Modern Defense Guide

Modern Defense Guide

The Modern Defense is a chess opening for black that starts with the moves 1.e4 g6. Black decides to quickly fianchetto their dark-squared bishop and play waiting moves until it’s time to strike back.

Modern Defense moves

This is a hypermodern chess opening in which black lets white dominate the center with their e4 and d4 pawns only to attack it later in the game.

The Modern Defense allows for an unbalanced position in which everything is possible.

Due to the lack of pawn tension, the games that arise after the Modern are usually flexible and with lots of strategic and tactical possibilities for both sides.

The Modern Defense is very similar to the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6) in its plans and structures, with the main difference being that in the Modern, the knight is not developed to the f6 square until later in the opening.

The Modern Defense is perfect for players that are more inclined to positional chess rather than stale memorized lines.

It is very easy to transpose from a Modern Defense to other chess openings such as the Pirc or the King’s Indian Defense, so if you really want to stick to the Modern, you’ll have to avoid making moves that can take you to another setup.

Most Played Line in the Modern Defense

Let’s take a look at the most played line EVER in the Modern Defense, according to our chess games database with millions of games from chess masters.

1.e4 g6

Modern Defense moves

This is how the Modern Defense usually starts.

2.d4 Bg7

Modern Defense moves

This is the most common continuation for the Modern.

3.Nc3 d6

Modern Defense moves

White has decided to play with Nc3 instead of c3 or c4. Black is slowly getting ready to take out all their pieces.

4.Be3 a6

Modern Defense moves

White is getting ready to dominate the c1-h6 diagonal, while black is preparing to play b5 at some point.

5.Qd2 b5

Modern Defense moves

White will probably play with a long castle. Black is starting to expand on the queenside, and will play their light-squared bishop to b6.

6.f3 Nd7

Modern Defense moves

With f3, white’s intentions of attacking on the kingside are more than clear now. Black ignores the move and simply continues to develop their pieces with Nd7.

7.h4 h5

Modern Defense moves

With h4, white threatens to go to h5 and attack the g6 pawn, destroying black’s pawn chain on the kingside. That is why black decides to stop white on its tracks with h5.

8.Nh3 Bb7

Modern Defense moves

Developing a knight to the side of the board is usually not a good idea, but in this position works, since the knight will immediately jump to g5, a very good square for it. Black continues their development by fianchettoing their other bishop to b7.

9.Ng5 Ngf6

Modern Defense moves

Piece development is almost over and both sides are prepared for the middlegame.

Watch IM Milovan Ratkovic explaining the fundamentals of the main line in the Modern Defense:

Alternatives to 3.Nc3

The main line of the Modern Defense is 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7, followed by 3.Nc3.

Modern Defense moves

But, instead of 3.Nc3, white can play any of the following moves:

3.Nf3 - This is a completely logical move, developing the knight, but a different approach from the most played line with f3.

Modern Defense moves

3.c4 - Here white decide to occupy as much space in the center as they can. This setup is likely to transpose into the King’s Indian Defense.

Modern Defense moves

3.c3 - This is a way of supporting d4 and making black’s bishop on g7 less effective.

Modern Defense moves

The f4 Mega Center

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

Modern Defense moves

White has also the chance of playing with f4, which would mean a third pawn occupies the center, apart from e4 and d4.

The Hippopotamus Defense

There’s a peculiar opening that can happen in the Modern called the Hippopotamus Defense, which consists of playing the knights to the 7th rank, playing the bishops in a fianchetto, and moving all the pawns to the 6th rank, except for the c and f pawns.

Modern Defense moves

Learn more about the Modern Defense with our Opening Explorer.

Model Games

Related Courses

Modern Defense Mastermind with IM Milovan Ratkovic

More Articles

King's Indian Defense Guide

Best Chess Openings for Black

London System Complete Guide

B06 Sub-variants:


Games on Database: 54753
Last Played: Jun 2024
Overall score:
37.2% 28.1% 34.7%

Played frequently by:

Heikki MJ Westerinen 62 games
Michele Godena 54 games
Evgeny Sveshnikov 44 games
Colin Anderson McNab 323 games
Boris Chatalbashev 187 games
Peter Petran 182 games

Possible continuations:

2. d4  49548
37.9 % 28.6 % 33.5 %
2. Nc3  1735
33 % 27.1 % 39.9 %
2. Nf3  1505
27 % 20.1 % 52.9 %
2. f4  524
32.1 % 19.8 % 48.1 %
2. Bc4  383
29.8 % 21.7 % 48.6 %
2. g3  337
30 % 24.6 % 45.4 %
2. h4  220
42.7 % 19.1 % 38.2 %
2. c4  212
30.2 % 25 % 44.8 %
2. d3  190
18.4 % 22.6 % 58.9 %
2. c3  49
24.5 % 26.5 % 49 %
2. Be2  14
28.6 % 35.7 % 35.7 %
2. b3  9
33.3 % 55.6 %
2. e5  9
33.3 % 66.7 %
2. Qf3  6
16.7 % 83.3 %
2. Ne2  5
40 % 20 % 40 %
2. b4  2
100 %
2. g4  2
50 % 50 %
2. f3  2
100 %