King's Indian Defense Guide

King's Indian Defense Guide

Looking for a proven and sound way to play for the win against the Queen’s Gambit from move 1? Then the King's Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6) is the chess opening you are looking for.

King's Indian Defense


Because with the King’s Indian Defense you will create unbalanced positions and give you the chance to strike back when White least expects it.

Other openings for Black such as the Slav Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6) or the Orthodox Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6) tend to be more solid and offer less chances to win for Black.

The King’s Indian Defense, however, is aggressive, strong, and a massive headache for White.

Main Plans in the King’s Indian Defense

In the King’s Indian Defense, White usually tries to put pressure on the queen side, while Black launches an attack on the kingside.

Main line in the King’s Indian Defense

The most played variation in the King’s Indian Defense at top level starts with the following moves:

1.d4 Nf6

Main line in the King’s Indian Defense

There are other move orders from which you could start a King’s Indian Defense, but playing 1…Nf6 right away is the most direct one.

2.c4 g6

King’s Indian Defense 2.c4 g6

White is playing a gambitless Queen’s Gambit -if that makes sense-, and Black is preparing the fianchettoed Bishop + short castle.

3.Nc3 Bg7

King’s Indian Defense 3.Nc3 Bg7

Pieces from both sides keep being developed in a natural way.

4.e4 d6

King’s Indian Defense 4.e4 d6

White has almost fully occupied the center of the board, and Black plays d6 to avoid e5 by White.

5.Nf3 O-O

King’s Indian Defense 5.Nf3 O-O

White is almost ready to castle, while Black is getting ready to strike in the center with …e5.

6.Be2 e5

King’s Indian Defense 6.Be2 e5

Now White has done everything to get ready for the short castle. On the other hand, Black has finally made the move …e5, eying d4.

7.O-O Nc6

King’s Indian Defense 7.O-O Nc6

White ignores Black’s threat, and keeps developing pieces. With 7…Nc6, Black increases the pressure on d4 and forces White to make a decision.

8.d5 Ne7

King’s Indian Defense 8.d5 Ne7

Finally, White has decided to push its pawn, forcing Black to retreat this time.

9.b4 Nh5

King’s Indian Defense 9.b4 Nh5

The move b4 is part of the main plan of White of expanding on the queenside and targeting the d6 and c7 squares/pawns. Black’s 9…Nh5 is definitely preparing the …f5 rupture.

10.Re1 f5

King’s Indian Defense 10.Re1 f5

White’s Rook joins the battle. The move …f5 is a typical attempt from Black to break White’s perfect center, eying the e4 pawn, but most importantly launching the slow attack on White’s kingside.

11.Ng5 Nf6

King’s Indian Defense 11.Ng5 Nf6

White forces Black’s Knight to retreat.

After this, the situation is the following:

  • White has started the attack on the queenside, which is one of the main themes of the King’s Indian Defense.
  • Even though White is still to develop their black-squared Bishop and their second Rook, b4 has already been played, clearly stating on which side of the board White is intending to put all of their pressure.
  • Black has managed to castle and play …f5, which is the most popular plan on the main line of the King’s Indian Defense.
  • Although Black hasn’t developed their light-squared Bishop and their second Rook, this is normal, since that Bishop usually jumps to the kingside a little later in the game.

Other Lines in the King’s Indian Defense

Besides the main line, you can play the following alternatives, all sound and precise:

Four Pawns Attack

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

King’s Indian Defense - Four Pawns Attack

Instead of going for 5.Nf3 right away, White can choose a more aggressive approach with 5.f4.

Now White has total control of the center, something that shouldn’t worry Black since there will be many ways to break that center with …e5, …f5, and …c5.

Saemisch Variation

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

King’s Indian Defense - Saemisch Variation

The Saemisch (or Samisch) Variation often leads to highly tactical opposite side games, in which a bloodbath might take place if one of the sides makes a mistake in the race for the head of the opponent’s king.

Watch IM Milovan Ratkovic explain the Saemisch variation:

You can get the full course here.

King’s Indian Defense

Averbakh Variation

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

King’s Indian Defense - Averbakh Variation

The Averbakh Variation is an active variation for White.

White usually continues with h4, f4, Qd2 or Nf3.

Black will always be in a good position when the correct moves are played, and always has the possibility of striking in the center.

Hungarian Attack

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nge2 O-O 6.Ng3 e5 7.d5

King’s Indian Defense - Hungarian Attack

In the Hungarian Attack, White avoids any main line, specifically the rupture in f5.

Games are usually with opposite castles, and can turn into highly tactical and exciting games.

Model Games

Other Interesting Articles For You

Scandinavian Defense Full Guide

Master the Ruy Lopez: The Ultimate Guide for Aspiring Chess Champions

Related Chess Courses

King’s Indian Defense Opening Lab with IM Milovan Ratkovic

E60 Sub-variants:


Games on Database: 170203
Last Played: Jun 2024
Overall score:
38.6% 33.1% 28.3%

Played frequently by:

Ivan Farago 367 games
Viktor Korchnoi 267 games
Svetozar Gligoric 254 games
Wolfgang Uhlmann 453 games
Peter Svidler 363 games
Svetozar Gligoric 332 games

Possible continuations:

3. Nc3  142482
38.8 % 32.4 % 28.7 %
3. g3  12205
38.5 % 38 % 23.5 %
3. Nf3  11709
35.6 % 37.3 % 27.1 %
3. f3  2937
43.5 % 28.5 % 28 %
3. h4  201
48.8 % 28.9 % 22.4 %
3. d5  197
34.5 % 29.4 % 36 %
3. Bg5  193
30.1 % 26.9 % 43 %
3. e3  102
24.5 % 19.6 % 55.9 %
3. Bf4  71
22.5 % 22.5 % 54.9 %
3. b3  37
16.2 % 32.4 % 51.4 %
3. Nd2  22
54.5 % 31.8 %
3. e4  15
53.3 % 26.7 % 20 %
3. Qc2  11
36.4 % 18.2 % 45.5 %
3. b4  6
33.3 % 33.3 % 33.3 %
3. c5  4
25 % 75 %
3. Qd3  4
50 % 50 %
3. h3  2
50 % 50 %