your homework.

3. The Caro-Kann 1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5

White has scored more effectively against the Caro-Kann with the KIA, probably because black has already committed himself to the modest …c6 instead of the more aggressive …c5. The Caro-Kann is the third single most common way to enter the King's Indian Attack, three times as frequent as the most popular 1.Nf3 lines.

When black plays coy and also refrains from play in the center, white scores well, when say there is a crouching Queen's Indian formation, black biding his time in the center and developing his pieces.


In general, Fischer seems to be correct. White scores very well in variations where black plays it coy in the center or locks his bishop in at c8 with an early …e6. Black can hold his own with and early …Bg4 or …Bf 5

But it's important to remember that statistics don't play chess. At best, these percentages can alert you to the dangers or to an opportunity. To cash in, you have to outplay your opponent, pure and simple. Experiments tell us that the most important factor in a player's ability to solve a chess problem is the previous familiarity with a position. The King's Indian Attack is a very great way to make sure you stay on familiar ground often at your opponent's expense.

Eight Variations

In this section, we will take a look at eight of the most important variations in the King's Indian Attack. Take the time to survey these line with their move by move commentary and you will find yourself ready to tackle anything black is likely to throw at you. Here you can play through a move by move explication of a given line or variation.

1. The Long Variation
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2. The French Connection
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3. The Sicilian Connection
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4. The Sicilian Connection 2
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5. The Caro Kann
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6. King's Indian Reversed
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7. King's Indian Reversed 2
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8. The Keres system
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Here is one of Bobby Fischer's most famous games using the King's Indian Attack

[Event "Netanya"]
[Site "Netanya ISR"]
[Date "1968.06.29"]
[EventDate "1968.06.17"]
[Round "11"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Robert James Fischer"]
[Black "Uzi Geller"]
[ECO "A08"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "63"]

1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 Be7 6. Ngf3 O-O
7. O-O Nc6 8. Re1 Qc7 9. e5 Nd7 10. Qe2 b5 11. h4 a5 12. Nf1
Nd4 13. Nxd4 cxd4 14. Bf4 Ra6 15. Nh2 Rc6 16. Rac1 Ba6
17. Bxd5 exd5 18. e6 Qd8 19. exd7 Re6 20. Qg4 f5 21. Qh5 Qxd7
22. Nf3 g6 23. Qh6 Bf6 24. Rxe6 Qxe6 25. Be5 Bxe5 26. Re1 f4
27. Rxe5 Qd7 28. h5 fxg3 29. hxg6 gxf2+ 30. Kxf2 hxg6
31. Qxg6+ Qg7 32. Rg5 1-0[/pgn]